Belfast Telegraph

Labour not running candidates in NI elections is disappointing: Hoey

Former MP Kate Hoey
Former MP Kate Hoey
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

Former Labour MP Kate Hoey has expressed her sadness that her party isn't running candidates in Northern Ireland in next month's Westminster election.

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A recent report by Labour's National Executive Committee (NEC) said fielding candidates here during the ongoing Brexit turmoil would be irresponsible.

It also stated that the SDLP was Labour's sister party, with both members of the Party of European Socialists.

Ms Hoey is not seeking re-election after 30 years as an MP.

She said: "I think it's very sad that the Labour Party isn't standing any candidates in Northern Ireland in the general election.

"It is the only part of the UK where Labour isn't running.

"Northern Ireland needs politics which focus on class issues rather than just constitutional ones."

A Labour Party member in Northern Ireland is considering standing in Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Lisnaskea woman Caroline Wheeler would be forced to run as an independent but would be endorsed by the party here. Ms Wheeler ran in May's council election where she secured 439 votes in Erne East.

"I am currently deciding whether to run in next month's general election," she said last night. "I have long fought for the right of the Labour Party in Northern Ireland to stand candidates here. The party will take our money but won't give us our rights. We are denied equality with members in Britain. It's a very disappointing and unsatisfactory position for the party to take."

Fermanagh and South Tyrone will be a tight contest with Sinn Fein MP Michelle Gildernew defending her seat from UUP challenger Tom Elliott who is expected to be selected by his party tonight. But Ms Wheeler insisted that there was a role for her candidacy. "There are a lot of issues that need to be on the agenda," she said. "As the mother of a disabled son, I feel very strongly about the position of the 272,000 unpaid carers that there are in Northern Ireland.

"Rising suicide rates, Dalradian goldmine, and the environment are also issues I would focus on." Labour Party in Northern Ireland secretary Boyd Black said: "If Caroline Wheeler does stand then we will endorse her."

Speaking previously, Mr Boyd branded the ban on his party organising here as "a gross suppression of our democratic political rights".

He said: "Our voters are disenfranchised and discriminated against. The very minimum enhancement of democratic participation we might have expected is that our 1,500 members would be facilitated to set up constituency organisations in the 18 Northern Ireland Westminster constituencies.

"Shepherded as we are into one Northern Ireland-wide CLP (Constituency Labour Party), our members are unable to formally organise in any way at local level. They cannot even open a bank account."

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