Fianna Fail and SDLP to announce 'partnership' this week
Fianna Fail TDs and Senators have signed off on a “partnership” with the SDLP.
Under the plan, Micheal Martin’s party won’t run candidates in the North, but will canvass for the SDLP in the upcoming local elections.
The arrangement is set to be announced by Mr Martin and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood in Belfast on Thursday.
A proposed merger between the two parties had been the subject of reports but the political partnership that’s to be announced will fall short of that.
Sources said it would involve the two parties working together in a more intense way on policy with Brexit identified as the most pressing cross border issue.
The plan for the partnership was formally endorsed at a private meeting of the Fianna Fail parliamentary party on Tuesday evening.
It is understood that there won’t be Fianna Fail candidates in Northern Ireland in the upcoming local elections.
The SDLP is said to want to run their own candidates and many have already been selected.
Fianna Fail politicians will canvas for them and according to one source, the goal is to “strengthen the SDLP and make politics work for the citizens of Northern Ireland”.
There are to be a set of "shared principles" announced as the two parties unveil plans for a "stronger relationship" between their organisations.
Ahead of the plan being endorsed, a senior Fianna Fail source said at the weekend: "It is not a merger and it's not a preliminary to a merger.”
There has been widespread speculation in recent years over the possibility of the two parties merging since Micheal Martin announced his intention to move Fianna Fail into Northern Ireland in 2014.
Last year, Mr Martin said: "I think in terms of political ideology and narrative, there are many similarities between us and the SDLP."
He was also forced to sack Eamon O Cuiv and Senator Mark Daly from positions within the party when they announced that independent Councillor Sorcha McAnespy would be a Fianna Fail candidate in Northern Ireland without permission.
A source said on Tuesday evening that she would not run in the election in May under the Fianna Fail banner but suggested Ms McAnespy may run as an independent or with the SDLP and that there would be “discussions” with her.