SUPPORT THE STUDENT CLIMATE STRIKE-THERE IS NO PLANET ‘B’

Next Friday, 20th September, young people across the globe will march down the streets of their cities and towns singing, chanting, carrying banners and placards to demonstrate against  impeding climate chaos and the lack of political action to avoid or avert the grave risks we are all facing.  This is not hyperbole, it is simply the facts, the scientific consensus. We are destroying the planet and the half-hearted measures proffered by political entities are wholly inadequate to deal with this crisis.

Climate chaos poses great risks to our planet, to food crops, to water quality and to human health.  Rising sea levels will have an adverse effect on migration; it is estimated that 10% of the world’s population will be climate refugees by 2050. By 2048 there will be no fish left in our oceans.  Young people face an uncertain future and the toll on human life will be considerable if action is not taken, and taken immediately.  This is an emergency of unprecedented proportions.

A report published this week described preparations for climate crisis as “gravely insufficient”.  One of the main obstacles is a lack of political will to implement the radical changes that are needed.

Ireland has consistently failed to reduce carbon emissions and is likely to face billions of euro in fines from the EU as it fails to meet both its 2020 and 2030 targets.  The governmental response to this crisis has been weak and without vision.  Government Ministers have been blatantly two faced on the issue, claiming on the one hand that climate action is a priority and even posing for photographs with young climate activists, while on the other hand continuing to issue offshore exploration licenses and preventing the passage of the Climate Emergency Bill.

Government will acknowledge that the planet is in grave danger because of human industry and out of control consumption yet they continue to push the very policies that are causing that damage; like increasing the national herd and handing out licenses for oil exploration. This is hugely irresponsible.

The over reliance on carbon tax as a solution is unsound as a policy.  Ring-fencing money to implement good policies is necessary but that is only one relatively small step out of numerous steps that are needed.   As it stands a carbon tax implemented by Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil will only serve to push the costs on to consumers and ordinary people.  And those political parties will do very little to tackle the biggest polluters. Just 100 companies are responsible for over 70% of the greenhouse gas emissions on the planet and nothing is being done to curtail their behaviour.

The need for radical and visionary policies is now.  Our society has to consider huge changes in how it produces, consumes and embraces transition. That starts with the need to stop measuring our society in the narrow parameters of economic growth, profit making and GDP.  The pursuit of economic growth has led to a high level of inequality whereby Ireland, as one of the fastest growing economies in Europe, lags way behind its neighbours in terms of public services. We currently have over 750,000 people at risk of poverty and the highest level of homelessness than at any other time in the state’s history. 

Taking new and brave decisions is the only way we will be able to stop climate chaos.  For example Ireland should be moving forward to introduce free public transport as other countries and cities in Europe are now doing. The fact that the minister for Transport has ruled out this move is an indication of why Ireland is currently the EU’s worst performer on climate action. They have failed to take this seriously.

Unite the Union commends the lead given by international school students and urges those members to come out and support the September 20  ‘climate strike’.  There are events taking place across the country and details of actions taking place near you can be found on the Global Strike Action website.

Climate change is the biggest challenge to our generation, and is a trade union issue and a class issue; it is riven with inequality and will leave no part of the economy untouched.

The greatest strength we have is solidarity and organisation, the Trade Union movement has to be a vehicle for the struggle against climate change.

There is no planet ‘B’.

THIS IS NOT ANOTHER CALL FOR ‘LEFT UNITY’

Striking workers at Harland & Wolff Shipyard 2019

Harland and Wolff shipyard in East Belfast may not seem to be the most obvious example of ‘left unity’ you can think of. Yet, currently, the workers in that famous yard have taken a stand in effectively blockading the work-site to prevent their jobs from being ripped out from under them, and their community. As I write there are hopes that this action may yet have created the space for a buyer to come in and rescue the plant that the bumbling British Government refuse to nationalise, even as the Stormont administration continues its disappearing act failing the people and workers of Northern Ireland.

Notably, as often happens, it is from crisis that unity has emerged. Workers with no wages have been supported by their fellow union members, and others, with financial and other support to keep the plant, and hope, alive. This support has been provided across borders of culture and mind. This is ‘left unity’ in action. Workers coming together to support the protection of each other’s jobs.

This coming November Unite will sponsor a new event, the ‘Unite The Union Champions Cup’. On 8 November in Belfast Linfield Football Club will host either Dundalk or Shamrock Rovers and three days later a return fixture will take place in the South. A Trade Union will, for the first time ever, sponsor a football contest between two clubs deeply rooted in working class communities with very different histories. It may well come just days after Brexit when, if the sociopaths leading the British Conservative Party have their way, a border with necessary checks will be re-imposed on this island.

Unite are taking this initiative because we believe our equality agenda is key to delivering a better Ireland for us all. We will promote anti-sectarian work by challenging sectarianism, not hiding from it. We want to promote our anti-racist ethos by addressing it, highlighting it and working in communities to tackle the growing scourge of racism head on. The rights and needs of the LBGTQ community needs discussion too and it, and the vital issue of women’s rights, will also feature in the promotion of this new event.

Will it work?

