'Rogue' Fianna Fáil council candidate may lose place on party executive

Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív (left) with Sorcha McAnespy with Senator Mark Daly in Omagh on Thursday night

TYRONE councillor Sorcha McAnespy faces being thrown off Fianna Fáil's national executive after revealing herself as a the party's candidate in next year's Northern Ireland local government elections.

Fianna Fáil headquarters moved quickly to distance itself from Ms McAnespy's surprise announcement on Thursday night, where she was joined in Omagh by TD Éamon Ó Cuív and Senator Mark Daly.

A press release with quotes from all three, which also claimed the apparent endorsement of party leader Michéal Martin, was sent to the Press Association with the picture, while a social media video from inside the meeting showed the moment Ms McAnespy was apparently unveiled as a candidate.

“There is an appetite now more than ever for Fianna Fáil to contest elections in Northern Ireland," she said.

"Micheál Martin made the commitments in 2013 to contest local elections in 2019 and I was delighted when he confirmed I would be a candidate for Fianna Fáil in the upcoming local elections in 2019."

But it soon emerged that the former Sinn Féin councillor, who sits as an independent on Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, had made the announcement without the backing of the party.

Ms McAnespy is a member of Fianna Fáil's national executive and is a keen advocate of the party contesting elections north of the border.

She claims she was told by the party's leader that "she would be the candidate" in the next elections.

In recent months Fianna Fáil has been engaged in discussions with the SDLP about future co-operation and a potential merger.

A party spokesman said: "Despite some claims and reports, the Fianna Fáil party has made no decision on whether or not it will contest elections in the north.

"It follows then that it has selected no candidate to contest these elections."

The spokesman said a statement about the outcome of its talks with the SDLP would be "made in due course".

Ms McAnespy took part in RTÉ Radio's Sean O'Rourke Show yesterday but has since gone to ground. Former SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell was understood to be present in Omagh on Thursday night but was unavailable yesterday.

Senior Fianna Fáil sources have indicted that Ms McAnespy is likely to face disciplinary proceedings over Thursday night's announcement. One possible sanction is her expulsion from the party's national executive, where she has sat for the past year.

Meanwhile, SDLP MLA Claire Hanna appears to have ruled out supporting ties with Fianna Fáil.

When asked whether she would remain a party member if ties with Michéal Martin's party were formalised, she told the BBC "it is not a party I would join".

"John Hume located the SDLP firmly in the social democratic tradition and in a global tradition and that's good enough for me," she said.

"And when you look at all the problems facing Northern Ireland and Ireland, bad governance and division and Irish unity, I don't believe Fianna Fáil solves any of those problems."

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