Belfast Telegraph

Irish Labour rows back on Northern Ireland candidates

By Michael Sheils McNamee

The Irish Labour party has rowed back on reports it could step in and run candidates in Northern Ireland should the SDLP merge with Fianna Fail.

Speaking at the Labour party's national conference over the weekend, the party's leader Brendan Howlin said he had written to SDLP leader Colum Eastwood asking for clarification on a possible merger.

Mr Howlin said he wished to hold discussions with members of the SDLP to see how they “could construct a slate of candidates that would allow people who want to express Labour values to have the option of voting for Labour candidates”.

Appearing on Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster programme on Monday, Mr Howlin poured cold water on the idea his comments meant Irish Labour were lining up candidates for the forthcoming council elections north of the border.

Saying there was concern if a merger goes ahead there may be people who are alienated by people who "don't see the conservatism of Fianna Fail as their natural home", but that this does not mean his party will be running candidates in Northern Ireland.

"It is not about the Irish Labour party coming north to contest elections, it is about reassuring Labour-minded people within the SDLP that they will have our support and the support of a lot of people," he said.  

"Party members and trade unionists across the island if they want to ensure there is a social democratic voice."

He said it would then be an opportunity to "discuss what banner is appropriate" for future candidates.

Pushed by host Noel Thompson on whether his party had all-Ireland aspirations, he said "of course" his party did, but that they were in "rebuilding mode" and there would be "an element of arrogance" about aims to expand at the current time.

Council elections are set to take place in Northern Ireland in May next year.

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