Blaneys divided

The family of the late Neil T Blaney is divided over the proposal to merge Independent Fianna Fáil with the main party. By Frank Connolly

There is division in the Blaney extended family over plans by Niall Blaney TD to join Fianna Fáil. The widow and children of Niall Blaney's uncle, the late Neil T Blaney, issued a statement distancing themselves from reports that the Blaney family were engaged in a "rapprochement" with Fianna Fáil. Neil T Blaney was a Fianna Fáil minister from 1957 to 1970, when he was dismissed from the cabinet by the then Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, over the attempted importation of arms. Neil Blaney was later expelled from the Fianna Fáil party in 1971 and founded Independent Fianna Fáil which operated only in Donegal.

Neil Blaney died in 1995 and was succeeded by his brother Harry Blaney, who retained a Dáil seat for the family in Donegal North East, until his retirement in 2002. He, in turn, was succeeded by another member of the family, the current TD Niall Blaney.

The immediate family of the late Neil Blaney said in a statement: "Regarding the ... issue of the Independent Fianna Fáil party organisation ... rejoining the Fianna Faáil party, we wish to state that we were not informed of ... the historic decision being considered by that organisation. As we understand the wider Blaney family outside of Donegal were similarly not informed and given no opportunity whatever to discuss or consider this issue."

MacDara Blaney, a Dublin-based IT specialist and independent political activist, said his family were totally opposed to the privatisation policies of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats, whose founders were largely responsible, he said, for forcing his father and others from the larger party.

Describing Fianna Fáil as a malevolent political organisation, he also rejected reports that the Blaney family was prepared to accept an apology from the party in return for an end to division of Fianna Fáil in Donegal.

Responding to the statement Niall Blaney TD said the entire Independent Fianna Fáil organisation was behind his discussions with the Fianna Fáil leadership over a possible merger. There is opposition to the merger from within the ranks of the main Fianna Fáil party, especially from those associated with outgoing TD and former minister James McDaid, whose base is in Letterkenny.

"We are waiting for discussions to resume over the next couple of weeks. There have been some problems locally that need to be ironed out," Blaney said in reference to the resistance from senior Fianna Fáil figures in the constituency. He said that Neil Blaney's immediate family were "entitled to their opinion but politics in Dublin are a far cry from politics in Donegal". The family of the late Neil Blaney is based in Dublin.

"This [merger] proposal has the support of the whole organisation and the wider Blaney family. Neil T Blaney supported Fianna Fáil in the Dáil, his grandfather was a founder member of the party, and Neil was a minister. He [the late Neil T Blaney] had made an effort to resolve the differences in 1986 but it did not happen then," Niall Blaney told Village.

He rejected the idea that he was motivated by concern to retain his seat in Donegal North East which is under threat from a resurgent Sinn Féin organisation and said he and Cecilia Keaveney, the other Fianna Fáil TD, were the most likely to hold their seats in the coming general election. Fianna Fáil deputy leader Brian Cowen has said the party's leadership was trying to resolve differences with disaffected former members in advance of the election.

Fine Gael has been beset by internal difficulties in Donegal with Jimmy Harte, son of former deputy Paddy Harte, recently declaring that he is standing as an Independent. His move followed the selection of Senator Joe McHugh as sole candidate on the party's ticket.