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Anti-War activists put ICTU on the spot

Joe Craig

27th March 2003

As we reported in our article on the March 22nd demonstration and subsequent anti-war movement meting, a number of activists proposed that the movement organise a lobby of the ICTU special delegate conference that was taking place to discuss the new social partnership deal.  This was rejected by the participants of the meeting, dominated by members and supporters of the Socialist Party and Socialist Workers Party.  These organisations proposed as an alternative asking ICTU for permission for someone to address the conference.  We characterised this rejection of a lobby as a capitulation to the ICTU bureaucracy and a refusal to confront them for the sake of a diplomatic alliance in the anti-wear movement. It allows ICTU’s claim to be against the war to go unchallenged when they have organised no effective action against it.

The proposers of the action went ahead themselves and mounted a small but effective lobby of the conference approaching every delegate with the demand that they be brave enough to speak out at the conference and that they ignore bureaucratic rule books.  None of the delegates could mount a defence of ICTU’s current role and when Joe O’Toole of the Irish National Teachers Organisation attempted to excuse their position he was left in no doubt as to the anger of those attempting to organise against the war.

David Begg, who was also challenged attempted to defend himself by arguing that he had appeared on television speaking against the war but walked off whenever challenged to organise action inside the union movement.  Inside the conference he later claimed that those outside the conference were attempting to order about those inside, a claim that everyone must have known was false but which none of the delegates had the courage to challenge.

This small action points both to the strategy that the anti-war movement needs to take – towards organising the working class - and exposes the ICTU bureaucracy, not as an ally in this task, but as an obstacle.  Also exposed are the so-called Marxist groups who have failed to confront the bureaucrats.  No anti-war movement speaker addressed the conference and it organised no protest of its own.

It is said that there are no more than six degrees of separation from any two phenomena in the world.  In this case there are less.  These left groups are in a diplomatic alliance with the trade union bureaucracy which is now in partnership with the Irish government which in turn is an ally of the imperialist invaders of Iraq.

Below is a copy of the leaflet given to each delegate entering the conference.


No one who has been watching the television images of the bombing of Baghdad can doubt that what we are witnessing is a horrific and barbaric attack that demeans humanity.  The Irish Government’s support for this war, by providing overflight rights and facilities at Shannon airport, is appalling and shameful.  Against the clear wishes of the majority of the Irish people the Irish State is now complicit in the war crimes that flow from the blitzkrieg.

This self serving decision has been presented as one of national self interest.  The Irish people have already rejected the claim that it is somehow in their interests that a small and poor country should be subject to the devastating power of the most destructive military machines that the world has ever seen.  The very opposite is the case.  It is in the interests of the vast majority of our country that this war be stopped.


As so often, it falls on working people and especially their representatives in the workers movement to express their views and take appropriate action. The gathering today of delegates from the majority of Ireland’s trade union movement is an exceptional opportunity to fulfil this role.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has already signalled its opposition to this war   Now is the occasion to turn words into deeds.  No bureaucratic rule book should stand in the way of democratic debate when innocent Iraqi people are being butchered as delegates meet.

At the moment the ICTU claims to be in the leadership of the anti-war movement yet it has led no campaign in the workplaces and made no call on trade union members to take action as trade unionists.

Delegates to this conference should demand an emergency discussion on the war and put forward an emergency resolution demanding real preparations and organisation for strike action to demand that the government close Shannon airport to the United States military.

We need a commitment to real strike action through dedication to building an anti-war movement inside the trade union movement.  This means workplace and branch committees to build the support that will make a strike call a reality.  It means Trade’s Councils devoting real resources to the educational and agitational campaign that can convince members that it is in their interests to take action.  If ICTU won’t take meaningful action then delegates, however many there may be, must organise it themselves.

We must reject the claim that this action would be illegal.  George Bush and Tony Blair have torn up the international law books and Bertie Ahern  is supporting this illegal war

Organize for National Demonstration

Delegates should support Saturday’s National Demonstration- 3pm Parnell Square. A massive display of Trade union banners, workplace placards/ banners should be organized for the demonstration. Protest/pickets of the Government parties constituency clinics should be organized by trade unions but demonstrations and pickets are only one step to an effective campaign. Industrial action is vital to stop our Government’s collaboration with this war.

As the trade union movement meets to decide on a continuing partnership with this government it cannot be seen to be partners of the partners who are dragging our world into barbarism.  We cannot and must not stand shoulder to shoulder with those that would support this criminal enterprise.

Silent vigils, poorly organised, are not the response that is required.  Silence is rarely heard above the noise of war.  We need loud and clear voices demanding an end to this war.  ICTU can provide this voice.  If it does not ordinary workers must push it aside and speak out as the authentic voice of Ireland’s workers.

Issued by Trade Unionists Against the War   Contact; 086 3388962
26th March ‘03



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