FIANNA Fáil TDs and Senators have signed off on a “partnership” with Northern Ireland’s SDLP.
Under the plan, Micheál Martin’s party won’t run candidates in the North, but will canvass for the SDLP in the upcoming local elections.
The arrangement is set to be announced by Mr Martin and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood in Belfast on Thursday.
A proposed merger between the two parties had been the subject of reports but the political partnership that’s to be announced will fall short of that.
Sources said it would involve the two parties working together in a more intense way on policy with Brexit identified as the most pressing cross border issue.
The plan for the partnership was formally endorsed at a private meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party this evening.
Independent.ie understands that there won’t be Fianna Fáil candidates in Northern Ireland in the upcoming local elections.
The SDLP is said to want to run their own candidates and many have already been selected.
Fianna Fáil politicians will canvas for them and according to one source, the goal is to “strengthen the SDLP and make politics work for the citizens of Northern Ireland”.
There are to be a set of "shared principles" announced as the two parties unveil plans for a "stronger relationship" between their organisations.
Ahead of the plan being endorsed, a senior Fianna Fáil source said at the weekend: "It is not a merger and it's not a preliminary to a merger.”
There has been widespread speculation in recent years over the possibility of the two parties merging since Micheal Martin announced his intention to move Fianna Fail into the North in 2014.
Last year, Mr Martin said: "I think in terms of political ideology and narrative, there are many similarities between us and the SDLP."
He was also forced to sack Éamon Ó Cuív and Senator Mark Daly from positions within the party when they announced that independent Councillor Sorcha McAnespy would be a Fianna Fail candidate in the North without permission.
A source this evening said that she would not run in the election in May under the Fianna Fáil banner but suggested Ms McAnespy may run as an independent or with the SDLP and that there would be “discussions” with her.