Ed Miliband has said Labour will review its policy of not running candidates in Northern Ireland elections in the next parliament.
On only his second trip here since becoming Opposition leader more than four years ago, he argued Labour couldn't play an honest role in Northern Irish politics if it ran in elections here.
"I understand the view that some people take on this. But the position we have always taken is that we must be honest brokers in terms of the peace process and political negotiations, and running candidates in the election would run against that," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
"The Conservatives, if you remember, tried to get involved here in a partnership (with the UUP) and I don't think that was very successful."
He was speaking after a meeting representatives of the NI Labour Party, now regarded as a full constituency association and with a membership of 300.
And he pledged to re-examine the issue after the next election in May, while insisting that the SDLP remained the "sister party" of Labour in Northern Ireland. After meeting leaders including the First and Deputy First Ministers at Stormont Castle, Mr Miliband denied his party's stance alienated potential Labour supporters here. He also met business leaders, interest groups and activists at an event at the Belfast campus of the Ulster University.
Mr Miliband revealed a future Labour Government would not stall legislation to devolve corporation tax powers to Northern Ireland, after his Northern Ireland spokesman Ivan Lewis recently criticised the "rush" to introduce the new law before the May election.
"I have heard the feeling of people here about that and from all the parties and it is strong, so that is why we have said we will not oppose the legislation," he explained.
"That said, we still want to make sure the conditions are right, not just in terms of the impact implementing the introduction of corporation tax will have in terms of the block grant for Northern Ireland, but any adverse effect on the rest of the United Kingdom."