The British Labor Party is organizing itself as an official political party in Northern Ireland. The inaugural meeting of a countrywide constituency association will take place in Belfast next week. The news will be welcomed by activists who have battled for years to have Northern Ireland treated in the same way as other parts of the U.K. However, it will be some time before any decision is taken to stand for election. Undeterred, Northern Ireland based-party members have their eyes fixed on the local council elections set for 2011 for a potential first outing. Queen's University lecturer Boyd Black, who made history as the first Northern Ireland constituency representative to address a Labor Party conference in 100 years when he took the platform at the conference in Manchester last September, told the press that next week would be a landmark occasion. "Next Monday we are being formally constituted within the Labor Party organization. Up to now we have been unofficial members. Now we will have a party constitution with elected officers. We will as of right have a seat on the National Policy Forum, the body which sits in permanent session and develops policy for the party," he said. Black added, "It's been a long fight. Some four years ago, it was only the threat of legal action, which led to the party agreeing it would accept membership applications from Northern Ireland. More recently it was the issuing of another writ, which led to agreement for formal organization of a constituency association." "Standing for elections is down the road a bit. In an ideal world I would like us to contest the local government elections in 2011," Black added. The final direction the party takes will likely to depend on the Nationalist SDLP. "For a spell it looked as if the SDLP was going to merge with Fianna Fail in the Republic, that would have had implications for us," Black said. The political reality is that the SDLP will be around as a political force for the next general election with the potential to win three seats in what could be a hung Parliament. "We are going to have to tiptoe around all of this first," said Black.
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