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Labour Party could field candidates in next Northern Ireland Assembly election

By David Young, PA

Published 09/12/2015

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn

Labour Party members in Northern Ireland may stand in next year's Stormont election.

The party leadership has long refused to field candidates here, citing a reluctance to compete with sister party the SDLP.

Boyd Black is secretary of the Labour Party in Northern Ireland
Boyd Black is secretary of the Labour Party in Northern Ireland

But local Labour members opposed to the ongoing ban have agreed among themselves to prepare to go to the polls.

They said they would now "engage" with the Labour leadership and National Executive on the plans.

The next scheduled election in Northern Ireland is the Stormont Assembly vote in May.

A motion on preparing to contest elections in Northern Ireland "at the earliest date at which it is appropriate to do so" was backed unanimously by around 100 party members at a meeting in Belfast.

Labour has around 350 members in Northern Ireland.

The motion instructs the regional executive committee to "prepare and train" members who would be suitable candidates, establish a fighting fund to pay for offices and staff, and prepare "a political programme to put to the electorate".

It also commits to "alert the National Executive and the party leadership to the evolving political situation in Northern Ireland and engage with them in the process of promoting Labour's challenge to the sectarian status quo."

Boyd Black, secretary of the Constituency Labour Party of the Labour Party in Northern Ireland, said: "The overwhelming feeling of the members of the LPNI was that the people of Northern Ireland are crying out for a credible alternative to the sectarian silos of Northern Ireland politics.

"We are asking all members who have an interest in being considered by a candidates' panel to submit their details in writing as soon as possible.

"Time is short, but it is always the right time to do the right thing - in this case to let the voice of Labour be heard."

During the Labour leadership battle in August, candidate Andy Burnham stated his support for running candidates in Northern Ireland.

"If elected leader, I will support a review of the prohibition on Labour Party candidates and will seek the views of the Irish Labour Party as to how best we can assist the Labour Party members and supporters," he said.

The eventual winner of the contest and now leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, is a close ally of Sinn Fein, rather than Labour's sister party, the SDLP.

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