The Labour Party in Northern Ireland has called on the UK party to allow Labour candidates to stand in the region after a poll revealed that almost a third of Northern Irish voters support Labour contesting elections.
The poll, completed by LucidTalk, found that 32% of respondents were in favour of Labour standing candidates in Northern Ireland. The results suggest that Labour would draw support from across the region and from all communities.
The research also found that 38% of respondents would give Labour a preference – a notable proportion within Northern Ireland’s proportional representation voting system. 6% of those surveyed said they would give the party a first preference.
Speaking at a press conference this afternoon, Gerard Gallagher – a Labour Party in Northern Ireland member and creator of the Right to Stand campaign group – said: “We have sizeable support from all communities and from all across Northern Ireland. Almost 40% of people say they would give us a vote.
“That’s incredible. And frankly, I just don’t understand how Labour can continue to ignore us any longer. I think these results speak for themself. Northern Ireland wants the Labour Party to fight for things that matter.”
The Labour Party in Northern Ireland highlighted that nationalist voters in the country are “broadly” more in favour of Labour than unionists, “busting the myth we would only appeal to unionists”.
The party declared that its “simultaneous ability” to gain support from unionists means it is “uniquely placed to win votes in working-class, unionist areas where parties like the SDLP just aren’t competitive”.
It called on UK Labour to stop “acting as a brake on political progress” and allow Labour candidates to stand in Northern Ireland.
Gallagher – who this year became the first candidate from Northern Ireland to make it onto the ballot in Labour’s national executive committee elections – said: “I know what it’s like to grow up under the Conservatives, and I also know first-hand the difference a Labour government can make.
“I joined Labour in 2015 after Labour lost that election. I just couldn’t see myself voting for any party here. No one was talking about the issues that really mattered to me. I joined Labour because I wanted to make a difference to the things that matter.”
He told attendees at the press conference that he was fighting to change the rules that prevent Labour candidates standing in Northern Ireland because he was “sick of being told that Northern Ireland was different, that it had enough political parties [and] that there just wasn’t an appetite for Labour politics”.
Gallagher noted that no other party in Northern Ireland has the “explicit support” of the trade unions, adding: “We do. Northern Ireland has the highest density of trade union membership of anywhere in the UK.
“We have tens of thousands of union members who deliberately opt in to pay funds to the Labour Party, and yet they have no political representation here at all.”
The Labour Party has thousands of members in Northern Ireland organised into one Northern Ireland-wide Constituency Labour Party covering the country’s 18 parliamentary constituencies.
Members take part in all internal party elections, have a representative on the Labour’s national policy forum and send delegates to party conference and women’s conference.
But the Labour Party does not stand candidates for election in Northern Ireland in local council, Stormont or Westminster.