Ireland: Unions launch new platform for democratic and social renewal

A special May Day conference was convened on May 1 and 2 by the five trade unions affiliated to the Right2Water campaign, which is leading the huge struggle against water charges in Ireland.

The conference discussed a set of core principles that will underpin a “Platform for Renewal”, with the aim to unite left and progressive forces before the next general election.

The unions are the Civil and Public Services Union, the Communication Workers’ Union, Mandate, OPATSI and Unite. An Phoblacht said on May 4 that the unions intend to invite other unions, anti-austerity political parties and independents, academics, NGOs and representatives of the not-for-profit sector and community activists for input into the platform.

In a May 8 Broadsheet.ie article, Rory Hearne said “broad ranging and visionary” proposals for a new government included “holding a referendum to enshrine in the constitution that water remains in public ownership and management, introducing the right to gainful employment and a living wage through a Decent Work Act, enshrining the right to housing in the constitution, rent control and a state-led national home building program.

“Other proposals include the creation of a universal healthcare system free at the point of entry, a European Debt Conference to restructure sovereign debt throughout the eurozone; the introduction of a Financial Transaction Tax in order to repay states for the private bank debt they assimilated; and a state led and democratically accountable programme of restructuring and writing down of mortgage debt.

“Outlining the need for 'real and meaningful reform of our local and national democratic processes which would put citizens at the heart of decision making' they propose that citizens should have the capacity to recall elected members of parliament before the end of term and the ability to propose changes to the constitution or call a referendum in relation to legislation introduced by the Oireachtas [Ireland's legislature].”

Irish republican party Sinn Fein, now challenging for the most popular party in the Irish republic on the back of opposing austerity and supporting the campaign against water charges, has welcomed the platform.

An Phoblacht reported Sinn Fein’s representative on the Right2Water campaign, Councillor Daithi Doolan said: “This is an exciting initiative. Sinn Féin have been working with unions to help build a broad, inclusive Left platform that would promote anti-austerity policies and a fair recovery.

“We want to work with unions, parties and our communities to lay the foundation for an anti-austerity government. The May Day conference could well be the first step to making that happen.”

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