Belfast Telegraph

Ed Miliband's stance on Northern Ireland Labour candidates is unedifying

By Boyd Black

The Labour Party in Northern Ireland met with the leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, during his recent visit. This was the first time any leader of the Labour Party has met with the local party.

For us it was a small but significant step forward in our long campaign to win the right to vote for Labour Party candidates in Northern Ireland.

It is an affront that, nearly 50 years after the foundation of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, we are still denied the basic civil and political right to vote for the Labour Party.

We argued our case that the Labour Party should be running candidates here and not suppressing Labour Party politics.

In particular, we took issue with Ed's "honest broker" stance. We argued that, in reality, his was a far from "neutral" position.

The very fact that the Labour Party is boycotting us sent out a less than neutral signal. It positively contributes to political instability. Then, having propped up the local sectarian parties, if he fails to get the Labour majority we all want, Ed is possibly going to form an alliance in government with one of the local parties from one of the sectarian traditions.

This would probably be the sister party, the SDLP, but now the DUP is apparently also in the frame.

This hawking around of sectarian political deals is not edifying and is far from even-handed "honest brokering". The term has lost all credibility.

We challenged Ed's justification for his stance: that the peace process is fragile and that having Labour Party councillors or MLAs might destabilise it.

We argued the main threat to the peace process is undoubtedly the fact that the Labour Party refuses to take responsibility for leading us beyond the sectarian structures of the Good Friday Agreement and developing Labour Party politics here.

We stressed the incalculable damage the Labour Party boycott is doing to our society and politics.

We insisted that it was the sectarian political structures Labour was preserving that posed the main threat to peace. They generate flags and parades today. What will it be tomorrow?

There is a big legacy for Ed if he reverses the position.

Boyd Black is secretary of the Labour Party in Northern Ireland

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