Fianna Fáil denies it has Assembly representative


FIANNA FÁIL has denied it has a representative in the Stormont Assembly despite the announcement yesterday by Independent member Gerry McHugh that he has joined the party.

Mr McHugh, who quit Sinn Féin two years ago, said he had joined Fianna Fáil to further his political objectives which he could not do as an Independent.

Explaining the announcement, Mr McHugh told The Irish Times: “I was asked to join Fianna Fáil by local members in Fermanagh quite some time ago.”

But he added he was “uncertain” about whether or not Fianna Fáil headquarters in Dublin realised he was a member of the Assembly when his membership application was accepted.

It is understood FF accepted Mr McHugh as a member some time ago, not knowing he was an Assembly member for Fermanagh-South Tyrone.

The party denied it now had “an elected representative in the Northern Assembly”.

It added: “Fianna Fáil headquarters had not had any discussions with Mr McHugh concerning his membership of Fianna Fáil and he does not represent Fianna Fáil in the Northern Assembly.”

The party statement concluded: “Fianna Fáil has no plans, at this stage, to be represented at elected-office level in Northern Ireland.”

Mr McHugh had been unavailable for comment on the issue on Tuesday night, hours before the story broke. However, yesterday he described his new position as “an Independent who is in Fianna Fáil” rather than a Fianna Fáil member of the Assembly.

“I’m not under the whip of any party and that is a massive difference,” he said.

Explaining his decision to go public on his joining the party, he said: “I felt I had to explain to my own electorate . . . and I think it would be wrong of me to just continue without doing that.”

Mr McHugh, who quit Sinn Féin in December 2007, said he did so because of that party’s internal controls and partly because of its position on policing.

He said he was a supporter of the PSNI and of the Patten Commission on policing on whose recommendation it was established.

“The PSNI are a lot more accountable and they are dealing with people and the situation in a much better way than in the past. There certainly is a sea change from what the RUC was,” he said.

Regarding Fianna Fáil’s republicanism, Mr McHugh said: “The commitment to a united Ireland and the ability to deliver it are what counts. I don’t know if Sinn Féin has the ability to deliver in that way. I think Fianna Fáil are a long-established party . . . I believe they are committed to a long-term goal of uniting the country in a way that is in agreement and in consensus with unionists. Nobody is talking about forcing a united Ireland on any people.”

He denied he had announced his membership of the party solely to boost his chances of re-election to the Assembly in 2011, viewing that task as particularly difficult as an Independent.

“The opposite could be true. I just don’t know . . . I feel that in terms of macro-politics I don’t have much of an input as a single entity at Stormont. It is as simple as that. I want to be part of a large structure that can deliver a greater goal. I never got into politics to be a single person doing constituency work.”