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What’s Left After the ULA?


This brief report intends to outline the situation within the Irish left following the slow implosion of the United Left Alliance (ULA).

The ULA was an alliance made up of the Socialist Party (affiliated to the Committee for a Workers’ International, CWI), the Socialist Workers Party (the International Socialist Tendency, IST), the Workers and Unemployed Action Group (WUAG, a locally based group with public representation including a member of Ireland’s parliament [TD] and numerous municipal councillors). It also included smaller groups such as the Irish Socialist Network and Socialist Democracy.

The ULA was initially very successful by Irish left standards and won five TDs. Though, it should be understood most, if not all, of these victories did not come only from the unity project itself but from literally decades of work by the various groups.

However, seeing the left under a single banner with a serious electoral challenge did initially attract many activists to its banner.

The ULA unfortunately lasted less than two years and today exists in name only.

Slow death of the ULA

The initial excitement began to fade as activists found that they had little role in decision making, especially in the lack of voting rights in ULA conferences. This was improved quite quickly with the inclusion of independent seats on the steering committee, which allowed a so-called non-aligned group to organise (this included the smaller groups). Following this, a branch council was developed which offered a model for some democratic discourse and decision making. Unfortunately, the ULA was to disintegrate long before there was a chance to develop.

The disintegration of the ULA is quite a complex story, but in short the Socialist Party (SP) seemed to give up on the alliance quite early when they believed it was not attracting enough working-class people. The SP gave little importance to the non-affiliated activists it attracted nor to the benefits of unity in itself. Instead it turned its attention primarily to the anti-household tax campaign that had attracted a wider base, though on a less political level.

The SWP for its part gave up not long after and began to concentrate on building the People Before Profit Alliance as a preferred electoral front. Both parties seemed to be happy enough to keep the ULA as a loose electoral alliance for now, but their members ceased taking part in ULA activities and continued their normal competitive practice, organising separate campaigns, meetings and recruitment strategies.

The ULA therefore was in an extremely weak place when a scandal erupted around Mick Wallace, a left-leaning (on anti-war and social issues) property developer who was close to the Socialist Party’s Clare Daly and active in the anti-housing tax campaign. Wallace became embroiled in a major tax evasion scandal. The scandal eventually led to an acrimonious and personalised split between Daly and the Socialist Party (though Daly maintains the reasons for the split precede the Wallace scandal). This split then led on to the Socialist Party officially leaving the ULA.

The WUAG had previously left on the grounds of a leaked SWP document (which was a study in sectarianism) and the Wallace issue.

Independents had initially called on the ULA to call for Wallace’s resignation (this was vetoed by the SP) but also chose not to go public in deference to relations with the Socialist Party. This in retrospect was a mistake, as months later after the split with Daly the SP would cite softness on the issue by independents for its withdrawal.

Post-ULA

Today the ULA exists in name only with no functioning structures at any level.

Coming out of the ULA there are a number of different projects. This is by no means an entire picture of the Irish left which, also includes the anarchist Workers Solidarity Movement and numerous campaigns. But for the purpose of this article I will concentrate on the ex-ULA left.

Workers and Unemployed Action

The South Tipperary Workers and Unemployed Action Group has registered as a national party under the name Workers and Unemployed Action (WUA). In its opening statement it states:

The WUA like its local predecessor is firmly based in the trade union movement, in the unemployed, and in community organisations and has always opposed coalition with conservative parties in principle and will continue to do so. WUAG has always taken responsibility for the immediate and long-term interests of working people and has refused to involve itself in any way with political representatives who are self-declared tax defaulters or who have admitted participation in compromising activities.

Other left-wing organisations give priority to recruitment of individuals to ideologically based international political tendencies.

The WUA has quite strict rules for membership, it will be centrally organised and thus far will not allow tendencies. It was launched in April 2013 and thus far has not begun organising nationally.

Socialist Workers’ Party

The Socialist Workers Party will continue to act under the People Before Profit Alliance umbrella, although the PBPA has already lost its independent TD and many of the independents within the organisation which means it will be seen by most on the left as an SWP front organisation (see below). The People Before Profit Alliance has been preparing the ground well for the local elections in 2014. The Irish SWP seems not to have been badly affected by the UK SWP’s split.

Socialist Party

The Socialist Party has been mainly focused around the anti-household tax campaign. This campaign was very successful last year in organising a major boycott of the tax and its registration. As a voluntary registration process, it allowed for mass passive (as well as active) disobedience. Unfortunately the campaign’s plan to continue the boycott strategy by clogging up the states courts was outmanoeuvred when the state gave powers to the revenue commissioners to collect the tax directly from people’s pay.

