Belfast Telegraph

Fianna Fail stalls on decision to enter Northern Ireland election fray

By Claire McNeilly

Brexit has put the brakes on Fianna Fail's decision over whether to field candidates in Northern Ireland in the next council elections, it was reported yesterday.

Micheal Martin was expected to make his intention clear by Christmas, having previously vowed to run nominees here in 2019, and the matter was recently discussed by the party's ruling body.

But the leader has delayed revealing his stance on the issue amid fears that doing so could now be regarded by unionists as part of a nationalist takeover as tensions heighten over Brexit.

Councillor Sorcha McAnespy, Fianna Fail vice-president, joined the party earlier this year after leaving Sinn Fein in April 2016, citing "misogyny and nepotism" at local level.

Ms McAnespy, who currently sits on Fermanagh and Omagh District Council as an independent member, said she was hoping Fianna Fail would put itself in a position to contest the local elections in two years' time.

"You can't just parachute people in and put them in an area," she said.

"I believe it needs to be done organically and from the bottom up. It would have to be local people selected by local people."

Fianna Fail's 15-person ruling body has one seat for a representative from Northern Ireland.

But if it is to have any realistic chance of success, the party would need to begin organising members early in 2018.

Candidates would be in direct competition with Sinn Fein and the SDLP for the support of nationalist votes.

Fianna Fail has not contested an election in Northern Ireland since Eamon de Valera was returned to Stormont on an abstentionist ticket in 1932.

The party is currently finalising its long-awaited United Ireland policy document.

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