Cill Dara Shinn Féin Poblachtach

May Day Address to the leadership and members of Irish Trade Union Movement

On this May Day we address ourselves to you on the urgent need for a vibrant and radical trade union movement. Working people in Ireland and across Europe are being sacrificed in order to bail out the failed neo-liberal economic model upon which the EU is based. The orthodoxy of the political and economic elites both here in Ireland and within the EU is to rebuild the collapsed structure of finance capitalism rather than deal with the human cost of that collapse. The legacy for future generations will be an inability to educate the young, care for the sick and provide for the old, the very markers of a civilised society. In Europe the resistance to this is growing as evidenced in Greece but also by the collapse of the government in Holland and the Presidential election in France.

Here in Ireland it is time for the trade union movement to take up the banner first held aloft by the founders of the movement a century ago. James Connolly’s words are as relevant today as when first penned in 1916: “The cause of labour is the cause of Ireland, the cause of Ireland is the cause of labour. They cannot be dissevered. Ireland seeks freedom. Labour seeks that an Ireland free should be the sole mistress of her own destiny, supreme owner of all material things within and upon her soil. Labour seeks to make the free Irish nation the guardian of the interests of the people of Ireland, and to secure that end would vest in that free Irish nation all property rights as against the claims of the individual, with the end in view that the individual may be enriched by the nation, and not by the spoiling of his fellows.” Or James Larkin in his address to the Irish Trades Union Congress in 1914: “I submit that the working class have as much right as any section or class in the community to enjoy all the advantages of science, art and literature. No field of knowledge, no outlook in life, and no book should be closed against the workers. We should demand our share in the effulgence of life and all that was created for the enjoyment of mankind.”

We applaud the stand taken by MANDATE, the TEEU, UNITE and CPSU in calling for a rejection of the Austerity Treaty in the referendum on May 31. We call on the rest of the trade union movement to take a similar position and join the campaign against this undemocratic power grab by the EU. By voting No the Irish people will be reaffirming in the words of the 1916 Proclamation: “The right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland.”

This decade will mark the centenaries of some of the defining moments in Irish Revolutionary history including the heroic 1913 Lockout as well as the 1916 Rising, both of which we will mark with pride. The trade union movement was in the vanguard of the forces of democracy and progress during those momentous years, 100 years later it must do so again if it is to retain its relevance to the working people of All-Ireland. The trade union movement must discard the language of conciliation with forces that will not be conciliated, it must speak with a language described by Sean O’Casey that is “not for an assignation with peace, dark obedience, or placid resignation, but trumpet-tongued of resistance to wrong, discontent with leering poverty, and defiance of any power strutting out to stand in the way of their march onward.”

Trade unions must once more be prepared to take on the forces of political reaction and capital and join the struggle for a New Ireland based on the principles of political, social and economic justice, freedom and democracy. James Connolly described Liberty Hall as the: “unconquered citadel of the Irish working class”, it is now time for the entire trade union movement to prove itself worthy of the proud legacy bequeathed to it by its unconquered and unconquerable forbearers. “The great appear great because we are on our knees, let us rise”.

Yours Fraternally
Is Mise

Des Dalton

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