Political news

Irish Labour leader heads north to discuss establishment of 'democratic socialist' party

Brendan Howlin has previously said the SDLP must break its ties with Europe's umbrella socialist grouping if it builds a formal relationship with Fianna Fáil

Irish Labour leader Brendan Howlin is to visit Belfast today to discuss setting up a "democratic socialist" party in Northern Ireland.

Mr Howlin and Senator Ged Nash will meet groups including trade unionists, political activists and academics.

The SDLP has links with both the British and Irish Labour parties.

However, these links may be severed by its decision to enter into a formal partnership with Fianna Fáil.

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An Irish Labour spokesman said the party was not attempting to set up an SDLP/Fianna Fáil-style link at this stage although he added that "all options are on the table".

"This is a further process of engagement... to get a range of views," he said.

"This is about the people of Northern Ireland - what do they want on the ballot paper?"

Claire Hanna was considered a prospective European candidate by Fine Gael. Picture by Hugh Russell

Irish Labour already has a group in the north.

The Labour Party in Northern Ireland is a regional section of the British Labour Party but its members are not allowed to contest elections.

The Irish Labour spokesman said the SDLP would remain its sister party until after the May local elections.

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