Ireland

Monday saw the beginning of negotiations between the government and Trade Union officials on the implementations of €4 billion worth of budget cuts in the public sector. €1.3billion of this burden is set to fall on public sector wages. (RTÉ November 9) This follows on from the ICTU demonstrations of over 100,000 across Ireland on Friday in opposition to cuts, and precedes the upcoming public sector strike on November 24th. It is all too clear that the past politics of social partnership can only lead to diminished service, job losses and attacks on pay and conditions.

Tens of thousands of people: public sector and private sector workers and their families, unemployed workers, pensioners and students thronged the streets of eight cities in the south on Friday, November 6; while 10 further demonstrations took place in the north also. 70,000 marched into Merrion Square in Dublin, 20,000 in Cork, 10,000 in Waterford, 6,000 in Galway, 5,000 in Sligo, 5,000 in Limerick, 4,000 in Tullamore and 1,500 in Dundalk. Not bad for a Friday with a grim weather forecast.

Friday’s day of protests by the Public Sector Trade Unions is a hugely important day for the Trade Union and Labour Movement. It could mark a significant step in the struggle to turn back the Fianna Fáil and Green Party’s assault on the Public Sector and on the working class in general. But what is the background to the current impasse and can Cowen and Lenihan face down the massive opposition that will manifest itself throughout the country later this week?

Members of the trade union IMPACT have voted 86% to 14% for strike action on a 69% ballot. This marks a dramatic shift over the past 7 months. But that’s hardly a surprise given the imposition of the levy, the slash and burn budget and the threats of cuts and redundancies and the general economic chaos and political crisis that threatens public sector workers.

It might have started out as a strategy, but the ICTU leadership’s profound belief that they can wrest some concessions out of Cowen and Lenihan would be better described as an illusion or perhaps a death wish. We’ve pointed out many times that in a slump social partnership is like the partnership between a cat and a mouse. But at least in Tom and Jerry the mouse was a master of tactics.

The Green Party has voted overwhelmingly to support the new proposals that their leadership has negotiated with Fianna Fáil. As we explained recently the reality is that the new programme offers nothing substantially different from what was on offer before, merely a few tiny reforms to the programme that FF set earlier. Its a cold plate of lame duck with wilted greens.

With all the mainstream parties and top business people campaigning for a Yes vote with huge resources at their disposal, and with most of the trade union leaders also backing the campaign, it is not surprising that the Irish bourgeois managed to overturn the result of the previous referendum. This vote, however, cannot hide the growing class polarisation taking place in the country.

Following a wide scale and carefully orchestrated police operation aimed at disrupting ‘dissident republican’ activity and two nights of rioting in Lurgan, it would appear that the north of Ireland’s social peace has not been in such a fragile state since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement eleven years ago.

The NAMA legislation will be introduced into the Dáil this week. Numerous experts and organisations have been involved in trying to cobble together what is effectively a toxic dump to store the bad debts and poisonous relics of the “good old days”, days that is, which are well and truly gone. The economy is in crisis and the government is in deep trouble.

Karl Marx once observed that by means of Bourgeois Democracy the ruling class establishes an executive committee drawn from its own ranks that ruled in the interest of private property. During “normal” times the flotsam and jetsam of politics passes by without provoking much interest, but from time to time; particularly in times of acute economic and political crisis, the class nature of society is made absolutely clear. The next few weeks in the Oireachtas will reflect the crisis and the bourgeois response to it.

The resignation of two Fianna Fáil TDs from the party whip and the trickle of resignations of Sinn Féin councillors over the past period are both indications of the underlying issues and factors in Irish politics at the present time. Although the two parties face very different scenarios the uniting factor is the deep crisis in the Irish economy and the political situation that flows from it. The mass organisations of the working class, the trade unions and the Labour Party are also under strain, workers are looking for a way out of the current impasse

The view that the North had escaped the troubles and that there was a future based on a booming economy has been fast turned into its opposite over the last few months. Riots in nationalist areas following the Real/Continuity IRA attacks on the police and British army as well as increased violence surrounding this year’s orange marches have displayed an increase in social and political tensions. These events were not created in a vacuum and mirror the crisis in the economy. It was revealed this week that unemployment reached 51 000 in July. (Belfast Telegraph 12/8/09)

The Thomas Cook workers who occupied their shop for four days have now been released by the High Court having “purged their contempt”. But it’s going to take more than that to purge the contempt that many workers will feel for bosses who were prepared to use the law courts and, 80 heavy handed gards who turned up at 5am – when they thought there wouldn’t be an audience, to manhandle the 27 workers down to the courts. If ever anyone needed convincing of the way that the state apparatus acts in the interests of the bosses then this is a perfect example.

The AECI, one of the two employers organisations in the Registered Employment Agreement for the Electrical contracting industry has voted to reject the 4.95% settlement agreed in the Labour court recently.

After a week long strike that saw some 240 sites being picket by TEEU members the union has instructed the 10,500 strikers to return to work, following the decision of the Labour Court to recommend a 4.9% deal – to be paid in two installments; 2.5% in September and 2.4% in January. But, it would be a mistake to suggest that the dispute is over and done with.

The TEEU strike, that started Monday, might well represent a new sharp turn in the course of events. The 10,500 electricians punch well above their weight; they have industrial power beyond their numbers. They can stop constructions sites and factories nationwide. They deserve the full backing of the whole of the Irish labour movement.

The spending cuts recommended by An Bord Snip Nue will this time be extended to the unemployed and to child benefits. They reveal once more the class nature of the state and the FF/Green government. They will provoke a general reduction in living standards of workers. To reverse these attacks, unions must stop wasting precious time in useless negotiations with the government and start mobilising.

