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Northern Ireland Labour Party

Northern Ireland Labour Party (NILP). Founded in 1924, as a socialist alternative to the sectarian politics of Ulster. It strove to remain neutral on the partition question, but in 1949—after the declaration of an Irish republic—it came out in favour of the constitutional link between Northern Ireland and Britain. This helped its position in protestant working-class areas, while constraining its appeal to catholics. Nevertheless, with unemployment rising in the late 1950s and early 1960s the NILP increased its vote, winning four Belfast constituencies in the Stormont elections of 1958 and 1962. Thereafter, the party faced greater challenges. A new Unionist prime minister, Terence O'Neill, proved to be an energetic champion of the local economy, and—with the establishment of new industries—unemployment fell. The renewal of communal violence in 1969 heightened sectarianism and put pressure on the NILP electoral base. The establishment of new parties in 1970–1 (the Social Democratic and Labour Party, Alliance) eroded different aspects of NILP support. The party polled well in the Westminster general election of June 1970 but thereafter rapidly declined: it survived with a minimal electoral following until 1987.

Alvin Jackson

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