British Labour party to organise in Ireland

At its annual conference in Bournemouth, delegates of the British Labour party, led by Tony Blair, have backed a change to the party's rules which now allow people in the North of Ireland to join.

The party has no immediate plans to contest elections in Ireland, where it is aligned with the SDLP in the North and the Irish Labour party in the 26 Counties.

The result of the vote (a 86% majority) didn't emerge until the day after the vote, amid considerable confusion over how and when the change will be implemented.

David Bleakley, a former Labour representative at an earlier Stormont Assembly, said he believed that Labour should go ahead and start the process of organising in the North.

The `Northern Ireland Labour Party' was a force from 1958 to 1965 when it had four MPs at Stormont, all from Belfast constituencies.

In 1971, Mr Bleakley was appointed to the community relations post by Brian Faulkner, who had the title of prime minister of Northern Ireland.

The party never took a Westminster seat despite garnering almost 100,000 votes in the 1970 election.

Mr Bleakley said it would take time for Labour to organise in Northern Ireland but that a certain euphoria would be attached to the idea, adding: ``It would give young people something different to look at. In other words... the delivery of an idea whose time has come.''

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