Labour Party in Northern Ireland
|Vice Chair||Joan Martin|
|Youth wing||Young Labour in Northern Ireland|
|Membership (2017)||2,000[Note 1]|
|Ideology||Social democracy |
|European affiliation||Party of European Socialists|
|International affiliation||Progressive Alliance,|
Socialist International (Observer)
|European Parliament group||Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats|
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The Labour Party in Northern Ireland (LPNI) is the UK Labour Party's regional constituency organisation that operates in Northern Ireland. The Labour Party is not a registered political party in Northern Ireland and does not currently contest elections.
In the 2016 Assembly elections, eight members of the party ran for election under the name of the Northern Ireland Labour Representation Committee, as the Labour Party National Executive Committee had refused to allow candidates to stand as official Labour Party candidates.
For many years the UK Labour Party held to a policy of not allowing residents of Northern Ireland to apply for membership, instead supporting the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) which had informally taken the Labour whip in the House of Commons.
The 2003 Labour Party Conference accepted legal advice that the party could not continue to prohibit residents of the province joining, and whilst the National Executive Committee has established a regional constituency party it has not yet agreed to contest elections there.
Labour Representation Committee
In December 2015, the LPNI's executive committee voted to contest elections in Northern Ireland. In the run-up to the 2016 Assembly elections, local members registered a new party, the Northern Ireland Labour Representation Committee, with the Electoral Commission recognising them in April 2016. The party's constitution has a clause stating that it will disband once Labour lifts the ban on contesting elections in Northern Ireland. The new party's leader is journalist and author Kathryn Johnston. Several former members of the Northern Ireland Labour Party hold membership, including Erskine Holmes and Douglas McIldoon. Eight candidates ran under the label, despite the Labour Party warning Northern Irish Labour party members that they could face expulsion from the party for standing as candidates, as Labour party members who support a political organisation outside the Labour group can be expelled. Johnston highlighted policy differences with the SDLP, including Labour's position on abortion, same-sex marriage and support for an integrated and secular education system. The move to stand in elections was assisted by former Labour MP Andrew MacKinlay. They stood one candidate each in eight of the eighteen constituencies in the 2016 Assembly elections. They won no seats, with candidates obtaining between 0.2% and 0.7% of the first-preference votes. After the 2016 assembly election, Corbyn had publicly stated that he would consider candidates for the next election, stating, "There is a democratic deficit in one sense. There is a question of a relationship with other parties in Northern Ireland as well and how that will be affected."
The LPNI did not stand in the 2017 Assembly elections. However, LPNI member Donal O'Cofaigh was expelled from the party for standing on the Cross-Community Labour Alternative party list. In May 2017, a member of the executive of the Labour Party in Northern Ireland wrote to the Labour Party threatening legal action should the party continue to refuse to allow LPNI members to stand for election in Northern Ireland. The following year, delegates from the Northern Ireland party attended the 2017 national conference to bring their arguments to other delegates at fringe events. In August 2017, several officers in the LPNI structure, including chair Anna McAleavy, vice chair Damien Harris and secretary Kathryn Johnston - the last of whom contested the 2016 assembly election - resigned in an internal struggle inside the party leading up to the National Executive Committee assessing LPNI's case for structuring as a full part of the Labour Party (like Welsh Labour or Scottish Labour).
In May 2018, Jeremy Corbyn made his first visit to Northern Ireland as leader of the Labour Party. In this two-day visit, he visited Derry and the border areas and finished with a speech at Queen's University in Belfast. His speech focused on restoring devolved government – after it had been in a political deadlock since the 2017 assembly election – and mitigating disruption to Northern Ireland caused by Brexit. His speech was well received; however, there was some upset caused within the regional Labour Party, as he did not visit any of the branches or executive committee in this time. At a fringe event during the 2018 Labour party conference in Liverpool, the Unite union leader Len McCluskey said his union would back Labour Party standing candidates in Northern Ireland if that was decided. Colum Eastwood, leader of the SDLP, was notably not at the conference this year when the leader of the party usually attends.
Despite this, Labour chose not to run candidates at the 2019 election, instead endorsing the Social Democratic and Labour Party again. In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph former Labour MP Kate Hoey called this decision "disappointing".
Membership and trade union affiliation
As of September 2017 it was recorded that 37,000 Northern Irish trade union members have opted-in to pay the political levy their trade union offers which largely goes to the Labour Party. Additionally the party in the area has over 2,000 members and 1,000 registered supporters.
NILRC electoral results
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|NI Labour||Kathryn Johnston||8||-||1,577||0.2%||N/A|
|North Antrim||Kathryn Johnston||243||0.6%|
|Belfast North||Abdo Thabeth||127||0.3%|
|Belfast South||Brigitte Anton||246||0.7%|
|North Down||Maria Lourenco||177||0.5%|
|Lagan Valley||Peter Dynes||171||0.4%|
|Upper Bann||Emma Hutchinson||250||0.5%|
|Fermanagh and South Tyrone||Damien Harris||285||0.6%|
- With an additional 1,000 supporters
- Boyd Black (8 September 2017). "Northern Ireland needs the chance to vote Labour". The Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 14 September 2017.
- Clarke, Liam (5 March 2014). "Ed Miliband's refusal to fight elections in Northern Ireland slammed by Labour members". The Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
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- Labour Party membership form at the Wayback Machine (archive index), ca. 1999. Retrieved 31 March 2007. "Residents of Northern Ireland are not eligible for membership."
- Understanding Ulster by Antony Alcock, Ulster Society Publications, 1997. Chapter II: The Unloved, Unwanted Garrison. Via Conflict Archive on the Internet. Retrieved 31 October 2008.
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- "Legal threat against Labour over NI candidate ban". BBC News. 22 May 2017.
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- Jayne McCormack (21 May 2018). "Labour NI left hanging over Jeremy Corbyn's visit". BBC News. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
- Patrick Maguire (24 May 2018). "Labour is looking to the future in Northern Ireland – but can they escape Corbyn's past?". New Statesman. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
- Patrick Maguire (23 September 2018). "Will Labour run in Northern Ireland?". New Statesman. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
- "Labour not running candidates in NI elections is disappointing: Hoey". BelfastTelegraph.co.uk. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 18 December 2019.