27
Nov
12

initial report on ula national branch council on 25 november

The 25 November national branch council was attended by just over 40 delegates and observers. It is hard to know where to start as this was a very significant meeting in terms of the future, or perhaps more rightly non-future, of the ULA.

Perhaps the agenda and motions would be a sensible place to set the scene.

The bulk of the motions were held over from the previous branch council with two additions from the Socialist Party dominated Dublin West branch.

Agenda:

1. The Fight for Abortion Rights
2. Building the ULA
3. AOB

Motions:

ULA North Kildare branch

The United Left Alliance affirms a woman’s right to choose whatever happens to her own body. We believe that society – through the state – should provide free assistance and support to anyone seeking it, in a confidential and supportive environment. This must include providing free and completely unfettered access to state-funded pregnancy-termination procedures and post-procedure support.

ULA Galway branch

1. That the ULA stands for full freedom of reproductive choice.

2. That the ULA sends open invitations to other groups/organisations to join the alliance.

ULA Dublin Central branch

1. The ULA

The Council recognises that whatever recent difficulties the ULA has been through it remains an enormous step forward for the left in Ireland; that, whatever differences there are between members and groups within it, in general more unites than divides us.

The Council calls on the Steering Committee and all members and groups to work for the building of the ULA through all available means especially ULA activities and public events, support for and intervention in the struggles of working people and the development of an internal, cohesive and democratic political life for the organisation.

2. Trade union hotels

The Branch Council calls on the Steering Committee to support the SIPTU ‘Fair Hotels’ campaign and end the use of non-union hotels where organised hotels or alternative venues are available

3. Natural Resources

Council calls on the Steering Committee to prepare as part of a pre-budget submission a contribution on the adequate taxation of the exploitation of natural resources, oil and gas, as a source of revenue and an alternative to public spending cuts, taking ecological considerations into account.

4. Economic policy

Council calls on the Steering Committee to press for an early report from the economic policy committee to assist in the preparation of a pre-budget submission from the ULA.

Council urges that the submission should make specially strong representations in relation to:

Oil and gas revenues
Corporation tax
The bank debts
A third, higher, tax bracket
A wealth tax
The protection and retention of the public sector, public services and public enterprises

5. November National Conference

Given the number of weekend events planned for the month of November, Council calls on the Steering Committee to organise the planned national conference of the ULA on Saturday 3rd November. Council urges the Steering Committee to circulate information on the conference and an agenda as soon as possible, to report on follow-up to ULA Branch Council resolutions and to clarify the decision-making process at the conference.

Donnycarney ULA Branch

The budget the collusion of the trade unions, which has been indispensable to the success of the austerity budgets must be challenged by the ULA. At the main protest against the budget the ULA commits itself to holding a protest/meeting outside the HQ of the ICTU on Parnell Square in order to show workers that we are committed to building serious resistance to trade union collaboration. We call for an end to trade union participation in budget cuts and for their withdrawal from the implementation bodies set up under the Croke Park Agreement.

ULA Dublin West Branch

1. Since the last Council meeting there have been a whole number of incidents where the ULA or its TDs have been linked to Mick Wallace. This situation has compounded the damage already done to the ULA over the summer months since the news of Mick Wallace’s tax evasion and falsification of tax returns came into the public domain.

It is necessary for the ULA to clarify its position regarding Mick Wallace as further and serious damage can result in the weeks and months ahead if we don’t.

Council restates the ULA’s general position that “The ULA has no political connection to Mick Wallace TD and will have no political connection to Mick Wallace in the future.”

Further, Council understands that to mean that the ULA:

Will not link up with Mick Wallace on general political questions or on specific issues;

That ULA and its TDs will oppose any involvement of Mick Wallace on the household, property or water tax issues and the ULA, and its TDs will not assist the Loch Gorman campaign because of its continuing public association with him;

In broader campaigns on issues, the ULA would not have an attitude that if Mick Wallace is involved or gets involved, that it should withdraw, but it or its reps would not encourage his participation in such campaigns;

That Mick Wallace should not be invited to add his name to ULA Dáil motions or bills;

That ULA TDs should not sit beside Mick Wallace in the Dáil Chamber as this is widely interpreted as signalling political support;

That ULA TDs should take care at political events, protests and marches not to give the media opportunities to link the ULA to Mick Wallace;

That in media interviews, if asked anything about Mick Wallace, that ULA TDs or reps should state the general position that the ULA has no political connection with Mick Wallace and not make any comments or speak in a way that is complimentary of him or of actions he has undertaken, as this is damaging to the ULA.

