Northern Ireland: Fire Fighters break with New Labour

”Time for a new working class party”

The national conference of the Fire Brigades Union has taken the historic decision to break with Tony Blair’s New Labour party. The motion for disaffiliation was moved by Northern Ireland fire fighter and Socialist Party member Tony Maguire.

The FBU is one of the most important and best known trade unions in Britain. Its decision comes at the end of a series of bad election results and foreign policy disasters for New Labour. The decision by the FBU will compound Tony Blair’s problems and may be the trigger for other unions leaving New Labour.

New Labour receives the bulk of its funding from trade unions including trade unions representing workers in Northern Ireland.

In moving the motion Tony Maguire, from Northern Ireland, said the FBU had been "demonised" by the government during the last pay dispute.

"Our party, the party that we nurtured through the Thatcher years and the party trade unions give millions of pounds to, has stabbed us not in the back, but in the heart," he said.

"Our members have been betrayed and they feel angry and bitter and they want this mirage of a relationship with new Labour severed."

He said it was time to "start fighting like tigers" to win influence the government was denying them.

Commenting on the outcome of the vote to disaffiliate, which was carried by 35,000 votes to 14,000, Socialist Party member Tony Maguire said, "As trade unionists and socialists we are opposed to every aspect of New Labour policy.

Public services and manufacturing industry have been plunged into crisis in Northern Ireland. New Labour is planning to impose water charges of up to £600 per household in Northern Ireland. In these circumstances it is completely illogical to continue to be affiliated to New Labour. The FBU has not rejected the ideas of political trade unionism but we do believe that we should be supporting a political party that represents the interests of unions, communities and young people not a party that has clearly been hijacked by big business.

I believe that the time has come for a new working class party to be formed, one that is really based on solidarity and socialism."

Socialist Party, cwi in Ireland

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June 2004