Belfast Labour Party

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Belfast Labour Party
LeaderDavid Robb Campbell (1920 – 1924)
Merged intoNorthern Ireland Labour Party
Social democracy
Trade unionism
Political positionLeft-wing
National affiliationBritish Labour Party (until 1913)

The Belfast Labour Party was a political party in Belfast, Ireland from 1892 until 1924.

The first socialist party in Ireland[citation needed], it was founded in 1892 by a conference of Belfast Independent Labour activists and trade unionists.[1] The party affiliated itself to the British Labour Representation Committee in 1900 and remained attached to its successor; the UK Labour Party.

Labour ran the Unionist Party close in Belfast North in a by-election in 1905 and in the general election of 1906 with William Walker as its candidate.[2][3]

In 1913, the Labour National Executive Committee agreed that the Irish Labour Party should have organising rights over the entirety of Ireland.[citation needed] The Belfast Labour Party disagreed with this and, faced with the British party's refusal to reconsider, formed the independent Belfast Labour Representation Committee, which declared itself a party in 1917.[citation needed]

The party won ten seats on Belfast Corporation in 1919, but soon lost these.[citation needed] Suffragette, Independent Labour and Co-operative activist Margaret McCoubrey in 1920 was elected a Labour councillor for the Dock ward of Belfast.[4] Nonetheless, the party came a very close second in Belfast West in the 1923 UK general election before forming with others the Northern Ireland Labour Party.


Position on Partition & United Ireland[edit]

Whilst the party dissociated itself from the wider British Labour movement after the Labour party granted full organizing rights over Ireland to the Irish Labour party, the Belfast Labour party pursued a far more nuanced position over the divisive subject of partition. The party found it difficult to sidestep this issue between 1920 and 1922, when the topic pervaded political life in Ireland. In its desire to avoid division over the subject, the party did not directly contest the 1921 Northern Irish election, instead supporting 4 independent candidates.[5]

The party's attempt to tip-toe the national question was shown in the campaign run by Harry Midgley in 1924 in the constituency of Belfast West. In the Protestant Belfast ward of Shankhill Midgley emphasized his Protestantism and his military service in the British army during World War One. In contrast, in the Catholic Falls area he attacked the policy of internment of prisoners and showed support for the idea of a United Ireland.[5]


  1. ^ Barberis, Peter; McHugh, John; Tyldesley, Mike (2000). Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations: Parties, Groups and Movements of the 20th Century. p. 694.
  2. ^ Westminster Elections in the future Northern Ireland, 1885-1910 by Nicholas Whyte
  3. ^ Sectarian Divisions of Ulster Labor Politics 1885-1906 by Wade Shen
  4. ^ McCoubrey, Margaret 1880-1955 Dictionary of Ulster Biography Archived 2008-03-19 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ a b Ferriter, Diarmaid (2010). The Transformation Of Ireland 1900-2000. Profile Books. pp. 287–288.