Report of ULA national steering committee meeting, Dec 1

So travelling back on the bus to Cork I reflect on the joke of a meeting I have just been at.

At the request of the SP the meeting time had been changed a couple of days ago from a 2:30 to 12:00 start. This caused me some minor inconvenience and a large amount of inconvenience for the other non-aligned rep.

As it happened the SP only managed to get one rep to the meeting and he left for a CAHWT meeting after not much more than an hour. A clearer indication of the priorities of the SP it would be hard to imagine! This meant that with no SP members present and with no way to assess if there was “consensus” the chair closed the meeting down almost immediately after that. So I had 6 hours bus travel for a meeting of about 1 1/2 hours. And to think I gave this fiasco priority over the Cork CAHWT Regional Delegate Meeting…

While the SWP at least made the effort to get two reps to the meeting neither of them seemed particularly interested in being there and the chair’s main aim was clearly to get the meeting over as quickly as possible.

One TD, Joan Collins, was present which apparently was a welcome change in recent times.

The initial item was about the pre-budget statement that came out on Friday. Both I and the other non-aligned rep raised the problem of the very late production of this statement and how this effectively excluded the non-aligned as a group from participation in the discussion about the drafts.

This was accepted and it was agreed that next year the September branch council would discuss the general political framework of the 2014 budget statement. It was also agreed that the next branch council would discuss the content of this year’s statement.

The two main political issues were registration of the name “ULA” and the ULA’s involvement in the abortion rights campaign.

The branch council motion reaffirming the position that the name “ULA” should be registered was immediately vetoed by the SP. Then followed a messy discussion about what this might mean for the new Clare Daly/Joan Collins grouping in terms of what the SP (and SWP) would consider an acceptable name for the new group. “United Left” was suggested but the SP said that if that, or anything else similar to “ULA”, was used then they would consider it to be “highly provocative”, without spelling out how exactly they would respond to such a “provocation”. It seems all they will countenance is a hyphenated name with “Independent – ULA” and “Solidarity – ULA” being suggested. But that does not seem acceptable to the new grouping so we are at a stand-off which needs to be resolved sooner rather than later as all the groups involved will be starting to plan for the 2014 council elections soon. This whole issue is also of interest to the non-aligned who in a couple of areas in Dublin and in Galway may also be interested in standing candidates. The non-aligned remain committed to registration of the “ULA” but the SP veto makes that a non-starter and it is hard to see where there is room for compromise on any side in this dispute.

On the ULA involvement in the abortion rights campaign the upcoming meeting in Dublin on Dec 8th was presented as a meeting of “the national campaign”. I explained this was not the case and made the argument for a national conference early in the New Year to bring together all the different groups of activists around the country. This was agreed and the ULA reps at the meeting on Dec 8th will be arguing for this.

It was reported that there are plans to set up a national steering committee type structure at the Dec 8th meeting. I intervened to argue that this was obviously a bit strange when the “national campaign” doesn’t really exist yet and won’t until after the proposed conference in the New Year. This was partially accepted with the idea of an “interim” steering committee coming out of the Dec 8th meeting, which the ULA will attempt to get reps on, to operate until such time as there is a proper conference – the SP comrade and I abstained on this.

The main point of contention was the issue of what the ULA should argue for. The SP believe it will be possible to move an amendment, to whatever legislation the government proposes in regard to the X-Case, that goes beyond the narrow boundaries of what would be considered to be in line with the Constitution while the SWP and Joan were less sure whether that would be allowed. The SP proposed going further in an amendment to pose the right to abortion in cases of rape & incest.

The SWP argued for the need to keep any amendment within the confines of the Constitutional boundaries of the X-Case and counter any attempts by the government to water that down, particularly on the issue of suicide. This was to keep the pressure on the Labour Party.

I argued that if the SP were right then as an organisation with a pro-choice position the ULA should put forward an amendment posing women’s right to choose. I also proposed that the central campaigning focus of the ULA next year should be on repeal of the 8th amendment.

Rather than taking a decision on this Joan was asked to clarify the issue of what was allowed to be moved and we will come back to the question at a subsequent meeting. There seemed to be general agreement on a campaign focus on repeal of the 8th amendment although the details of what that might mean weren’t fleshed out.

During the course of the discussion an issue of decisions being taken without being passed by the steering committee was raised by the SP, supported by both of us non-aligned. The SP moved what seemed to me to be a non-contencious motion that any material to be issued in the name of the ULA should be circulated to the steering committee before being published. The SWP moved an amendment to include “where possible”. This resulted in a 3-3 split and as a result no decision was taken – another victory for the policy of “consensus”.

