Ireland

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.