Matt Beeching
Matt Beeching said he 'fully understands the many potential consequences' of his actions Facebook/Matt Beeching

A Labour activist has announced he is going on hunger strike until the party changes its policy and allows candidates to stand for election in Northern Ireland.

Matt Beeching, chair for the Upper Bann branch of the Labour Party Norther Ireland (LPNI), said he will refuse to eat solid foods of any kind until all his demands are met.

These include Labour UK allowing LPNI members to stand candidates for elections in Northern Ireland at all levels of government and for the organisation to be given the same levels of funding, support and representation as the Labour Party in Wales and Scotland.

Beeching said the decision to go on hunger strike also arrived as he feels some people in Northern Ireland are not fully represented in elections and current policies from the Conservatives, as well as the DUP and Sinn Fein, go unchallenged.

LPNI is not a registered political party in the country and does not contest elections. There are currently 3000 Labour members living in Northern Ireland.

Labour UK does have a sister party in Norther Ireland – the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) – but Beeching argues their views on issues such as abortion as well as their nationalism is in contrast to his and Labour's.

Beeching admits the decision to go on hunger strike is "extreme" as is doing so without the support or approval of LPNI's Executive Committee, Labour Party UK, or any of its members.

Beeching said: "As you will know Labour Party in Northern Ireland has been seeking to be given the human right for Labour Party members in Northern Ireland to stand candidates for election in Northern Ireland for some time now.

"Yet their responses and have always been that we should support, vote for or even join the SDLP due to a long-standing sister party agreement between Labour and SDLP here in Northern Ireland. However, this goes against Labour Party UK and my own principles. The main issue being that they stand on policy that continues to criminalise a woman's right to choose what happens to her own reproductive system and choose whether she should terminate a pregnancy, as well as standing against the extension of the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland

"Furthermore, I firmly believe that there is a large cross section of voters in Northern Ireland that are grossly underrepresented that truly desire a different approach to the standard orange and green politics of Northern Ireland.

He added: "This is not a decision I have taken lightly but feel passionately that it is the only course of action left to take. 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. 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."

LPNI chair Anna McAleavy distanced herself and the organisation from the protest. She said in a statement: "The Labour Party UK informed LPNI late yesterday afternoon that a member had contacted them to outline a course of action. A member of the EC is in communication with the individual concerned, who is a good and dedicated member.

"Although of course all of us want to see LPNI given the Right To Stand, there is an ongoing process involving a Review panel which will be imminently consulting us.

"Taking such unilateral actions, due to the frustration at the political stalemate, are not endorsed by the LPNI. It is in the interests of all concerned that this course of action is halted."

LPNI vice chair Damien Harris threatened in May to take legal action against Labour UK unless they allowed candidates to stand in Northern Ireland. Harris said he will take the issue to high court, believing the ban violates human rights.