Militant Irish Monthly, No. 47, October 1976

Derry Trades Council demands Union Action

At a well-attended meeting of Derry Trades Council in September a discussion took place on the Women's Peace Movement. Most delegates who spoke agreed that the women had shown tremendous courage in speaking out against the violence in the north. It was pointed out by one delegate that the women should resist any attempts by the politicians to take control of the movement. After all they had done nothing to solve the problems of ordinary people during the various Stormont Administrations. The same delegate felt that if the women stood in the May elections 1977 on a programme of Peace, jobs and houses they would sweep the board. But another delegate pointed out that the 'Peace women were getting nowhere fast.' This thought is clearly in the minds of several thousands of Trade Unionists in the North who see that the only way in which the action of the women can have any long term affect is by channelling it along the lines of social demands such as Jobs, houses and poverty wages and through the trade union movement.

Other delegates criticised the failure of the Northern Ireland Committee of the ICTU for its failure to take the Better Life for All Campaign into all the areas of the Province. One delegate stated that although we can criticise the leaders of the trade union movement, this was not enough. Certainly the 'Better Life for All Campaign' was launched because of the demands of the rank and file for action against the twin evils of sectarianism and unemployment.

In fact it was the demonstration called by the Derry Trades Council which had initiated this campaign in the first place. But the rank and file should demand that this campaign be stepped up in the light of the current movement by the Women fro Peace. The women had started where the trade union leaders had left off. The movement of the women demonstrated the basis that exists for class unity in the North. The trade union leaders should prepare the labour movement politically for intervening in the May Elections 1977. They should do this by launching a Mass Party of Labour through the calling of a conference of all Trade Unionists and all Labour Party groupings in the North to lay the basis for such a Party and also using the Trades Councils and trade union branches as the nucleus for the Party in the areas. Such a Party, by fighting the coming elections on the ticket of the six demands of the Better Life for All Campaign, and putting forward the socialist answers to these demands, would draw an enormous support from workers on both sides of the religious divide. Only the trade union movement which crossed the sectarian divide was capable of effectively organising working class people for an onslaught against all the problems of capitalist society.

Northern Ireland Committee

A motion was moved at the Derry Trades Council expressing full support for the Peace demonstration that was to be held in the city the following Saturday. The mover urged that we appeal to all trade unionists to turn out on the day. An attempt at an addendum to this motion - which called on the NIC to reactivate the Better Life for All Campaign either in conjunction with the women or separate from them was made. However the Council feared that to do so might be seen as trying to interfere in the march.

But the point is that unless the Derry Trades Council, along with the other Trades Councils demands that the Northern Ireland Committee seriously take up the questions of sectarianism and repression together with the burning economic issues of unemployment, slum housing, etc. then the leadership of the NIC will be allowed to remain off the hook.

The only guarantee that the aspirations of the women and those of the working class people in the main for a real solution to the terrible problems which they face can be realised, is on the basis of a struggle to force the leaders of the trade union movement to harness the might of the working class around a socialist programme.

Other articles on the emergence of the Peace People in 1976-77

This series of articles on Northern Ireland from our archives
are available here.

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