David Begg wrong to blame workers and unemployed for their alleged unwillingness to fight

The recent reported remarks of David Begg, when answering criticism of ICTU’s lack of a fighting lead throughout this economic crisis, are absolutely galling.


His assertion that Irish working people and the unemployed are conservative and unwilling to struggle like their French counterparts ignores completely his and the rest of the trade union leadership’s role and responsibility to lead such a fightback.

In fact, he contradicts himself by correctly referring to the ready response from workers to march in huge numbers when ICTU called demonstrations as well as the national day of public service strike action in November last year.

The problem was that these demonstrations did not form part of a determined strategy by the ICTU leadership to force the government to reverse the pay cuts and cuts in public services but instead they used it to serve as a lever to get the government to engage in fruitless talks that achieved nothing for ordinary trade union members.

Mr. Begg’s theorising about the supposed innate conservatism of the Irish is utterly self serving. A determined fighting trade union leadership can, by its words and actions, create the mood in society for a fightback.

The fact that Mr. Begg and the ICTU leadership do not advocate a real alternative to the government’s strategy is a hindrance to a real fightback but given the scale of government attacks in the forthcoming budget, I am convinced that working people and the unemployed will find a way to both struggle to defend public services, pay and conditions and that rank and file trade unionists will find a way to replace the current crop of leaders in the movement with ones who will lead in the spirit of Connolly and Larkin.