Delegates urged to ‘stand together against the anti-worker onslaught’


UNISON Northern Ireland regional secretary Patricia McKeown addresses ICTU in Dublin

UNISON Northern Ireland regional secretary Patricia McKeown addresses ICTU in Dublin


Almost one thousand delegates, from various trade unions across Ireland, including members from UNISON, arrived in Belfast on 2 July for the Irish Congress of Trade Unions Biennial Conference.

Celebrating 100 years since the Dublin Lockout, a major industrial dispute involving 20,000 workers and 300 employers in Dublin, the conference was an important historical event for many in attendance.

Belfast Lord Mayor Mairtin O’Mulleoir welcomed delegates before trade unionist Paddy Mackell addressed the recent arrival of G8 leaders in Northern Ireland in what he called “£80m worth of armed aggression”.

Mr Mackell also discussed the “economic fascism” and hunger imposed on the poorest in society by G8 and called for the trade union movement to “stand together against the anti-worker onslaught”.

Afterwards, Patricia King and Brian Campfield were elected vice presidents and John Douglas was elected President.

In a speech, outgoing President Eugene McGlone urged delegates to use the conference as a chance for “thought and debate”.

Speaking of the Dublin Lockout he said: “Despite, as Larkin pointed out, that the employers had combined with the sole purpose of destroying organised labour in Ireland; we are still here today, numerically stronger than we were 100 years ago: and even though we are in the midst of a vicious and sustained assault on us by the combined forces of business and careless governments, we still have the ability to defend and make progress on behalf of our class.

“I hope we leave wiser for this experience”, he finished.

Following addresses from both Jack O’Connor and David Begg, the conference then debated several motions.

Motions 1 (ETUC Unit to Monitor the Fiscal and Labour Market Structural ‘Reform’ Agenda) and 2 (The Economy – A Just Resolution : Economic Policy) both passed.

On Motion 3, UNISON regional secretary Patricia McKeown spoke of austerity, the birthday of the NHS and the struggles faced by the poorest families in Ireland before finishing “we as a movement can do this.” This motion passed.

Motions 4 and 5 (A Just Resolution : Financial Transaction Tax and European Union Economic Policy) also passed before UNISON’s Thomas Mahaffy took to the podium to speak in favour of the motion supporting the ‘Better, Fairer Way’ campaign.

“As always, it is the poorest bearing the brunt of cuts whilst at the same time living in the areas least able to offer jobs to those thrown off benefits due to historic patterns of discrimination, long term unemployment and under investment”.

This motion also passed.

After the passing of motion 7 (That this Conference condemns the decision of the previous Government to socialise the banking debts), UNISON’s Pamela Dooley and Ruairi Creaney spoke of their support for motion 8 which pledged to support older people against discrimination from government cuts.

“I would encourage all unions to utilise the skills and experience of their retired members” said Pamela. “We must ensure proper structures with adequate funding are in place to enable retired members to continue to participate in their union’s activities.”

After their speeches, the motion was passed.

The conference will continue today.