Friday 22 November 2019

Confusion reigns in Fianna Fáil over Northern Ireland election plans as senior politicians deny going 'rogue'

  • Councillor Sorcha McAnespy says 'she was told she would be the candidate'
  • Campaign announcement was made last night at an event in Omagh, Tyrone
  • Launch was attended by senior Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív and Senator Mark Daly
  • Fianna Fáil distances itself from 'candidate unveiling' with tweet
Eamon O’Cuiv TD and Senator Mark Daly with Sorcha McAnespy
Photograph: Fianna Fail/PA Wire
Eamon O’Cuiv TD and Senator Mark Daly with Sorcha McAnespy Photograph: Fianna Fail/PA Wire
Denise Calnan

Denise Calnan

Fianna Fail's electoral plans for Northern Ireland are the focus of confusion, claim and counter claim after senior politicians unveiled its first local council candidate - only for the party to later deny it was happening.

Councillor Sorcha McAnespy has this morning said she was "told she would be the candidate" - but the party has made moves to distance itself from her campaign launch last night.

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.

Mr Daly has since denied that he had gone "rogue".

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.

When questioned by Sean O'Rourke had the National Executive decided that it would ratify and put forward candidates in Northern Ireland, Cllr McAnespy said; "There was a motion at the last Ard Fheis and that was discussed and voted on."

When questioned as to whether the National Executive had endorsed her and whether the vote was ratified, she replied; "The National Executive picked me as a candidate, I was told I would be the candidate."

And when asked if there was a motion to that effect passed and who proposed the motion, she said it was "a few months ago now" and she couldn't remember.

"I saw the tweet myself last night and was quite dismayed," she said.

"There are 500 candidates and everyone has to set out and launch their campaign.

"The discussions with the SDLP haven't got anything to do with me. We're an all-island party and I must run as a party candidate. As a member of the party and a member of the national executive and as a public representative I must run as a party candidate in any election."

Cllr McAnespy continued; "Eamon O'Cuiv and Mark Daly are my directors of elections and they kindly agreed to do so.

"We're an all-island party and it's about inclusivity and we're demonstrating that."

When asked if she had "jumped the gun" by having the launch without the full backing by way of a proper motion proposed and passed at the National Executive, Cllr McAnespy said; "It's seven months out from the local election."

"Do you expect to hear from Micheál Martin today?" Mr O'Rourke asked.

"I don't know," she replied, "I'm sure I will."

Cllr McAnespy's director elections Fianna Fáil Senator Mark Daly spoke earlier this morning and denied they "went rogue" with the unveiling of her as a candidate.

"As role of senator I've been all over Ireland," the senator told RTÉ Radio One's Morning Ireland.

"We do campaign launches all the time for people who will be running. This is no different."

When asked by RTÉ journalist Audrey Carville if he and Eamon O'Cuiv "went rogue", he replied; "Myself and Eamon were asked to be director of elections, as party member she must run as a party candidate in the election.

"She's entitled to run as a party candidate. Under the rules, she's entitled.

"We represent everyone, we need to put forward a vision for the whole island that will move it forward."

He denied the event was "farcical," saying; "She is a Fianna Fáil member and a member of the National Executive.

"You have to be ahead of your opponents. I believe she has a voice."

Last night, Mr Daly said Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin told Ms McAnespy she would be a candidate in the local elections and the event was to announce her candidacy.

"Under the rules of the party you can't contest an election without being a candidate and she was told at a national executive meeting a couple of months ago she would be candidate," Mr Daly said.

Mr Daly said more Northern Ireland candidates would be announced for Fianna Fáil in the coming weeks.

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.

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