Key NI Labour officials quit in protest at hard-left '˜entryism'

Most of the key figures in the Labour Party in Northern Ireland have resigned from their leadership positions after alleging a secret internal attempt to subvert the party.

Tuesday, 8th August 2017, 12:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th September 2017, 11:51 am
Damien Harris (left), Peter Dynes and Kathryn Johnston (right) have all quit their party positions

Six people – including the chair and vice chair – who have been campaigning vigorously for Labour’s ban on fielding candidates in Northern Ireland to be lifted, have now walked away from their roles, claiming that a “small minority” of hard-left members had made their work impossible.

Although they did not use the word in their resignation statement, the members appeared to be alleging an entryist attempt to take over the party in Northern Ireland.

Labour and other left-wing sources claim that recent or current members of the Socialist Party, the Socialist Workers Party and People Before Profit have recently joined Labour in Northern Ireland.

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Those who have resigned are chair Anna McAleavy, vice-chair Damien Harris, vice chair membership Peter Dynes, secretary Kathryn Johnston, disability officer Keith Gray and women’s officer Mary Sheen.

In a statement, the six said that they would remain active members of the party.

They said: ‘We do not resign lightly. Instead, it is a heavy decision which has weighed on us for several months. It became evident from a very early stage that there are diverse and inimical political parties secretly organising within the LPNI contrary to Chapter 2 of Labour Party Rulebook 2017.

“Although these are a small minority among our committed and hard-working activists, members and supporters, they are a vocal and troublesome element. ‘This has presented us with irreconcilable difficulties.”

Mr Harris, a self-described “centrist”, told the News Letter that every time he had gone to a party meeting recently he had been “filled with a sense of dread” and that leaving every meeting he was “despondent, almost broken”.

He said that there had been “discord within the party” with “factions working within and no harmony or unity left any more”, but stressed that those responsible were a “small element” of a membership which has rapidly swollen to more than 2,000 members in recent years.

Mr Harris said that he and his colleagues had warned Labour headquarters about what was going on but were “basically told ‘sort it out yourselves’”.

Mr Harris added: “I do fear the party being dragged to the extreme left, the far left and way beyond that.

“I don’t like the doctrinal dogmatic approach to politics that certain elements within our party would like to see.”