A minor political event which has probably passed most observers by. Jenny Muir, long-time left-wing Belfast blogger and would-be British Labour Party activist in the North of Ireland has formally quit Labour. This follows many years of campaigning to have the British political party expand from Britain to Ireland to organise and stand in the north-east of the country. Thankfully the London leadership of Labour repeatedly rejected these attempts at anschluss from the UK but its interesting to see where Jenny Muir has gone: the Green Party “of Northern Ireland”. The northern Greens are officially a regional branch of Comhaontas Glas – the Green Party of Ireland – and since the 1990s have supported an All-Ireland policy (later modified through support for the 1998 Belfast Agreement). As a left-of-centre ecological party they have been moderately sucessful with environmentally-focused Nationalist voters and liberal Unionists agnostic on continued British rule.
However of late the internal-consensus on the party’s ultimate national affiliations have been under pressure. In 2011 the Antrim branch of the party introduced a motion to the annual general meeting in Belfast to sever relations with the southern wing of the organisation (a move which some represented as stemming from the party’s embarrassment over links to their badly discredited southern counterparts in the aftermath of the fall of the Celtic Tiger economy of Ireland). This was rejected by a majority but party tensions have been evident since then, most recently in the reluctance of party leader, Stephen Agnew, to press for civil rights legislation for Irish-speakers in the North of Ireland. These disagreements can also be seen in the very public criticisms of (former) Green councillor Cadogan Enright.
Muir, who regards the centre-left and Labour sister-party of the SDLP as another player in “sectarian politics” (and I hope I don’t misrepresent her in this summation), seems comfortable enough with the Greens’ All-Ireland status, and she will certainly be a highly valuable activist for the party. But I wonder will this and other changes pull the party in a more “Pro-Union” (if not Unionist) direction?
UPDATE 19/01/13: Jenny Muir replies below in the Comments clarifying some points.
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