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1975 Constitutional Convention Election (NI) - Northern Ireland Labour Party (NILP) Manifesto

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Text: Northern Ireland Labour Party (NILP) ... Page Compiled: Brendan Lynn




The forthcoming election for the Northern Ireland Convention will be unique in the history of the British Isles. It will be an election to an Assembly whose only responsibility will be to draw up a new constitution for Northern Ireland.

Our constitution is of vital importance to all of us. It will determine what state we live in, how much freedom we will have, whether we will run our own local affairs as a united people or whether we will continue to live in strife and violence.

The N.I.L.P. has firm ideas on the Constitution.


We believe The Link with Britain is vital. We believe Northern Ireland must stay within the United Kingdom. There arc three reasons in particular why we support the link with Britain: -

1. As part of the United Kingdom Northern Ireland people enjoy the advantage of living in one of the most advanced and progressive countries in the world.
2. As part of the United Kingdom the people of Northern Ireland secure all the advantages - such as the Health Service and the Welfare State - which the British Labour and Trade Union Movement have won since the war.
3. Northern Ireland is part of the British economy. Over eighty per cent. of our trade is with Britain and being part of a much larger, richer state has provided Northern Ireland over the years with the extra money needed to modernise our economy and stand up to terrorist attack.

The link with Britain is in the best interest of the people of Northern Ireland. We reject any policies based on separation from Britain such as U.D.I. or republicanism. As a part of the British Trade Union and Labour Movement we shall defend that link in the interest of all the working people of Northern Ireland.


The N.L.I.P. seeks to overcome the division between the two communities in Northern Ireland and to create a system of government to which all the citizens of Northern Ireland can give their allegiance.

In the immediate future partnership can best be achieved by the political leaders of the two communities voluntarily agreeing to accept the constitutional integrity of Northern Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom and agreeing to share responsibility for the administration of the Province.

However the N.I.L.P. believes that no section of the people should be given the right of veto over the establishment of regional government structures, provided such structures enable all sections of political opinion to play a full and meaningful part in public life. Such sharing of responsibility will enable all citizens of Northern Ireland to develop a sense of identification with the state and its institutions of government. This will take the question of Northern Irelandís existence out of day-to-day political debate and allow for the emergence of political debate based on social and economic issues. But without such identification real progress to democratic regional government will be impossible.


Departmental Committees

The N.I.L.P. believes in "open" government. The government should have as few secrets as possible from the public. We propose therefore that the work of each government department should be supervised by a committee made up of members of the Assembly. Each Party should be represented on committee in proportion to its strength. Every committee would thus reflect the Assembly in miniature and like the Assembly would have a pro-Union majority. Each committee would elect its own Chairman.

The Executive

Together the Chairmen of the various departmental committees should constitute the Executive or Cabinet. As any coalition of parties which is to form a government would have a majority of the seats on each committee the government would be able to secure the election of its nominees to office. Under this system members of all religions, or none, would be enabled to take part at any level in the government and the administration. In fact it would be the central aim of such a system to establish an agreed system of government to unite the community.


The powers of the Northern Ireland Government should be under two broad headings. First of all the N.l. Government requires the same wide range of powers which the NI. Assembly had in economic affairs. A great deal needs to be done locally in industrial promotion, planning, agriculture, administration and development of social services, environment, tourism, housing and transport. Secondly the Northern Ireland Government will require powers in those areas which have in the past been contentious and divisive but which must be tackled by our people together if we are to build a united community. Such areas include education, policing and community relations.

The N.I.L.P. believes emphatically that there should be uniform legislation throughout the United Kingdom on all matters of personal and civil rights and liberties. Equally we fully accept that major economic planning and development are the responsibility of the Westminster government which must accept responsibility for branches of British heavy industry - such as the shipyard and the aircraft factory - which are located in Northern Ireland.


Northern Ireland is under-represented at Westminster. This makes the vote of every Ulster-man of less value than the vote of any other British citizen. The second class status of Ulster voters must end and Northern Ireland must be granted its rightful share of representation at Westminster.


The relationship between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic must be based on equality of esteem and mutual respect. Unfortunately such a relationship is impossible while the Irish Republic maintains its territorial claim to Northern Ireland expressed in Articles 2 and 3 of its constitution. A mutually beneficial relationship will only be possible after the repeal of those Articles of the Irish Republicís constitution and when the Irish Republic honours its obligations under extradition treaties.

North-South co-operation in areas of mutual advantage should proceed without any institutional structure. Should the United Kingdom remain within the E.E.C. the N.I.L.P. is in favour of tri-partite inter-governmental consultation on E.E.C. affairs.


While accepting the right of a democratic state under terrorist attack to resort to special measures to defend the population the N.I.L.P. is opposed to the policy of internment without trial as it has operated in Northern Ireland and we call for its immediate ending.

Throughout the crisis we have demanded consistently that the Provisional I.R.A., and all others engaged in violence, cease their campaigns of murder, mutilation and destruction, to enable the British Government to make the necessary responses. We shall continue to support all reconciliation initiatives likely to produce a genuine peace in our community.

The N.I.L.P. calls for the immediate implementation of schemes to rehabilitate released prisoners as an urgent requirement to assist these people to resume a normal role in society.

The progressive reduction in the role of the British Army, which is desired by all sections of the community, must be accompanied by the development of effective local police and security structures, under local control and fully supported by all parties participating in the Northern ireland Government. No Northern Ireland Government will be possible unless all parties in the government are agreed on security policy.


The N.I.L.P. has always held to the view that the people of Northern Ireland must determine their future through the ballot box. Provided the people are allowed to express themselves freely through the ballot box no group or organisation, either within Northern Ireland or outside it, can be permitted to override the democratically expressed views of the people of Northern Ireland by violence, boycott, economic blackmail or industrial action.


Northern Ireland Labour believes that this Election must be used to unite the Province.

We believe that the Union with Britain must be preserved - without that Union our civil liberties and our living standards cannot be guaranteed. But we reject the continued leadership of landlords, businessmen and lawyers who, Protestant and Catholic alike, arc concerned with their own selfish class interests and would ignore the interests of ordinary people. These men have failed us in the past - they would do so again. The real suffering since 1969 has been borne by ordinary working people. Their case must be heard in the Convention and in any new Ulster Parliament. A strong N.I.L.P. representation in the Convention is the best guarantee that true peace and real progress will follow.


The constitution which your representatives draw up will be vital for the future of every man woman and child in Northern Ireland. But it is not an end in itself It is only the means to an end. Once the constitution is agreed we can begin the building of a United Ulster in which all our people will enjoy and contribute to the full benefits of British citizenship.



The above manifesto was written for the:
Constitutional Convention Election (NI) on Thursday 1 May 1975.
This version of the manifesto appeared in Appendix 1 of:
Great Britain. Northern Ireland Office (NIO). (1975) Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention Report, (20 November 1975). London: HMSO.


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