Recent weeks have seen Ireland bear witness to two factory occupations that subsequently inspired similar actions across Britain. These events are significant developments in class struggle in that they pose the question of whether power resides with the boss or the workers. It is fitting that these events should coincide with the ninetieth anniversary of the Limerick Soviet. The events that took place in the small Munster town during April 1919 have all too predictably been written out of the official history of Ireland. They have also been largely forgotten in the labour movement due to the role of a conservative bureaucratic leadership that has sought to bury the history of the Irish working class’ most potent challenge to capitalist rule.
As Easter approaches, Ireland stands once again in crisis. It is unlikely this year that we will be treated to the sight of a farcical show of strength from the Irish military or the twenty six county state government attempting to cash in on the legacy of the famous rebellion against British rule. Despite being regarded as a central point in Irish history and an event that is widely recognised as pivotal to the traditions of republicanism little of the events of 1916 are retained in their popular representation as they have been surrounded by a systematic campaign of distortion almost since they took place.
Finance Minister Brian Lenihan and the Fianna Fáil led coalition have set out their stall. This was a bosses’ budget that takes €837 out of the economy for every man, woman and child in Ireland. Worse still, if you happen to be an unemployed school leaver under the age of 20 your dole is being cut in half. RTÉ’s headline states that the “most severe budget in decades is revealed”.
If anyone had suggested a few years ago, that Ireland would be in a deep recession, that Waterford Crystal would be occupied, that Labour would be ahead of Fianna Fáil in the polls and that we would be more or less on the brink of a one day general strike, they would have been told to go and put some water in the glass to help wash down the whiskey. The whole place was booming, houses popping up everywhere, more motorways than spaghetti junction and thousands of people returning home from abroad to join the boom.
This is how the Irish Times summed up the forthcoming negotiations between ICTU (The Irish Confederation of Trade Unions), the Government and Ibec (the employers). The talks follow an invitation from the Taoiseach Brian Cowen to the ICTU leaders, who have deferred the strike action planned for Monday 30th pending the outcome of the negotiating. The decision to call off the action reflects the fact that the trade union leaders have been very keen to pull off a deal, and are confident that they have a big mandate from the members.