SDLP man plays down reports of Fianna Fail merger

THE SDLP still has important work to do in the North and any merger with Fianna Fail should not jeopardise that mission. 
That was the message from a local SDLP representative after it emerged yesterday (Tuesday) the party were at an advance stage of negotiations regarding a “phased integration” with Fianna Fail. According to the Irish Times, senior sources in both parties have said the two are poised to announce the process of integration in the new year. 
The negotiations, which are said to be aimed at creating “one all-island party which will be called Fianna Fail,” are believed to be in their final stages and a “significant” announcement could come as early as next month. 
It is understood SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin have been keeping details of the negotiations secret from members of both parties. When contacted by the Herald, Enniskillen Cllr Paul Blake said was not aware of the recent developments. He said however, no decision could be taken without the input of the party’s members. 
“The Irish Times may have been a bit premature because any decision would have to go to the party membership,” he said, stating they had been reassured by SDLP leader Mr Eastwood  the party leadership would not act without members’ say. 
Overall, Cllr Blake said he would not be in favour any move that involved the SDLP brand and name being absorbed by Fianna Fail. 
“I would be against anything that takes away from the role of the SDLP in the past and still in the future what it needs to do in terms of bringing people together,” he said, stating the party needed to be treated as an equal party in any negotiations. 
“The SDLP has played a very important role up until now and there is so much more that needs to be done, as we know in our current situation. In terms of bringing people together, what’s going on at the minute is driving people further apart. Taking away from the SDLP brand and name is taking away from it’s part in history.” 

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