The ILP & Peace in Northern Ireland

Wednesday 12 April 2023

Costs: Free


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Meeting ID: 874 2894 7205
Passcode: 270222

The ILP is marking the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement by hosting a talk on ‘The ILP’s impact on the left and the road to peace in Northern Ireland in the 1980s and 1990s’ by Gary Kent on Wednesday 12 April at 7.00pm.

From the mid 1980s, the ILP became more involved in debates on the left about Northern Ireland and set up a Socialist Committee on Ireland, of which Gary was secretary.

Much of the left then assumed that partition was the problem and unification the solution. Small parts of the left were enthusiastic supporters of the Provisional IRA while the ILP began a dialogue with the Workers’ Party (the political wing of the Official IRA which declared a ceasefire in the 1970s). It did not believe that removing the border was the priority and stressed “peace, work, democracy and class politics.”

The ILP organised a well-attended fringe meeting at a Labour conference in 1986, sent two delegations to Northern Ireland in 1987 and 1991, and its speakers addressed constituency Labour Parties and Labour clubs.

Gary had joined the ILP in 1978 and was a member of the National Administrative Council for more than a decade. He became more actively involved in supporting a variety of British/Irish peace organisations alongside Harry Barnes MP, for whom he was researcher in the Commons for 18 years.

They and others also helped move party policy away from a focus on unification to prioritising stability in Northern Ireland before any constitutional change was desirable or wise.

The ILP’s interest in Northern Ireland went back some years. It sent a delegation to Derry in 1971 to examine internment and produced the publication Belfast August 1971: A Case to be Answered by Danny Kennally and Eric Preston.

The late Alistair Graham also wrote many articles for the ILP paper Labour Leader on the work of the non-IRA left in Ireland from the 1970s.

The ILP also published a ground-breaking analysis of the situation by Danish sociologist Anders Boserup.

In his talk, Gary will outline the work of the ILP, including how it helped build a British/Irish peace movement that played a part in creating the conditions for the Belfast Agreement of 1998 whose 25th anniversary falls on Monday 10 April.


See also: ‘Ireland, the ILP and the Slow Train to Peace’, by Gary Kent.

Plus: ‘Building a New Consensus’ and ‘Bordered Minds: A Century of Division in Northern Ireland’.