Joint FF/SDLP candidate for 2009 European elections in Northern Ireland?

It seems a bit early for such a step to me but there is speculation that Fianna Fáil could be making a move north of the border sooner rather than later. According to Ireland.com:

Minister for Foreign Dermot Ahern said during a visit to Belfast that the party had received hundreds of submissions over the past few months and there was a feeling that the consultation period should be extended to the summer to properly complete their deliberations.

Mr Ahern, who is heading up an internal Fianna Fáil committee on a possible move to become an all-Ireland party said: “The consultation process is over and we will be holding a meeting next week.

There has been persistent speculation that Fianna Fáil could merge with the SDLP, with the two parties possibly agreeing a common candidate for next year’s European Parliament election.

Last weekend, SDLP leader Mark Durkan refused to rule out a possible merger between the two parties when announcing that his party that had set up their own working group which was exploring all political options on the island of Ireland.

Even if 2009 does seem a little on the early side, a European election with a single agreed candidate with the SDLP would seem the easiest introduction for Fianna Fáil north of the border, especially as the party has already ruled out standing in Westminster elections.

  • Tim

    From this far away it looks like FF need a host in the North, so a merger probably means eventual take over. I can’t see them winning too many Unionist votes with a name like Fianna Fáil though.

  • warrenpoint

    A take over would create the problem of its position about Westminster – taken to its logical conclusion there would be no Nationalist/Republican MPs taken up seat. But I think SDLP need this boost to stop its losing support to Sinn Fein.

  • Dewi

    A Merger a strategic error for FF in my view – breaking the mould won’t happen with an SDLP merger. Need to take a more radical approach to seeking “Unionist” voters. Strangely enough I agree with the point about the name. The posters used to say “Fianna Fail- the Republican Party” – even worse! ..Can’t think what they should call themselves though – I’ll run it past the Dromore focus groups….(At the risk of sycophancy quality of recent posts has been excellent – thanks)

  • Tim

    I agree that the SDLP have been out in the cold since the “Chuckle brothers” show has been going. Historically speaking Fianna Fáil grew out of the original Sinn Féin, and both modern SF and FF claim to be the representatives of Irish Republicanism, I have a feeling that SF are winning that debate.

  • Star of the County Down

    “both modern SF and FF claim to be the representatives of Irish Republicanism, I have a feeling that SF are winning that debate.”

    Only in the North if so, Tim, and even that has still to be tested.

  • consul

    “A Merger a strategic error for FF in my view – breaking the mould won’t happen with an SDLP merger. Need to take a more radical approach to seeking “Unionist” voters.”

    Dewi is spot on here. Fooling around with the SDLP will give FF a quicker foothold but it would be short-sighted to treat it as a sprint. Better to play a longer game and avoid being associated with tribalism. If you’re going to recuit northern candidates to stand in northern constituencies then I can’t understand the Westminster phobia. Not to phase in with a cross-community mindset and gameplan would be not only cynical but in the longterm tactically poor.

  • Mark McGregor

    I think this will turn out to be a very half-hearted, tester issue and will end with FF effectively endorsing an SDLP branded candidate (nothing new there). I can’t see the SDLP being willing to review its much loved membership of the PES which would be necessary if they truly merged with FF for a European election. Also, the FF machine wouldn’t be put into action as it would be fighting to win/retain seats in core areas.

  • Ahem

    FF would be fools – which they ain’t – to do this. There’s no upside for them. Their sole aim is power. Only seats in the South deliver on that. All they can do is the North therefore is either pointlessly win, which is unlikely. Or, rather more probably, lose. Which would mean that for the sake of no possible, realistic gain, they’d taint the overall brand by hitching themselves to the drowning-not-waving crowd round Durkan.

  • New Yorker

    Northern Ireland needs a substantial figure in EU affairs and does not presently have one. If such a figure were to emerge for the upcoming MEP election, FF should openly support that candidate, it would be a benefit to NI and all Ireland. When John Hume was MEP, NI was integral to EU affairs and a beneficiary of his engagement. It is missing that for the last few years, and that cannot be good. But it could be remedied if a suitable candidate goes to Brussels.

  • EWI

    ” The posters used to say “Fianna Fail- the Republican Party””

    I feel the need to enter a correction on the Record. The party formerly headed by one Bertie Ahern has not one but two official names; Fianna Fáil and The Republican Party.

    So it really ought to be written out as Fianna Fáil/The Republican Party 😉

  • BonarLaw

    If FF and the SDLP merge, AND the merged party doesn’t contest Parliamentary elections does this give SF a free run at Westminster? Given the current SF policy this would mean no Irish Nationalist representation in the Commons. What about the existing SDLP members? Do they resign?

    This merger theory doesn’t fly.

  • Mark McGregor

    I think the whispers already going around of Anna Lo as an already endorsed United Community candidate (she’ll not be elected) are far more interesting and may, along with the potential for three strongish Unionist candidates, have a bigger baring on SDLP fortunes than anything with FF.

  • slug

    It looks like a fascinating Euro election, also on the unionist sid where there will be new candidates for DUP and surely also UUP.

    As for Westminster, dont forget the new elections to the upper house, which will be by PR and on a much longer mandate than 5 years. If FF opt not to stand either for Commons or for the new Upper house then they will be losing airtime in those elections.

  • Dewi

    Why Mark? – Surely all anna’s losing vote will transfer?

  • Mark McGregor

    While I think it’ll turn out to be a neither fish nor fowl fudge with some attempt at brand sharing for it to work they should really look at how the Greens fudging a N/S merge produced no real return.

    Though as mentioned above FF will want to ensure their brand isn’t tarnished by any further SDLP disasters so they may want it to keep it on the level of plausible deniability until they judge what way the tide is flowing.

