A special SDLP conference is scheduled for this Saturday, February 9, in Newry where the party membership will vote on the plans.
In a five-page document entitled ‘An All-Island Partnership’, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and deputy leader Nichola Mallon said the “ambitious and practical” plan’s immediate focus will be on Brexit and restoring Stormont.
“We believe that ‘business as usual’ is no longer option for our people or our party,” they said.
“We believe that this new partnership is now the best way to deliver for our people as part of a new politics and new agenda, north and south.”
If the partnership is approved, a “joint working group” involving representatives from both parties will be set up to “identify and develop new policies and solutions”.
The parties will undertake a joint “programme of public engagement” to further the partnership’s three broad policy areas – “politics that works”, “better public services”, and “uniting Ireland’s people”.
“In each area, the work will be underpinned by detailed polling and research and linked to a public forum followed by the publication of specific recommendations. A range of online and community-focused public engagement actions will be implemented,” they said.
Fianna Fáil and the SDLP will also work together to “provide enhanced research, electoral and organisational capacity”.
In a cover letter to members about the proposal, Mr Eastwood and Ms Mallon said: “When we lost our three outstanding MPs at the last general election, we knew as a party we had to change.”
They referred to the challenges of Brexit, and the two-year absence of Stormont following the DUP and Sinn Féin-led executive’s collapse in the wake of the RHI scandal.
“As change engulfs both Ireland and Britain, people in Northern Ireland have been offered pointless protest rather than real, mature political leadership which can actually deliver for our families, businesses, farmers and communities,” they said.
“In this vacuum the north is voiceless, our politics is powerless and our people have been left with no say in their future.
“No serious or responsible political leader or party can allow that situation to continue. That was the basis for the discussions around a re-imagined all-island partnership which we are now bringing to you to make a decision on.”
The partnership plan was announced last week in a joint press conference in Belfast. It followed many months of well-trailed talks which fuelled speculation of a future merger, but both parties have downplayed the suggestion.
Earlier this week, former SDLP deputy leader Bríd Rodgers told The Irish News she “cannot support” the plans, fearing it threatens the SDLP’s social democratic principles and “will have a negative effect on the work of reconciliation” across Ireland.
But others such as SDLP West Tyrone MLA Daniel McCrossan have welcomed a closer relationship with Fianna Fáil.Tags: