TRADE UNIONS AND THE OCCUPIED SIX COUNTIES.
As active Irish republicans and trade union members, we often wonder why we maintain our membership of the latter ; the trade union leadership in this country, North and South, have repeatedly, over the decades, shown an eagerness to agree (and, indeed, make) compromises with all three parliaments (Leinster House, Stormont and their parent, Westminster) in relation to the continuing, unwanted, British military and political presence in this country. Those compromises conflict with our republican position regarding the Occupied Six Counties and have left us, and many others, extremely wary of any pronouncements on that subject by the trade union leadership.
Which is why we’ll later more than likely regret helping to publicise an initiative by the ‘Communication Workers Union’ in relation to the Six Counties : ‘We, the undersigned, are calling on trade unionists across Ireland to begin engaging in the debate for Irish unity. Profound social and constitutional changes have taken place across this island in recent years and the debate about future arrangements has already begun.
As trade unionists working on both sides of the border, we believe it is critically important that the interests of workers and working families are put at the heart of this debate. If there is to be a United Ireland, it must be a New Ireland that puts workers rights, economic rights, gender rights, as well as universal human rights front and centre in a new all Ireland constitution…’ (from here.)
And this – ‘This initiative has secured the support of a broad range of trade unionists with many differing political views. We are all united in recognizing that the partition of Ireland has been disastrous for workers’ rights and progressive politics in this country…in the north, average wages are lower than anywhere else in Ireland or the UK. Furthermore, trade unions are still hamstrung by the Tories’ draconian anti-union laws, while in the south, more than a century after the 1913 Lockout, workers are still denied the basic right to collective bargaining. Our aim is to put forward a vision of what a fairer and more socially just Ireland would look like in the event of reunification. We want to see a new Ireland with a new constitution that promotes workers’ rights, economic equality and social justice…’ (from here.)
The CWU’s ‘main man’ behind the above campaign is a Provisional Sinn Féin activist and will more than likely point the ‘tu4ui’ efforts towards the same political cul-de-sac that PSF and other constitutional Leinster House political parties have willingly entered in order to allow themselves to claim that they are trying to address the issue when, in reality, their objective is to provide a fig leaf to Leinster House, Stormont and Westminster, behind which those institutions can attempt to conceal the on-going political claim of jurisdiction from Westminster over six Irish counties – much easier to pretend that the continuing British military and political presence never happened in the first place and/or was never as bad as republicans made it out to be and/or has now been ‘solved’.
Time will tell where the above campaign goes but, for our part, we still support the position as outlined in the Irish republican magazine, ‘Iris’, in 1982 – ‘The role of the trade union movement in Ireland in relation to the continued imperialist occupation of the North and to the foreign multi-national domination of the Irish economy – both north and south – remains an area of confusion for many people…we examine the economic policy of the ‘Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ (ICTU) and the general failure of the official Labour movement to advance the cause of the Irish working class, except in terms of extremely limited gains…the balance between militancy and cynicism is one that pervades all layers of the trade union rank-and-file in Ireland. The militancy is just what could be expected from members of a national trade union organisation (ICTU) which represents 65% of insured workers in both parts of the country, and which has a history dating to 1894 (whereas) the cynicism of course derives from bitter experience of betrayal from the Congress leadership…acting to prevent disruption of its spineless conservatism…’
At best, this campaign will bring the Six County issue to the attention of those who might not have given it a second thought in the past and hopefully encourage them to want to know more. At worst, it will distract people from working towards a proper solution.
‘BRITISH FORCES MUST GO, DEMANDS SINN FÉIN PRESIDENT…’
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, December 1954.
Tomas O’ Dubghaill’s speech to the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, 7th November 1954 (…continued).
QUICKENING OF THE NATIONAL SPIRIT –
“But probably the most significant factor which has developed during the past year has been the quickening of the national spirit, the renewed interest taken by the general public in the national movement, the realisation that there is a problem confronting our nation, a problem which requires a solution now, and not in the dim future – a problem which needs the active help of every man and woman, old and young, to solve it in the only way which will probably serve the national interest.
If there is one thing more than any other which distinguishes today from the time of the last Ard Fheis, it is the sense of awareness which is now abroad in the land, awareness that we have a country, that that country is not free and that we must do something about it NOW!
Let us examine the steps by which that welcome change has been brought about – and I may say in the beginning that we of Sinn Féin have played our part in bringing it about. Addressing you last year, I said that the political objective of Sinn Féin is the restoration of the All-Ireland Republic with full and unfettered control over all 32 counties, and I pointed out that there were two main obstacles to be overcome : first, the claim of the British Government to hold portion of our country and to enforce that claim by occupation forces, aided by a government of anti-Irish elements in the country and, secondly, the attitude of the political groups in the South, many of whose members gave service in the republican cause in the old days but who now have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo…” (MORE LATER).
‘TRAITORS TO THE CROWN…’
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, January 1955.
The anti-republican ‘judge’ speaks before passing sentences on the eight young republican men who stood in the dock –
“It would be easy to say that you are of the criminal class or that your expressions of devoutness are hypocrisy but I don’t find it easy to say that, and therein lies the real tragedy exemplified by your appearance in the dock.” And then he began to impose the sentences –
Eamon Boyce, Dublin, 12 years,
Seán O’ Callaghan, Cork, 10 years,
Liam Mulcahy, Cork, 10 years,
Seán O’ Hegarty, Cork, 10 years,
Philip Clarke, Dublin, 10 years,
Thomas Mitchell, Dublin, 10 years,
John McCabe, Dublin, 10 years,
Patrick J Kearney, Dublin, 10 years.
Befitting the soldier, each man, on hearing his sentence, came smartly to attention. John McCabe, giving final testimony to his republican faith, shouted on leaving the dock – “Long live the Republic!” There was no fear shown, no regret. They had done their duty to Ireland and her people and now they expected the Irish people to do their duty, not to them, but to the Cause for which they have gone to live in the felon’s cell…
‘A NEW THEORY OF RELATIVITY’, by Pat Rabbitte.
From ‘Magill’ magazine, February 1998.
It must also be said that the report reverses the usual pattern of such reports, being stronger on recommendations for change than they are on analysis. However, in this case the analysis is important – fair enough if successive governments are entirely to blame for deficiencies identified and that no blame attaches to the garda culture. The question is glanced over as if it would somehow undermine the security of the State to discuss it.
However, if the apportioning of responsibility is not in fact entirely one-sided, is it healthy that an otherwise highly credible landmark report evades frank discussion of the issue? The ‘safe pair of hands’ approach sanctioned by the previous government also characterises the approach of the present government. The group charged with overseeing implementation of the report comprises the usual heavyweights, except that on this occasion Mr Tim Dalton and Mr Pat Byrne will be accompanied by two distinguished former departmental secretaries, Mr Kevin Bonnar and Mr Declan Brennan and senior counsel, Mr Eamon Leahy, as well as ICTU nominee Joan Carmichael.
Not even the formidable Ms Carmichael could cause a row in that company. Indeed, not even Shakespeare could complete with the drafting skills of a committee comprising three Irish departmental secretaries! (END of ‘A NEW THEORY OF RELATIVITY’. NEXT – ‘When An Irish Citizen is Not a Citizen’, from 2002.)
Thanks for reading, Sharon.