Fianna Fail has announced its first ever candidate to stand in a local election in Northern Ireland.
Sorcha McAnespy will stand in next May’s local election.
Fianna Fail is expected to unveil a number of other candidates in the time ahead.
Ms McAnespy, a member of Fianna Fail’s National Executive, is already an independent councillor for Fermanagh and Omagh District Council.
Party leader Micheal Martin, who has long pledged to contest elections north of the border, has informed her she will be a Fianna Fail candidate next May.
The move comes amid ongoing speculation that Fianna Fail might ultimately merge with the SDLP to run in future Northern Ireland elections.
The party’s director of elections Eamon O’Cuiv TD and senator Mark Daly attended an event in Omagh, Co Tyrone on Thursday night to announce Ms McAnespy’s candidature.
The men will be her joint campaign managers.
“I am delighted Deputy O’Cuiv and Senator Daly agreed to come to Omagh this evening to launch my campaign following my invitation and have both agreed to be my campaign managers,” Ms McAnespy told the Press Association.
“There is an appetite for change in Northern Ireland and there is an appetite now more than ever for Fianna Fail to contest elections in Northern Ireland.
“Michael Martin made the commitments in 2013 to contest local elections in 2019 and I was delighted when he confirmed I would be a candidate for Fianna Fail in the upcoming local elections in 2019”.
Established in 1926, Fianna Fail has long claimed to be Ireland’s true republican party.
As such, it has long faced questions on why it would not contest elections on a 32 county basis.
Its eventual decision marks a significant move in the political landscape on the island and comes when the debate over Irish unity has gained renewed traction due to Brexit.
Mr O’Cuiv said his party would offer “fresh thinking” in Northern Ireland.
“I believe that Fianna Fail standing in the North will help to give proper representation to the people concerned with the day-to-day issues, we will offer fresh thinking and challenge the status quo of Sinn Fein and DUP which has led to the shutting of Stormont and dysfunctional politics,” he said.
Senator Daly said he expected the launch to be the “first of many to come”.
“Fianna Fail have a vision for Omagh, Tyrone, Northern Ireland and the whole island that encompasses but also listen to views from across the spectrum, as a party we are strong enough in our identity so that we can reach out to others and realise that a shared future is possible,” he said
“I am delighted Councillor McAnespy invited me to be part of her campaign and this campaign launch I understand is the first of many to come”
At the event, councillor McAnespy said “all politics is local”.
She said: “My constituents concerns are the lack of investment, cuts to funding for education, pressures on our health services, shortages of staff in front line services, waiting lists for people with mental health problems, disproportionately high levels of suicide, crumbling infrastructure causing road deaths, lack of accessibility to public transport.
“Housing shortages, increasing cost of living, lack of broadband. We in Fianna Fail are here to listen to these concerns and work to address them.”
- Press Association