Is there room for Labour in Northern Ireland?

Bertie Ahern’s announcement yesterday that his party will be looking into organising in Northern Ireland leaves open some interesting questions for both British and Irish Labour, not least if they find themselves with no ‘partner’ party in Northern Ireland. Slugger is convening a modest discussion group in a pub in Bournemouth next week during the British Labour Party’s annual conference. If you are going to the conference or you know someone who is, let us know you’re coming by ‘booking’ your place here. Or you can ‘book’ through Facebook.

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  • JD

    Two document’s of interest:

    http://www.labour.ie/press/listing/1184580857259060.html

    and

    http://www.labour.ie/northernireland/statement2006.html

    One quote from the document is:

    “at present the Labour Party only contests elections in the Republic of Ireland, the Northern Ireland Labour Forum is in all other aspects a branch of the Party and members participate fully in campaigning and debate. The NI Labour Forum is also seeking a formal structural relationship with the British Labour Party”

    There will be a debate at the Labour conference in November to allow their NI members contest local elections

  • As Irish Labour are still packed full of “Sticks” (including it’s current leader), then I would imagine the transition to atansing in The North shoudl be quiet seamless. They’d need to be polling a few more votes than their former Workers Party comrades though….

  • michael

    Can anyone enlighten me as to what is meant when people referr to “Sticks” or “Stickeis”?

    Thanks

  • Gréagóir O’ Frainclín

    The problem with the Irish Labour Party now is that nearly all of it’s TD’s are middle class. This is very off-putting to those that are of a disadvantaged social class. There is no social bond or understanding between the two.

    James Connolly would no doubt be disappointed if he could see the current stock of wannabees, including the last leader, the smug Past Rabitte.

  • abucs

    Would not SF become the new ‘sister party’ up north ? :o)

  • slug

    Of course Labour should stand in Northern Ireland, its long overdue and a definite left of centre Labour gap exists in the political market-for both activists and voters. Glad they are accepting members now and have agreed to organise there. Just wondering if a Labour person could let us know how things are progressing with the criteria (200 members etc) that the party set for local organisation to begin?

  • me

    It sounds really interesting. I wish I could go! Not only a break away, but interesting conversation in a nice wee English pub with good grub and a cuppa! Who could ask for more?

    Thanks Mick for letting me know what I’m going to miss!

  • me

    ps, I’ll bet there won’t be a bed to be had for love nor money.

    Sigh!!!!!!!

  • merrie

    Would you be changing history by organising this event at the British Labour Party, Mick?

    You will be giving some Labour party people food for thought, though I know of at least one person, Ken Livingstone, who would say that NI is for the Irish.

  • PeaceandJustice

    How long does this have to go on for? Labour as the UK party of Government should give the people of Northern Ireland the right to vote for Labour candidates.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/3154222.stm

  • Cormac

    “Can anyone enlighten me as to what is meant when people referr to “Sticks” or “Stickeis”?

    Thanks

    Posted by michael

    A Stickie is an Official Sinn Féin supporter – so called because they used to affix their Easter lillies to their lapels with sticky-tape, as opposed to Provos who used pins (but weren’t called ‘Pinnies’ for some reason! 🙂

    Official Sinn Féin became ‘Official Sinn Féin – The Workers Party’, which became The Workers Party, most of whom became Democratic Left and were eventually merged with/swallowed up by Labour.

  • Just wondering…

    How about the folks in the SDLP who are unhappy about a merger with Fianna Fail (mostly their urban left-of-centre base) and the folks in the UUP who are unhappy about a merger with the Tories (again mostly their more moderate, urban wing) form an alliance and reform the NI Labour Party ?

  • An Bearnach

    Cormac,
    Actually, way back in the dark days running up to Easter 1970, the Provisionals were in fact known as Pinheads. I note that this year, as well as finally embracing political modernity laid out then by Cathal Goulding, they have also finally accepted the possibilities of modern methods of adhesion.

  • JW

    In reply to “Just wondering….”:

    If the SDLP”s, as far as I can tell illusory, left of centre urban base was to reform the NILP they could hardly claim to be republicans, could they?

    Any previous attempt at creating a ‘cross-community’ labour party in the North as always resulted in left-unionism, just as the Alliance are, whatever they claim, liberal unionists. I don’t see why this would be any different today.

