THE campaign to stand Labour candidates in Northern Ireland is poised to take a major step forward with the potential election of a Belfast man to the party's ruling body.
Poleglass-born Gerard Gallagher will contest the forthcoming election to Labour's National Executive Committee (NEC) after becoming the first person from the north to gain the necessary support from party colleagues in Britain.
He will launch his campaign in Belfast today as a LucidTalk poll reveals significant support in the region for standing Labour candidates.
Historically, 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's headquarters is currently conducting a review of its policy, with the findings expected to be published in the autumn.
Speaking to The Irish News last night, Mr Gallagher said the bid to stand Labour candidates in the north was the "driving force" behind his campaign, which has won support from at least five constituency Labour parties – the threshold necessary to contest the NEC election. Unlike Scotland and Wales, Northern Ireland has no dedicated seat at the NEC table.
"It is my clear view that Labour should be standing here and this is my main motivation for seeking election to the NEC," he said.
"It is important that our voices are heard, especially in the context of the protocol, as the Tories have shown time and time again that they care little for what happens in Northern Ireland. Democracy and basic fairness are Labour values and should be afforded to every member."
The 34-year-old data scientist, who lives in east Belfast, said being allowed to stand in the NEC election, which takes place between July 25-August 19, was a challenge in itself.
"Actually getting on the ballot is no small feat as it requires a candidate being endorsed by a number of constituency Labour parties (CLPs)," he said.
"Labour Party NI is only allowed one CLP for 18 constituencies making it almost impossible for Northern Ireland issues to get a fair hearing – we used to call this gerrymandering."
Mr Gallagher criticised Labour leader Keir Starmer's for failing to endorse the regional party's recent Right2Stand campaign.
"Labour can no longer ignore us – Keir Starmer talks about being 'a prime minister for the whole UK', yet he’s silent on the exclusion of Northern Ireland’s 1.8m people from Labour’s social justice mission as we’re left without any influence in either reserved or devolved areas," he said.
Long-time Labour campaigner Boyd Black said Mr Gallgher's election to the NEC would be "trailblazing".
"Gerard's election would be seismic and a huge step forward for our campaign," he said.
"With only nine of the 31 NEC positions elected by party members, competition is fierce and often dominated by factions but we remain hopeful."