Report of the ULA Sub Committee on Structures

The ULA Sub Committee on structures was formed in March as the result of a Steering Committee motion with the following terms of reference:

A) Recommend interim arrangements for representation of unaligned members on the Steering Committee;

B) Discuss future development of the ULA including the development of participative structures;

C) To consult all members on the above issues;

D) Report to Steering Committee who will report to conference. The report for the Steering Committee to Conference will include the recommendations of the sub-committee.

The sub-committee members are:

Steven Landero (non-aligned), Conor Mc Guinness (non-aligned), Alan Gibson (non-aligned), Ken Doyle (non-aligned), Paddy Healy (Workers and Unemployed Action Group), Kevin Mc Loughlin (Socialist Party), Michael O Brien (Socialist Party), Willy Cumming (People Before Profit) and Eddie Conlon (People Before Profit).

The sub-committee had to work within a very tight timeframe as it was asked to report to the conference on April 28. It held its first meeting on March 10 and also met on March 25 and April 16. Due to illness and work commitments respectively Alan and Steven could only attend one meeting.  Given the limited time it was not possible to comprehensively deal with all issues but we focused on the key structural developments appropriate to the Ula at this point so it can move forward in the year ahead.

Two emails were sent to members requesting submissions but very few were received.

What follows are the recommendations arising from the deliberations of the sub-committee. We look forward to a productive debate at the conference in relation to them.


The Ula was formed as an alliance of People Before Profit, the South Tipperary Workers and Unemployed Action Group and the Socialist Party. It was formed as an alliance of groups but the Ula also has individual members organised in geographically based branches.  The Ula is a developing alliance/organisation and its structure is evolving as it grows.  For now it essentially has a hybrid character being an alliance of organisations but also offering membership to those who are not members of these organisations (referred to here as unaligned).  The Ula should continue to evolve by seeking affiliations from other left organisations, campaign groups and where possible trade union branches. But it must also seek to grow the individual membership so that significant numbers of new people are brought into the Ula. The structures and actions of the Ula should reflect these goals. The sub-committee was very aware of the need for the Ula to develop an internal life and provide a mechanism to develop a united campaign strategy as a step in the process of moving towards the development of a new party.

Proposals are presented under a number of headings.

1. Membership

The ULA provides for individual membership. Membership requires agreement to the ULA programme and the payment of membership fees of €10 or €5 (unwaged and students).

A register of membership will be kept centrally.

Branch secretaries will take responsibility for membership locally: chasing up membership and liaising with the centre.

Fees are to be sent to the centre. Branches should consider looking at raising additional funds locally.

New members will receive a pack from the ULA which should include a copy of the founding programme.

A wider contact list will be maintained centrally.

2. Branches

The Ula aims to have branches throughout the country.

A branch should have at least 10 members.

New branches must be ratified by the Steering Committee.

Branches should meet at least once a month

While account should be taken of the existing branch structure we should aim to have at least one branch in every constituency. Branches in the same constituency should cooperate positively with each other to ensure the overall development of the Ula in their area. Branches in the same constituency and/or representatives of the branches should meet on a regular basis.

Wherever possible, where new branches are being established they should reflect the diversity of ULA membership and not the separate organisation of different blocks.

Branches should have a committee of at least three people with designated functions. The purpose of the committee is to prepare the agenda for the meetings, to ensure the implementation of decisions taken on the basis of the full involvement of all members.

The membership of the committee shall  be balanced taking into account the political make up of the branch membership.

The subcommittee agreed that consensus in decision making was the basis on which the Ula was established and operated, and that in the branches every effort should be made to achieve agreement.  It was noted that some branches had broken with this approach.  There was disagreement as to whether in the final analysis founding groups or non aligned members should have the right to invoke consensus in branches on matters they consider important or whether that right could or should be conditional.

3. ULA Council

The Ula will establish a member’s forum to be called the ULA Council.

The Council will meet at least once every 3 months.

The Council will be made up of Branch delegates representing their branches.  Delegates will be based on 1 per 5 members.

Steering Committee members shall attend and participate in meetings of the Council.

The Council will:

  • facilitate discussion and planning of joint campaigns;
  • facilitate political discussion;

The Council will be chaired by branch delegates on a rotating basis. The first meeting will be chaired by a member of the Steering Committee.  In order to facilitate orderly and effective meetings the chair of subsequent meetings will be elected at the end of each Council meeting. The Chair will liaise with branches, full time workers and the Steering Committee to develop the agenda for the next Council meeting.

The Council will make recommendations regarding the positions and work of the Ula. The Steering Committee will report to the members and Council on actions taken in relation to such recommendations.

4. The Steering Committee

The Steering Committee will be composed of:

  • 2 representatives nominated by each of the founding organisations (Socialist Party, People Before Profit and Workers and Unemployed Action Group).
  • 2 representatives of members of the Ula who are not members of these organisations, elected by vote of the non aligned members.
  • Having being elected as appropriate by the founding groups and non aligned members, the full Steering Committee should be put to the Ula Conference for endorsement.

The Steering Committee will operate on the basis of consensus.

In the event that significant campaigns or groups/organisations affiliate to the Ula it will be open to the Steering Committee to agree representation on the Steering Committee for such groups.

In relation to the election of the two non-aligned people it was agreed:

  1. That membership registration for the current year be extended to April 13. [This was agreed by the SC and was circulated to branches].
  2. Nominations will be sought and can be taken up to one week prior to the conference i.e. April 20. [Nominations have been sought and received].
  3. Candidates will have the right to have information circulated to the membership.
  4. Election will be by PR using a Single Transferable vote.
  5. The non-aligned members will have to make arrangements to ensure the SC reps are accountable. Proposals should be put to the meeting of non-aligned at the conference. The Ula will support the work necessary to ensure these arrangements work.

In order to improve the efficiency of the Steering Committee it is proposed that the chairing of meetings be rotated on a monthly basis between the three founding organisations and the non-aligned representatives. In their allocated month the chair would look after the minutes of meetings, draw up the agendas for SC meetings and meet with the full time workers on a weekly basis to coordinate the implementation of decisions and the general work of the Ula.

Minutes of Steering Committee meetings will be circulated to branches.

5. Communications

There was agreement that while internal communications had improved in recent months there was still room for further improvement.

The weekly bulletins need to have more information from branches, a calendar of events around the country and information from sub committees.

There should be a section for branch information on the website.

6. Policy Development

It was agreed in principle that there should be working groups to develop policies in a number of areas. As a start it is suggested that two such groups be formed at the conference to work on priority areas agreed by the conference.

7. Colleges

Student membership should be based on paying the reduced subscription fee.

The ULA will establish College branches and link them with the local area branches.

The coordination of Colleges work should be an agenda item for Council meetings.

8. Internal life of ULA

It was agreed that social events and activities should be organised to generate a left culture around the Ula.  It is suggested that those who may be interested in developing this work should be asked to form a sub-committee.

9. Conference

It is proposed that a further conference be held in late Autumn.


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