    Langhammer’s movement into the (Irish) Labour party seems more meaningful to me than any attempt to transplant the British Labour party.

    Talk of a coming re-alignment seems to me to be way off-base, though perhaps at local authority level some moves could be made.

    At a higher level, I just can’t see it. The facts are that not only is the Assembly is sectarian at core (whether in the name of ‘parity of esteem’ or whatever) and the national question remains the central issue in Northern political ideology.

  • JW

    PeaceandJustice asks, more or less, how long NI must be governed unaccountably by British political parties.

    The article you linked to contains the answer: “SDLP chairman Alex Attwood insisted it would not have any effect on his party. “In fact, it is most likely that the membership of a British political party will appeal to those of a unionist outlook and not the nationalist community nor the values that the SDLP stands for,” he said.”

    Therein lies the rub: the British have always kept the place at arm’s length from the polity of the UK as a whole. Whether one is a republican or a unionist or whatever else, there is no appetite for British parties in the North.

    The Tories regularly embarrass themselves in elections in the North. Labour is doing everything it can to stay out of the place.

    The (old) Liberals stood in NI once or twice, if I recall correctly though I may be mistaken, and the SDP certainly did. Result? No dice.

    What would British Labour have to offer any labourite who also happened to be a republican or nationalist? A further copper-fastening of partition?

    In many ways it’s unfortunate that the policy of the British Establishment has been to ignore the North, and let the Unionist party rule it however they pleased from 1920 until the 1972 but that’s the way it was and the result is a distinct and discrete polity. That said, the UUP’s connections with the Tories have been, historically, much stronger than their republican equivalents over the years (NP, SDLP etc.) have been with the south. FIne Gael didn’t last long and Fianna Fáil never organised and didn’t link up so closely with the NP and SDLP as the UUP and Tories did.

    Ironically, it occurs to me that had the British parties taken more of an interest in matters then there might be significantly less support for republican parties today.

    So, sorry Mick, I think you’re wasting your time.

  • Cormac

    “they have also finally accepted the possibilities of modern methods of adhesion”

    :-)))

    Have to disagree with “political modernity laid out then by Cathal Goulding”, though. In terms of peace, certainly, but I always thought his brand of socialism was a bit old-hat.

    But then I would say that because I’m a capitalist pig (and proud!!)

    More a Bertie Ahern ‘socialist’, me.

  • Labourman

    The prevailing ambition across both Labour Parties operating in the North is to forge one party with structural links to London AND Dublin. The Trade Union movement already handles this in an equitable way. Remember, Labour is part of that Labour movement.

    I pay my subs to London, others pay theirs to Dublin.

    Just to be even handed then – if you want to join Labour you can either go to

    http://www.labour.org.uk/join

    or

    http://www.labour.ie/join/

  • Mick Hall

    “The problem with the Irish Labour Party now is that nearly all of it’s TD’s are middle class.”

    Well then they should fit in just nicely with their ‘colleagues’ across the Irish sea.[comrade and brothers and sisters are non words within NLP] They will be able to chat about the wonders of ASBOS, the value of their house and what shares to buy in the banking sector now the BLP government has all but under-wrote that sectors share value [capitalism is wonderful if you are a thief, you can gamble with investors money and the government far from jailing you rewards you with the tax payers hard earned cash]

    There was a time when members of the LP called for nationalization without compensation, now the LP government, compensates the Bankers without a jot of Nationalization. Such things used to be called a ‘back hander’, ‘a bung’, ‘a hand out’ and those who took such money were spongers[remember that one] scroungers etc.

    The ‘colleagues’ could also run down those stupid Trade Unionists who with there silly strikes to defend their members best interest clearly do not get the point of Globalization, and the benefits it can bring to nice middle class people like the majority of the members of the labour party they finance so gullibly

    I just love the comradeship and internationalism of those ‘colleagues’ who are calling for the British LP to organize in the north, it does not seem to matter a jot to them that the Second International already has a fraternal party in the north, the SDLP.
    Bertie must be laughing his rocks off, two birds with one stone.

    Still what is comradeship when you can kneel at the feet of Betty Windsor. By the way Mick, whose financing this little outing to the sunny south?

  • PeaceandJustice

    Mick Hall – “Still what is comradeship when you can kneel at the feet of Betty Windsor.”

