Inez McCormack, Trade Unionist and Human Rights Activist, Born Derry 1946, Died 21st January Derry 2013

Inez McCormackInez McCormack was the first woman president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions from 2000 to 2002, Born into a Protestant working class family in Derry, she left school aged 16 and studied social work at Queen’s University Belfast and Trinity College Dublin. As a student she took part in the early Civil Rights demonstrations and was at Burntollet when they were attacked by B Specials and Loyalists. It was there she met her future husband, Vinney, a catholic from Belfast – on the barricade so to speak.

As the first female trade union official for the National Union of Public Employees she championed low paid workers not only by leading negotiations but in her strategy of getting them to publically campaign. Facilitating the outsiders and the marginalised to claim their legitimise space was the hall mark of her life’s work. In those days in the North, even in the trade union movement, it was not an easy job to push feminism, equal rights and promote the cause of low paid unskilled workers. Inez had tenacity and became the regional secretary of Unison and later was elected the first female president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

She was one of the sponsors of the MacBride Principles in the mid-1980s. This was an affirmative campaign which successfully harnessed the political and financial clout of the Irish-American lobby to pressure Westminster into toughening laws against religious discrimination. She also played an important behind the scenes in the run up to the Belfast Peace Agreement of 1998.

She was a founder member of the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Fair Employment Commission in Northern Ireland in 1976. Most recently, in 2006 she founded the Belfast-based Participation and Practice of Rights in 2010.

Her career was featured in a documentary play on Broadway, Seven, when seven award-winning playwrights were commissioned to tell the personal stories of women who had worked for change in countries around the world. She was portrayed in an ensemble reading of the play in New York by Meryl Streep.

In 2011 Newsweek magazine named her as one of “150 women who shake the world,” the only one to come from Northern Ireland. Her international Human Rights work was done in conjunction with her friend and colleague Mary Robinson. Tributes were paid to her by ICTU, The National Women’s Council and President Michael D Higgins.

The best tribute we can pay to Inez is to try and renew the trade union movement with her vision, depth of commitment and campaigning spirit.

HMV Workers

The Trade Union Left Forum extends its support and solidarity to the workers at HMV who are facing unemployment, loss of wages, and reduced redundancy pay. The TULF supports these workers, who are occupying their buildings in anger at the way they have been treated, and the union members trying to achieve a better outcome for all involved.

But these last-minute occupations, which we have seen before, are not enough to challenge the fundamental injustices of the system today. We can no longer afford to leave struggle to the last minute, otherwise we will continue to merely have these heroic defeats. Workers all over Ireland must join a union and organise workers’ power in their employment.

A year after the La Senza sit-ins, and 100 years after the great Lock-Out, the economic and political system shows no signs of having any more concern for workers than it had in Larkin and Connolly’s time. The lesson to be learnt is that it is only through workers struggling for an economic and political system that meets our needs that rights can be gained or defended. Nothing is handed to us on a plate.

As we build towards the 9th of February, these workers should remind us all to stand up up for each other, for our families, and for our future, to unionise our work-places and say No to job losses, No to pay cuts, No to social welfare cuts, and Yes to an Ireland democratically owned and controlled by the people, for the people.

Death of Joe Deasy, Socialist, Trade Unionist and Historian

Joe Deasy was born on 12th July 1922 opposite the Railway works in Inchicore, Dublin. His father was an active Labour and Union man and influenced the subsequent career of Joe. He began his working life as a railway clerk in 1941 and in those poverty stricken war years saw the need for strong trade unionism and for spreading socialist ideas. He held elected positions in what are now the TSSA and the Trades Council.

Active in the Labour Party Joe was elected a Counsellor in 1945 and at the age of 22 the youngest one in the country. He served on Dublin Council with Big Jim Larkin and has written of this association memorably as they raised issues of slum clearances and health services. The Labour Party participation in the inter party Government of 1948 with Fine Gael and Clann na Poblachta disillusioned many in the Labour Movement.

Joe joined the newly formed Irish Worker League (a forerunner to the Communist Part of Ireland) in 1951. In the cold war hysteria of those days this was a difficult and demanding choice. He was blacklisted from all union positions and with the rest of its members faced hostility at public meetings and selling papers. An infamous saga was the closure of the Ballyfermot Grocery Co-operative stores by clerical abuse and boycotts. Joe and some IWL colleagues had been on the management committee. Both a thinker and a writer he wrote Fiery Cross – the story of Jim Larkin and later the Teaching of James Connolly in the mid-sixties, before labour movement studies became fashionable. Joe returned to the Labour Party in 1977 but remained a commitment to the socialist ideas of his youth. This also allowed him return to the trade union activism of his branch and Trades Council. On retirement he allowed more time to elected positions in the Labour History Society and writing for its journal Saothar.

Joe enjoyed life and had a repertoire of labour songs and enjoyed singing them. His other passion was the theatre which stemmed from his own involvement as a youngster in the New Theatre as actor and budding writer. A complete man we pay respects to his family.

Death of Sean Redmond, Former Connolly Association General Secretary, Irish Trade Union Official and Historian

Sean Redmond, former General Secretary of the Connolly Association, died on Saturday 15 December at his home in Drumcondra, Dublin, at the age of 76, having been ill for some time.

