Solidarity Magazine » Ireland Fri, 01 Mar 2013 19:29:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Northern Ireland: Health cuts put 4,000 jobs at risk Sun, 16 Jan 2011 15:10:38 +0000 Continue reading ]]> 15 January

Up to 4,000 jobs could be lost through Northern Ireland health cuts.

The reductions could come over the next four years as the Department of Health struggles to cope with a £828 million shortfall by 2015. Some of the predicted job losses will be through natural wastage and retirement but there may be some compulsory redundancies.

Health officials have also warned waiting lists could get longer while new patients may not be able to access the most up-to-date drugs.

New buildings may also lie empty and people could be asked to contribute towards the cost of their community care package.

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said: “Overwhelmingly the population out there believe strongly in the health service and want to support the health service.”

The Department of Health published its draft plans for its budget for the next four years.

The minister said there would be a massive reduction in the number of home-care packages and while the satellite radiotherapy unit in the grounds of Altnagelvin hospital in Londonderry will be built, there will be no cash to run it or the Fire and Rescue Service training college at Desertcreat, Co Tyrone.

Demographic change with the population getting older and living longer as well as demand for new drugs are among the pressures the department is facing. Dealing with flu and the impact of snow also represent potential problems.

The consultation document said: “On the basis of the proposed allocation for DHSSPS (Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety), the extent of shortfall against assessed need by 2014-15 is more than £800 million (15%) (running costs).

“This presents a significant and real challenge for the department to deliver effective health, social care and public safety services in a way that ensures the most effective use of all available resources and effective service delivery across all areas in the context of increased demand across services and the fastest growing and ageing population in the United Kingdom.”

Health accounts for half of the Northern Ireland Executive’s budget. Healthcare was intended to be protected with the cuts levied against the social care responsibilities of the department.

Department of Finance sources said they could not micro-manage how the minister divided his budget and the pressures were up to him to manage. Stormont health committee chairman Jim Wells said the Ulster Unionist Health Minister should blame the Tories for budget constraints.

“The Health Minister would do well to remember that it was his colleagues in the Conservative Party who have gave the Executive such a challenging budget,” he said.

“There is little point in the minister launching salvos at people in Northern Ireland when he was happy to campaign to get the Tories elected last May, despite repeated warnings that a Tory government would mean huge budget cuts for Northern Ireland.”

There will be a freeze on new jobs under today’s proposals, with officials warning the most vulnerable could be among the hardest hit.

Unison health workers’ union regional secretary for Northern Ireland Patricia McKeown said the consultation document signalled a real crisis. She said there was a £2.3 billion black hole in the budget over the next four years because the cuts have taken away the ability of the health service to meet ever increasing needs and rising costs for items such as drugs over which it has no control.

“This is not time for grandstanding or throwing shapes in preparation for the May elections. This is the health and social care future of the people,” she warned.

“This is massive job loss in Northern Ireland’s largest employer. This needs a new set of budget decisions now.”

She added: “The only solution is for the Executive to find a means of funding this gap. This means telling the UK Government that its cuts are putting the health of the people at risk.”

From the Belfast Telegraph

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ICTU leaders Jack O'Connor and David Begg are booed at mass protest march Wed, 01 Dec 2010 13:30:42 +0000 Continue reading ]]> From the Kerry Public Service Workers Alliance

The ICTU leadership was sent a clear message from the massive crowd at the march on Saturday. Business award winner Jack O’Connor and former banker David Begg were roundly heckled and booed by the audience at the GPO as they gave speeches from the podium.

ICTU’s carefully laid plans had ensured that the crowd close to the podium were ICTU faithful – no doubt paid union employees there to act as the Praetorian guard for the media.

Irish Times correspondent Mary Fitzgerald ?tweeted? that Jack even had ‘Surrender Monkey’ yelled at him as he bungled his speech.  The manner of his hasty retreat was reminiscent of the public booeing that led to the downfall of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceau?escu in 1989.

Begg was on stage a little later and left equally ashen faced.

Strangely, the widespread booing and jeering from the crowd was only mentioned in passing in an Irish Times report which ?included the line “Along with speeches from union leaders, some of whom were booed, musicians Christy Moore and Frances Black also performed.“ The Sunday Times reported that O’Connor and Begg were “loudly heckled” and that angry marchers shouted “get off the stage”. The Irish independent today saidAs they spoke of the politicians’ failings, cries of “You’ve sold out” and “You’re in bed with them” could be heard from angry protesters on the packed O’Connell Street.” Footage here from the front of the stage shows some of the reactions to O’Connor’s speech, as well as ICTU stewards harassing a journalist trying to cover it. RTE made no mention of the heckling.

The public haranguing of the ICTU beards was in sharp contrast to the thundering applause for all of the other speakers and it is generating a lot of interest on the usual discussion boards, political worldtwitter, and facebook.

