A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

In Belfast

I'm in Belfast today for a meeting of the different offices of my employer Weber Shandwick.

We took time out at lunchtime to take part in the peace demonstration organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions outside Belfast City Hall in response to the recent murders.

I was pleased to see my own union Unite heavily represented with banners in the crowd.

It was a very impressive demonstration of the will for the peace process to continue from ordinary people in Northern Ireland, with a huge crowd assembling at short notice.

To quote ICTU Assistant General Secretary Peter Bunting who closed the rally: "there is no political cause in the North of Ireland that justifies violence".


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good on the trade unions for organising this.

4:21 pm, March 11, 2009

Blogger Democratic-Centre said...

I believe you were with Conal McDevitt of the same employer (ex-SDLP press officer). I think I understand right now why it is that you seem to keep up with the notion that the SDLP is some sort of a Labour choice party in NI.

You've been moving in such a close knit circle of SDLP PR spin that you are unable to believe otherwise. Believe me it isn't.

I hope that Labour will stand for election here, it's not too much to ask as all the hard work, craft and innovation will be enough of a job of work without having to do what should be the easiest thing: to be able to stand.

Instead there has been such energy divested or perhaps wasted into fighting to stand with respect under the red Labour banner alone, not a Labour banner that has the 'social' 'democratic' and 'party' tagged on to it; as that SDLP party really is tantamount to neon green Irish nationalism - always fretful and fearful of what SF or potential SF voters think, say and do.

Nuff said.

4:55 pm, March 11, 2009

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


Yes I was with Conal (and Chris Brown, also SDLP and a colleague at work). Conal is an old comrade from my days in ECOSY when he was representing the Irish Labour Party rather than the SDLP. I'm used to working with both SDLP and Irish Labour comrades through ECOSY and PES structures.

For the record I was also stood with Northern Ireland and GB Tories, and 2 Lib Dems, because today's event had nothing to do with party politics.

I would reiterate what I wrote before, the only time I have mentioned this issue:


"I'm troubled by Alan Johnson saying Labour will run candidates in Northern Ireland.

How does this square with our solidarity with and commitments to our sister party, the SDLP? Surely it is not comradely to run against a fellow member party of the Socialist International and Party of European Socialists?

Why couldn't we do a deal to run joint SDLP and Labour (maybe joint with the Irish Labour Party too) candidates, rather than splitting what little centre-left vote there is in the North?"

There should be a similar arrangement to the one we have in GB with the Co-Op party, recognising the SDLP as a sister party rather than competitor.

I would say the same thing if there was a unionist Labour/socialist equivalent to the SDLP.

5:18 pm, March 11, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luke it's a shame the ICTU didn't take the same approach to their Gaza rally in Belfast earlier this year.

The burning of the Israeli flag and imflammatory anti-Israel speeches did nothing to stop the conflict in the region nor garner cross communal support in Northern Ireland for peace in the Middle East. In fact it a driven a wedge between the two communities on this issue.

The ICTU are now promoting a boycott of Israel and have heavily criticised their sister trade union confederation, the Histadrut for being one can only presume, Israeli.

Their actions in stirring up anti-Israel sentiment also led to a disgraceful attack on an Israeli Dead Sea products stall in a Belfast shopping centre.

May I ask that your comrades in the SDLP and Northern Ireland Labour Movement take up the invite to tonight's (12 March) launch of Northen Ireland Friends of Israel at Stormont. I know all political parties and communty leaders have been invited and it would be good for full representation from all sections of Northern Ireland society to hear the Israeli case and play a positive role in supporting peace.

9:51 am, March 12, 2009

Blogger Democratic-Centre said...

Is it not a shame Luke that we have witnessed so much media coverage focusing on a small bunch of murderous and extremely ignorant so-called dissident republican diehards, who have captured the media agenda over the last week or so. All of this being done with a membership of less than 100 or so.

Yet the NI Labour movement has around 200 members passionate members wanting to move NI forward together but aren't allowed to. All of this against a backdrop of Labour political decline - yet such members still keep the faith.

What sort of a labour party designates as outright nationalist anyway? Oh I know it's the SDLP. That labour party!

The same party that talks about removing the ugly scaffolding and then crys out bitterly in vociferous complaint when DUP&SF ditches some of that scaffolding to forge a compromise over the justice post.

Oh and it was the party that flirted and still fancies a merger with Fianna Fail.

Nuff said again. I have more if you want to keep peddling your notion of some sort of a 'Labour' choice in NI.

5:01 pm, March 12, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Democratic-Centre, you say "What sort of a labour party designates as outright nationalist anyway?"

However if British Labour is to stand its own candidates then it is automatically designating itself as outright unionist in the eyes of hundreds of thousands of people in the north.

Better to stay out if we are committed to the peace process.

7:30 am, March 13, 2009

Blogger Democratic-Centre said...

Not true as there is nothing that excludes designating as both unionist and nationalist with a view to gaining a cross-community mandate built on reforming public services with union support, for example.

To support the peace process you need to be a part of it, not sit idly by.

New ideas put in persuasive ways - and most of all a new Labour set up here would mean that the party was untainted by some of the contradictory moral compromises made when approaching the peace process. One of the SDLP's problems is that it is still known as how it defined itself to the conflict and the image of it when implementating the peace process. Of course much of it divisive.

We are now pretty much past that stage, besides all the hard work will rest with the labour volunteers on the ground. This would not be some sort of Tory-UUP merger seeking just brand appeal, the link with the Unions to Labour will require serious partnerships as well to deal with the blow back of unaccountable public services over the last 35 years here.

But I put it to you that there are around 200plus labour activists here not SDLP. So, why is it that they should be precluded from gaining insight and experience from UK Labour with a view to investing that back locally by being able to stand for elections here?

Intersting that Ian Kershaw said that the problem with Germany and the collapse of the Weimar Republic was due to the brevity of the democratic experiment there and lack of a settled and experienced state. We need to draw from the best bits of the labour party that has played its part in cementing the peace process so that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past.

No better party to help us with that as the local parties have proven to need such experience in the recent past to pull us out of muddy stagnation.

10:15 am, March 13, 2009

Blogger Merseymike said...

Its still very difficult for a party to organise on anything other than sectarian lines when that remains a dominant difference.

I don't honestly think that the SDLP are the equivalent of Labour simply because NI Unionists/Protestants wouldn't vote for it.

I think young people with left of centre views in NI vote Sinn Fein on the whole, as long as they are Catholic in background! My gay Protestant friend, staunchly Unionist, feels he has no-one to vote for

1:16 pm, March 13, 2009


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