Ireland: Draft Bill is a threat to the Trade Union Movement in the North

The Draft Public Assemblies, Parades and Protests Bill is generating opposition from workers in the North because of its implications for trade union and political demonstrations organised by the trade union movement and protests against the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as community protests such as anti-racist demonstrations.

As the Belfast Telegraph reported on the 11th May:

“Trade unionists who protest against job cuts or paramilitary killings face up to six months in prison under proposed parades legislation for Northern Ireland, workers have warned.

Demonstrators outside workplaces as well as rallies such as those against the shooting dead of two soldiers and a policeman last year could be required to give 37 days' notice, according to plans.

A special meeting to support the campaign against the Draft Public Assemblies, Parades and Protests Bill will be held on Thursday night in Belfast.

A spokesman said: “The new legislation will severely restrict the ability of trades unionists, political activists, community and campaign groups to organise effective and spontaneous public demonstrations to highlight issues which often require a speedy and immediate public response at very short notice.

“Protest meetings such as those against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, solidarity vigils held to support the victims of racist attacks, or demonstrations such as those outside the BBC in relation to airtime being given to the BNP will all fall under the remit of the new law.”

The legislation will require 37 days notice for anyone calling a gathering of more than 50 people. Clearly this will pose a big problem for trade unionists and workers demonstrations and has to be opposed. The intention is to solve the deadlocks that have arisen in recent years around controversial parades through dialogue and negotiation. But by using a blunt instrument approach the Bill just causes more problems.

The justification for the draft Bill is the tensions in Catholic areas as a result of the Orange Order marches, we recognise that there are serious concerns over this issue, but this Bill creates a whole series of contradictions that would serve to criminalise workers in both communities fighting on class issues. Class issues that is which have the potential for uniting workers in struggle. It’s worth making the point that in the final analysis, the workers movement poses far more of a threat to the ruling class than the Orange Order. This fact won’t be lost on the tops of the PSNI and the state.

Any proposal that seeks to undermine or cut across the potential for united action by working people can’t be a good thing, particularly as it’s obvious that the financial and economic crisis that has begun to bite in the North will only be exacerbated once the Tory and Liberal coalition in London starts to attack the public sector. Cameron has specifically targeted the North of Ireland for savage cuts.

The Marxists made the point in the 1970’s that the armed struggle gave the British State the excuse to introduce repressive laws and regulations that were first tested on the streets of Belfast and Derry and then used against the working class across the whole of the North and in Britain. These measures start out from a different place but the outcome is very similar.

We’ve made the point on many occasions now that the Stormont Assembly is a blind alley based on sectarian principles. What’s overwhelmingly clear is that there is a huge vacuum in the North in terms of working class political representation. The general election illustrated the problem last week. Society in the North is strained; this Draft Bill won’t solve that. But it will create further contradictions. Contradictions that is which would be swept away by the working class – the only real majority in Ireland, if only it was united around a socialist programme and a mass workers party rooted in the trade union movement.

Source: Fightback - Ireland