Like all of the insiders in the Great Irish Banking Fraud, the ICTU gang are entirely removed from those that they supposedly represent. Social partnership benefited the top brass in the unions in return for their co-operation in pacifying the membership.

Credibility was stretched to breaking point today when Jack O’Connor came on to the platform with his usual empty rhetoric and no proposal for action. O’Connor and Begg are already in ‘talks’ with the IMF and will agree to ‘Social Austerity Partnership’ (as discussed in an earlier post here).

So now the union leadership, when calling their members to action in street protest and getting huge numbers to attend, finally face the calls of “traitors”, “bluffers” and “surrender monkeys”. The simple fact is that, for all of their solemn intoning of great Irish labour leaders, Begg and O’Connor are far closer to the appellations heaped on them at the march than they are to Larkin and Connolly.

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Ireland: TEEU backs civil unrest campaign Sun, 21 Nov 2010 15:27:12 +0000 Continue reading ]]> TEEU general secretary Eamon Devoy says country is on the brink of significant civil unrest.


One of the country’s largest trade unions has passed a motion calling for a campaign of civil disobedience if the Government does not hold a general election.

An overwhelming majority of the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU) voted in favour of the motion at the union’s biennial conference in Galway today.

The emergency motion, which was put forward by the union’s executive, “condemns the Government for its criminal negligence in the management of the economy and for colluding with the banks in misleading the Irish people as to the seriousness of the crisis we face”.

It says that “this policy of economic sabotage has led to the betrayal of our country and to the loss of the last shreds of our economic sovereignty.

We now call on the Government to resign, hold a general election and face the verdict of the electorate.

If the Government persists in clinging to power we call on the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and other civil society organisations to launch a campaign of civil disobedience to force an election on a regime that has no principles and no objective beyond staying in office for as long as possible”.

ICTU general secretary David Begg said the banks were “lying through their teeth to Nama about the value of their loan books”.

In an address to the conference, Mr Begg said the Government guarantee to the banking bond holders was “a terrible mistake” and the trade union movement would not “acquiesce in the ruination of our society”.

He said ICTU was calling for a mass mobilisation on November 27th next to end deflationary policies that will cost 90,000 jobs and cause “ruination of our society”.

The general secretary of the TEEU, Eamon Devoy, said the country was “on the brink of significant civil unrest in this country, the like of which has not been witnessed in this jurisdiction for decades”.

He strongly criticised the Government’s plan to take €6 billion out of the economy in the next budget.

When the draconian measures being proposed are heaped on top of the €14.5 billion cuts already implemented in the last three brutal budgets, life in Ireland will be unbearable.”

Mr Devoy told union members that in the next election, they should “vote for candidates who address the needs of working people”.

Separately, it is understood the European trade union organisation Etuc has urged that the IMF/European Commission/ European Central Bank team in talks on the proposed rescue package for the State should meet the social partners.

The request was made by the general secretary of Etuc John Monks in a letter sent yesterday to the EU commissioner for economic and monetary affairs Olli Rehn.

Yesterday Shay Cody, general secretary of Impact, the largest public service union in Ireland, also urged that such a meeting should take place.

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Ireland: National Public Services Alliance Conference Sun, 28 Mar 2010 14:46:35 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Press Release from NPSA Conference March 27th

The National Public Service Alliance of public service trade unionists placed a picket on the plenary talks between ICTU and Government to-day in Dublin. Members of the Kerry Public Service workers Alliance, and new branches from several regional centres joined their Dublin Colleagues on the picket line. Placards with legends such as “end the sell out talks”, “conditions of service are pay” and “trade union leaders captured by government” were carried

Conference expressed solidarity with our colleagues in the Passport office in their fight to resist additional workloads for a pay cut.

Current Talks, (these are not negotiations)—Why they should end now!

NPSA is seeking the unconditional restoration of pay cuts and the removal of further threats, an end to the pension levy and an end to the staffing moratorium . These are all unilateral breaches of existing industrial relations agreements by the Government as employer.

To reward Government for these breaches by unions offering concessions to Government under the so-called Transformation Agenda is not negotiation but capitulation. It is an incentive to government to impose further attacks on public servants in the knowledge that unions will always crawl back into talks.

It would be outrageous to put public servants in the position of choosing between the needs of their dependants and their conditions of service in a ballot.

Vital services to the public are being further endangered by these talks. Conditions of service, pay and pensions of public servants are in imminent danger from these talks.

NPSA , in the context of compliance by government with existing agreements, has no difficulty with real negotiations on changes in the public service with public sector employers based on the merits of these changes.

Conference expressed solidarity with our colleagues in the Passport office in their fight to resist additional workloads for a pay cut.

Conference welcomed the formation of new regional branches in recent weeks in Co Donegal, Co Louth, Co Carlow, Co Wicklow, North Kildare in addition to the Dublin and Co Kerry branches formed earlier. Martin O Grady (Co Kerry PSWA)impressed on conference to intensify pressure on politicians at their clinics in the coming weeks.

Conference also called on Government to restore cuts in social welfare and to stop attacking the poor.

Lack of Accountability of Public Service Negotiating Committee and of General Secretaries

The authorisation given to ICTU to offer the Transformation Agenda to government last December by General Secretaries raises serious issues of accountability. Many union executives and all branches of unions were not consulted in advance.Pat Cahill, former President of ASTi, advised union activists to address accountability deficits in their unions as a matter of urgency.

Most union executives have not been consulted on offers to government in current talks!!!

Paddy Healy, Chair NPSA

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Irish public sector workers begin work-to-rule Tue, 26 Jan 2010 18:09:01 +0000 Continue reading ]]> More than 300,000 public sector workers in the Republic of Ireland are to begin a national work-to-rule in protest at pay cuts introduced in the budget.

Civil servants, teachers and nurses are among those who will join the campaign of non co-operation.

The Irish government has said it needs to find 3bn euro in savings next year to deal with the Irish economic crisis.

However, Jimmy Kelly, from the trade union, Unite, said the wage cuts were not acceptable.

“This is an economic crisis not created by public sector workers – cutting public sector pay only adds to the downward spiral in the economy,” he said.

“The government saying that public sector workers have to pay for the crisis are just going down one route which is just going to fail.”

Government sources said the work-to-rule would not achieve anything and that the door remained open for realistic engagement.

Some are already dubbing the action the national go-slow – a strict work-to-rule across the public service.

Irish trade unions have not ruled out escalating the action, although it is unclear whether employees under financial pressure would be prepared to take all out strike action.

Meanwhile, the chief executive of the Labour Relations Commission, Kieran Mulvey, said the LRC would intervene to try to resolve this dispute.

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Irish Voters drive stake through the heart of the Lisbon Treaty Wed, 25 Jun 2008 12:10:05 +0000 Continue reading ]]> This is an analysis of the No vote in Ireland on the Lisbon Treaty. It is by John Meehan from the International Viewpoint website.

Voters in the Republic of Ireland drove a stake through the heart of the Lisbon Treaty, a rewrite of the European Union Constitution, in a Referendum which took place on June 12 – The result was announced on Friday June 13 2008.

No campaigners made this a memorably unlucky date for EU boss Jose Manuel Barroso and his gang of privateers and wannabe military adventurers – a ruling class élite still smarting from its 2005 European Union Constitution referendum defeats in Holland and France.

The No side won with 862,415 votes (53.4%) against 752,451 (46.6%) for the Yes of the 1,621,037 people who voted (turnout was 53.1%).

Formally the treaty is de facto dead, expired, late and extinct – just like the Monty Python parrot. However, dracula-style revival measures are possible.

The treaty cannot achieve life unless each EU state ratifies it. The Nice Treaty survived because Irish voters were asked for their verdict not once, but twice.

Can the Irish ruling class risk that operation a second time?

New York was “so good” they had to name it twice. In 2001 Ireland experienced “Nice 1” and voted No. In 2002 voters said Yes to “Nice 2”.

Holding a second referendum this time around will not be so easy.

Ask yourself : was the EU constitution killed by the French and Dutch referendums of 2005?

The answer is Yes.

Was the process killed? – the answer is No.

The Lisbon Treaty is a child of the EU Constitution, but is different in some respects. (Bertie Ahern correctly said the treaty contains ninety per cent of the [dead] constitution).

Here’s a vital difference : Only citizens of the Irish state could vote on the treaty – parliaments ratify in every one of the other 26 member states. Barroso and company were determined there would be no repeat of the French and Dutch referendum rejections.

A week before voters marked their ballot papers, an opinion poll published in the June 6 2008 Irish Times predicted, for the first time in the campaign, a clear victory for the No Side.

This poll estimated a No vote share of 35 per cent – the Yes trailed behind on 30 per cent, and undecided voters made up the remaining 35 per cent.

Discounting the “Don’t know” category, this implied a result of No 54 per cent against a Yes of 46 per cent – a deadly accurate prediction.

For this reason No campaigners should pay detailed attention to the findings of this and similar polls, as the information will be needed to guide us forward in the months ahead.

The Yes side strained every nerve for a reversal of the poll prediction in the final days – but, it is now clear, its goose was already cooked.

The final result is a remarkable event, since the odds were stacked so high in favour of the Yes Side.

160 members of Dáil Éireann (the Dublin Parliament) supported a Yes Vote – only six TD’s [1] supported the No Side. Just one Dáil Party (Sinn Féin) called for a No Vote on June 12.

The governing Fianna Fáil/Green Party/Progressive Democrat coalition Government elected in May 2007 was joined on the Yes Side by the biggest opposition parties – the right wing Fine Gael and the Labour Party (a social democratic organisation which has embraced Tony Blair style neo-liberalism).

Sniffing danger, all of these machines – which normally run their own shows, taking pot-shots off each other – started to combine forces during the last week of May.

The “Alliance for Europe” – fronted by former Labour Party leader Ruairí Quinn TD – alone has a budget of €750,000.

For the first time ever the employers’ organization IBEC (Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation) directly campaigned in a referendum with its own posters and publicity material.

By contrast the main left-wing campaign, the Campaign Against the EU Constitution (Vote No to the Lisbon Treaty) – a coalition of 14 different organisations and independent activists ( ) – had a budget of less than €10,000.

Towards the end of the campaign, after months of hesitation, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) Executive recommended a Yes, but for the first time in many years revealed deep internal divisions. The motion was carried by fourteen votes to five, with eight abstentions. A few months earlier a Yes proposal would have sailed through with little discussion.

UNITE , the state’s second biggest union, and the Electricians’ Union voted No – the Campaign Against the European Union Constitution office was located in the UNITE headquarters. The large Unions with big private sector membership, SIPTU and MANDATE, abstained.

The neo-liberal drive of the European Union in the last few years has alarmed many workers’ organisations. Recent European Court of Justice rulings in the Laval and Viking cases – which allow employers to hire people at minimal rates of pay, destroying existing collective agreements negotiated a state level, are consistent with the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty.

Shaky Fianna Fáil

The coalition Government is shaky (Fianna Fáil) and vulnerable (Green Party).

Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern stepped down early from office in April this year, allowing the then deputy leader of Fianna Fáil, Brian Cowen, to take over the top Government job.

Ahern, for the last two years, has been trying to explain away the receipt of large sums of money to a Tribunal investigating Payments to Politicians, directed by Judge Alan Mahon.

Negative headlines were replaced by a month of media praise for the departing leader. Words of worship rained like cats and dogs – again and again the Irish public was reminded that since Ahern was elected Taoiseach in June 1997 :

1. The Fianna Fáil leader played a major role in the “peace process” (which terminated the “troubles” in Northern Ireland, ushering in a “power-sharing” Government between Unionists and Nationalists, headed by the rabble-rousing far-right preacher Ian Paisley [2] – Ahern was feted around the globe. He was invited to make a long speech to a special joint session of the USA Senate and Congress, which was broadcast live back in Ireland, followed by acres of fawning newspaper coverage.

President Bush was paying a small price – the Fianna Fáil led Government allows the USA military to use Shannon Airport for transporting troops weapons and torture victims back and forth between Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and other locations on the American continent.

2. Bertie’s period of office coincided with a historically unprecedented economic boom in the 26 County Republic of Ireland (the years of the Celtic Tiger)

Government poll ratings improved, new leader Brian Cowen basked in the reflected glow – and a temporary opinion poll boost was delivered to the Yes side of Lisbon Treaty debate.

But current reality collided with spin – the Lisbon Treaty crash-landed, and Brian Cowen’s short honeymoon is over.

Ahern is back in the Mahon Tribunal – a tortuous comic affair, as one clever piece of deception after another gets unravelled by legal investigators on the trail of intentionally complex financial wheeling and dealing.

One week before the referendum, for example, the former Taoiseach was in the witness-box, unable to answer Tribunal Counsel Des O’Neill’s statement that “of the 86 lodgements to Mr Ahern’s accounts during 1993 and 1995….there was no evidence to show the source of “99.99%” of the money” (Irish Times, June 6 2008). A total of at least £62-79,000 Sterling has so far been uncovered for these two years alone. The former Minister for Finance claims he had no bank account between 1987 and 1993, and saved cash in a safe.

Vulnerable Green Party

At a special Green Party conference delegates voted for the Treaty – but by less than a two-thirds majority, meaning the party was unable to publicly campaign for either side in this campaign.

Panic set in at top levels. Minister Éamonn Ryan warned of “chaos” if the Treaty is rejected. One of the party’s six TD’s, Ciarán Cuffe, bitterly complained that the debate has been taken over by “Spuccers and Trotskyites” (!).

Ciarán Cuffe and his colleagues are very intimate with the left-wing case against the Lisbon Treaty – before the Greens entered Government with Fianna Fáil in May 2007, the party was associated with the CAEUC.

In one public debate on Development Issues and the Lisbon Treaty a former CAEUC member, Green Party Yes campaigner Senator Deirdre de Búrca, declared that if her party was not in Government it would be campaigning for a No vote on the Lisbon Treaty.

To ensure there was no doubt, this writer double-checked, asking the Senator for confirmation of her statement – Deirdre repeated herself – my ears were working fine that evening.

This exchange occurred on Wednesday May 7, during a discussion about the Treaty’s provisions on development issues – see these links for a CAEUC Statement distributed to all who attended, and a full report of the meeting written by Liz Curry .

De Búrca also argued for a Yes Vote because we must tackle climate change – a No campaigner pointed out that the Treaty contains precisely six words on this subject.

Some weeks later Green Party leader and Government Minister John Gormley stated that even if he was in opposition, he would be recommending a Yes Vote on the Lisbon Treaty.

A fool might bet that the Green Party will sit on the government benches after the next General Election (scheduled for June 2012 at the latest) – a wiser punter would wager that Gormley’s party will be lucky to survive electoral contests in the next couple of years.

A leading spokesperson on the No side was former Dublin Green Member of the European Parliament Patricia McKenna. She will be again seeking the party’s nomination in forthcoming polls – the big question will be : should the Greens remain in coalition with Fianna Fáil? Odds are that Gormley’s party will stay in government .

In that case, the fate of the Progressive Democrats (PD’s) looms large for the Green Party : the PD’s are a well-financed right/neo-liberal party which returned only two TD’s in the May 2007 General Election, a disastrous drop from eight. Its leader Michael McDowell lost his seat and promptly resigned from public life.

Its single minister, Mary Harney, directs a root and branch privatisation of the Department of Health, and has generated a mounting campaign of public demonstrations against her policies.

It is only a matter of time before most Progressive Democrat components are assimilated into Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael – maybe fragments will drift into the Labour Party or the Greens.

CAEUC activists worked with Health campaigners during the referendum campaign, successfully persuading key activists from this sector to vote against the Lisbon Treaty.

Why Did the Lisbon Treaty Lose Ground?

In January 2008 the Irish result seemed a shoo-in [3] Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, scrambling with words to explain monstrous amounts of sterling in bank accounts he had “forgotten” about, now says he won the money by betting successfully in England on horse races….. – A Red C Opinion Poll estimated a Yes / No split of 43 to 25 per cent discounting a high “Don’t Know” score of 32% – meaning a likely 64/36 result on the referendum day. At the start of April the gap narrowed to a Yes/No share of 35 to 31 per cent – making the likely result too close to call – it was within the margin of error.

The numbers then moved back towards the Yes Side – coinciding with the decision of Bertie Ahern to vacate the job of Taoiseach.

Worrying trends for the Lisbon Treaty showed up in a May 25 Sunday Business Post Opinion Poll : the Red C Company headlined its report “Yes camp struggles to gain a clear lead” – the No Side was gaining ground, undecided voters were breaking in a ratio of 5:3 against the treaty.

Then a decisive swing against the Lisbon Treaty swept away the Yes side – why?

Using hindsight, reading reliable reports from CAEUC activists on our e- mail list, and public sources such as the website , tell-tale signs of a momentous victory jump out at the reader.

An unusual feature of this campaign was that at several public meetings, even those called by the Yes Side, most of the audience tended to favour a No Vote.

Some examples :

The Labour Party called a public meeting in Dublin’s Liberty Hall on April 14 – six platform speakers, including party TD’s and an MEP, spoke for the treaty. Reliable reports indicated that at least 70 per cent of the audience (numbering about 80 people) favoured a No Vote.

In Limerick City on May 15 a CAEUC inaugural meeting directly clashed with a public debate organised by the Oireachtas (Houses of Parliament) European Affairs Committee. Naturally, the Oireachtas meeting was much better-financed, and therefore was more heavily advertised. The CAEUC meeting attracted an attendance twice the size of the Oireachtas Committee Event (65 people versus 30). The parliamentarians, once they had finished praising the Lisbon Treaty from the platform, discovered that every single person in their audience was voting No. So, it was established that 95 people in Limerick City intended voting against the treaty, feeling strongly enough about it to attend two clashing public meetings.

The Limerick East constituency result










On June 4 the Community and Workers’ Action Group (CWAG) organised a debate in the Dublin South-Central constituency between the Yes and No sides. The independent socialist councillor Joan Collins (CWAG) and Brendan Young of the CAEUC spoke for voting No. Their opponents on the Yes Side were representatives of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, Charlie Ardagh (Fianna Fáil) and Ruairí McGinley (Fine Gael). When the debate ended the 70 people attending were asked to raise their hands for a Yes or a No – all seventy people in the audience voted No.

The Dublin South-Central constituency result










The Irish Government had to run two referendums on the Nice Treaty – at the first time of asking the proposal was defeated in 2001 (Nice 1).

After that the state set up a “National Forum for Europe”, with relatively democratic rules allowing for equal time shared between Yes and No speakers. Research demonstrated that many people had voted No in the Nice 1 referendum because they objected to a lack of information about the issues. A “democratic deficit” was addressed, without doubt helping the state to gain a Yes victory in the 2002 “Nice 2” referendum.

Turnout for Nice 2 was 49.5%, significantly higher than Nice 1, 34.8% .

But this time around the turnout for the Lisbon Treaty Referendum was even higher, 53.1%.

This means that a revote on the Lisbon Treaty, like the Nice 2 operation, is not a good option for the Yes side.

Writing in the Guardian (June 14) the Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole (a left-liberal supporter of Lisbon) correctly observed that “In the first Nice referendum, the turnout was so low that the government could just about get away with asking people to vote again. The turnout for Lisbon was much higher, so repeating the exercise would simply feed the perception that voters are being bullied.”

In 2008, in general, a significant majority of people attending forum meetings indicated they were voting no.

The “democratic deficit” factor worked in favour of the No side.

The Lisbon Treaty is a tough read, and is very hard to understand – not surprising when one its main supporters said :

“The aim of the Constitutional Treaty was to be more readable; the aim of this treaty is to be unreadable [...] The Constitution aimed to be clear, whereas this treaty had to be unclear. It is a success.” Karel De Gucht, Belgian Foreign Minister, Flanders Info, 23 June 2007

Here too are the words of the document’s main author, ex-President of France Valéry Giscard d’Estaing :

“Public opinion will be led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals that we dare not present to them directly … All the earlier proposals will be in the new text, but will be hidden and disguised in some way.” Le Monde 14 June 2007 and Sunday Telegraph 1 July 2007

I showed these and other similar quotes to one voter who immediately asked (very reasonably) if De Gucht was on the No side.

Both these quotes, and a few other gems from similar high-ranking politicians, are contained in a 32 page CAEUC pamphlet calling for a No Vote on the treaty – we distributed 10,000 copies during the campaign. They are also published on the website.

Time and again activists read out these quotes, and then concentrated on unravelling key provisions of the text – for example those which provide for further privatisations of public services. The Lisbon Treaty is written in the style of George Orwell’s 1984 “Newspeak” : “Public Services” are renamed “Services of General Economic Interest”.

When Yes supporters claimed to be defending the State’s traditional policy of military neutrality, CAEUC activists directed people to provisions which require an increase in military spending – and contrasted this active wording with the absence of any measures to, for example, increase public funding for health services.

A growing mood of puzzlement threatened the Yes side of the Lisbon Debate.

Fianna Fáil has a big popular base and takes pride in staying in touch with its “grass roots”. The new Taoiseach Brian Cowen is no fool – he admitted he had not read the 440 page labyrinth, with its confusing set of protocols, amendments to amendments, obscure and deliberately baffling language, and so on.

The June 6 Irish Times report of its opinion poll said “Not knowing what the treaty is about was cited as the main reason for voting No in the referendum, with 30 per cent giving it as the reason for their decision.”

No campaigners sympathised with the state leader’s dilemma, knowing their point had hit home big time.

Yes organisations like Fianna Fáil used slogans like “Yes to Europe”, “Good for Ireland” and so on – without discussing the Treaty’s actual text. They presented it as an administrative tidy-up job, reducing the number of commissioners, giving the European Parliament extra powers, making the expanded machine work more efficiently to accommodate 27 states.

In the final days of the campaign Cowen and his allies accused the No side of failing to discuss the treaty’s contents, spreading false information, and warned that Ireland would suffer from a No decision. This was an unconvincing change of tune from a campaign which for months has sung hymns of praise to the Irish Celtic Tiger, a “success” linked to membership of the EU.

Media supporters of the Yes side – especially those with a left-wing past, or who currently support the Labour Party – inflated the profile of far-right wing opponents of the Treaty, and minimised the opposition campaign mounted from the left.

A notorious example of this was an Irish Times “story” that French fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen might come to Ireland to campaign for a No vote. Pro Lisbon Treaty journalists from this newspaper could not find anyone in Ireland willing to invite the French fascist – several No campaigners indicated they would in fact protest against any such visit.

True to form, on the day after the count, most mainline media organisations gave significant pictorial coverage to far-right No campaigners associated with “Youth Defence”, which is militantly anti- abortion.

The imbalance prior to the vote has been carried over into the post mortem. On talk shows and press pages the losing side debates with itself on what went wrong, what are “we” going to do next, how could the people have done the wrong thing and what is “Europe” going to do in retaliation?

The discourse assumes that a way must be found to fit the result into “the other 26” countries’ determination to go ahead with Lisbon and to overlook the simple result of the vote (in Ireland, France and the Netherlands): that the Lisbon Treaty is legally and morally dead.

The overwhelming dominance of the defeated side –– in the national debate and in the corridors of EU power (where the EU elite is overlooking the result and putting enormous pressure on the Irish elite to get a ‘solution’) – means there is only one thing that can prevent the Irish majority being left out on a limb. That is the remobilisation of the French ‘No’ movement, rekindled by the Irish vote, to demand a final end to Lisbon or, at least, a French referendum on it. The Irish, French and Dutch stands need to be internationalised.

