Labour rebels deny splitting vote for Northern Ireland Assembly
Rebel Labour members fighting the Assembly election have denied vote-splitting and putting SDLP seats at risk.
In deciding to stand, the eight candidates are defying the national party, which has historically refused to organise in Northern Ireland and regards the SDLP as its sister party.
But launching their manifesto yesterday, the local Labour branch activists - who risk being expelled - insisted they were more likely to bring out a fresh vote than siphon support from the nationalist party.
Kathryn Johnston, vice-chair of the NI branch, said LucidTalk polls for the Belfast Telegraph showed that 51% of women and 53% of young people did not intend voting for any of the major parties. "We will reach voters the other parties are not," she told the gathering at the Unite trade union headquarters in Belfast. She also set out that Labour significantly differed from the SDLP. "The SDLP are equivocal on marriage equality; on abortion they are pro-life while we are pro-choice of the woman.
"Also, unlike them, we are also in favour of a comprehensive, integrated, secular education system," said Mrs Johnston, whose late husband Liam Clarke was political editor of the Belfast Telegraph.