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SDLP leader canvasses with Fianna Fail candidates in Dublin

SDLP in official partnership with Fianna Fail but some SDLP members are opposed to the partnership and have lent support to other parties

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SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, left, with Fianna Fail candidate Jim O’Callaghan (PA)

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, left, with Fianna Fail candidate Jim O’Callaghan (PA)

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, left, with Fianna Fail candidate Jim O’Callaghan (PA)

The leader of the SDLP joined two Fianna Fail candidates on the election trail in Dublin on Thursday.

Colum Eastwood joined Jim O’Callaghan and Catherine Ardagh on Thursday ahead of the General Election in the Republic of Ireland on Saturday.

While out with Mr O’Callaghan in Ranelagh in Dublin, Mr Eastwood visited several shops, pubs, a butchers, chemist and a pub and spoke to locals about how they would vote.

He tweeted: “Great to talk to people in Dublin South Central earlier today with Catherine Ardagh and her team. Catherine’s a top class candidate and everywhere we went people were telling me how hard she works. She’ll make a great TD.”

Mr Eastwood encouraged people to give Fianna Fail candidates their number one preference in the ballot.

Mr Eastwood was elected to Westminster as MP for Foyle in December 2019.

Fianna Fail and the SDLP announced a partnership in 2019 after years of negotiations and reports the two parties could merge entirely.

In 2014, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin raised the prospect of his party contesting elections in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in 2019, however this did not materialise.

Last year, Claire Hanna, at the time an MLA for the SDLP in South Belfast, opposed any partnership with Fianna Fail.

Ms Hanna, who resigned the whip following the linking of the two parties, returned to the SDLP in August 2019 and was elected MP for South Belfast in December 2019.

Ms Hanna has chosen to canvass with Fine Gael candidates during the election campaign, despite her party’s partnership with Fianna Fail.

Last week in Dublin, she canvassed with Fine Gael’s Neale Richmond – the party’s Brexit spokesperson in the Seanad – Emer Currie, and Labour Senator Ged Nash.

Ms Currie is the daughter of Austin Currie, the former MP for East Tyrone between 1964 and 1972.

In an interview with The Irish News last year, former SDLP deputy leader Brid Rodgers cautioned against an alliance between the two parties and said it would “dilute the SDLP’s social democratic principles”.

The latest opinion poll ahead of Saturday’s election suggests Sinn Fein has overtaken both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael with their support at 25%.

According to an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll, Fianna Fail is on 23%, Fine Gael has dropped three points to 20% while Labour stands on 4%.

PA