02/10/2003

Local political parties indifferent to Labour decision

Northern Ireland's main political parties have responded with indifference to the decision by the Labour Party to allow people in Northern Ireland to join its ranks.

Nearly 90% of delegates at the Labour Party conference in Bouremouth voted in favour of the rule change.

However, Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew said there was no logic in the decision.

"The decision of the British Labour Party to organise in Ireland on a limited basis flies in the face of the logic of post Good Friday Agreement politics," the Fermanagh & South Tyrone MP said.

“The reality is that we do not need British parties organising in Ireland. We already have Irish parties organised in Ireland. There is no logic political or otherwise for the British Labour Party organising in Ireland."

The DUP's Gregory Campbell welcomed the move saying it reaffirmed Northern Ireland's position within the UK. The East Londonderry MP said: "Everyone, wherever they reside in the UK, should be entitled to join whichever national political party they want and engage in the democratic process. I am glad that the Labour Party now shares this view.

"I would now challenge Tony Blair to go one step further and put his party and its policies to the test at the polls here. Perhaps then, Mr Blair will fully come to realise that his popularity here is at a very low level and the people are fed up with his broken promises."

SDLP party chairperson, Alex Attwood said the decision would have little or no effect on his party. He said: "Given the legal advice the Labour Party received, the decision of the conference was inevitable. However, the Labour Party generally knows there is no popular call or political need for a Labour presence in the North.

"In fact it is most likely that membership of a British political party will appeal to those of a Unionist outlook and not to the nationalist community and values that the SDLP stands for."

Wednesday's announcement came as Belfast GMB trade unionist Andy McGivern mounted a legal challenge against the rules, backed by the Commission for Racial Equality.

Mr McGovern said the ban on people from Northern Ireland joining the party was racist.

(MB)

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