Who knows? But we are trying to build working class unity, ‘left unity’, in new and exciting ways.

Doing.  

We hear many calls for ‘left unity’, and as much bemoaning its apparent absence from across the political spectrum. Even the establishment right constantly point to the failure of ‘the left’ to provide an opposition that they would try to kill at birth (and have done in the past) should it ever show signs of emerging.

Recently one of the smaller political parties called for it again. To the media. This worthy and welcome call came timed for press coverage and late Summer ‘Think-Ins’ and spoke of a letter nobody has seen. The detail of the call was interesting. It spoke of both a failure to build a housing campaign on the scale of Right2Water and the need to exclude Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael from discussion, something I wholeheartedly agree with.  

Yesterday (Monday) I was driving to work listening to Morning Ireland on RTE Radio 1. The Irish Labour Party, with a mere 7 Dail seats, were having their ‘think in’ and RTE gave their leader Brendan Howlin a prime time slot to discuss. What they discussed was the potential for Labour to win 7-10 seats in the next Election (they won 37 in 2011 and spectacularly blew it) and whether they would again prop up a right wing Government if they did so. We were told that Senator Ivana Bacik again opposed such a scenario, and Brendan Howlin again supported it. There would have to be a special post-election convention (that’s them deciding what to do with your votes AFTER you have cast them) and it would be ‘difficult’ for the party, but it’s likely that they would enter Government again.

D’ya think?

You may be expecting me now to remind you of how this is just a replay of the 2011 ‘debate’ Labour had when they decided that ‘Frankfurt’s way or Labour’s way’ would in fact be Frankfurt’s way and spent the next 5 years skewing the working class with such relish that they became despised. It seemed they fell over themselves to get the Ministries (housing, water, public expenditure) where they could do the maximum harm to the most vulnerable. Well no, I’m not going to talk about that. Go back further. Labour have served the second highest total number of years (19) in coalition Government in the state, second only to Fianna Fail. On every single occasion the Party has asked itself whether it should prop up a right wing Government it has answered ‘yes, we’ll take those Ministers jobs alright’, and on every single occasion it has weakened itself and damaged the working class. Not only have the positions not changed in decades, but even the names are the same. As long ago as 1989 Ivana Bacik and Brendan Howlin were having the same ‘debate’, with the same inevitable outcome.

If we are ever to see Ireland’s first progressive Government this pantomime must be called out, not facilitated on ‘the left’. What do I mean by this?

The recent extolling of the water charges movement in the left call for unity seems to me to miss an obvious point. The water charges movement didn’t begin with politicians. Or Trade Unions. The most united campaign we ever had began when a woman in Cork said ‘thou shall not pass’ to a water meter installer and her neighbours followed her lead. She led! Soon the Community in Edenmore did the same. Citizens led. Unions supported with money and logistics, the politicians got behind the campaign, but the water charges movement won (for now) because it was bottom up, not top down.

History will recall that when it came straight after to the housing emergency the campaign that was formed could not have been like Right2Water because it was deliberately structured to be the complete opposite to Right2Water. It was structured to be headed and controlled by politicians with some limited union support. It even brought the Labour Party itself in from the cold, opened the door to the party that had by 2016 presided over the sharpest rises in homelessness in Ireland since the famine. It was not about ground up community building where parties and unions respond to community building. And so, unfortunately, it didn’t work and the crisis turned into an emergency.

Right2Water campaigners 2015

So where to now?

A number of things strike me. Imagine if all those calling for ‘left unity’ from within their own divided parties actually just left and started to work together for a bigger, greater good instead of fighting for 1 or 2 percentage points in polls and elections.

Then imagine if we just all accepted that Labour are simply part of a 2.5 party ‘state establishment’ that needs to be counteracted and that they are as left, right and opportunistic as Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have ever been, and we just aren’t falling for their theatre anymore.

And then imagine if we stopped just calling for ‘left unity’ and got on with building campaigns together, working together, soldiering together and being humble enough to show respect to each other while we did so. Right2Water worked (so far) because it stuck to simple core principles and was community driven, ground up.

Next Saturday (11 am in Abbey Street) the ‘Tom Stokes Unite Community Branch’ will begin the work of building a Deaf Community Branch, and we are also on the verge of building a ‘Hospitality Branch’ for workers – many of whom are migrant workers – being abused in the sector by outfits such as the disgraced ‘The Ivy’ in Dublin. There is work afoot, and work to be done. And yes, let’s talk about not repeating the mistakes of the past for once.

I’m  finishing by asking the question again, of everyone. Maybe it is time people started to come up with honest answers:

Do you want to be a small part of something really big, or are you content to be a big part of something small?’

(LOOK OUT FOR OUR NEXT BLOG AT THE WEEKEND FROM UNITE’S RHONA McCORD ON CLIMATE CHANGE AND HOW WE NEED TO ALL GET BEHIND THE STUDENTS LEADING THE FIGHTBACK ON THE ISSUE.

