Belfast Telegraph

SDLP's Rodgers opposed to party leaving stage for Fianna Fail

By Suzanne Breen

Veteran SDLP politician Brid Rodgers has voiced her opposition to the party stepping aside to make way for Fianna Fail organising in Northern Ireland.

A former deputy leader of the party and ex-Stormont minister, Ms Rodgers last night said she was totally against any such move. "We are a social and democratic labour party. We have connections with the labour movement in Europe and internationally," she explained.

"I am very keen that the SDLP retains its own character and social and democratic credentials and its very specific role in Northern Ireland, which is still important, particularly when we see what is happening in politics here now."

Ms Rodgers was speaking after SDLP leader Colum Eastwood refused to rule out "a realignment in Irish politics" which would see his party standing aside and Fianna Fail organising in Northern Ireland.

Senior SDLP sources told the Belfast Telegraph that around 80% of the party supported it "leaving the stage" to make way for Fianna Fail. They want the move to happen swiftly so Fianna Fail can contest next year's council elections here.

In an interview in yesterday's Belfast Telegraph, Mr Eastwood indicated that while progress towards such major political change was unlikely to happen imminently, it couldn't be ruled out over a longer timeframe.

"We are having a conversation with other parties about the new political context as a result of Brexit," he said.

"Our very immediate focus is on responding to that change. Is there a possibility of change that leads to political realignment? Yes, there is. But that is a conversation for another day."

In a statement yesterday, an SDLP spokesperson said: "The SDLP is always up for the conversation about how we meet the challenges facing this island, particularly in the changing context of Brexit.

"The SDLP has and will continue to work with all parties across the island in pursuit of the best solutions to protect the interests of all people here.

"As we have always said, realignment across the island cannot be ruled out in the future, but our focus remains on working to stop a return to British direct rule by restoring devolution to protect the interests of people here through a locally accountable government.

"Our politics and our movement are crucial to the future of this island, and we will not abandon our vision for a reconciled people in a new Ireland. At huge times of change, it is the SDLP who find the solutions."

Belfast Telegraph

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