I am standing to be a member of the NEC because I want to give Northern Ireland a voice within the Labour Party. I want the NEC to allow the Labour Party of Northern Ireland to stand candidates. I am a member of the LPNI’s EC, and I am chair of the Right2Stand campaign.
I grew up in a council estate, in a deeply impoverished part of Belfast to a single parent family. I worked in one call center after another for most of my adult life before going to university. I am now studying for a PhD in economics on wage growth and employment. I know what it means to live on the breadline and how vital a strong Labour movement is to those struggling to make ends meet. I was 10 years old when the Good Friday Agreement was signed under the Blair Government. A government whose Minimum Wage Act meant that my mum no longer had to work 3 jobs to feed us. A government whose peace process delivered jobs, funding for community programs, and hope for the future – a vision of a Northern Ireland, free from sectarian conflict. What was missing from that vision was a role for the Labour movement.
Northern Ireland has a vibrant Labour movement, there are over 250,000 trade union members, many of whom pay a levy to the Labour party. Yet, each of these members is denied a voice. The LPNI is denied the right to campaign in elections or even organise on a local basis. We are permitted to form only 1 CLP and are permitted no branches for 18 Westminster constituencies and 462 electoral wards – making it almost impossible to organise and campaign on the issues that matter to the people here. Trade Unions overwhelmingly want Labour to stand candidates in Northern Ireland – some have even directly affiliated with the LPNI. Unlike Scotland and Wales we have no automatic seat on the NEC. Recent events have shown that Northern Ireland is increasingly a focus for British politics.
The protocol is an issue that the next Labour government will need to resolve – it’s vital that the Northern Ireland Labour movement has a say.
With the recent elections, Northern Ireland has shown that people want change, and I believe that the LPNI should be front and center of that change. If elected to the NEC, I will advocate for the Labour Party of Northern Ireland to be permitted to stand candidates and I will work tirelessly to ensure Labour Members in Northern Ireland are granted the basic democratic rights afforded to every other Labour member enjoys. Northern Ireland CLP being largely ignored by Labour means I understand what it feels to not be heard by Labour. I promise to be a strong voice for CLP’s everywhere who feel they too are being unheard. Using my education and experience to advocate for policies that will ensure that everyone in the UK, and in Northern Ireland has a Labour Party that’s puts their needs above all else.
Candidate Name: Gerard Gallagher
Membership Number: L1275386
Full Text of Gerard’s Campaign Launch Speech 19/07/2022
I’ll start with a little bit about myself and my motivations for standing for the Labour NEC.
I grew up in a council house that was too small for us in a very deprived part of West Belfast, in Poleglass.
My mum raised us, mostly by herself – although with some help from my late grandmother.
I remember the days prior to the Good Friday Agreement and soldiers patrolling the street.
I remember the burnt-out cars in the morning on my way to school.
Most of all, I remember how hard my mum worked for us.
My mother has been a cleaner most of her life. She worked 2, sometimes 3 jobs at a time.
I remember her getting up at 5 am to go to work.
I remember her bringing my siblings and I to my grans after school so she could go to her next job.
But, I also remember in 1997, going to my grandmothers house after school one day.
I was almost 10. And Labour looked like they were going to win the next election.
My gran was watching Labour on the news and she told me : “Maybe things will get better. I hope so”.
I was so young but that image stays so clear and vivid in my mind
Labour gave us, a minimum wage, tax credits, the Good Friday Agreement.
Legislation was introduced to help families afflicted by domestic violence like my own.
Things that really matter.
Education Maintenance Allowance meant poor kids like me could stay in school.
It was years later I realised after Labour introduced the minimum wage we were able to eat together as a family, and not having to ask my mum why she wasn’t eating with us.
She used to tell us that she just wasn’t hungry.
Labour changed that.
Labour gave my family comfort and stability.
Things that matter.
They gave my mum a rest from working 3 jobs just to stand still. And they gave a poor, working class kid like me something even more valuable. The opportunity to succeed.
Under the last Labour government I watched my local community improve.
Vital services got better. Belfast was no longer the frightened city it once was in my childhood.
