Fianna Fail will organise in Northern Ireland, says Martin
Fianna Fail is planning to organise in Northern Ireland, contest elections and may even stand candidates for local councils next summer.
The Irish Independent reports that party leader Micheal Martin has told his national executive that preparations are at an advanced stage and an announcement is expected in September.
Talks on a linkage with the SDLP are continuing and it is unclear whether this would involve a merger, partnership or arm's-length co-operation.
The party's youth wing, Ogra Fianna Fail, has been pushing on organising north of the border and at a meeting of the national executive 12 days ago, it sought a full report on the issue.
Mr Martin told the executive talks with the SDLP were continuing and progress was being made.
"Mr Martin said he hoped an announcement on the issue can be made in September," one senior party source told the Irish Independent.
There is support in the Fianna Fail parliamentary party for organising north of the border.
The SDLP has been eclipsed by Sinn Fein and has had no seats in the Westminster parliament since the May 2017 election.
The source added: "It has 12 MLAs in the northern Assembly and a big number of councillors across the north.
"For all the problems and disadvantages, the SDLP still has a residual organisation."
Three Fianna Fail TDs said they supported the idea and that there was widespread support among other TDs and senators.
However, news of the development comes amid growing fury inside the party at efforts by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to get a guaranteed two-year extension to the arrangement which underpins the Fine Gael-led minority coalition.
That would postpone a general election - seen as inevitable by next spring at the latest - until summer 2020.
Mr Varadkar made his demand to the Fianna Fail leader during talks about the confidence-and-supply deal last Thursday.
He cited the need for political stability as Brexit talks enter a crucial phase.
Many leading figures in Fianna Fail allege Fine Gael later leaked the demand as part of a strategy to justify an early general election as it continues to lead in opinion polls and its rivals now appear ill-prepared.
The Behaviour & Attitudes poll for the The Sunday Times put Fine Gael on 34% to Fianna Fail's 21%, with Sinn Fein on 22%.
Fine Gael's continued high poll ratings has increased an appetite for an early general election within the party.