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Corbyn urged to field Northern Ireland candidates ahead of first visit as Labour leader

Challenged: Jeremy Corbyn
Challenged: Jeremy Corbyn

By Rebecca Black

The Labour Party in Northern Ireland has publicly called for Jeremy Corbyn to allow members to stand for election here.

However, it is not yet clear if Mr Corbyn will even meet Labour NI on his first visit here as party leader, which starts on Thursday.

Labour has traditionally not run election candidates in Northern Ireland due to its reluctance to compete against sister party the SDLP. The issue is currently subject to an internal party review which is expected to report to the party's National Executive Council (NEC) later this year.

Labour NI has run candidates here in the past; however its constitution has a clause stating that it will disband once Labour lifts the ban on contesting elections in Northern Ireland.

Labour NI spokesman Boyd Black last night said that local members hope to meet Mr Corbyn at some point during his two-day visit, but have not received confirmation of whether they will get that opportunity. He said the chief issue they want to raise with Mr Corbyn is their wish to run Labour candidates in Northern Ireland elections.

Mr Black said, while the decision will be made by the NEC rather than Mr Corbyn, they would like to secure his support.

In a statement, Labour NI welcomed the planned visit of Mr Corbyn to Northern Ireland, which they described as "particularly important at a time of uncertainty around the implications of Brexit".

The statement went on to say that the Labour Party NI "continues to strive to develop anti-sectarian politics and to that end looks forward to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party soon granting our members here the right to contest elections".

"The undemocratic suppression of our right to engage in Labour Party electoral politics can be sustained no longer," Labour NI said in the statement.

"People here badly need a Labour government and must have the opportunity to vote for Labour Party candidates as a progressive alternative to communal sectarianism."

Mr Corbyn's planned visit has already caused controversy, with unionists challenging him to condemn IRA violence before he arrives.

Belfast Telegraph


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