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Peter Hadden

A chance to vote for socialism

Peter Hadden spoke to Militant

(April 1992)

From Militant [UK], No. 1084, 17 April 1992.
Transcribed and marked up by Ciaran Crossey.

Belfast South and Mid-Ulster voters had an opportunity denied to other workers in Northern Ireland – the chance to vote for a workers’ candidate and a socialist.

I stood for the Labour and Trade Union Group (LTUG) in Belfast South and got 875 votes, far higher than most supporters expected. The election in Northern Ireland was mainly a sectarian head-count. The LTUG campaign was the only one to canvass in both Catholic and Protestant working-class areas.

Belfast South’s Unionist MP Martin Smyth did not even bother to campaign, treating his constituents with contempt. The LTUG got a very sympathetic response on the doorsteps and showed the potential if the official labour movement put its strength behind a candidate.

In Mid-Ulster, a huge mainly rural constituency, LTUG candidate Harry Hutchinson gained 389 votes, again well above expectations. The votes were concentrated around Cookstown and Moneymore, where Harry and the Mid-Ulster Trades Council had led protest strikes and demonstrations against sectarian killings in January.

In Magherafelt, Just outside the constituency, the Coats Viyella multinational closed down the Peter England shirt factory. Many workers there, who had backed the anti-bigot demonstrations, actively supported the campaign.

In Belfast South too, workers in the Ormeau area had protested at sectarian death squads. There was strong support in the Upper Ormeau Road when 20 to 30 LTUG supporters held street meetings. There were street meetings in areas like Sandy Row which had not seen such labour movement activities for decades.

Northern Ireland now has a sectarian block of Unionist MPs dependent on Protestant votes and a block of SDLP members similar to the old Nationalist Party with almost entirely Catholic votes.

The SDLP won Belfast West from Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein. Adams’ vote hardly declined but the SDLP gained from Protestant voters, some organised by Protestant paramilitaries, who voted tactically to get rid of Adams.

Sinn Fein made hardly any mention of social and economic issues as they had done in previous election victories. They didn’t even campaign on repression. They just stressed that they had the right to be involved in talks on Northern Ireland as they were legitimate elected representatives. After 9 April even that was no longer true.

Since the Northern Ireland Labour Party folded, there has been no alternative based on the labour movement. The Northern Ireland Congress of Trade Unions (NICTU) conference met two days before the election and didn’t even discuss it.

Their only political statement was to attack the LTUG, saying that the NICTU were politically “neutral” and no candidates had the endorsement of the trade union movement, especially the LTUG. Many trade unionists will disagree with them on this and Belfast trades council will shortly discuss what it can do politically.

The LTUG has now been seen as the main left force in the north, easily outpacing the Workers Party in both seats, Workers are sick of sectarian politics; they want a fighting labour movement and the trade unions need a political voice, The LTUG will be fighting harder than ever.

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Last updated: 26 April 2015