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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 February, 2004, 12:05 GMT
Labour NI recruits on agenda
Trade unionist Andy McGivern
Trade unionist Andy McGivern challenged Labour rules
The Labour Party will not be organising in Northern Ireland despite new rules on membership, a trade unionist has been told.

Andy McGivern, the party's first member in the province, was given the information during a meeting with the party's constitutional secretary, Peter Watt, on Thursday.

Last October, the party changed its rules to allow people in Northern Ireland to become members, overturning ban which dated back 79 years.

Mr McGivern was expected to ask about recruitment and establishing constituencies in the province.

He is due to meet Belfast-born Labour MP Kate Hoey, who supports his position, later in the day.

Mr McGivern has said he would consider taking legal action if he did not get satisfactory responses.

For decades, Labour sympathisers had campaigned to change membership rules.

'Weak defence'

However, the party resisted such change, citing its links with the SDLP as grounds for excluding would-be members from Northern Ireland.

But Mr McGivern mounted a legal challenge against the rules, backed by the Commission for Racial Equality.

He said the ban was racist, claiming it discriminated against people from the province.

The party's own legal advice was that they had a weak defence if the matter went to court.

More than 86% of delegates at the party's annual conference voted in favour of changing the party's rules.

After the ban was overturned, Mr McGivern put his legal case on hold.

However, he said he might re-activate it if he does not believe Labour was offering real membership to people in Northern Ireland.

Although some trade unionists and MPs remained opposed to changing the rules, the proposal won the backing of the party's national executive committee in July before being passed at its annual conference.

At the time, the party said although it would accept membership applications in the province, it had no immediate plans to contest elections in Northern Ireland.




SEE ALSO:
Labour NI ban 'could be lifted'
22 Jul 03  |  Northern Ireland
SDLP MPs criticised in Commons
14 Apr 03  |  Northern Ireland
SDLP rejects Commons criticism
15 Apr 03  |  Northern Ireland


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