It was young, vibrant and hopeful for the future.
I despair at the thought that other people in 2022 are going through what we did.
Of mothers skipping meals so their children can eat.
Of young men burying their friends long before their time.
In the last decade or so I have watched one by one as the Conservatives have undermined this progress. How time and time again they have failed the people here.
One thing stands out for me. Symbolic if nothing else: my mum is back to working multiple jobs.
I grew up in the West of the City, but I’ve spent a good portion of the last 10 years or so living in the East. The only thing that’s different is the colour of the flags.
Take a trip down the Woodstock road and the Falls road. You’ll see the same boarded up shop fronts and decaying buildings.
What’s the difference? Our struggles are largely the same
We all worry about rent and household bills that just keep rising.
We all worry about our kids, and where they go to school – and rising drug misuse.
We all worry about our jobs and if they’ll still be there by the end of the year and what we can do if they aren’t.
Things that matter.
I know what it’s like to grow up under the Conservatives. And I know, first hand, the difference a Labour Government can make.
I joined Labour in 2015 after Labour lost that Election. I couldn’t see myself voting for any party here – no-one was talking about the issues that really mattered to me.
I joined Labour because I wanted to make a difference to the things that matter.
But Labour doesn’t allow us to stand candidates here in Northern Ireland – we have one Constituency Labour Party, for 18 constituencies. No branches and no real regional structure. In the past we would have called this gerrymandering.
Since joining Labour, I have fought to change this. I started the “Right2Stand” campaign group.
As part of this campaign group we created our website: right2stand.co.uk
I was instrumental in commissioning the game changing poll you just heard about – because I was sick of being told N. Ireland was different, that it had enough political parties – that there wasn’t an appetite for Labour politics here.
That we were either a Unionist Party or that Labour should just support a United Ireland.
But as we have just seen today, 32% of people here want Labour candidates.
We have sizable support from all communities and from across Northern Ireland.
Almost 40% of people say they would give us a vote. That’s incredible.
And frankly I just don’t understand how Labour can continue to ignore us any longer.
I think those results speak for themselves. Northern Ireland wants the Labour Party to fight for things that matter.
I’d go further and say it needs one.
USDAW & GMB and other major unions have affiliated directly with us here in the LPNI – and more are in talks to do so –
No Other party in Northern Ireland has the explicit support of Trade Unions.
Northern Ireland has the highest density of Trade Union membership of anywhere in the UK. We have 10’s of thousands of Union members who deliberately opt in to pay funds to the Labour Party and yet they have no political representation here.
Within the LPNI we have built a network of support across the Party in the UK – support without which I wouldn’t be doing this today.
We have had Labour members and constituency parties up and down the country get in touch to express their support and solidarity and importantly to nominate me as a candidate for the NEC.
We have secured from the Labour NEC a review into our organisational structure and our right to stand.
This has all been huge progress for us here in the LPNI.
But, it will be the Labour Party ruling body, the NEC who votes on whether we in N. Ireland can field candidates.
Not one member of that NEC represents the Labour movement in Northern Ireland. Not one.
Because unlike Scotland and Wales, Northern Ireland has no automatic seat on the NEC.
However, we’ve had to figure out another way: I’m going forward as a candidate for a seat on the NEC in the current elections.
But getting onto that ballot is tough, it requires the support of a number of constituency parties to qualify a candidate.
Often these nominations will focus on well-known individuals, or organised groups with Labour – like Momentum or Labour to Win.
And despite Northern Ireland having 18 constituencies, we have only 1 Northern Ireland wide constituency party- this means getting onto the ballot is an even bigger political struggle for us here – we are reliant on support from the rest of the UK.
This year will mark the first time anyone from the Labour Party in Northern Ireland has made it to the ballot and whilst the competition is tough, we are finally in the running.
I sincerely hope that we will be standing Labour candidates here in Northern Ireland in the next set of elections.
Candidates who stand for things that matter and who represent ordinary people who just want a better future.
I believe it is no longer possible for Labour to ignore us here in Northern Ireland.