The campaign is persisting with the boycott but it has been less than convincing on how that it can be achieved. The first payment is due this northern summer so the situation will become acute for the campaign in a short time. In its latest the campaign conference held on April 27, it decided to offer an electoral alternative in the 2014 municipal elections. It is yet too early to tell whether the slate will entail new forces or the already existing left. (The conference was controversial with some local groups boycotting and others unhappy with the procedures.)

United Left

From within the ULA two of the TDs: Joan Collins and Clare Daly, along with the remaining independent activists, have established the United Left. The UL will launch on May 10with the stated aim of campaigning for a new workers’ party as soon as possible. Again it is too early to see how this project will develop, if it will new attract layers of activists and workers and indeed what its political direction may be.

Left Forum

Another initiative, entitled the Left Forum, involving ULA independents and some others from outside the ULA is intended as a process to begin to bring the left together. It is somewhat different in that it has no set blueprint in advance but intends to develop the process through participation. It also hopes to involve both electoralist and non-electoralist activists. The first meeting will be on May 18. The Left Forum callout states:

We have had five years of crisis, five years where no alternative has been able to win support despite the obvious failures of the current political and economic regime, with serious human and environmental consequences.

Can we do better? Can the Left win widespread support for our ideas and build an alternative society? Can we make socialism more than a nice idea? The Left Forum invites you to contribute your views on the state of progressive politics and to discuss how we can do better. The forum will be participatory and exploratory, and will aim to ask and answer key questions about what levels of political agreement are possible, what forms of organisation are useful and what tactics and strategies will be effective.

The Left Forum does not see itself as a rival organisation to any other but hopes to help facilitate left unity. It is of interest as it is a conference that has been organised by independents rather than any of the political parties or groups. Again, of course, it is far too early to see where this process will go.

An article on the Left Forum can be found here: http://www.irishleftreview.org/2013/04/22/left-forum/

1913 Unfinished Business

Another interesting non-party project is 1913 Unfinished Business, which relates to the great lockout of 1913. The campaign is made up of predominately young workers (some ex-ULA) and is campaigning on trade union issues such as precarious working conditions and economic emigration. See http://www.irishleftreview.org/2013/04/23/unfinished-business-1913-youth-bloc-leaving-public-meeting-monday-april-29th-7pm-wynns-hotel/

Conclusion

As can been seen above much of what is coming out of the old ULA is very, very new, some groups have yet to be publically launched or even hold their first meetings. Therefore it cannot be said how things will pan out; the only thing that can be said is that there is a left re-alignment taking place whose outcome is far from certain.

On the objective or material side of the equation, the trade union membership in large numbers have rejected the latest pay and work conditions deal and unions are balloting for strike action. Already the three major teacher unions are balloting together with more set to follow.

At the same time the unemployment, emigration and mortgage crises are unresolved and cracks are beginning to appear in the state’s ideological edifice. The state will face many crises in the future and we can only hope that we are beginning to see a redevelopment of the left rather than simply evidence of further fragmentation.

Other links

WUA: http://wuag.wordpress.com/

Socialist Party: http://www.socialistparty.net/

Left Forum: http://leftforum.net/

Socialist Workers Party: http://www.swp.ie/

via Irish Left Review | What’s Left After the ULA?.

via Irish Left Review | What’s Left After the ULA?.

Up to 10,000 march on cuts


About 10,000 people took part in an anti-austerity protest through the streets of Dublin today, according to a Garda spokeswoman. Organisers put the figure at twice that number, however.

Marchers began to assemble around the Garden of Remembrance from midday.

The demonstrators were led by a young woman wearing a white mask and riding a dark horse with a banner reading “No to austerity” draped around it. Road closures were in place in Dublin city centre as the march made its way from Parnell Square, through O’Connell Street, onto d’Olier Street, before returning onto O’Connell Street, where speeches took place outside the GPO.

As the front of the march crossed over O’Connell Bridge back to the northside, the rear of the demonstration was still making its way onto the other end of O’Connell Street from Parnell Square.

Michael O’Reilly, president of the Dublin Council of Trade Unions (DCTU), which co-organised the gathering, said it was just one step in a long campaign to reverse cutbacks.

“The evidence is clear – you cannot cut your way out of a recession,” he told protesters gathered outside the GPO on O’Connell Street.

“On the contrary: with each cut in public spending, and with each euro taken out of the pockets of low and average earners in new or increased taxes, we are digging ourselves further into a hole.”

The march, organised by the Campaign Against Household and Water Charges, the Dublin Council of Trade Unions and supported by the ICTU, Siptu and other trade unions, was also joined by members of People Before Profit Alliance, Sinn Féin and the Socialist party, organisations including the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed and groups and individuals from around the country.

