Eleven out of the twelve current SDLP MLAs have endorsed the proposal for a policy partnership with Fianna Fail, but perhaps as expected, the name of Belfast representative Claire Hanna is missing from the list.
A letter seen by the Derry News, circulated and signed by the SDLP MLAs has been sent to party members in advance of this Saturday’s Special Conference in Newry to seek the ratification of the north-south political link-up.
The conference is scheduled to take place at the Canal Court Hotel in Newry this weekend and the letter sent to party members and delegates begins by saying: “We right collectively as your public representatives to inform you of our support for the proposal of a policy partnership between the SDLP and Fianna Fail.”
A recent joint announcement by SDLP and Fianna Fail leaders Colum Eastwood and Michael Martin outlined proposals for a future working relationship between both parties. It pinpointed three broad themes for co-operation-Politics That Works; Better Public Services and Uniting Ireland’s People.
The SDLP document has been signed by leader Colum Eastwood who fronted the talks with Michael Martin and the other Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan. East Derry MLA John Dallat has endorsed the move as has south Derry’s Patsy McGlone an MLA for Mid Ulster. Daniel McCrossan, the SDLP MLA for West Tyrone has also put his name to the letter.
Beyond the wider North West region the remaining signatures are those of Sinead Bradley (South Down); Deputy leader Nichola Mallon (Belfast North); Pat Catney (Lagan Valley); Dolores Kelly (Upper Bann); Justin McNulty (Newry and Armagh) and Colin McGrath (South Down).
However, notable by her absence from the letter is South Belfast MLA Claire Hanna, who has held the brief as the SDLP Spokesperson on Brexit.
Ms Hanna has publicly opposed any links to Fianna Fail and she was also absent from last month's announcement by Mr Eastwood and Michael Martin in Belfast.
The remainder of the letter from the MLA bloc to party members states: "People right across our constituencies, not least those most disadvantaged and marginalised, are being let down and left behind. The unprecedented challenges from Brexit and the continued stalemate at Stormont means that business as usual is no longer an option. To continue to do what we have always done at such a crucial juncture in our politics and history is to fail to fulfil the duty we hold dear, to serve people and present solutions that will transform their lives.
"Members across our party will know that we hold our values dear. We believe in the SDLP, in our proud legacy and in our bright future. Our party has delivered our vision of peace, we delivered the Good Friday Agreement. Our job now is to deliver fully on our vision of a reconciled people living in a united, just and prosperous new Ireland.
"To make this happen we must help people believe again in a politics that can transform their lives. We must offer that kind of politics; a politics that rises to the challenge of unprecedented change, offers solutions not soundbites and wins elections to build a society and future based on our values and principles.
"This partnership with Fianna Fáil offers the opportunity for us to work collectively to develop and deliver new ideas; to create a policy platform that will address the issues that matter most to our people. With this partnership we can use for the first time an all island platform to meet the all island challenges facing all our people and to realise our vision since our foundation.
"We are proudly SDLP. We stand tall under our banner, driven and inspired by our values. We are excited that working together in this new way, we can make change happen. We look forward to our discussions this weekend and urge you to back this partnership."CAPTION: SDLP leader Colum Eastwood with Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin.
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