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Labour Party in NI must face realities

Boyd Black's recent column (Comment, September 8) ignores some of the central issues facing the Labour Party for Northern Ireland (LPNI).

I'm no economist, so I won't find fault with Boyd's figures, though I must point out that his guestimate that LPNI members pay as much as £75,000-£80,000 annually into central Labour funds sounds like wishful thinking, rather than the hard-headed analysis of a former senior economics professor at QUB.

But there is a lot more needed to make LPNI fit for purpose than merely following the money, not least a recognition of the realities of living in post-conflict Northern Ireland.

On Monday, a link to a newspaper column was posted on a few LPNI Facebook sites by an LPNI administrator ("The only Irish unionists saw during Troubles was tiocfaidh ar la").

I am no Gaeilgeoir, but I am proud to own a Gael Linn cupla focal fainne and I am pleased there are several members of the LPNI who speak fluent Irish.

This public endorsement on official LPNI social media of what reads as a sectarian point of view ignores the realities of the true diversity of the LPNI's current membership.

The former chair of the LPNI, Anna McAleavy, who resigned from the executive committee with me in July, highlighted this diversity at last year's Labour Irish Forum meeting to Labour general secretary Iain McNicol and Jim Kennedy, chair of the NEC team that is reviewing the LPNI's right to stand.

If the LPNI truly want to engage with the realities facing post-conflict Northern Ireland, they could do worse than listen to Len McCluskey of Unite the Union.

At last year's 1916/2016 Unite commemoration at The Mac in Belfast, myself and some comrades met Len. We explained the diversity of views within the LPNI, where some would support a united Ireland while others would support the continuing link with the UK.

Earlier this year, Mr McCluskey told a meeting of Unite members in Belfast that the Irish executive of Unite now backs the LPNI's right to stand and that he would follow their lead.

It is time to recognise the realities of organising a party from the bottom up, instead of from the top down.

Failure to recognise this will only result in the NEC review team laughing in the face of a vapid, but well-intentioned, submission from the LPNI, which will accomplish nothing other than snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Kathryn Johnston

Former Secretary, Labour Party in Northern Ireland

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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