There have been fresh calls for the Labour Party to stand put up candidates for election in Northern Ireland following party leader Ed Miliband’s visit to Belfast this week.
Ulster-born MP Kate Hoey said: “This has been a long campaign.”
The Labour member for Vauxhall added: “I find it shocking that my own UK party refuses to allow candidates to be put up in Northern Ireland, and will continue to support those who are calling for it to happen.”
Labour Party activist in the Oxford area Simon Riley, who is originally from Jordanstown, began campaigning for the party to organise in the Province as a student in the late 1980s. He said: “I will be helping with the election effort this year, knocking on doors. I’ve always thought the mainland parties ought to be over here and getting involved in the politics here more.
“The standard answer [from Labour] was always that if you are a Labour-minded person in Northern Ireland you ought to look to the SDLP, but unless you are an Irish nationalist you are not going to vote for the SDLP.”
Commenting on whether Labour would attract enough votes from the unionist community to make cutting the party’s ties with the SDLP worthwhile, Mr Riley added: “I do think there is potential there but I think there is a real mountain to climb with it. Even if they are not going to win any seats here in the foreseeable future, it’s this idea of them being a national party. Surely a party in government ought to be present throughout the whole country. Voters in Northern Ireland don’t have the opportunity to either vote for vote against the party likely to form the government.”
Local Labour Party chairman Boyd Black – a strong supporter of the party contesting elections in the Province – met Ed Miliband in Belfast this week.
Afterwards, Mr Black said: “It’s the nature of things that this is not necessarily going to happen overnight. But we’re just going to keep plugging away.”
Peter Bunting from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions said he understood that Labour doesn’t organise in Northern Ireland due to “a form of sister relationship” with the SDLP.
He said the political situation here makes any party affiliations difficult.
“The whole idea of the trade union movement has kept the cohesion, and united trade unions throughout the last 40 years. That is why we have never taken a position in it, or taken a position on about affiliating to a particular party,” he said.