Ireland: State ‘defence forces’ refuse to be used against workers

New period of struggles opens up

As readers of will have learned, the international economic crisis hit the Irish economy particularly hard. The right wing Fianna Fail/Green Party government responded with a savage cuts budget, which provoked mass outrage. This is reflected in demonstrations of tens of thousands of workers and youth, in opposition to healthcare and education cuts (including a demonstration of over 60,000 in Dublin). The government is attempting to pass on the cost of this bosses’ crisis onto the most vulnerable in society. The Irish working class, following the ‘Celtic Tiger’ boom period, which was characterised by a low level of workers’ struggles, have responded in kind. The courageous occupation of Waterford Crystal by hundreds of workers, in defence of their jobs, is testament to this. This occupation serves as a glimpse of what is to come, as a new period of militant struggle opens up, in which Irish workers and youth will re-emerge as a mass force, capable of forcing the government and bosses back.

On Wednesday, 4 February, Pdforra, (the representative association of Irish soldiers, sailors and aircrew), recognising the inevitability of mass industrial and protest action against further vicious anti-social cuts planned by the Irish government, issued a statement indicating that defence force personnel are unwilling to be used, as in the past, against mass movements of workers. We publish below an article from the Irish Times (Thursday 5 February), by Conor Lally, on this subject.

Soldiers do not want to be used to break strikes

Conor Lally, Irish Times, 5 February

Members of the Defence Forces should be given an assurance that they will not be ordered to break strikes if disquiet in the public sector leads to industrial action, Pdforra, the representative association of soldiers, sailors and aircrew, has said.

Pdforra general secretary Gerry Rooney said Defence Forces personnel had been used in the past to break a number of strikes, including those by ambulance and bus workers.

He called on Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea to assure his members they would not be used in the same way again.

“It will be morally wrong for soldiers to be ordered to break strikes arising from the imposition of the pensions levy,” Mr Rooney said.

Mr O’Dea described as a “hypothetical situation” the suggestion that soldiers would be used to break strikes. He said he did not comment on such situations.

However, in reply to a written Dáil question yesterday related to the issue, Mr O’Dea said: “As has been done in the past, the Defence Forces may be called on to contribute to maintaining vital services in times of industrial action.”

Mr Rooney said soldiers supported the opposition to the pension levy being expressed across the public sector.

The pension levy was unfair and bitterly disappointing for soldiers, sailors and aircrew of the Defence Forces.“These personnel, many of whom have given long and dedicated service both at home and overseas, are now being unfairly used to address mistakes made in the management of the national economy in which they had no role,” Mr Rooney said.

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February 2009