The march was also supported by regional groups, among them organisations from Monaghan, Donegal, Waterford, Kilkenny and Cork, which are variously opposed to the household tax, water charges and the septic tank charge.

Sean Walsh, who is part of a group from Portlaw, Co Waterford, which is opposed to the household charge, said he was “very encouraged” by today’s turnout.

“The effect [of austerity] is that it’s slowly tripping the country, slowly but surely and slowly affecting all business. In the rural areas the shopkeepers and publicans and so forth, they are slowly being put out of business and slowly being ground to a halt. It’s a simple message: austerity is not working, and we must fight it and we must get the message across to the Government,” he said.

The march was also attended by individuals including Wesley Fitzgibbons, a fitter who was with his four-year-old son Liam, who said he simply could not take any more cuts.

“We just feel that the Government is hitting the middle working class all the time. There’s nothing else there to take. People are working more hours to make ends meet and at end of the month we’re just barely scraping by,” he said.

Independent TD Finian McGrath said he had joined the march because “austerity is not working and the Government have to face that”.

The main reason he was there was because he was “absolutely furious about the way families and adults and children with a disability are being treated with services being cut at the moment”.

“People are here from a wide range of Irish society. A lot of community groups, the drugs groups, the disability groups, the unemployed…but they are here for one main reason – first of all, yes, they are afraid, but they have accepted the reality that even the IMF are saying that austerity is not working as an economic strategy to deal with the crisis.”

As the crowds assembled to hear speeches outside the GPO there were cheers as two men, who had draped a banner from the roof of a five-storey building reading “Shame on Labour”, lit a flare on top of the building.

As president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Eugene McGlone, was introduced to the crowd he was met by boos and shouts of “strike”.

Siptu president Jack O’Connor later condemned this interruption, which he said was conducted by a small minority and represented “a sinister trend which has developed over the recent past and that bears all the hall marks of fascism”.

He said he had witnessed a number of people carrying Sinn Féin banners accompanied by others carrying United Left Alliance posters participating in this activity and that he would be requesting that the general secretary of Congress speak with the leadership of both parties.

“I want to make it very clear that I am not alleging that either of the organisations approved of, or condoned, fascist activity of this kind. But the fact of the matter is that is being carried on by people who are either associated with their organisations or elements who are very deliberately masquerading as such for reasons best known to themselves.

“The time has come to draw a line on the activities of this tiny minority who would deny the right to freedom of speech and which, once again has tried to besmirch a demonstration against the failed one sided austerity approach which saw more than 20,000 turn out behind the banner of the Dublin Congress of Trade Unions.”

The DCTU is planning another demonstration outside the Dáil on the day of the budget, December 5th.

via Up to 10,000 march on cuts – The Irish Times – Sat, Nov 24, 2012.

via Up to 10,000 march on cuts – The Irish Times – Sat, Nov 24, 2012.

People Before Profit, TD, Richard Boyd Barrett, condemns the Taoiseach for “deliberately and cynically misleading the Dail” during Leaders Questions this afternoon. | United Left Alliance


In a statement this afternoon, Richard Boyd Barrett TD, condemned the Taoiseach for deliberately misleading the Dail during Leaders Questions. In response to a question about the plight of Home Help workers and those who rely on their services, the Taoiseach, rather than answering the question, repeated a false claim made by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore in the Dail last week, relating to disability cuts in the Dun Laoghaire area.

The Taoiseach was referring to Leaders Questions on 11 Oct, when Deputy Boyd Barrett raised the issue of cuts to Angels Quest Respite services with the Tánaiste. At the time, the Tánaiste misled the Dail and said that Deputy Boyd Barrett was “using” the issue of cuts to disabled people for his own political gain and claimed that he had an email in his possession written by Deputy Boyd Barrett, which confirmed this.

The Taoiseach repeated this claim again today and also said that Deputy Boyd Barrett had advised the parents of children affected by the cuts to the respite services to not meet with the Director of Services.

In fact the email referred to was written by one of the parents affected by the cuts to respite services and a member of the executive committee of the Carmona Parents and Families Friends Association. Eamon Gilmore knew this when he falsely claimed it was written by Deputy Boyd Barrett. Unless the Tánaiste also mislead the Taoiseach, the Taoiseach would also have known when he repeated the claim today that Deputy Boyd Barrett was the author of the email.

(See original email pasted below and subsequent comments by parents group on Tánaiste’s misrepresentation of the email and its authorship.)