TO GET INVOLVED IN THE ‘TOM STOKES UNITE COMMUNITY BRANCH’ EMAIL karen.doyle@unitetheunion.org

Address at launch of ‘Personal Journeys in an Unequal City’

Brendan Ogle Buckingham fire station 270619On my own behalf and on behalf of Unite, I couldn’t have been more pleased than to have been asked to say a few words at this event last night: the launch of ‘Personal Journeys in an Unequal City’, held in the Fire Station Artist Studios on Buckingham Street in Dublin’s North Inner City.

Here’s what I had to say:

When I first got to read ‘The Systematic Destruction of the Community Development, Anti-Poverty and Equality Movement by Patricia Kelleher and Cathleen O’Neill last Autumn it was a real wake-up call. This seminal work described how the 1980s and the 1990s saw the emergence of a vibrant state-funded community movement. and how this has been displaced since 2002 with what Cathleen and Patricia describe as ‘a shift from participatory democracy to neoliberalism’.

The book being launched tonight, ‘Personal Journeys in an Unequal City’, carries the reflections on this period – and what has happened since – of eleven people with such a breadth of experience in the community sector that a permanent record of the work done, the successes, the failures, the changes and the challenges is essential.

Continue reading “Address at launch of ‘Personal Journeys in an Unequal City’”

We underestimate the rise of the far right at our peril

Unity over divisionBrendan Ogle: Almost inevitably the day that Britain will not leave the European Union (EU) has arrived. Westminster is in chaos and our nearest neighbour is in the midst of a constitutional crisis. A general election there may not be far away. Maybe the contempt the Irish establishment has shown for the very idea of Jeremy Corbyn as British PM will be tempered by the thought of Boris Johnson in Downing Street.

But, intriguing as these questions may be, there are more fundamental matters at hand. The far right is on the rise across Europe, and in the coming elections up to a third of seats could well go to these extremists. In Italy, Austria and Sweden serious far right movements have arisen and taken – or come extremely close to taking – power. The Brexit debate itself was disproportionately influenced by UKIP, while France has long had a strong National Front. During recent visits to Germany, I have been surprised to see in practice just how quickly the AfD has arisen and become influential, particularly among the working class. These events do not happen in a vacuum.

The EU itself, and the stifling consensus that sustains it in its current form, is directly responsible for creating the conditions within which these threats are arising. Moreover, the complete failure of a progressive left to form a continent-wide movement insisting on fundamental EU reform adds to the impending sense of crisis.

Continue reading “We underestimate the rise of the far right at our peril”

The hubris of our leading politicians will land us in trouble yet

Brendan Ogle UniteMarch 29th: Hubris, ‘excessive pride or self-confidence’, is defining the current leadership of the state. It is increasingly manifest in the actions of the Taoiseach and Tánaiste and it is now not only apparent domestically, but on the international stage too.

Three weeks ago I wrote about the Strategic Development Unit (SDU) and how, within weeks of becoming Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar had set in train plans for a new government media outfit that would cost €5m of taxpayer’s money. The SDU ended up pushing a Fine Gael agenda, Fine Gael election candidates, and paying regional newspapers to present government ad’s (call them propaganda if you wish) as news copy. Only a Taoiseach imbued with large dollops of hubris could have thought he’d get away with it. But yesterday it was announced that now that these activities have been exposed to public scrutiny the unit is to be abolished, and not a minute too soon. Continue reading “The hubris of our leading politicians will land us in trouble yet”

Let us take our collective heads out of the sand and just trust women

Brendan Ogle UniteIn 2015 in Croke Park the Unite Ireland Policy Conference debated the issue of Repeal of the 8th amendment to Bunreacht na hÉireann. I was a proud Unite member that day, not only because of the outcome of the debate, but because we had it. As an observer it was a difficult debate to listen to in many ways. Feelings ran high. If you think of the most extreme views you can imagine on the issue, on both sides, or that you might see on social media or hear on your doorstep from canvassers, rest assured that they were expressed in Croke Park at that conference too.

The outcome was that Unite supports Repeal of the 8th Amendment, and will campaign for that in the upcoming referendum. We will do so as a founding member of the Trade Union Campaign to Repeal the 8th Amendment, as a member of the Coalition for Repeal, and also in our own right as a Union. Of course, that does not mean that every member of Unite supports that position, and people will of course vote freely in the referendum in accordance with their own views, but it does mean that the Union has a decided position following a decision of our elected delegates at the appropriate Conference.

The necessary debate that we will have as a nation in the coming months promises to be difficult, and there is little enough sign that it will be conducted in an appropriate manner, but to me the matter has crystalised around a number of points.

Continue reading “Let us take our collective heads out of the sand and just trust women”

There’s a reason why neo-liberals have anti-trade-union positions

Brendan Ogle UniteIf you are under 30 years of age there is a strong possibility that you have never read, or seen, a positive feature about Trade Unions in the mainstream media. In that environment a climate of suspicion towards, and even hostility to, collective organising is easily fostered. But in essence a union is nothing more than a collective of workers coming together (in ‘union’) in the belief that they have more leverage and influence in improving their terms and conditions acting together than they do on their own. This idea, working together for the collective good, stretches right back to the late 18th century but it is as necessary now as it has ever been, perhaps in many ways more so.

Continue reading “There’s a reason why neo-liberals have anti-trade-union positions”