    Why do you feel the need to insult the Royal Family when you expect others to give Irish Republicanism respect? I guess it’s the usual double standards.

  • JW

    Labourman, no offence but I don’t think either party has much to do with any recognisable labour movement these days. Call that modernisation if you like, but it seems to me that the labour movement is, unfortunately in my opinion, an irrelevance.

    Also, your argument that the prevailing ambition of “both Labour Parties operating in the North is to forge one party with structural links to London AND Dublin” that sounds suspiciously like an, admittedly unlikely, to bring Ireland back into the arms of Mother Britain. Unless, of course, Ireland is to do a Democratic Left on the entire British polity…

    Labour didn’t take over DL, DL took over Labour. Odd, that.

    Mick Hall, it’s the Socialist International, not the Second, that has the SDLP and Labour as bosom buddies. The SDLP in the days of the second international was a slightly different party run by Lenin.

  • Mick Hall

    JW

    Sorry mate you are wrong, Lenin’s international was the Third, better known as the Comintern. It eventually came into being after the toadies who led the Second International deserted international solidarity and supported their various governments in WW1 against the policy of the 2nd International. When they sent the working classes to the fronts to kill each other in the interest of Capital and foreign dominions.

    The First International was the one Marx belonged to and there was a 2 and a half International for comrades who could not quite make up their minds between the Leninists and the toadies who backed their own ruling class in the great conflagration of WW1.

    Whether you call it the 2nd or socialist international is up to you, but for old lefties like me it will always be the wretched second international which went down in ignominy in 1914, and I’m afraid a bit of Mandelsonism name changing will never take away that shame.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Now, if nationalists were to adopt the same petty sectarian attitude of Reg Empey they would claim this was a threat against the entire power-sharing executive….

  • Mick Hall

    PAJ

    How have I insulted Betty Windsor, is that not here name. Lets be clear you can call her what you choose but I have no right to do the same.

    In fact I would not insult her as I understand that a lot of Unionists and others do respect her, thus I will use language in the correct manner, I do not recognize such honors and institutions and that is my right, so when talking about an individual such as Betsy I will use the name they were born with.

    You really need to get the hang of this equality thing.

  • If there is room for Labour, it will be an interesting situation to have the the ruling parties of GB and ROI contesting elections in Northern Ireland (this is of course assuming that Fianna Fáil go through with entering into Northern Ireland politics… let me rephrase that, Norther Ireland elections).

  • Elvis Parker

    Tories seem to have reacted to FF move in more measured tones than Reg:
    http://www.conservativesni.org

  • JW

    Mick Hall, no disagreement about name change and general horribleness of the 2I and I know about Comintern but I’m talkking about pre-Russian revolution. Lenin’s Russian SDLP was active in the second international. Both factions were, in fact, as the RSDLP survived from 1900 until 1912, before the 2I ended. Lenin was a member from 1905. The 3I wasn’t formed until 1919.

    Phew, all that for a joke about the SDLP’s name…

  • Mick Hall

    JW

    Sorry, I have had a bug for the last two days, I am in that stage of not yet well enough to get out etc, but can manage the keyboard thus I am as bad tempered as hell.

    Your post brought me up sharp and perhaps I was also a bit hard on the chap who was defending his Queen.

  • JW

    MH, bah, no worries.

    I’m still left wondering why anyone other, presumably, than some kind of left-unionist would want British Labour to organise?

  • Mick Hall

    JW
    Me to, I feel some people, without meaning to be arrogant still view Labour [UK] as some form of progressive party, sadly myself I just do not see it. Whilst I never thought it was great, it always provided when in government that half inch of space through which progressive legislation could get on the Statue book. Not under Blair when the opposite became true, indeed NL attempted to close down progressive opinion both within the party and outside and with some success.

    It is interesting no one has posted on why the UKLP does not organize in the north, we know why the Tories do not and the fact that LP does not is because they support a United Ireland historically and it was thought that to organize in the north would legitimize partition. Which in my view is as true today as it was when it first became party policy. The question that needs to be asked is what has changed and the answer is nowt as far as the constitutional position is concerned.

    Partition was wrong in the past and it still is, and for the LP to organize in the north would be to endorse partition.

