The Labour Party in Blackpool: MPs support calls to end Ulster ban

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A STRONG warning was delivered to conference yesterday against following the Conservatives' example and organising in Northern Ireland, writes Stephen Goodwin.

The thorny issue of party membership in Northern Ireland has been pursued vigorously on the fringe at Blackpool with more than a dozen MPs backing pressure group calls to end the ban.

Among them are Bryan Gould and Kate Hoey, MP for Vauxhall, who was born in Northern Ireland. Quoted in a pamphlet produced by Democracy Now, Mr Gould said that extending membership would be 'an important step towards the normalisation of politics in Northern Ireland'. Ms Hoey said that workers were 'fed up with the current 'sectarian' choice at election time'.

But the idea was dismissed as a 'nonsense' by Siobhan Crozier, of the Labour Party Irish Society, who said it 'would signal that we are not serious about a united Ireland agenda' and alienate support among Irish people in Britain who voted Labour as an act of faith.

Last April, for the first time, Conservatives contested parliamentary seats in a general election in Northern Ireland. Campaigners for an end to the Labour ban point out that people can join the party under the overseas membership scheme from anywhere else in the world - including the Irish Republic - and vote in United Kingdom elections.