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Stormont's working better than ever, McGuinness tells Labour conference

By Noel McAdam

Martin McGuinness today told the Labour Party conference that Stormont is "working better than ever".

At the annual 'Ulster Fry' event, the Deputy First Minister argued that his party, the DUP and Justice Minister Claire Sugden are acting "in a more effective and collective manner" following last autumn's Fresh Start deal.

But he was also expected to focus on the "challenges" to people in Northern Ireland as a result of the vote to quit the EU and continuing cuts to the province's block grant from the Treasury.

A Sinn Fein spokesman said last night: "He will say there is no 'good' Brexit, that the British Government must respect the vote to remain in the North and state that the Irish government has a responsibility to stand up for the interests of the people of the North."

The senior Sinn Fein figure has appeared at the annual gathering breakfast-time event several times.

Meanwhile, the Labour leadership is to come under renewed pressure today to run official candidates in Northern Ireland elections.

Just days after the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader, campaigners are taking their demands to the annual party conference in Liverpool tonight.

They are staging a fringe event at which they will accuse the leadership of suppressing electoral politics in the province.

A number of 'rebel' Labour candidates ran in the Assembly elections in May and could still face disciplinary action by the party's ruling National Executive Committee (NEC). The eight unofficial candidates ran under the title of the Northern Ireland Labour Representation Committee but polled a disappointing total of around 1,500 votes.

New Labour shadow Secretary of State Dave Anderson is due to attend tonight's gathering at the Albert Dock and is expected to speak about the NEC's ongoing review of the party's stance against taking part in Northern Ireland elections.

But Boyd Black, secretary of the Labour Party branch in Northern Ireland, argued that the growth of Labour supporters in the province since Mr Corbyn first replaced Ed Milliband last year underpinned the case for official candidates.

"Labour's leadership suppresses Labour Party electoral politics in Northern Ireland by refusing us the right to stand candidates. We are unable to vote for Labour Party candidates in any elections - local, general, European or Stormont Assembly.

"This is a gross suppression of our basic democratic political rights. Under the Good Friday Agreement Northern Ireland remains part of the UK.

"In General Elections, the Labour Party campaigns to be our Government and yet we are denied the right to vote Labour. Northern Ireland voters are effectively disenfranchised."

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