Belfast Telegraph

Fianna fail prepare to stand in Derry

By Brian Hutton
21 January 2005

A senior minister in the Republic's Fianna Fail government is to launch a recruitment drive in Derry as it emerged the party hopes to stand in local elections, it can be revealed today.

The party recently lifted its ban on full membership to those living outside the Republic and are now actively seeking new recruits in Northern Ireland.

The Derry-based Eamonn de Valera Cumann, the only Fianna Fail association in Northern Ireland, is now seeking full official status, which will allow it to stand candidates in elections.

The Cumann currently has a "friends of Fianna Fail" status, according to its chairman, Kevin Downey, but the scrapping of the membership ban signals the party's intention to take on Sinn Fein and the SDLP at the polls.

A senior party figure has agreed to address a meeting of Derry members in the coming months as part of their efforts to firmly establish the party in the city, said the solicitor.

"The noises we are hearing from Dublin are very positive. But as far as the leadership is concerned, they are only noises at the moment," he said.

"They are mindful of all the issues with the peace process at the moment.

"Realistically we would be looking to stand candidates in the local and Assembly elections next time around."

Mr Downey, a former director of elections for the SDLP, claims the Derry Cumann has up to 50 members at present, who when fully signed up to the party, will have voting rights at the ard feiseanna (annual conferences).

Previous suggestions of a Fianna Fail/SDLP pact to counter the growth of Sinn Fein is no longer seen as an attractive option, according to the solicitor.

It is believed that the Republic's Finance minister, Brian Cowan, is among the leadership figures who are backing attempts to organise in Northern Ireland.

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