Sean Redmond

© Victor Patterson

Sean and his brother Tom grew up in Dublin and they emigrated to London in 1956, where their parents also lived for some years. Both became very active in the Connolly Association, which around that time had launched its campaign to expose the iniquities of the Stormont Unionist regime in British labour, trade union and liberal circles. This campaign was based on the concept that the movement to end Partition in Ireland and bring about Irish national unity in independence needed allies in the British labour movement and the support of progressive public opinion in this country.

In the early 1960s Sean became General Secretary of the Connolly Association and for the rest of that decade he did outstanding work in highlighting the deplorable civil liberties situation under Unionist majority rule in the Six Counties. During that period he represented the Association on the executives of the National Council for Civil Liberties (now Liberty) and the Movement for Colonial Freedom and played a key role in inducing those bodies, which were very influential in British labour circles at the time, to take up the issue of discrimination against Northern Nationalists and Catholics.

As Connolly Association General Secretary he worked closely with the late Desmond Greaves, who edited the Association’s monthly paper “The Irish Democrat”. He edited some issues of that paper himself when Greaves was in Ireland undertaking research for his biographies of James Connolly and Liam Mellows. Sean became widely known and respected in the Irish community and in labour circles across Britain in those years and was much admired as a public speaker. He organised numerous lobbies of MPs in the House of Commons on Six County discrimination issues.

As one example from that campaign, in May 1966 Sean Redmond wrote on behalf of the Connolly Association to Northern Premier Captain Terence O’Neill pointing out that the 1949 Ireland Act offered Stormont no protection “if the British Parliament decides in its wisdom to abolish your government altogether”. To which O Neill replied denying the existence of gerrymandering, discrimination and police repression in the North and saying “I was entertained to read your complex and ingenious version of our constitutional status”, but the constitutional position of Northern Ireland “has a conventional as well as legislative basis.” The following years would show O’Neill that the North’s constitutional position was indeed an illusion and that what Redmond had intimated was right.

Because of his work in those years Sean Redmond may validly be considered one of the progenitors of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement which destroyed Unionist hegemony in that part of the world. He later wrote the pamphlet “Desmond Greaves and the origins of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland” describing the solidarity work in Britain in which he had played a leading part from the late 1950s until the mid-1970s.

That work was important in generating an anti-Unionist climate in British labour circles which impelled the Wilson-led Labour Government that took office in 1964 to put pressure in turn on the Terence O’Neill-led Stormont administration to end discriminatory practices affecting the Nationalist/Catholic population in the Six Counties. This pressure from progressive British public opinion paralleled the pressure that came from within the North itself when the Civil Rights Movement got going there in the 1968-70 period.

On returning to Ireland Sean worked as a trade union official with the Irish Municipal Employees Trade Union, now IMPACT. He was one of the most influential organisers of that union and became greatly respected in Dublin labour and trade union circles for his political shrewdness, good sense and political and industrial experience. He wrote the official history of his union under the title, “The Irish Municipal Employees Trade Union 1883-1983”. He also described the public-spirited action of some of his fellow union members in the union publication, “Belfast is Burning 1941: the story of the assistance given by the emergency services from Eire following the German bombing of Belfast” .

In the 1980s along with some colleagues in other Irish trade unions he helped establish the group, Trade Unionists for Irish Unity and Independence, to lobby for a stronger stand by Irish and British trade unions for those democratic objectives as being in the best interests of the labour movements and peoples of the two islands.

Sean was a lifelong student of the history of the Irish and British labour and national movements. He was a member of the Irish Labour History Society. His experience working in both countries and his political commitment to the classical leftwing position that the labour movement, socialists and radicals should be the foremost advocates of national independence and democracy, led him to embark on a study of successive solidarity movements with the Irish national cause in Britain, going back to the days of the United Irishmen. He had virtually completed this before illness struck him.

In the 1970s and 1980s he was an active member of the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement and in the 1990s he was a committee member of the annual Desmond Greaves Weekend Summer School in Dublin.

He met his wife Susan while working in the Connolly Association in London and they have one son, Sean Og. The Connolly Association Executive sends its commiserations to his wife, his son and other relatives. The many friends and political acquaintances he made while working in Britain will mourn the passing of an outstanding socialist republican, a committed trade union activist and a fine and much-loved human being.

Personal commiserations should be sent to Mrs Susan Redmond at 33 Lindsay Road, Dublin 9.

www.irishdemocrat.co.uk

Photo of Sean Redmond by kind permission of Victor Patterson

Funeral Arrangements

Sean’s funeral will take place at Glasnevin Cemetery on Friday 28th December 2012 at 1:00 pm.

Statement of Solidarity with the Greek Trade Union Movement

Statement of Solidarity with the Greek Trade Union Movement As members of the Irish Trade Union Left Forum, we would like to express our solidarity with the Greek trade union movement and to all the Greek working class people who are striking against the austerity measures being imposed upon them by the European Union and the IMF in alliance with the Greek ruling class parties.

These austerity measures are about making workers pay for the massive debt, a debt, which is not theirs; it is about the massive transfer of wealth from Greek workers to the European and global finance houses.

We admire your courage and tenacity in defending the interests of the working class. You are an example to all workers across the Europe who see their living standards, wages and working conditions being cut and undermined.

The ruling elites across the EU show greater co-operation and unity of purpose than workers have so far managed to achieve. We must begin to build greater solidarity and co-operation among all workers, across all borders, from the grass roots upwards. We need to do this to defend ourselves and to advance to a more socially just non exploitative society – towards socialism.

Trade Union Left Forum

Trade Union Left Forum