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'Healthy' conference talks must be followed by Labour ending undemocratic electoral ban in NI

letter of the day: time for change

Paul Breen, of the Labour Party Irish Society (Saturday Review, Sept 30), reports that the recent Labour conference in Brighton "threw up plenty of healthy discussion" about whether the party should stand candidates in Northern Ireland as a "further alternative to conventional unionism and nationalism".

That "healthy discussion" was largely due to Labour Party in NI (LPNI) delegates vigorously lobbying for the party to end its undemocratic electoral ban on Northern Ireland.

One of those delegates - Patricia Smith of the South Down branch of LPNI - took to the conference platform and reminded everyone of Labour's Northern Irish democratic deficit. She received a warm round of applause.

LPNI delegates also met with Labour's general secretary Iain McNicholl and were informed that a review of Labour's NI elections policy would soon commence.

Furthermore, Owen Smith, Labour's new Shadow Secretary of State, assured LPNI delegates of his enthusiastic willingness to come to Northern Ireland to meet with fellow party members.

Labour spokespersons have often referred LPNI members to the SDLP as a surrogate 'sister party' here. There are clear signs that this policy is seriously creaking, given media reports that the SDLP is considering merging with Fianna Fail, rather than Irish Labour.

People in Northern Ireland can join the Labour Party and organise in the province. The last piece of this jigsaw needs to be put in place.

Labour would then not just be a 'further alternative' to Orange and Green politics; it would have the potential to be the most positively transformative alternative of all.

ANDREW WARD (LPNI delegate)

Belfast

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