'MAKING THE CASE FOR PROGRESS': STATEMENT FROM CONGRESS NORTHERN IRELAND

6 Nov 2015

The statement was issued following Congress meetings on Nov. 5 with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers and, later, with First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. 

TODAY, representatives of the trade union movement met with the most senior political leaders in Northern Ireland and made the case for local democracy to be preserved, for the requirements of the most vulnerable to be protected, and for the economy of Northern Ireland to be boosted with a financial stimulus.

The NI Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has taken seriously its responsibility to the 215,000 members of its affiliates, and gone out to make the case for stimulus and not cuts as the best way forward for the economy.

Representations have been made, at the most senior levels, to the governments in London, Dublin and Washington DC – the guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement.  US Senators and Members of the European Parliament have been pressed by Congress and its equivalent trade union confederations, the AFL-CIO (US trade unions) and the ETUC (European Trade Union Confederation). The ETUC passed an emergency motion, supporting calls for the Agreement to be protected and completed, support which has the backing of 60 million union members across Europe.

On Tuesday (3 November), NIC-ICTU briefed MPs and Peers in Westminster, the second such lobby this year, and made the same points to all of the TDs and Senators in Dail Eireann.  In doing so, NIC-ICTU has worked closely with the trade unions in the Republic of Ireland and also with the TUC, Wales TUC and Scottish TUC.

In Northern Ireland, the trade unions have extended beyond its ‘usual’ allies in the community and voluntary sector, and have engaged with academia, faith leaders and every political party. This followed a series of public ‘town hall’ meetings in over 40 locations last winter and spring, a series of press interventions (including advertisements and a specially produced newspaper), and a huge public rally on the day of mass strikes across the public sector in March.

The consistent approach of the trade union movement was and remains a strong and positive advocacy of a workable alternative to the ideological mantra of austerity coming from the Tories, a duplicitous game which is being exposed as more and more people (and Westminster Peers) recognise it as nothing more than a massive transfer of wealth to the already wealthy.

Devolution, if it means anything, is the right and duty of those we elect to govern in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland.