Boyd Black

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Boyd Black is a graduate of Trinity College, Oxford, with masters degrees from Columbia University.[1]

Anglo-Irish Agreement

In 1986, Black stood in the Fulham by-election in protest at the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Mr Boyd Black, an economics lecturer at Queen's University, Belfast, has no formal links with the two Unionist parties, but his entry into the contest is designed to damage Tory prospects.
The decision to ask Mr Black, who has campaigned for the British Labour Party to organize in Northern Ireland, to stand was made after an independent anti-EEC 'Conservative' candidate withdrew.
Mr Black's decision to stand is not part of the overall 'loyalist' campaign to wreck the agreement, but is being backed by Mr John Taylor, Official Unionist MP for Strangford.[2]

In contrast to the Times, The Guardian's account linked Black more closely to the overall unionist campaign:

Ulster Unionists are fielding a candidate in next month's byelection in Fulham, west London, as the opening shot in a campaign to embarrass the Government and secure a wider audience for their opposition to the Anglo-Irish agreement.
A lecturer from Queen's University, Belfast, Mr Boyd Black, is to stand in Fulham under the label 'Democratic Rights for Northern Ireland.'
Mr John Taylor, the Official Unionist MP for Strandford, and organiser of the campaign, said the aim was to highlight the denial to the people of Ulster of the same parliamentary rights enjoyed by the rest of the United Kingdom.[3]

Blacks election agent confirmed that he had been a member of the British and Irish Communist Organisation at one time.[4] At the time of the bye-election, Black was a member of the Fabian Society, which criticised his decision to stand.[5]

Labour in Northern Ireland

Black first attempt to join the British Labour Party as a Northern Ireland-based member in 1977.[6] In 1990, Black chaired a group which put up Erskine Holmes in the Upper Bann by-election, and threatened to take the British Labour Party to court over its refusal to accept Northern Ireland members:

As with the Ulster Conservatives, who face their first big electoral test at Upper Bann this week, a question mark hangs over whether the campaigners for Labour organisation in the province are secular activists or closet unionists. The chair of Friday's For The Right To Vote Labour press conference, Boyd Black, was among a few hundred mainly Paisleyite supporters who protested against the recent visit to Belfast by the republic's premier, Charles Haughey.[7]

Black described himself as secretary of Labour in Northern Ireland in a 1995 letter which criticised Tony Blair for defending the party's refusal to accept Northern Ireland members.[8]

Black was accused of using the issue as a unionist ploy by David Morrison of the Campaign for Labour Representation:

The care taken by the CLR to ensure that the advocacy of the principle that a party seeking a mandate to govern a state should submit candidates to the electorate in all regions of that state, did not degenerate into mere unionist lobbying made the CLR unacceptable to Dr Black and he resigned from it many years ago. In 1992 he was one of the enthusiastic supporters of Kate Hoey MP in establishing Democracy Now as a clearly unionist lobby using the Labour Party issue as a unionist device.
The character of Democracy Now was placed beyond doubt when Kate Hoey took an active part in Robert McCartney's ultra unionist election campaign in North Down, and other founder members of Democracy Now have acted as Robert McCartney's campaign manager and parliamentary research officer. And during the McCartney election campaign a Democracy Now MP, Michael Conarty, even took part in the founding meeting of a "Unionist Labour Group" as a subordinate organisation of the Unionist Party.
The unionist character of Democracy Now was strangely absent from Frank Millar's report of their fringe meeting at Brighton on October 2nd.[9]

In response, Black said that Labour in Northern Ireland stressed the principle of unity by consent:

This was exactly the position on which I resigned from the CLR in 1992. My resignation letter (which is available on request) made it clear that I was resigning because of what I believed was undemocratic manipulation of the CLR by David Morrison as secretary, and not for any other reason.
Labour in Northern Ireland did not support any candidate in the North Down by-election. Nor, for that matter, did Democracy Now.[10]

In reply, Morrison claimed that Black had been censured by the CLR for his part in the demonstration against Haughey in 1990:

At a later executive meeting, in October 1990, he made a very strong objection to the following sentence in a pamphlet prepared for the 1990 Labour Party conference "Few would argue with the goal of achieving Irish unity by consent", that is, with Labour Party policy. He found no support for this objection. He did not raise it at the AGM a couple of weeks later. He resigned by not renewing his membership.
In support of my contention that Democracy Now is a unionist pressure group, I refer to statements by its secretary, James Winston, in the Belfast Telegraph of August 6th, 1994 ("We want the Labour Party to clarify its policy and move away from old fashioned Irish nationalism") and in the Newtownabbey Times of August 11th, 1994 (in which he described the Labour Party's united Ireland policy as "the last legacy of the hard left Bennite lunacy in the early 1980s, and it's time to move away from that nonsense").
Even more conclusively, I refer to the high profile campaign in support of the ultra unionist "UK Unionist" candidate in the North Down by election by the founder and leader of Democracy Now, Kate Hoey MP, who has never supported a Labour candidate in a Northern Ireland election. And in Radio Five Live's By election Special, in the early hours of June 16th 1995, she said "I'm quite honest about it . . . I support the union. I think it is in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland".[11]

In another reply, Black reiterated his suport for the principle of consent:

