Monday, 9 April 2012


I am the son of a Scottish mother and she the daughter of my Irish grandmother so
maybe it is from this source that I get my profound sense of fairness and justice and  propensity for rebellious belligerence?  Can such character traits be inherited?  I have absolutely no idea!

A courageous band of brave patriots took up arms and fought for what they believed in.  Sadly, they could not enlist the support of the majority of the people of Ireland and were put down by the superior military might of the men of the British army whose comrades were dying in their tens of thousands in the mud of Flanders 'For King and Country'.  

Now, if anyone interested in reading this fears they are to be subjected to a potted history of the Irish republican struggle against the rule of British colonialism then relax - far better persons than I, with superior literary ability and greater in-depth knowledge of the historical events of the time to that which I possess, have produced a wealth of informative material on the subject. Every revolutionary situation and struggle for emancipation has its own parables and romanticism in narratives, poetry and song. The Struggles produced a wealth of material that is now available to anyone who is interested - thanks to the wonder of the internet.  

I believe in the right of all nations to enjoy the freedom of self-determination.  British rule over Northern Ireland, just like the royal family, is an anachronism that the people of Britain ought to have abandoned long ago.  (Incidentally, reading Julie Burchill's feature:'Once we had anarchy in the UK.  Now all we have is monarchy in the UK'  Observer newspaper, Review Section, 8th April, made my Sunday!) Am I an English republican nationalist, then?  Only in as much as I hold that the people of my country should be able to decide, by fair democratic means and without interference by any other country or external influence, its economic, social and political direction and development.  

And it was always my wish that my fellow country men and women would choose to adopt and maintain a system that would not permit one person to exploit any other person or persons and that it would be through a sense of pride and honour that individuals would choose a moral code by which we cared for the weak and disadvantaged in our society, one in which we shared equal responsibility and where collaborative endevour for the good of society made competitive greed obsolete.  Altruistic?  Certainly, but I was young in those days.  

Do I still have the belief that men and women can bring about mutually beneficial change in society?  Yes, I do - but only if they possess the political will do so.  However, before they can have the political will to change society for the betterment of all, they must first become politically educated so they are able to chart the correct course and able to consult older charts which show up historically recorded dangers, concealed entrapments and potentially lethal cul-de-sacs.  And they must have strategies to cope with any unexpected storms that drive them from their true course so they are able to swiftly resume their direction.

Do I see any desire on the part of local people to become politically educated?  No, I do not.  If, in the 1990s they were 'reluctant' and in the 2000s they were 'resistent', then here in the 2010s they are positively antagonistic - many, seemingly, 'do not wish to know'. As for those workers who profess to have a reason for voting the way that they do I've heard the lot - including "If the Tories were good enough for my father, then they're good enough for me!" and "The worst that Labour does is better than anything the Tories do."  And then, of course, we meet that Ship of Fools otherwise known as Barrow Trades Union Council which, it is said, suffers severe constipation - not for many years has a motion of any substance been passed. 

So what of the republican aim of a united Ireland?  The economic runaway boom time period of the Celtic Tiger was always a bubble waiting to burst, for such development was unsustainable.  I cannot see how having already endured four years of crippling austerity measures, the emigration of almost one million of its inhabitants in the past twelve months alone and yet worse austerity measures in the pipeline will assist Irish Republicanism unless Republicans, leftwing political organisations and progressive workers join together to present a united front against the European Union and the remnants of British colonial rule in the six counties of the north.     

Friday, 6 April 2012


At the 7th February meeting of Barrow Trades Union Council delegates expressed their concern about the affects of government imposed cuts upon the people of this area - rising youth unemployment, increasing waiting lists for social housing, reductions in benefits and allowances, the fear of new 'assessments' of the disabled and their 'fitness for work', and the political vacuum caused by a lack of Labour Party opposition to these measures both locally and nationally which creates a breeding ground for far right organisations such as the BNP and EDL.  Delegates agreed a letter expressing these concerns be written and sent to the local press for publication.  Then progress of business hit the buffers -  who would write the letter?  

The secretary, Robert Pointer, stated he was too busy to do so.  The acting chairperson (Barrow TUC elected a chairman last summer who then went absent and has never been seen or heard from since that time) asked for a volunteer but no one indicated they wished to take on the task.  The acting chairperson then directly asked the NUT delegate (who had initiated the discussion) if he was prepared to compose a letter and send it to the secretary and the delegate agreed to do so in readiness for the next TU council meeting.

Below is a copy of the letter that was presented for discussion/amendment/approval at the meeting held on 6th March.....

