We invited a number of civil society organisations to take stalls and contribute to the afternoon debates. This as important not only to broaden out the debate, but to make a statement about where we want to be in Northern Ireland’s policy networks. We have very strong trade union connections but it has to be said that we need to strengthen our links in other areas. We were delighted that Alan in Belfast was able to attend in the afternoon and produce a comprehensive report of the event on Slugger O’Toole.
In the afternoon we also had a competent and amusing address from Pamela Nash MP. Pamela is PPS to Vernon Coaker MP, Shadow Secretary of State of Northern Ireland, who was unable to attend. She is also PPS to the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, and is Scottish herself. So it was disappointing that she had to leave without answering questions, which might have been enlightening on broader devolution issues as well as in relation to Westminster’s view of Labour here in Northern Ireland.
For my sins I was re-elected to the Executive Committee. The next year will be important for us as we need to manage London’s decision on whether we may stand for elections here, whatever it is; we also need to continue to build a mass party, in particular by responding to the membership’s demands for a branch structure; and we need to recruit more women members and get them actively involved, as a matter of urgency.