Fianna Fáil is interested in developing an all-Ireland strategy as a 32-county party. Speaking at the annual commemoration of Wolfe Tone, party leader Bertie Ahern announced the formation of a Northern Strategy Committee to examine the possibility of organising in the six Northern Irish counties.
Fianna Fáil is interested in developing an all-Ireland strategy as a 32-county party. Speaking at the annual commemoration of Wolfe Tone in Bodenstown, Co. Kildare, Fianna Fáil leader Bertie Ahern announced the formation of a Northern Strategy Committee to examine the possibility of organising in the six Northern Irish counties.
"For the first time in eighty years we can decide to become a thirty two county organisation. Fellow members of Fianna Fáil, this is not a move to be taken lightly. We must advance gradually and strategically."
Mr Ahern stated that letters had already been sent to 3,000 Fianna Fáil’s branches, requesting that they hold a special meeting to discuss the possibility of becoming a 32-county organisation.
"This Committee will engage in a series of regional party meetings and will seek the input of interested groups and individuals North and South. And, based on these contributions, it will inform our thinking on the way forward on this issue. This Committee’s recommendations will come before the Ard Comhairle and ultimately an Árd Fheis for debate and decision," said Mr Ahern.
Referring to the political developments of the Northern Ireland Peace Process, the Taoiseach believed that there was no longer any obstacle preventing Fianna Fáil from being active in politics in Northern Ireland as there has never been as much dialogue between all the significant political groupings on Ireland as there is today.
"Out of process and engagement has come peace and prosperity. And so, only now, on these foundations of peace and of prosperity, can we advance where our predecessors could not."
In his speech Mr Ahern reached a hand to Northern Irish unionists presenting Fianna Fáil as an inclusive, bread and butter party with a proven track record in building a strong economy.
"The only future we envisage for our people is a future based on respect and equality and partnership with unionism."
"And it means working together openly and honestly with all people, from all traditions and all strands of opinion, to build a better future for our island."
Recruitment starts amidst SDLP merger rumours
Ógra Fianna Fáil, the party's youth wing, has started its first ever recruitment drive in Northern Ireland with "political societies" formed at Queens University Belfast and the University of Ulster at Magee and Derry.
But all the eyes are now on Nothern Ireland's Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) as the party's deputy leader Alasdair McDonnell said that his organisation will firm up ties with Fianna Fáil, fuelling rumours of a strategic merger between the two parties.
Political analysts say it's no secret that the majority of SDLP voters bear more of a resemblance to a Fianna Fáil voter than a Labour one.
Ivan Cooper, one of SDLP’s founders, also welcomed Fianna Fail’s announcement on moving North and stated that the SDLP's leftist ties had been encouraged in the past by a left wing of the party that is no longer there.
Speaking at the SDLP's 36th annual conference in Armagh last November, party leader Mark Durkan ruled out a major realignment in the immediate future but announced the creation of an All-Ireland Working Group to look at all the options available, dropping the strongest hint yet that his party may merge with a party from the South.
"As we engage with different parties and some outside party politics, we will be building on our own review discussions. An SDLP working group on all-Ireland politics and realignment will develop our thinking. Both for ourselves and with others, we need to create a coherent framework to consider all the relevant issues, implications and ideas," said Mr Durkan.
The SDLP annual conference was attended by representatives of several southern parties including Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Irish Labour Party.