In agreeing these proposals the ULA Council is outlining its own political position on these matters. It doesn’t see these as diktats, however, we do believe that these proposals are necessary in order to develop the independent Left profile of the ULA and to safeguard it from damage by association and believe, in the best interests of the ULA, that they should be implemented by all.

2. This Council believes that, as the Fine Gael/Labour Coalition prepares to implement a new round of even worse austerity including the property tax, it is essential that the ULA develops a stronger profile in the Dáil as a credible and principled Left alliance independent of all other groups and individuals in the Opposition.

Council believes this imperative is strengthened by the sustained attempts by sections of the capitalist press to damage the ULA and by Sinn Fein’s concerted attempt to appear to be the party of anti austerity while implementing austerity in the North.

Therefore, Council believes:

That it is correct that the ULA TDs, while being part of the Dáil Technical Group and its arrangements, would not meet as part of the Technical Group but would meet and organise separately as the ULA;

That in order to develop a unique profile and political position, ULA TDs will normally not offer their motions or bills to be co-signed by others in the Technical Group and would not co-sign the motions and bills of others. In an exceptional case, co-signing can be facilitated by agreement.

==

Obviously the Dublin West motion on Mick Wallace leaps out from that list as the one that going to cause controversy – with just about everyone, except for the SP, thinking, to varying degrees, that this was an attempt to increase their pressure towards driving Clare Daly out of the ULA. The SP strenuously denied this of course but it is hard to understand the continued vigour with which they are pursuing this issue in any other way. This is certainly true for how the non-aligned understand the issue, this is despite us taking a harder position against Wallace than the SP at the time the scandal about his tax affairs first broke.

However in terms of the continuing viability of the ULA it was the question of registering the ULA name which might be the issue around which the alliance formally collapses. A previous national branch council had voted in favour of registering “ULA” but at the national steering committee this had been replaced by the SP & PBP/SWP united in instead suggesting registering “SP-ULA”, “PBP-ULA” & “Independent-ULA”. As I reported this had not been resolved at the last national steering committee meeting.

Dermot Connolly, speaking on behalf of Joan Collins and Clare Daly, said that if “ULA” was not registered then they would have no choice but to register a new name. The SWP welcomed this with a kind of “the more the merrier” response – various non-aligned speakers, including myself, rightfully reacted against that as it points even further away from the idea of a new party and only strengthens the idea of the ULA as only ever being an electoral alliance.

The SP reiterated their position of opposition to registering “ULA” as the ballot box name for ULA candidates and they would stand separately as the SP if that happened, as well as being opposed to “others” (i.e. Clare Daly) getting to use the authority of the brand. They also reiterated their opposition to registering “ULA” as it would imply things were moving forward in the direction of creation of a new workers’ party – something they continue to be opposed to.

Eddie Conlon moved that the previous national branch council decision on registering “ULA” be reaffirmed. Despite this being carried at the meeting it is absolutely clear that the SP will use their veto on the national steering committee to stop this from occurring. Where exactly that leaves Clare and Joan is unclear as it is quite possible that the SP, given their intransigent position on Clare and Mick Wallace, would also use their veto to stop any new grouping Clare and Joan created from being allowed to stand under the ULA umbrella.

It was also reported at the meeting that the SP & SWP plan to stand candidates against Clare and Joan – which non-aligned speakers criticised. The SWP claimed this was “a second candidate with Joan” and derided the non-aligned for having no ambition, but we all know that is just double-speak and the SWP/PBP will be throwing all their resources at Brid Smith’s campaign. The SP did not deny they were planning to stand against Clare but did not speak to defend it either.

Virtually every non-aligned speaker referred to the reality of both the SP and SWP appearing to be less committed to the ULA now than at any time since its formation. The SP seem far more interested in the CAHWT (or CAPTA as they apparently want to rebrand it) as the vehicle out of which a new workers’ party will come while it is clear to everyone that the SWP have prioritised building PBP over the ULA.

The SP defended their interest in the CAHWT while the SWP tried to claim that building PBP was building the ULA – which didn’t wash with the non-aligned present.

In general the branch council was a further step away from the ULA being any kind of positive part of the project for a new workers’ party in my opinion. It also appears that it is only hanging on by a thread in terms of an electoral front given the inability of the TDs to work together in the Dáil because of the Mick Wallace issue. This had come out a bit in the first session on abortion rights, which otherwise showed some degree of unity – that session, along with details of the decisions on the other motions, will be the focus of my next blog post.

 

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