Ireland: Successful Socialist Party conference

The Socialist Party in Ireland (CWI) held an extremely successful party conference at Maynooth, over Easter.

The conference was attended by 150 delegates and visitors from the North and South and included a delegation of Turkish workers who were employed by Gama construction. Last year, the Socialist Party (SP) helped Gama workers in their campaign for owed wages from the company.

The conference began with a full and lively discussion on the international situation, introduced by Tony Saunois from the CWI. The discussion featured developments in China, US, Latin America and Europe. Socialist Party members who recently visited Venezuela and France were among the floor contributors to the discussion.

The reports by the party’s public representatives included Councillor Mick Barry, who emphasised the impact of the SP-led non-payment campaign against the bin charges. On some housing estates this is still reflected by people refusing to pay estate management fees. Councillor Clare Daly (who works at Dublin Airport) warned of the consequences of the right wing government’s attempted privatisation of the state airline, Aer Lingus. An 80% vote majority for strike action by the Aer Lingus workforce against the sale must now be matched by action by trade union leaders.

Socialist Party TD (Member of the Irish parliament), Joe Higgins, in his year’s report, described the scandal of the treatment of the Gama workers. Joe also lambasted the cynicism behind a recent auction of historic relics from the 1916 Easter Rising, on the 90th anniversary of the rebellion. In total, private buyers paid for 3.6 million euros for the relics. Joe Higgins told the ‘Irish Times’, “James Connolly [the Irish Marxist and workers’ leader] led the Irish Citizens Army into the GPO in 1916 in support of the working classes.” Yet recently, Joe said, the historic flag that flew over the GPO (Genera Post Office) building in Dublin – the rebels 1916 HQ, – was auctioned for 250,000 euros.

The conference discussed the situation in Southern Ireland. This was introduced by Kevin McLoughlin. Kevin discussed Irish Ferries workers’ dispute last year, over management’s sacking of hundreds of workers, to be replaced with cheap, non-union labour. The Irish Ferries dispute touched a chord with all Irish workers, and sparked mass demonstrations. Kevin also outlined the party’s excellent prospects for the next general election, which will be held in the next twelve months. The conference agreed to try and double the number of TDs (MPs) in parliament – getting Clare Daly elected in Dublin North, along with Joe Higgins in Dublin West. The discussion on the political situation in the North was introduced by Ciaran Mulholland, and Peter Hadden replied to the discussion. This discussion featured both the growing sectarian polarisation between Catholic and Protestant areas but also the marked upturn in workers’ struggles, including recent struggles by postal workers, civil servants and education workers. This shows the potential to build and strengthening workers’ unity.

Gary Mulcahy and Michael Murphy introduced and replied to the important discussion on party building, in the South and the North.

A marvellous conference financial appeal raised over 18,000 euro, reflecting the enthusiasm and optimism amongst party members, as they build the influence of the Socialist Party in Ireland.

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April 2006