| 19.8°C Belfast

NI is just an afterthought to Tories, says Labour's Sir Keir Starmer

Close

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer

Northern Ireland should not be of secondary consideration at Westminster, according to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

In an article published below, Sir Keir and shadow secretary of state Louise Haigh say the UK Government has failed to grasp the challenges facing the province in the wake of the Covid-19 emergency.

"As we move out of this crisis, rejuvenating Northern Ireland's economy will warrant particular attention if the full promise of peace is to be realised," they write.

"Northern Ireland shouldn't be overlooked in Westminster - something Labour recognised in office but which the Conservatives have failed to grasp time and again."

Turning to the looming controversial changes in trading rules for here contained in the UK/EU Withdrawal Agreement, the Labour duo say: "Businesses are crying out for detail on what the new arrangements will look like and are desperate to make it work.

"But with 27 weeks until the border changes come into force, very little is known.

"A lack of detail and engagement from senior ministers is not wise at any time, but in the middle of an economic crisis it is irresponsible. Northern Ireland must not be an afterthought."

Sir Keir (57), who took over as Labour Party leader from Jeremy Corbyn in April this year, is no stranger to local affairs.

A former Director of Public Prosecutions for England and Wales, he was asked in 2015 to investigate three connected cases involving sex abuse and terrorist-related charges following claims by Belfast woman Mairia Cahill.

Sir Keir found the three women had been let down by the Public Prosecution Service.

Meanwhile, the secretary of Labour here said the party in London was "institutionally racist" in the way it treated its local members.

While the party accepts members who live in Northern Ireland, it refuses to allow official party candidates to stand at elections in order maintain its "honest broker" status on local issues.

But Dr Boyd Black said that the "honest broker" stance is effectively racist.

"It's saying that if you are an English member of the Labour Party you can be an honest broker, but if you are a NI member of the Labour party you can't - you are a lesser citizen," Dr Black told the Belfast Telegraph last night. "It's institutionally racist. It's saying you are second class members, not capable of being honest brokers."

Belfast Telegraph