At the weekend Fianna Fáil set up another Forum in the north, this time in Enniskillen. It joins existing Fora in Downpatrick and in Crossmaglen, and there are plans to complete the encirclement of the border with Fora in Tyrone and Derry city, as well as the establishment of a Forum in Belfast.
As in the earlier Fora Fianna Fáil appears to be attracting support both from discontented members of the SDLP and Sinn Féin, thus living up to its reputation as a broad populist party. In Fermanagh it has reportedly received the support of Rosemary Flanagan (the SDLP candidate in the 2008 Enniskillen by-election) and Patricia Rogers (elected to Fermanagh District Council in 2005) of the SDLP, and of ex-SF Gerry McHugh MLA (also a Fermanagh Councillor since 1993).
These are not inconsequential supporters, and they demonstrate the potential of Fianna Fáil to provide the kind of broad and effective nationalist political representation that appears to be increasingly lacking.
Whether the party will field candidates in elections in the near future is, as yet, unclear. Amongst its norther members, though, a pressure group has been formed – 2011: Our Time is Now – to push for candidates in the two major elections due that year: for the Assembly and the (new?) district councils. If the pressure group is successful, the effect could be revolutionary – or it could be disastrous. If both other nationalist parties retain their independence, the nationalist vote could be split three ways, and some seats could be lost as a result. Of course, both 2011 elections will be fought under STV rules and so the outcome may not be so bad, as long as voters are willing to transfer between the parties. But if they don't, the outcome could be less than optimal. The ideal situation would be for Fianna Fáil to enter into a formal pact with the SDLP, but until the result of the SDLP leadership race is known, it is impossible to judge whether such a possibility is likely. One thing is certain, though – the next 18 months or so are going to be interesting from an electoral point of view.