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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 October 2007, 16:03 GMT 17:03 UK
Fianna Fail discusses NI strategy
Dermot Ahern
Dermot Ahern said the discussions would take until next Easter
Bertie Ahern's Fianna Fail party has set up a committee to discuss how it should organise in Northern Ireland.

The party has already said it does not plan to contest Westminster seats.

Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern said the committee would "set out practical plans and a timescale to deliver on this historic move".

Mr Ahern, who will chair the committee said "an extensive party consultation process across all units of the organisation" would run until Easter.

It is the first time in Fianna Fail's 81-year history that efforts have been made to mobilise on an all-Ireland basis.

He said the magnitude of the move demanded "the gradual and strategic approach we are now embarking on".

The party is inviting submissions on its cross-border expansion, and Mr Ahern said they will "engage with interested parties north and south".

The decision to organise on a 32-county basis has led to debate within the nationalist SDLP about its relationship with Fianna Fail.

Among those appointed to the committee is Donegal TD Niall Blaney, a nephew of Neil Blaney who was sacked from the Cabinet during the 1970 arms crisis.

The 33-year-old had been a member of Independent Fianna Fail, established by his uncle, but led the party back into the mainstream parliamentary fold last year.

Also on the taskforce is Eamon de Valera's grandson Eamon O Cuiv and key peace process negotiator Martin Mansergh.

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