Irish civil servants face wholesale restructuring and even the closure of some departments. Public sector pay is also threatened. The An Bord Snip report, yet to be officially published, is a recipe for class conflict and the trade unions should act accordingly.

We share the revulsion of the hundreds of Belfast workers who demonstrated on the Lisburn Road against these racist attacks in Belgravia Avenue and Wellesley Avenue over the last week. We applaud the efforts of those workers who gathered together and offered their moral and practical support to the Roma people who were forced from their homes by the fascist thugs using the name of Combat 18 – the British fascist terror group.

The elections in Ireland revealed a historical opportunity for the left if the correct approach and ideas are adopted. In Dublin, in particular, there was a marked shift to the left. Now the workers will expect some real change from the left, which however is only possible by changing the right-wing reformist policies of the Labour Party, and building a united front of the left wherever possible.

If you hadn’t noticed, there is an election or rather a number of elections this week, what with the Euro Elections and the Council ones. Every lamp post, telegraph pole or slow moving animal has been festooned with posters for weeks. All of the hopefuls smile at you as you walk past, each photo carefully doctored so you can’t see the vampire fangs.

The workers of Ireland are feeling the pinch. The so called "Celtic Tiger" has proven itself to be an illusion. The Irish economy is now in free fall and the  government and the bosses are doing their best to make the workers pay for the crisis. The only way to stop this onslaught is through co-ordinated industrial action.

Recent weeks have seen Ireland bear witness to two factory occupations that subsequently inspired similar actions across Britain. These events are significant developments in class struggle in that they pose the question of whether power resides with the boss or the workers. It is fitting that these events should coincide with the ninetieth anniversary of the Limerick Soviet.

We publish for the interest of our readers this article from The Plough, the journal of the Irish Republican Socialist Party, as it makes many relevant points about the situation in Northern Ireland today. In particular it highlights the need for working class unity and class struggle as the only way out.

Despite being regarded as a central point in Irish history and an event that is widely recognised as pivotal to the traditions of republicanism little of the events of 1916 are retained in their popular representation as they have been surrounded by a systematic campaign of distortion almost since they took place.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan and the Fianna Fáil lead coalition have announced a budget that takes €837 out of the economy for every man, woman and child in Ireland. This direct assault on the working class is going to have massive implications for years to come.

“The factory should be nationalised under workers’ control. But that would be too radical a step for any of the parties in Stormont already committed to administering the neoliberal economic policies of the pro-business Brown Government in Westminster.”

The ICTU leaders have deferred the strike action planned for Monday 30 pending the outcome of negotiations. The problem is the government and the bosses have very little room for manoeuvre. The only way to stop the Fianna Fáil/Green Party government and the bosses in their tracks is through militant action.

Union after union has been balloting its members over strike action and the message from the rank and file is clear. SIPTU, the teachers, the nurses, the TEEU are all coming out; in IMPACT, the biggest public sector union 65% voted favour and even in UNITE where there is a big private sector presence the votes are on a knife edge. The conditions are all there to transform March 30 into a full-fledged one-day general strike, if the trade union leaders were prepared to make such a call.

After displaying a high level of militancy and determination, the Waterford workers have ended their occupation after the union leaders brokered a deal with the owners of the company. This is a bitter blow for the workers, but it also highlights the need to struggle within the unions for a fighting leadership.

Sectarianism only serves to divide the working class. When in reality the conditions that Catholic and Protestant workers face mean that they have far more in common with each other than they could ever have with the bosses.

As we know there are indeed 40 shades of green in Ireland, but as the comrades of Labour Youth and the Connolly Youth Movement have explained in their open letter to the Green Party there is another one. The shade of green, that is, which justifies the Green Party’s ongoing support for the Fianna Fáil - which allows the latter to continue to hold a majority in the Dáil.

On February 21 some 200,000 workers and their families took to the streets in Dublin, to demonstrate their opposition to the government's decision to impose a pension levy on 300,000 Public sector workers. Apart from that, the most significant in recent months may have been the occupation of workers by Waterford Crystal.  The class struggle is growing in Ireland and the union leaders are under pressure.

The civil servants’ strike, the first national civil servants strike in twenty years, was rock solid. Now the task for Trade Unionists and Socialists in Ireland must be to build for March 30th; let’s turn it into a one-day general strike!

The ICTU has called for a national strike day on March 30th because the employers in both the public and private sectors are reneging on the national wage agreement. The Irish Trade Union leaders are clearly under enormous pressure and have no doubt also been emboldened by the mood of the workers and the show of force on Saturday.

On Saturday a huge demonstration of 200,000 marched through the streets of Dublin, protesting over unemployment and job cuts. The development of the past period has enormously strengthened the Irish working class and now in the face of crisis it is flexing its muscles.

As the capitalist crisis continues to ravage the once mighty ‘celtic tiger’ the Irish government has stumbled across a sure fire method to stimulate economic growth and raise living standards; cut the wages of the lowest paid workers!

The workers at Waterford Crystal have occupied the factory in response to the threat of making 480 workers redundant. They have the full backing of working people locally. This struggle is an indication of the growing militant mood of Irish workers.

We reproduce willingly this article that first appeared on the éirígí website. Faced with the current financial meltdown the author poses the choice bluntly: “Every person in Ireland has a choice to make. Do they support a ‘free’ market or do they support a free people? And if they choose a free people they need to make one more choice – to become politically active and join the struggle for a free, socialist Ireland.”

Ireland has been hit hard by the credit crunch. The country has gone from one of the highest rates of growth to bust. The government is being forced to intervene with guarantees, but as could be expected they are aimed at sustaining the rich not the ordinary working people.

We publish the recent editorial of The Plough, which stresses the need to adopt the Marxist method and approach within the Irish republican movement, to raise the class issues at the same time as struggling for a solution to the national question, one being inextricably linked to the other.

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