Northern Ireland: Sacked airport shop steward, Gordon McNeill, calls off hunger strike after doctors threaten court action to have him force fed

Shop stewards say they will now defy and resist the Unite injunction barring them from protesting at Transport House

A major campaign to be launched to expose the role of the Unite leadership in this dispute and to help Unite members change the union. Gordon McNeill on the fourteenth day of his hunger strike was last night taken to hospital after police intervened and summoned an ambulance to Transport House.

Gordon continued to refuse food and fluids in hospital. However when doctors prepared to go to the High Court to get an order to feed him, Gordon ended his hunger strike rather than be force fed.

The sacked shop stewards are barred by an injunction got by Unite Regional Secretary, Jimmy Kelly, from protesting at Transport House. They are now planning a campaign to defend their democratic right to protest by defying the injunction.

They are also intent on launching a major campaign in Ireland, Britain and internationally to expose what the Unite leadership has done and link with other union activists who are campaigning to transform the unions into the fighting combative organisations they are supposed to be.

After Gordon had been taken to hospital, union officials in Transport House, in a display of petty vindictiveness, destroyed the tent and personal possessions the shop stewards had left behind on the balcony of the building.

Gordon McNeill today said:

"I have taken my hunger strike as far as I am able. If I had continued to refuse food I would have been kept in hospital and force fed. This would have lifted the pressure off the Unite leadership and would have been ineffective. My protest showed that Tony Woodley and Jimmy Kelly were prepared to see me die rather than give justice to myself and my two colleagues.

"It is an outrage that the union went to the lengths of serving us with an injunction barring us from protesting at Transport House and then called the police to have me removed from the building. I will not accept this infringement of my basic democratic rights and will be defying the injunction. After everything else these union leaders have done to me the threat of fines, court costs and imprisonment mean little to me now.

"Tony Woodley and Jimmy Kelly wanted to bribe us into silence about this dispute, and about and their role and the role of their predecessors in it. My answer is clear – my right to tell Unite members and other trade unionists what happened is not for sale. I know this means they will never pay me a penny in compensation but I will not forsake my principles for any amount of money.

"Rather than sign up to any gagging clause, we will now launch a campaign to make sure that the full truth, down to the last dot and comma, of what happened in this long dispute is made public so that the lessons can be drawn.

"I hope to launch this with a meeting in Liverpool hosted by the Liverpool dockers and other leading local trade unionists.

"As I have made clear throughout this struggle, I have no dispute with the rank and file members of Unite or any other union. My fight is with the Unite leadership. I will be making the case for all trade union officials to be elected, and to be paid the wages of the members they represent!"

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