Page last updated at 13:07 GMT, Friday, 18 April 2008 14:07 UK

SDLP 'good friends' says Ahern


Political correspondent Gareth Gordon reporting on the breakfast held in County Louth

Bertie Ahern has said relations between Fianna Fáil and the SDLP are closer than they have been for a long time.

Both parties have been consulting members about establishing closer ties, amid speculation that they may merge to create an all-Ireland party.

The outgoing Fianna Fáil leader was addressing an SDLP-organised event.

"Working together I believe that Fianna Fáil and the SDLP will dramatically enhance the economic and social wellbeing of this island," he said.

"Building on our strong legacy of co-operation and success, the future is very bright."

'Pragmatic nationalists'

Mr Ahern said the peace process would not have happened without the SDLP.

"Fianna Fáil and the SDLP are two pragmatic nationalist political movements which recognised that along with the provision of improved infrastructure, we must combine and co-ordinate policies," he said.

He told reporters that he wanted "to see the politics of Ireland move on," although SDLP leader Mark Durkan would not be drawn on the issue.

The theme of the event was "shaping an all-Ireland economy".

Almost 450 people paid 60 euros a plate to attend the breakfast at the Carrickdale Hotel, just across the border in County Louth.

The profits are being donated to five SDLP Newry and Mourne councillors who were fined for denying a victims group use of a hall in Newtownhamilton.

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