Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Our democratic right denied by Labour decision

After the events of the last few weeks, it's clear that, if we are to unite our divided community, we urgently need the development of a new brand of anti-sectarian politics based on shared cross-community Labour values.

The recent statement from the Labour Party NEC will prevent this progressive development.

We are disappointed that the NEC organisation committee believes it is not advisable for Labour to start organising electorally here.

This denies us the only political means to move this society forward on a non-sectarian and inclusive basis.

Based on Ed Miliband's remarks to the Labour conference, this decision is to preserve the party's position as an "honest broker".

In reality, it is a major concession to sectarian politics. It is an abdication of responsible political leadership at a time when we have a complete leadership void in Northern Ireland.

Labour is continuing to deny everyone in Northern Ireland their fundamental democratic rights. We remain unable to vote for the party that aspires to govern us.

If successful in the next general election, Labour will determine the level of our public health, housing and education services and of our welfare benefits.

By this decision, we will not be allowed to choose between Labour's policies on these matters and the plans of the Tories.

As a result, Northern Ireland cannot, in any meaningful sense, be described as a democracy.

We regret that the suppression of our democratic political right to vote Labour is partly based on opposition from other parties.

Sadly, the SDLP, a party that developed out of the civil rights movement, has succeeded in denying us the most basic civil and political right of all.

One positive outcome from the NEC statement is that our proposal for a consultative Labour forum, involving the Labour Party, the Irish Labour Party and the SDLP, will be set up.

We welcome this opportunity to work with the other parties and hope that co-operation on this forum can chart a way forward.

BOYD BLACK

Secretary, Labour Party in Northern Ireland

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