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Revival bid for Labour Party as Derry branch is launched

By Brendan McDaid

The Labour Party has been revived in Londonderry for the first time since the start of the civil rights movement in the late 1960s.

Leading union officials were among those who gathered yesterday for the launch of the Foyle branch, and vowed to provide an alternative to the main parties in the city.

The last time Labour existed in the city was back in 1968, before John Hume’s then fledgling Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) overshadowed and replaced it.

The founders of the new branch of the Labour Party, however, said they were now confident of attracting support away from the SDLP and others.

The 138-member Derry branch of the Labour Party is part of the main UK Labour Party led by Ed Miliband and has confirmed it will contest elections over the coming years.

Some of the north west’s most senior union representatives, Keith Cradden, Kenny McAdams, Liam Gallagher, Paddy Kelly and Paddy Curtis make up the executive of Foyle Labour, with Seamus Breslin as chairman.

Speaking to the Telegraph, the executive members said that the Labour Party was growing in stature across Northern Ireland following a change of direction from right of centre under Tony Blair back to left of centre under Mr Miliband’s leadership.

Mr Breslin said: “There has always been a Labour Party presence in Derry pre-1968 and it was fairly strong within Derry area.

“Obviously with the Troubles, politics was polarised into green and orange, but we believe now is the right time basically for a more mature type of politics, and we are attempting to ensure the electorate have an alternative, a centre left perspective on politics.

“We see this is a progressive move and we believe we can build a significant base to build an effective opposition.

“We believe that it is badly needed, particularly in the current economic circumstances with high rates of unemployment, particularly among young people, and the devastating effect that is having on business and on people’s quality of life.

“There is also the issue with affordable social housing and education and skills training.”

The newly formed party executive in Derry also said it was simply not good enough for Assembly members to say they can do little to change Westminster policies.

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