In a further sign that the typically marginal Northern Ireland members of the United Kingdom parliament might increasingly play a “coalition kingmaker” role after the breakdown of the three-party system in London, the UK Labour Party is relaxing its policy against competing in Northern Ireland constituencies.
That policy was originally adopted back when the party wanted to remain a neutral mediator in the Northern Ireland conflict over British/unionist or Irish/independence alignment (and forcing people to identify with a UK party based in Britain would inherently not be neutral). Now, an official satellite party (like Scottish Labour) will formally open in Northern Ireland, but with the extra wrinkle that it will also be a satellite of the Irish Labour Party, from neighboring Ireland.
The aim of this complex, multi-country fusion is probably eventually to help Labour in overall UK elections while still not demanding unionist allegiance from members. In the past, Labour’s general economic views have been represented in Westminster for Northern Ireland voters most closely by the tiny SDLP, but the SDLP was not part of Labour governments. Membership in UK Labour wasn’t even opened in Northern Ireland until 2004.
UK Labour’s counterpart party from the Republic of Ireland (a completely independent nation-state, of course), Irish Labour, is a rather small party in the Oireachtas (Ireland’s parliament) but very often serves as a junior coalition partner and is currently actually the second largest by representation.