David Morrison claims I left the CLR in 1990. But what reason would I have had to leave? It was only when Dr Morrison and the GB Secretary of the CLR. Hugh Roberts were quoted in the Belfast Telegraph (September 18th, 1991) saying the CLR supported a united Ireland, a position completely at odds with the agreed CLR policy of neutrality on the issue, that I reached the conclusion internal democratic procedures counted for nothing in the CLR and decided not to attend the October 1991 a.g.m. I still hold the notice of meeting and agenda papers far the 1991 a.g.m. circulated by Dr Morrison, which suggests he considered me to be a member at that time, whatever he says in his letter.[12]

Labour in Northern Ireland organised a fringe meeting at the 1996 Labour Party conference.[13] In 1998, Black stood in Belfast South and co-ordinated a Labour campaign which incorporated seven groups: Labour in the talks, Democratic Left, Northern Ireland Labour Partnership, Labour in Northern Ireland, Newtownabbey Labour Party, Upper Bann Labour Party and Foyle Labour Party.[14]

Black criticised the British Labour Party in 1999, after a report by former General Secretary Tom Sawyer concluded the party should not organise in Northern Ireland for the foreseeable future.[15]

Labour in Northern Ireland organised a fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference in 2000, which was due to be addressed by union leaders John Edmonds and Roger Lyons.[16]

In 2001, Black signed a letter calling on the Labour Party to allow Northern Ireland members along with MPs Harry Barnes, Michael Connarty, Gwyneth Dunwoody, Frank Field, and Kate Hoey and union leaders, John Edmonds and Roger Lyons.[17]

After the Labour Party conference voted to allow Northern Ireland members in 2003, Black called for talks with the party leadership.[18]

Along with Baroness May Blood and Andy McGivern, Black was one of those expected to attend a June 2004 meeting calling for the new Northern Ireland members to be allowed to form constituency associations and to send delegates to conference.[19]

Black attended the Labour Party conference in 2004.

Mr McGivern and fellow Labour Party member Boyd Black also had an informal discussion with Northern Ireland Minister John Spellar in Brighton.
He disclosed: "John Spellar came over to the Bombardier stand and talked to Boyd and myself about the constituency party issue.
"He said that, while he understood our motives, now was not the time to press the case.
"But there was no give on the need for Labour to organise branches in the province.
"My feeling is the leadership are worried about the timing of what could be another embarrassing court case.
"They know there is a very real possibility that it could be heard in the middle of the election campaign."[20]

In November 2004, Black, described as 'Secretary of the Northern Ireland Labour members', distanced himself from a Friends of the Union at which Andy McGivern was speaking:

He said: "Labour members in Northern Ireland are not participating in the Friends of the Union meeting.
"While we agree with the substance of Andy McGivern's court case, he is speaking at this meeting on his own behalf and not on the behalf of our own organisation."
Mr McGivern confirmed that he was there in a personal capacity.[21]



  1. Fringe that is almost beyond belief at Fulham's by-election, by Robin Young, The Times, 29 March 1986.
  2. Ireland joins issues, The Times, 18 March 1986.
  3. Unionists bring Ulster campaign to Fulham / Anglo-Irish agreement protests, by David Hearst and Martin Linton, The Guardian, 18 March 1996.
  4. Times Diary: Orange red, The Times, 24 March 1986.
  5. Not so free, The Times, 2 April 1986.
  6. Labour of love may pay off for party men, by Ross Smith, Belfast News Letter, 30 August 2003, p39.
  7. Ulster Labour voters ready to sue party, by Robin Wilson, The Times, 13 May 1990.
  8. Blair Interview, by Boyd Black, The Irish Times, 7 September 1995.
  9. Northern Ireland Labour, by David Morrison, The Irish Times, 9 October 1995.
  10. Labour in NI, by Dr Boyd Black, Irish Times, 25 October 1995.
  11. Labour in Northern Ireland, by David Morrison, Irish Times, 21 November 1995.
  12. Labour in Northern Ireland, by Boyd Black, Irish Times, 14 December 1995.
  13. Mowlam ignores Ulster voters' rights, by Boyd Black, Belfast Telegraph, 2 September 1996.
  14. Assembly Nominations, The Final Countdown, by Steven Moore, The Belfast Newsletter, 4 June 1998.
  15. Labour to stay out of North, by Chris Ryder, Sunday Times, 7 March 1999.
  16. Group lobbies for membership rights, by Noel McAdam, Belfast Telegraph, 28 September 2000.
  17. Letter Open Ulster to Labour, The Guardian, 13 October 2001, p25. Growing support for Labour in Ulster, The Daily Telegraph, 13 October 2001.
  18. OPINION: LABOUR JOY IS NOT A VICTORY FOR UNIONISM OR NATIONALISM, by Boyd Black,Sunday Mirror, 5 October 2003, p8.
  19. FRUSTRATED LABOUR PARTY MEMBERS SEEK EQUAL RIGHTS, by Dan McGinn, Press Association, 27 May 2004.
  20. LABOUR PARTY 'FAILING NORTHERN IRELAND TRADE UNION MEMBERS', by Dan McGinn, Press Association, 27 September 2004.
  21. TORY SLAMS ULSTER LABOUR PARTY 'SCANDAL', by Dann McGinn, Press Association, 22 November 2004.