Labour member goes on hunger strike to force party to stand candidates in Northern Ireland
A Labour party member in Northern Ireland has gone on hunger strike in a bid to force the party to put up candidates at elections in the province.
Matt Beeching, who serves as the Secretary of the Upper Bann Labour branch, said his beliefs about how the party should operate in Northern Ireland were "worth dying for".
Labour has a pact with the Social Democratic and Labour Party that prevents its own candidates from standing in local and UK-wide elections in Northern Ireland.
Jeremy Corbyn has launched a consultation on standing candidates in the region after Labour membership there swelled under his leadership.
But in a Facebook post yesterday, Mr Beeching announced he was taking matters into his own hands by refusing to eat until the party changed its policy.
Attacking the SDLP's anti-abortion stance, he called on Labour to allow candidates to stand in all elections and for the Northern Irish branch and members to get full status and support from party HQ.
He also demanded that Sinn Fein and the DUP end the ongoing stalemate at Stormont and get the Northern Ireland Assembly back up and running.
"This may seem a drastic action to take but the principles that I have outlined are ingrained into my psyche so much so that it is worth dying for, in my opinion," he said in a lengthy Facebook post.
"I am not angry, I am not upset, I am calm and reserved. Therefore, I am prepared to take this action to its ultimate end, however I am hopeful and trustful that the powers that be, that can meet these demands, do not allow this to get to that point. The ball is in their court."
He added: "I firmly believe that there is a large cross section of voters in Northern Ireland that are grossly under-represented that truly desire a different approach to the standard orange and green politics of Northern Ireland while standing on principles as I have described above.
"So again, I cannot and will not support, vote for or join a nationalist party. I feel this is unfair and wholly undemocratic. This is something I feel very strongly about."
In a Facebook live broadcast today, Mr Beeching said: “We are told to support and vote for the SDLP but the system is null and void...
“People are suffering harshly from Tory austerity... people are suffering now, as we speak but it’s going unchallenged and I don’t think the SDLP are effective in doing that because they only appeal to middle-class nationalists.”
A Labour spokesman said the party's ruling national executive committee is "currently undergoing a consultation process on the issue of standing candidates and it is right that it runs its full course".