SDLP councillors will soon have to decide where they stand on the Fianna Fáil tie-in…

Realistically, given her misgivings, Claire Hanna stepping back from a role in delivering that joint policy platform makes sense both for her and her party. Why would she want to deliver a Brexit policy from a project she has issues with.

It is likely to be a short term arrangement. Frankly, the election timetable is going to force everyone’s hand. The ambivalence Hanna feels is no doubt shared by other folks who must face voters on the doorsteps over the few months.

Cognitive dissonance in any candidate will have a dilatory effect on their willingness to engage with voters. Neither they nor the party has the breathing space that is presently being afforded to Ms Hanna.

The first meeting of the SDLP/Fianna Fáil joint policy group is tomorrow. Discussions will be frank and business-like. No long detailed glossy position papers, but a firm review of the eye-watering timeframe between now and May. And actions required.

Most council battles will be low level and focus on clear local issues. But, inevitably, the partnership will be judged on the numbers arising out of each area. There really will be no wriggle room for second thoughts or ambivalence.

If the crunch does not come now, it will come after May’s results. However difficult or embarrassing that is for individuals in the short term, leaving it until after the election could prove self-limiting if not disastrous.

Whatever teething difficulties the SDLP is experiencing over the inevitable fallout and questions over the joint policy platform with Fianna Fáil it is small beer to what lies ahead in its push back on long Sinn Féin’s dominance.

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