  • MacAedha

    Mick Hall, the queen of Britain is not called ‘Betty Windsor’ her married name is Elizabeth Oldenburg, given her age I believe it is only showing respect to call he Mrs. Oldenburg.
    Is Mise

  • noel adams

    JW
    Here are two quotes from a UUP health minister and SF spokesperson in the Dail.
    We need to get back to a health service from the craidle to the grave.
    What Ireland needs is not tinkering with health but a universal service free at the point of use.
    When it comes to real issues flag wavers are surplus to requirements.

  • Aquifer

    “Partition was wrong in the past and it still is, and for the LP to organize in the north would be to endorse partition.”

    The people of Ireland North and South have now endorsed partition, so Labour can fairly do as they please, even if they have their work cut out convincing the local electorate that they should trust anything beyond their chequebook and coloured flag.

    There is an inner moral vacuity about class politics in these latitudes. Globalisation means that the worst off class who operate the means of material production now tend to live somewhere else.

    Labour can stand for trying to narrow the widening economic ensecurity gap, but when they neglect education, training, and housing and abandon people to permanent welfare it is hard to take them seriously, except as cynical if effective careerists.

    Identifying insecurity as the basis of much inequality is useful however, as Guardian reading social democratic apparatchiks and local government bureaucrats are some of the most privileged people the world has ever seen. With constant reward for often limited risk, they are socially segregated from a welfare class of enforced idleness or illness and from the casualised or specialist private sector.

    As a philosophy, Thatcherism was inclusive after a fashion. Nobody was safe from her. If monetarism destroyed your job, it was not personal.

    And there was collusion. The GB Unions’ refusal to recognise unions of the unemployed licensed the Tories to turn down the economy and destroy the organised labour movement.

    What the betting though that our own political miserablists park the poor as sectarian ballot fodder, forget enterprise, and keep the public sector fat and busy producing press releases. How would labour get a lever in then? As part of UK labour you could at least ask for Peter Mandelson’s advice.

  • páid

    Cormac,

    seem to recall the Stickies referring to what came to be known as chuckys as pinheads fadó fadó in Éirinn

  • sammaguire

    “Official Sinn Féin became ‘Official Sinn Féin – The Workers Party’, which became The Workers Party, most of whom became Democratic Left and were eventually merged with/swallowed up by Labour.”

    Posted by Cormac on Sep 19, 2007 @ 02:21 PM

    Think it was DL that swallowed up Labour. Rabbitte, McManus,Gilmore have taken the big jobs in the party since.

  • sammaguire

    “The problem with the Irish Labour Party now is that nearly all of it’s TD’s are middle class. This is very off-putting to those that are of a disadvantaged social class. There is no social bond or understanding between the two.

    James Connolly would no doubt be disappointed if he could see the current stock of wannabees, including the last leader, the smug Past Rabitte.”

    Posted by Gréagóir O’ Frainclín on Sep 19, 2007 @ 01:51 PM

    Someone in the 1970s referred to their front bench as “The College Of Surgeons”. Sums them up really. Bertie is far more comfortable canvassing in a council estate than GP’s wife McManus or private rugby school educated Quinn or Spring. Don’t know off hand what private rugby school Fergus Findlay or legal eagle John Rogers went too but I’m pretty sure they didn’t have to defile himself by sharing a room with “skangers”. A daughter of a recent “socialist” front bencher was sent to an exclusive 4k a year grind school to repeat her leaving.
    Give me Tony Gregory any day. Lives among the ordinary people of Dublin’s inner city. Not a bullsh*tter.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Mick:

    Bertie Ahern’s announcement yesterday that his party will be looking into organising in Northern Ireland leaves open some interesting questions for both British and Irish Labour, not least if they find themselves with no ‘partner’ party in Northern Ireland.

    This argument and all the other ones on this matter are all red herrings. The fact is that the people of NI will not vote outside of their comfortable tribal vote. We have had plenty of opportunity to do so in the past. There is an NI Labour Party which declared itself as being in the vein of the British Labour Party. Nobody voted for it. Likewise, there’s the Conservative Party – who unlike Labour are actually official. They get no votes worth mentioning either, not even in in North Down which under normal circumstances would be a heartland for them. We’ve had communist parties, socialist parties, Natural Law, Greens, Alliance, and so on. All of them have had to struggle against the odds, running to stay still almost, to get what vote they have.