    Something half-hearted for Europe and then go for a take-over if they see potential?

  • Mark McGregor

    Dewi,

    I see Anna as a potentially attractive candidate and for a change high enough profile to attract votes from the soft UUP flank. That could put the SDLP ahead of the UUP on 1sts and with a broader split of Unionist candidates and great acrimony there may not be a surplus from a poll topping DUP and the transfers to get two of them in front of the SDLP.

    Just a thought. It’s going to be a great election for us junkies.

  • Crow

    Here’s my very bold prediction (in order):

    1. Bairbre De Brun (SF)
    2. Diane Dodds (DUP)
    3. Dame Nuala O’Loan (FF)

    Remember you read it here first…….

  • Dewi

    Aside – even more intersting for geeks is that Tory candidates for Welsh Council seats up form 280 odd last time to 520 this – astonishing indicative organisational achievment – sorry to digress.

  • Mark McGregor

    Crow,

    Good call. I can see Dodds being a candidate as part of Robbo succession deal and O’Loan with an SDLP husband, current role as a FF envoy and profile is another good shout.

    Could we have the entire field apart from the UUP sorted already?

    de Brún -SF
    Allister – TUV
    Dodds – DUP
    O’Loan – FF/SDLP
    Lo – United Community
    tbc – UUP

  • Dewi

    Crow -mine
    Allister (TUV)
    Turgon (TUV)
    Lo (United Community)

    …And Cardiff to win FA Cup and Plaid to capture Newport County Council.

  • Jack Black

    I wouldn’t be betting against Jim Nicholson being the UUP candidate. Almost certain.

  • PaddyReilly

    The European Election already, with only 400 and something days to go till the polls open! Whoopee! Christmas gets earlier and earlier every year.

    I view with interest the predictions of our contributors Crow and Dewi. Here is my twopennorth.

    In 1999 the combined SDLP and SF vote came to 45.4% of the total. Given a regular increase in the Nationalist vote of 0.5% per annum, or 5% per decade, we would expect in 2009 a combined Nationalist total of 50.4%, and presumably two Nationalist seats, which would be SF plus SDLP possibly renamed as FF.

    However, in 1999, the Alliance vote was only 2.1% of the total. In 2004, the United Community Candidate managed to more than treble that. The joint vote of SF and SDLP, even after transfers, was not more than 46%, I think, rather than the 47.9% one would have predicted from the 1999 results. But that is only 1.9% out, which means about 10,000 votes short of the prediction.

    But we have now to decide, are we going to base our estimates for 2009 by taking the results for 1999 as our point of departure, or 2004? If the latter, I would predict that the approximately 31,000 vote advantage that the Unionist camp had in 2004 would be more than halved, with the UUP gaining the last seat by being approximately 15,000 votes ahead of FF aka SDLP.

    (Note that I persist in my belief that the Unionist vote is coming down, which some may dismiss as delusion or wishful thinking. But I should point out that the 2007 Assembly elections recorded a marked fall in the Unionist vote, and I have no reason to think that this has stopped.)

    If the former of course, one would expect FF/SDLP to be 4000 votes ahead of the UUP, and take the second seat.

    The trouble is, one doesn’t know if it was the 1999 vote which was in some way unusual or aberrant, or the 2004. Perhaps both? What I think I’ll do is fudge, and draw a line half way between the two. Thus, my prediction is that when all the transfers are counted, without achieving a quota, the UUP will be 4500 votes ahead of FF/SDLP, with an error margin of 10,000 votes each way (so that I can claim to be right whatever happens).

    Neither of these calculations takes into account the possible effects of the intervention of the TUV in the contest. These are unlikely to be crucial, except in the unlikely event of the TUV taking significant numbers of votes away from the DUP and then transferring them to to the UUP, leaving the transfer repellent DUP short of a quota.

    So to compare the predictions of Crow and Dewi, I have to admit that Crow’s do fall within the bounds of the possible. I myself though, would not bet money on this outcome. Dewi’s suffer from the serious defect that Turgon would not risk splitting the Raving Looney Party I mean TUV vote by standing as a second candidate.

  • Young-boo

    i cant see the SDLP going for someone who isnt already a party member for the European Elections,

    i think they will be looking at some1 who will get FF backing, as well as the other southern Parties, so it will be interesting to see who will be running for it!

  • Dewi

    Paddy – the Prods don’t vote in the Euro things – I love the Maths mind – but Euro elections not the ones to …huh ..baseline?

  • PaddyReilly

    The Prods don’t vote in the Euro things

    Well they do a very good impression of having done so. Paisley has won a full quota right from the beginning. I don’t think he had to put forward any convincing arguments about European governance to do so. It strikes me that these are substitute referenda.

    What religious background do you come from anyway, Galvanised Methodist?

  • Dewi

    Welsh Baptist – look at Nick Whyte you are right – just about 3.5 years to early!!!

  • PaddyReilly

    Dewi your link does not work. What does Nicholas Whyte say on this matter? What do you mean I’m 3.5 years out? How do you know it’s not 3.6?

    Ah Beng walks into a New York Currency Exchange with 2000 yen. He receives $72.00 in American currency. The following week, he goes back to the same currency exchange. He again exchanges 2000 yen. This time, he receives $66.00 in American currency. Not understanding why he received less money, he asks, “Why less money when same 2000 yen”

    The assistant replies, “Fluctuations.” Ah Beng looks at him and angrily says, “Fluck you Amelicans, too!”

    Beware of fluctuations. The psephologist’s nightmare.

  • Eamon Donnelly

    I think people are missing out on the obvious candidate that FF would want to run – Peter Quinn.