Northern Ireland news

Sir Keir Starmer criticised after snubbing Labour Party members in Northern Ireland

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer with shadow Northern Ireland secretary Louise Haigh at Stormont last week. Picture by Peter Morrison/PA Wire

LABOUR Party members in Northern Ireland have criticised Sir Keir Starmer for not meeting them during his visit to the region last week.

Labour has more than one-thousand members in Northern Ireland but headquarters in Britain prevents the party from standing in elections.

Previously the Labour flag in the north was carried by the affiliated but separate Northern Ireland Labour Party. Since 2003, British Labour has allowed membership in the north but has not contested elections.

The party in Britain is affiliated to the SDLP under the Party of European Socialists umbrella.

Boyd Black, a spokesman for Labour in the north who has led a decades-long campaign for the party to contest elections in the region, said Sir Keir had reportedly dined with the SDLP in Derry, while "he did not have a cup of tea with us".

He called for the regional party's "shackles (to be) removed by the Labour leadership.

"We need Labour Party candidates standing in our elections with full official backing," Mr Black said.

He accused Labour headquarters of adopting a policy to "block change, ignore the Labour voice and suppress Labour electoral activity".

"Labour Party members in Northern Ireland wish to ensure the success of the Good Friday Agreement by building a cross-community, inclusive Labour Party here," Mr Black said.

"This will challenge sectarianism in all its forms and present a progressive political platform which will tackle the pervasive unfairness in our society and come up with solutions to the problems underlying this in areas such as employment, housing, education and health."

A Labour spokesperson said: "The NEC is committed to reviewing the party's permission on standing candidates in Northern Ireland each parliamentary term.

"A review was last completed ahead of the 2019 election which concluded that it was not advisable for the party to stand candidates at this time. A review for the 2019 parliament will begin in due course."

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