Well that was a bit of a PR disaster. Last night’s surprise announcement that Sorcha McAnespy, a Fianna Fáil member and independent councillor on the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, had become the party’s first official representative in the north-east of the country was no sooner issued than retracted. Then reissued. Then re-retracted again. As the Irish Independent reports:
Her launch as the party’s first candidate to contest an election in the North was made last night at an event in Omagh, Tyrone and was attended by senior Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív and Senator Mark Daly.
However, shortly after the event Fianna Fáil’s official Twitter account stated: “Despite some reports the party has made no decision in regard to contesting the NI (Northern Ireland) elections.
“The party is continuing its discussions with the SDLP.”
Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Sean O’Rourke programme this morning, Cllr McAnespy said she was “dismayed” to see the tweet.
“Fianna Fáil are an All-Ireland party, we represent all people, as a member of that party I want to represent everyone,” Cllr McAnespy said.
“I was told by Micheál Martin at the National Executive [in April] that I would be standing. I set the wheels in motion,” she added.
Ms McAnespy, a member of Fianna Fáil’s National Executive, is already an independent councillor for Fermanagh and Omagh District Council.
The move comes amid ongoing speculation that Fianna Fáil might ultimately merge with the SDLP to run in future Northern Ireland elections.
Becoming a truly national party may be popular with Fianna Fáil’s grassroots and many Oireachtas members but not so much with the leadership. Or at least, the leadership currently coalesced around Micheál Martin, which is more concerned with avoiding a general election and criticising the Fine Gael-led government for being beastly to the Brits. One gets the impression that the announcement in County Tyrone was an attempt by FF’s disenchanted republican wing to bounce Martin and company into formerly recognising party candidates in the north. Something he has shown no great inclination to do.