The Labour Party is considered to be the 'Party of Opposition' in parliament yet delegates to this Trades Council see little evidence of any determined opposition, either locally or nationally, to the austerity measures being imposed by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat government. 
William Keegan, financial correspondent, wrote in the Observer (Sunday 29 January 2012)
'...while Labour leaders are right to avoid making too many commitments at this stage, statements about not reversing cuts they have opposed make people wonder why they should vote Labour at all.'
Labour's acceptance of capitalism and monetarism make it no different to either the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats.  Thus people who must work for a wage or a salary feel there is at present no political party capable of being elected to parliament that will serve their best interests and this has created a political vaccuum.
This Trades Council is concerned that this vacuum will be readily exploited by opportunist fascist, far right organisations, as they have done in the past, leading to a dramatic increase in hate crimes against minorities as the economic situation worsens and so calls upon the membership of the Labour Party to look seriously at the Alternative Strategy of the Trade Union Congress and also the People's Charter that was fully endorsed at the TUC's November 2009 conference.
Whole sections of the British population - workers, unemployed, disabled, sick and elderly, and those who can no longer afford to continue educational studies are crying out for change. Locally, the number of children suffering poverty is escalating and the level of youth unemployment is much higher than the national average.  It really is time for the Labour Party to listen carefull to the people by whom it was founded and for whom it was originally founded to represent.

A Unite delegate (and former Labour councillor)  immediately objected to the letter declaring he knew nothing about it  and it should not be put to the vote as it has just been pushed forward.  He was not present at the February meeting when the matters contained in the letter were discussed and this was why he knew nothing about it.  The NUT delegate proposed the secretary send copies of the letter to all delegates so they may prepare and submit any amendments at the April meeting, and this was agreed.

 Usually, these meetings are gatherings at which a few - perhaps five or seven - (mainly retired) persons sit and listen to the secretary read out correspondence, maybe have a chat about things arising from the correspondence, and then go home and wait for the next meeting when they can turn up and go through exactly the same procedure.  It was only last year the secretary declared in the local press that if people didn't start to support the Trades Union Council he would have to wrap it up as sometimes he was left sitting on his own.  Why did people stop attending?  Did they maybe find the boredom and lack of activity suffocating?  Three new delegates, one from the NUT, one from Unison (and secretary of Barrow Pensioners' Association) and another, GMB (and regional representative of Unite Against Fascism) could breathe some life into the council because each considered the council to be important and did not want to see it fold.  Since last year attendance by most delegates has been sporadic but that of the secretary and the GMB, RMT and NUT delegates has been regular and consistent.

Well, proceedings commenced at a leisurely pace.  George Appleton, secretary of the now defunct Ulverston Trades Union Council, agreed to be acting chairperson until the resignation of the former chairperson could be obtained.  Correspondence was read and discussed sedately in the usual manner.  The small protest by Remploy workers was noted.  The proposed construction of a new biomass power generating station was discussed and it was noted a local unofficial group was holding a protest meeting at Roose school at 7pm on the evening of Friday 6th April.  Then THE LETTER came up for discussion.

The Unite delegate objected to the letter and declared he would not vote for it.  The NUT delegate explained a vote was not being asked for at this time as this was only a draft and open to amendment.  The Unite delegate said he didn't want any of it.  One delegate (Unison, health section) said she agreed with most of the letter but had to leave for another engagement.  The RMT delegate agreed with most of it but not some of it but did not specify.  The GMB delegate agreed with some parts but not other parts but gave no details.  The NUT delegate asked for any amendments to be recorded.  The chairperson asked for amendments but none were proposed.  

The NUT delegate asked the chairperson if the letter could be considered paragraph by paragraph and amendments noted and he agreed.  The Unite delegate again declared he would not vote for it. Another Labour Party member and delegate (attending for the first time in many months) asked if the letter could be sent to local Labour MP John Woodcock for his comments but this was rejected.  It was then proposed that the MP be invited to attend the next Trades Council meeting to discuss the letter and this was also rejected.  Delegates made it impossible for the chairperson to tackle the letter section by section and, as it was clear no progress would be made, the NUT delegate proposed the letter be withdrawn and this was agreed.  

Even if nothing came out of this episode at least the discussion was heated in parts and the delegates became animated.  The main problem was that delegates had not bothered to read the letter and to make changes to it.  Neither did they possess the wit nor the wisdom to make amendments when the letter came up for their attention at the meeting.

So what conclusions can be drawn by this pantomime?  One could be that although the state of the local Masonic Lodge is unknown, it is clear the local branch of the Moronic Lodge is doing very nicely.

The situation at the moment is this:  attendance at TU council meetings varies between four and eight persons.  On one occasion it went as high as ten.  Attendance by most delegates however, is inconsistent and this makes continuity difficult.  The council may soon have a reliable chairperson but it still has no elected treasurer.  Some delegates need to pester their union branch to ensure their delegate fees are fully paid up otherwise, as demonstrated at the last meeting, their presence has no legitimacy.

More fun and games next month, perhaps, especially as it was just the letter that was withdrawn - not the decision that a letter be sent to the local press on the issues that had been raised at the February meeting.  The NUT delegate has proposed (by email) that the secretary of Barrow TU council prepare one and send it to all members in readiness for amendments or approval by delegates at the council meeting in May.