Debate within the CAEUC and beyond should focus on alternative visions to the doomed Lisbon Treaty / European Union Constitution Project. One approach is set out here, “The Europe We Stand For”.

This contrasts with the main line advocated by Sinn Féin, which is looking for a “better deal” to be negotiated. Wily politicians such as Brian Cowen will be happy to offer some minor concessions – such as keeping an Irish Commissioner, maybe tinkering with a few vetos – but keeping the neo- liberal substance of any new Treaty/Constitution intact.

People in Sinn Féin who doubt this should take on board the fate of the Green Party – once they entered Government with Fianna Fáil former radical policies went out the window. Sinn Féin’s welcome opposition to the Lisbon Treaty, along lines that were generally progressive, collides with any perspective of being “ready for government” – the party’s headline policy in the May 2007 General Election.

The ‘No’ right may set out to provide the political alternative and stand in the coming European Elections in June 2009.

A thing very badly needed is better coordination of the ‘No’ side on the left.

The victory, in the light of the far from ideal, but real, left unity during the referendum campaign, has returned regroupment to the agenda of the left.

Key players here are the Socialist Party (its best-known representative Joe Higgins did tremendous work, co-operating very well with the CAEUC as well as promoting his own party); the People Before Profit coalition, whose main component is the Socialist Workers’ Party; the Community and Workers’ Action Group, whose main spokesperson is the Independent Socialist City Councillor Joan Collins; the trade union UNITE; and various other activists.

Local Government Elections take place at the same time, and all sectors of the “real left” need to run a united campaign in both contests – you can’t have one without the other.

Organisations trade unions and activists which, at a minimum :

* Oppose the neo-liberal assault on public services

* Are in favour of equality measures such as ending the notorious 1983 constitutional ban on abortion

* Which unconditionally refuse any governmental coalition deals with bourgeois parties such as Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael

have another opportunity to get their act together, with the emphasis on ‘together’.


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Irish union members at British Telecomm stage public protest at company Head Office Thu, 01 May 2008 11:38:46 +0000 Continue reading ]]>  

On Tuesday April 22nd a large group of BT Ireland staff, with support from other CWU members, held a public protest at the Corporate Head Office of British Telecom in Dublin.  The protest was held to publicly highlight the fact the British Telecom is refusing to give collective bargaining rights to a large group of its staff simply because they are Irish.  The Company, which runs its business on a 32-county – all Ireland basis, deals with the CWU in Northern Ireland and staff there enjoy the benefits of independent collective representation.

In recent years staff in the Republic have sought equal treatment with their colleagues elsewhere in the business and, through the CWU and internal Company mechanisms, they have asked to be given the same right to collective bargaining as their colleagues.

To date the Company has refused to honour this legitimate request and in doing so is not only denying staff a basic human right but is doing so on the basis that they are Irish.

BT staff felt the Company’s position on this issue was completely unacceptable as it was effectively a form of discrimination. Members wanted to highlight their cause as part of a campaign to try and get management to engage in meaningful dialogue with their Union.                

As part of the campaign, CWU has erected billboard advertisements around the city centre as well as a number of ad mobiles that will be active over the coming weeks with the message – ‘Disconnect Discrimination’.

To send messages of support go to  

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Ireland: Union Steward sacked for wearing union badge Mon, 16 Jan 2006 21:16:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Many trade unionists around the world will remember the Dunnes Stores Strike against Apartheid which ran for almost three years from June 1984 to April 1987. In the face of an intransigent employer, the union eventually persuaded the Irish government of the day to implement economic sanctions against the old Apartheid regime in South Africa. According to Mandate Trade Union, Dunnes Stores are at it again.

This time the raging, anti-union Irish retailer (the “Wal-Mart of Ireland”) has achieved a new low in union-bashing by sacking shop steward Joanne Delaney in November 2005 for wearing her union badge on her uniform. With more than four years service in the Ashleaf store in Crumlin on the south side of Dublin, the 22 year-old union member was elected shop steward by her fellow-members and says she is proud to be a trade union activist and a Mandate member.
Before sacking Joanne, Dunnes refused to attend a meeting with her because she was accompanied by her union Organiser.

Please communicate your disgust at the behaviour of Dunnes Stores by sending a protest message to Mr. Frank Dunne, the managing director of Dunnes, demanding the reinstatement of Joanne.

Please circulate this as widely as possible.

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Ireland – ‘Campaign for an Independent Left’ Fri, 25 Nov 2005 18:33:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> The current issue of SOLIDARITY (Issue 15) carries a report by Colm Breatnach (reproduced below) on discussion on a left alternative in Ireland. The political platform, amended through disussion, and agreed at the founding meeting, is reproduced here for the first time.

Following months of discussion, a number of groups and individuals with a strong track record of campaigning on community and trade union issues have launched a campaign to form a new party of the left in Ireland.
The initiative was launched in June by two independent socialist elected representatives: Seamus Healy TD (Irish MP) and Councillor Joan Collins of Dublin City Council, representing two local organisations; the South Tipperary Workers’ and Unemployed Action Group and the Community and Workers’ Action Group based in the south western suburbs of Dublin. The Irish Socialist Network, a participatory socialist and Marxist organisation, has also played a key role in promoting this initiative.Others involved include supporters of Red Banner magazine and a number of well known activists such as Des Derwin, vice-president of the Dublin Council of Trade Unions, Dermot Connolly, former General Secretary of the Socialist Party (CWI) and Roseanna Flynn, one of Ireland’s leading anti-racist campaigners. Many of these comrades have also been involved, along with activists from the Labour’s Militant Voice in the US and comrades who produce SOLIDARITY in Britain, in the regular Trade Union Activists Forum held in Dublin since earlier this year.

This initiative is especially important given the fact that the main centre left parties, Labour, Sinn Fein and the Greens all now favour entering coalition with conservative parties rather than building a real alternative to neo-liberal policies of the right.

While there is no proposal to set up a new party prematurely, the long-term aim of the process is not just a coalition of existing left groups or the creation of yet another small left party, but the ambitious goal of creating a new mass party of the Irish working class. The campaign is open to working with other left forces but the participating organisations are committed to a bottom up, democratic type of organisation as opposed to the old top-down centralised leadership model.

The task now is to bring the message to working class communities that there is now a real possibility of building a movement that belongs to their class.

The groups involved come from varying backgrounds. The ISN is a democratic Marxist, Dublin/Belfast based group mostly made up of former members of the Workers Party and the SWP.

The STWUAG is a large regional organisation made up of community and trade union activists, with a strong local electoral base, having one member of the Dail (Irish Parliament) and a number of elected councillors. The CWAG is a similar organisation that grew out of the Anti-Bin Tax Campaign in the south western suburbs of Dublin. Most of its members are new to politics but some including CWAG councillor Joan Collins, are former members of the Socialist Party(CWI).

A number of individuals involved in the initiative are also part of the editorial group of the independent revolutionary socialist journal, Red Banner, who also come from various far-left backgrounds. Though some have jokingly called the new initiative ‘the left-overs’ because of our varied background, our experience on the left has meant that we have, so far, proceeded in the necessarily slow but systematic manner that arises from a commitment to democratic methods, rather then the top-down ‘follow the leaders’ method of the traditional far-left.

Colm Breatnach

Campaign for an Independent Left
Building a new party of working people

The individuals and groups involved in the Campaign for an Independent Left are united by the common aim of a radical transformation of Irish society. We are committed to the struggle to build a society where working people democratically control all aspects of their lives – social, economic, cultural and political – and where the gap between rich and poor is eliminated.

To help achieve this transformation, we believe it is necessary to develop a new independent all-Ireland party of working people. By independent we mean a party that we will oppose in real terms the right wing pro-capital parties, north and south, and will under no circumstances enter into government with them.

This will be a grassroots campaigning party—broad, pluralist, democratic, and with no agenda other than advancing the interests of working people.

We now commit ourselves to campaigning for such a party, winning over people active in the labour movement, community campaigns, and the various movements for social justice to get involved in making it a reality.

The following are the initial points of basic political agreement that have brought us together to begin this process.

1. No coalition with parties of the right, under any circumstances.

2. Public ownership and democratic control of the country’s resources and services, so that they can be developed in the interests of working people and our environment. An end to the privatisation or commercialisation of public services.

3. A comprehensive universal public health-care system. An end to all state subsidies for private health care.

4. A free, secular education system, aimed at the full and equal development of each human being from pre-school to university. An end to all state subsidies for private education.

5. The provision of housing as a basic right.

6. A public transport system based on the needs of users, not profit, and the protection of the environment.

7. A progressive taxation system that will redistribute wealth, making the rich pay their fair share, and lifting the burden of stealth and double taxes from working people.

8. No to so called “social partnership”. We want trade unions run democratically by their members, and fighting for their interests. Repeal all restrictive legislation against union activity. Unite Irish and migrant workers by fighting for basic trade union rights and conditions for all workers.

9. We believe in equality and solidarity between all working people—men and women, black and white, Travellers and settled people, Catholic and Protestant. We will offer 100 per cent opposition to all forms of racism, sexism and sectarianism.

10. We are for an inclusive, multi-cultural society with equal rites for all; asylum seekers should have the right to work; for an end to deportations; full citizenship for all children born in Ireland; work permits to be issued to workers and not employers.

11. A foreign policy based on opposition to imperialism, and solidarity with those fighting for democracy, justice and peace, the re establishment and maintenance of military neutrality, opposition to an EU dominated by big business and for a Europe of solidarity between working people.

We appeal to all individuals and groups who share our vision of a new party of working people to contact us and help build it in practice.

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