    I don’t understand at all why people seem to wallow in this fantasy that if only the UK parties organized here, people would magically give up their tribal vote. Well, they won’t, and they have demonstrated that in stark terms, time and time again, for the past three or four decades. If Bertie or Gordon organize here, they’ll get their arses kicked, and if anyone wants to bet otherwise I’ll take them on.

  • Labourman

    Good to see Labour organisation causing such consternation.

    Labour will be standing in elections. There will be a surge of interest when the electorate have an opportunity to vote for the party. It is our responsibility to turn that into seats.

    Frankly, I do not expect the likes of Mick Hall or JW to agree with us. I assume that they will be standing themselves somewhere.

    I’m intereted in seeing Labour Party canvassing systems being given an outing in NI.

  • MacAedha

    Bertie Ahern’s announcement yesterday that his party will be looking into organising in Northern Ireland leaves open some interesting questions for both British and Irish Labour, not least if they find themselves with no ‘partner’ party in Northern Ireland. Slugger is convening a modest discussion group in a pub in Bournemouth next week during the British Labour Party’s annual conference. If you are going to the conference or you know someone who is, let us know you’re coming by ‘booking’ your place here. Or you can ‘book’ through Facebook.

    So much for FF or the Irish Labour party organising in the six counties, looks like old DUP/uda/uvf are setting up in Moygashel anyway with another party. God bless them.

  • Reader

    Mick Hall: How have I insulted Betty Windsor, is that not here name. Lets be clear you can call her what you choose but I have no right to do the same.
    And has PAJ not noticed that you use the short form of your own name! Indeed; references to Betty Windsor are no more offensive than references to Jimmy Connolly, Paddy Pearse and Micky Collins.

  • Mick Hall

    Aquifer

    As often an interesting post, however whilst you may be correct in that there was a vote north and south that could be interpreted as endorsing partition, in all honesty I do not feel a fair minded person would take it as read.

    The only vote on this which could carry real weight, [for me at least] would be an all Ireland vote which asked whether the island of Ireland should return to being a single political entity or remain partitioned. Any thing less is an attempt to maintain the status quo by throwing a veil over the issue

  • JW

    “The likes of” me, eh? Sorry, old bean, you don’t know anything about me. All I’ve stated is that the national question trumps others at election time. That’s a fairly straightforward observation. I didn’t say it was a good thing. Nonetheless, what it means is that the British Labour party in the North will be viewed as just that: British. Ergo, left-unionism. And for good reason, because that is what they would be.

    To tell you the truth, I think the unionist/nationalist fight has pretty much become a pantomime – lots of shouting about symbols and esteem and not much in the way of real politics but to imagine that it’s an irrelevance is an exercise in self-delusion. In fact, I am strongly of the opinion that the sectarianism built-in to the Agreement and its communal voting block nonsense, can only deepen the divide.

    Noel Adams presents two quotes about health services to indicate that “flag waving” is, as he so charmingly puts is, “surplus to requirements” – a rather reductionist view of the purpose of politics. Somehow I think that Sinn Féin and the unionist parties will find plenty to squabble over, Mr. Adams. Show me some concrete evidence that there is a new dispensation at work and people will be attracted to the likes of Labour. Of course, I fully expect the various parties to get together on various social and economic issues, but singing from the same hymn sheet doesn’t suddenly mean that nationalists and republicans will somehow be magically transformed into unionists. I point you in the direction of those delightful, well-heeled jokers in the “non-sectarian” Alliance party.

    You’re right on one count, though, Labourman I wouldn’t vote for Labour if you paid me to. Atilla the Stockbroker said it all: “Aneurin Bevan, your party is dead/And the time for a new one is nigh/Will the last person Left please turn out the lights?/New Labour, just fuck off and die. ”

    Frankly I’d be delighted if Labour voters stopped harping on about nasty Tony’s changes have destroyed their party and examined their party’s horrendous history.

    Pip, pip.

  • JW

    Addendum: does no-one remember the NILP or the Commonwealth Labour party?

  • Dougthedug

    In Scotland and the rest of Britain, the British Labour party are hardline unionists who hate the SNP and the idea of Scottish independence with a passion.

    It’s probably incorrect to equate Scottish politics with Northern Irish politics, but how this philosophy would fit in with cross-border alliances between British Labour and the main Irish parties is an interesting thought.