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Huge support for socialist in Northern Ireland union election
Kevin Henry, Belfast Socialist Party (CWI Ireland)
The last six weeks have seen one of the most high profile trade union elections in Northern Ireland for decades. The election was for general secretary of public sector union Nipsa, the largest union in Northern Ireland. Socialist Party member Patrick Mulholland stood as the broad left candidate in the election against the candidate of the Nipsa establishment, Alison Millar.
Alison Millar's campaign had the support of the majority officials in Nipsa and the resources that come with it. It did not stop a tirade of vile sectarian abuse being waged at Patrick and his supporters which should be condemned by all in the trade union movement.
The victory of the Millar campaign would also have no doubt been welcomed by the main political parties in Northern Ireland. For example, Jim McVeigh, the leader of Sinn Fein on Belfast City Council, and Nelson McCausland, former Democratic Unionist Party minister at Stormont, both warned of the danger of the left in Nipsa winning the general secretary position. Their parties dominate the ruling Assembly executive, which will decide on making huge cuts that will affect Nipsa members.
Patrick's campaign distributed tens of thousands of leaflets to hundreds of workplaces. It waged a high profile campaign which provoked discussion among people outside of Nipsa, about what type of trade union movement we need. Patrick's campaign focused on the policies and programme necessary to make a difference to Nipsa members.
He committed to only taking a worker's wage if elected and ensuring the trade union movement develops a real strategy to fight cuts. As general secretary he would have implemented decisions of Nipsa conference including advocating a democratic socialist alternative to austerity.
Patrick had the opportunity to speak at hustings and meetings across the country to put forward ideas that could transform the trade union movement and the fight against austerity.
Patrick gained an impressive 44% of the vote, with 4,958 votes. The Nipsa broad left, many of who are members of the Socialist Party, still has a majority on the general council in Nipsa and will be stronger in every area of the union in the turbulent years to come.
Socialists should now use this strength to build a movement against cuts, oppose attempts to link with sectarian parties and build a left-wing alternative in Northern Ireland.
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