Mark Durkan announcing his Euro candidacy with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar looking on in approval. RollingNews.ie photo.
By Anthony Neeson
Irish politics is becoming more flexible.
While Fianna Fáil and the SDLP are sealing a pact for future elections in the North, former SDLP leader Mark Durkan has announced that he will run for the European Parliament for the Dublin constituency.
And he will be standing in the May election for Fine Gael.
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Durkan, 58, lost his Foyle Westminster seat to Sinn Féin in 2017.
The move to Fine Gael comes just a month after the SDLP announced an all-Ireland partnership with Fianna Fáil, and will be seen as a blow to current SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, coming as it does after a number of SDLP elected representatives criticized the move.
Mr. Durkan will be on a joint Fine Gael ticket with former Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald. Outgoing Fine Gael MEP, Brian Hayes, is stepping down from politics and will not contest the election.
Northern Ireland, meanwhile, is to lose its three MEP seats because of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. As a result, the Republic will be gaining two extra seats: one in Dublin and the other in the South constituency.
Dublin is currently a three-seater.
Mr. Durkan said the offer for him to stand for Fine Gael was following through on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s promise to ensure that Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland aren’t left behind by the UK’s departure from the EU.
Mr. Varadkar spoke at a dinner in honor of Mr. Durkan in Derry last year describing him as “a towering figure in politics.”
Mr. Durkan told RTÉ that if he is elected he will continue to live in Derry but will have a strong presence in Dublin.
“I know this is a big ask for the people of Dublin,” he said.
Mr. Durkan, who was an SDLP MP for his home city from 2005 until 2017, as well as leader of the party from 2001 to 2010, will suspend his SDLP membership in order to run for Fine Gael.
Durkan is not the first SDLP member to run for Fine Gael. SDLP founding member Austin Currie ran for the party in 1989 and was elected a TD for Dublin West.
A spokesperson for the SDLP said: “Mark Durkan provided the people of Derry with a first class public service for decades.
“We wish him well in the upcoming European election. Ireland can only benefit from having Mark Durkan back on a parliament bench.”