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Taoiseach: Fianna Fáil 'to continue work' with SDLP despite reports of split

SDLP leader Colm Eastwood is said to have informed party delegates over the weekend.

Micheál Martin and Colm Eastwood shaking hands when the partnership was announced in 2019.
Micheál Martin and Colm Eastwood shaking hands when the partnership was announced in 2019.
Image: Fianna Fáíl

Updated Sep 29th 2022, 6:48 PM

FIANNA FÁIL LEADER Michaeál Martin said he will continue to work with the SDLP despite reports the two parties had axed their three-year partnership.

“policy partnership” in 2019 announced that the two parties would share a programme of public engagement and common policy proposals put forward on economic development, Irish unity, Brexit, education, health, and housing. 

Talks of a possible merger between the two parties had been ongoing at the time, however, rather than a full-on merger, the parties agreed to the “policy partnership”. 

Speaking at the time, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said: “I am proud of the fact that our parties have agreed to share this work and I look forward to its impact in the months and years ahead.”

However, the Belfast Telegraph reports today that SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has ended that relationship.

He told party delegates at an extraordinary general party meeting that the SDLP would move forward by “standing on its own two feet”.

After the report that it had been ended, the Taoiseach said he had spoken to Mr Eastwood today. He told the PA news agency: “Well, I can’t confirm it and the SDLP certainly are not confirming it to us.

“I spoke with Colum Eastwood this morning, and we will continue to work with the SDLP.”

He said he believed the SDLP would clarify the issue later.

An SDLP statement did not confirm whether the partnership had been ended.

Shortly after the partnership was announced in 2019, SDLP MP Claire Hanna resigned as the party’s Brexit spokesperson.

In a statement, Hanna remarked: “I remain unconvinced that an exclusive partnership with Fianna Fáil is the right vehicle with which to deliver the social democratic new Ireland I believe in”.

Reacting to the news today, Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív said: “The decision by SDLP must open a debate in Fianna Fáil about our future direction towards being a truly all Ireland party”.

In 2018, Ó Cuív was sacked from the Fianna Fáil frontbench for appearing to launch an election candidate for the Northern Ireland local elections, without informing party leader Micheál Martin.

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