Deputy Boyd Barrett said: “Both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste have deliberately and cynically misled the house. They said things that were completely untrue and that they knew were untrue when they said them. In the process, they also misrepresented and trivialised the concerns of parents of the disabled children who are in Angels Quest – falsely claiming they had refused a meeting with the director of services to discuss the future of Angels Quest. Eamon Gilmore and Enda Kenny knew I had not written this email and yet they said said I had. They knew the parents had agreed to a meeting with Carmona Services but claimed they had not. This is a disgraceful abuse of their positions as the most senior politicians in the country and disgraceful abuse of the Dail itself.

via People Before Profit, TD, Richard Boyd Barrett, condemns the Taoiseach for “deliberately and cynically misleading the Dail” during Leaders Questions this afternoon. | United Left Alliance.

via People Before Profit, TD, Richard Boyd Barrett, condemns the Taoiseach for “deliberately and cynically misleading the Dail” during Leaders Questions this afternoon. | United Left Alliance.

Workers and Unemployed Action Group Leaves United Left Alliance


 

Workers and Unemployed Action Group (South Tipperary) at its Annual General Meeting has unanimously decided to withdraw from the United Left Alliance. WUAG will continue to campaign against government austerity, cuts in public services , against  the household charge/property tax and  for fair taxation including a wealth tax and  higher taxes on the incomes  of the super-rich.

Immediately after Mick Wallace TD announced that he had withheld tax from the revenue commissioners, WUAG proposed that the ULA call for his resignation from the Dáil.

Wallace seems to be the catalyst  that’s splitting the ULA apart. What dim wits they were to take him on board in the first place.

Will the ULA  now just  fall apart and everyone go their separate ways.

Another dream bites the dust.

EXHORBITANT ADMINISTRATION COSTS OF CRANMORE REGENERATION


IT HAS BEEN revealed that Council expenditure on the administration of Sligo’s Cranmore Regeneration project is significantly higher than any other regeneration scheme in the country.

United Left Alliance representative Joan Collins T.D. recently asked the Minister for the Environment for details of the amount of regeneration funding spent on a number of urban renewal schemes in 2009 including, the Mitchel’s Crescent Regeneration Scheme in Tralee; the Laural Avenue Regeneration Scheme in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown; the Cranmore Regeneration Scheme Sligo and the Waterford City Regeneration Scheme. She also sought the expenditure on staff salaries on each of the regeneration schemes and the staff salaries as a percentage of overall expenditure on each scheme.

The response from the Ministers office revealed that a colossal 17% of funding provided for the Cranmore Regeneration Project in Sligo was spent on salaries.  In Dun Laoghaire Rathdown 1.5% of the funding was spent on salaries; in Tralee 1.5% was spent on salaries; while in Waterford 4.5% of funding was spent on salaries.

Speaking today Independent Socialist Councillor Declan Bree thanked Deputy Collins and said “This funding was supposed to be for regeneration, for the refurbishment of housing stock and the improvement of the estate, however in Sligo almost one out of every five euro is being spent on salaries and administration.   How can the County Manager justify this?

“When the Minister for the Environment asked the local authorities in Dun Laoghaire, Sligo, Waterford and Tralee to use their own staff and resources to the fullest extent in terms of supervising regeneration schemes, he did so with the intention of reducing costs. However the exorbitant costs in Sligo are inexplicable and clearly cannot be justified.

“While paying 17% of the funding on administration the regeneration office also paid out over €120,000 in fees to private consultants, in addition over €90,000 was paid in Technical fees in respect of the grass mounds in the estate which still remain in place.

“The fact is that regeneration funding is not being spent where it is supposed to.   In the past week alone I have been contacted by a number of constituents from Cranmore – one pensioner who asked for proper heating to be installed in her home was told that there was no money for such work; another told me that her obsolete cooker could not be replaced due to lack of funds and another told me that she has had to ask the Ombudsman to intervene so as to have her windows repaired/replaced.

“I have asked Deputy Collins to raise the matter in the Dail when it resumes in September.    As far as I am concerned the people of Cranmore and the people of Sligo are entitled to know why so much money is being squandered on administration costs. ” said Cllr Bree.

via Home – DeclanBree.com.

via Home – DeclanBree.com.

Legal issues delay free GP care for long-term ill


THE PROMISED provision of free GP care for 60,000 people with long-term illnesses is likely to be delayed by at least a year because of legal issues.

Successive deadlines for implementing one of the key promises in the Fine Gael/Labour programme for government, the rolling out of free GP care, have been missed.

The first phase of this process would have seen free primary care extended to people with long-term illnesses such as diabetes and epilepsy.

via Legal issues delay free GP care for long-term ill – The Irish Times – Fri, Sep 14, 2012.

via Legal issues delay free GP care for long-term ill – The Irish Times – Fri, Sep 14, 2012.

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