Fianna Fáil establishes third constituency forum in North


FIANNA FÁIL has established another constituency forum in the North, the party’s third. This is in addition to fully fledged cumainn at both the University of Ulster and Queen’s University Belfast, which now has as many student members as UCD.

The Fermanagh South Tyrone Fianna Fáil forum was set up yesterday following a meeting in Enniskillen attended by Ministers Éamon Ó Cuív and Brendan Smith. The meeting, attended by about 70 people, including some Independents and SDLP members.

Northern members have formed a pressure group – 2011: Our Time is Now – that wants Fianna Fáil to run candidates in the two elections scheduled for that year.

They believe that the following Assembly and local council elections, due in 2016, are too distant. A motion calling on next year’s Fianna Fáil ardfheis formally to support running Northern Fianna Fáil candidates is being drafted.

“We can’t be expected to keep up this sort of momentum for another seven years,” one source told The Irish Times.

However, Bertie Ahern told BBC Northern Ireland yesterday that he personally doubted if candidates would run in 2011.

As with previous meetings in Northern Ireland, Éamon Ó Cuív stressed the need for local organisations to form themselves and then to approach party headquarters for formal recognition and support.

Mr Smith stressed the role of Northerners in Fianna Fáil since its foundation and told the meeting he viewed the party’s direction as returning North rather than branching out there for the first time.

The meeting was also addressed by businessman Peter Quinn, who outlined his belief that more needed to be done to build relations with unionism.

He stressed what he said were Fianna Fáil’s credentials on cross-Border issues and the building of an all-island economy.

Two SDLP councillors addressed the meeting, highlighting the difficulty posed for the party by the Fianna Fáil move.

Rosemary Flanagan said she was very much against the direction taken by Fianna Fáil in Fermanagh. But Cllr Patricia Rogers said she firmly supported the party’s move.

Former Sinn Féin Assembly member, now Independent, Gerry McHugh, said he believed Fianna Fáil was the right party to bring about change in Northern Ireland. The Stormont Executive, led by Sinn Féin and the DUP, was failing, he added.

The Fermanagh forum follows similar local organisations formed in Downpatrick, Co Down, and in Crossmaglen, south Armagh.

It is hoped party headquarters will confer on it full cumann status soon. Till then it will have fundraising and policy discussion roles.

It is expected the next such forum will be established in Co Antrim, probably in Belfast, before steps are taken to organise further in Derry city and in Co Tyrone.