The final item was under AOB when the SWP objected to my publication of these reports on my blog and moved that it be recognised that the minutes are the only report allowed of steering committee meetings.

I countered by pointing to SP & SWP reports of the internal machinations of the ULA and explaining that given the alliance nature of the ULA I was not prepared to apply a voluntary self-discipline, which I might if it was a party project. I would continue to publish these reports on my blog. The SWP lost the vote 2-3.

I did take on board the criticism that it was not fair to be naming individual members so have not done so in this report (apart from Joan Collins as it was not possible to not name her) and will not be doing so in future.

It should also be noted that these reports are in the nature of my impressions of the meeting though as I am pretty experienced at taking minutes I would defend them as accurate overviews of the discussion, if not every exact detail.


7 Responses to “Report of ULA national steering committee meeting, Dec 1”

  1. 1 Mark P
    December 1, 2012 at 21:43

    There doesn’t have to be compromise on the issue of registering the ULA. There has to be consensus. There isn’t consensus. Therefore it won’t happen until there is consensus.

    And yes, any attempt by a subgroup of the ULA to hijack the ULA name or pass itself as the ULA would be enormously provocative and would, at least in my view, signal that group’s intention to end the ULA as an alliance. If Clare, Joan etc want to form an organisation and register it as a political party they are perfectly entitled to that. They are not entitled to pass it off as the ULA any more than the Socialist Party or SWP would be to do the same.

    • December 2, 2012 at 00:35

      Well to achieve consensus would require compromise on the part of all or some of the protagonists…

      Can you tell me what anyone not in the SP or SWP/PBP who wants to stand as a ULA candidate is supposed to do?

      The irony is that the non-aligned are proposing that the SP & SWP do indeed “pass themselves off as the ULA” – it is you who refuse to do that, as is your right, but you also say you will veto the registration of the ULA name so any third force like the Daly/Collins group or any non-aligned member has to make up something completely new even if they want to stand as the ULA. What you fail to recognise is that any such candidate would not be “passing themselves off as the ULA” – they would be ULA candidates. Except that the SP refuses to let anyone be a ULA candidate by refusing to allow the ULA name to be registered.

      • 3 pat
        December 2, 2012 at 17:50

        It should be noted that the issue re registering a name only matters in terms of the actual ballot paper. There’s no problem with independents who stand as part of the ULA using the name and politics of the ULA on their election literature / posters etc – which is surely the most important issue in elections. Unless your focus is on those people who don’t make up their mind until the enter the ballot box.

      • December 2, 2012 at 22:43

        Well if you guys really think the name on the ballot paper is of so little importance then why won’t you let us register “ULA” and allow people to stand under that?

        For myself I don’t care about the name issue as I consider standing in bourgeois elections to be of far less importance than any of the rest of you making all these ultimatums at each other.

        Why it is of interest to me is that registering the name would be an indication of forward movement towards a party – which of course is one of the reasons you guys are opposed to it because you have effectively given up on the ULA as a party project.

      • 5 Mark P
        December 2, 2012 at 18:38

        There’s no problem with a lack of consensus. It simply means that the proposal doesn’t happen. That’s only a “problem” if you are determined to push on without consensus.

        It would be provocative and extremely destructive for some group to try to get around their inability to gain consensus by proceeding anyway and trying to take ownership of the ULA name. If the Daly/Collins grouping wants to register a name of their own, one which does not involve passing off a sub-group of the ULA as the ULA, they are perfectly entitled to do that.

      • December 2, 2012 at 22:39

        Well I think your comrade on the steering committee was a bit passed off with this when we didn’t make any decision on material under the name of the ULA having to go past the steering committee before publication because the meeting was split over that and the SWP’s “where possible” amendment that would have made the motion meaningless. So now we are in limbo and the situation your comrade rightly complained of, where statements are being produced in the name of the ULA without going via the steering committee – and thereby the SP and non-aligned (as the ones it appears are being cut out of this particular loop) won’t get prior notice.

        I have no idea what the new Daly/Collins group will do. They don’t seem particularly interested in compromise with the SP position but we will see if someone blinks first in this game of chicken or whether the car crash will happen.

        But however that little game plays out there is also the issue of the non-aligned. What does a non-aligned member in, say Galway, stand as?

        We are not a separate grouping, we are just ULA – why can’t we stand as ULA?

  2. 7 Mark P
    December 2, 2012 at 22:45

    I fully agree that it is stupid and dangerous to have groups or individuals producing material in the name of the ULA without it going past the steering committee (and/or the local branch where it’s a purely local issue).

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