DEFENCE NOT DEFIANCE

New ICTU Mural Belfast complementing statue of Jim Larkin Photo: © Michael Fisher

New ICTU Mural Belfast complementing statue of Jim Larkin Photo: © Michael Fisher

This was an important occasion for trade unionists in Belfast. The unveiling by the ICTU President John Douglas of a new mural complementing the statue of Jim Larkin at the ICTU (NI) office at Donegall Street Place. The Lord Mayor of Belfast Máirtín Ó Muilleoir attended the ceremony. The work was commissioned from well-known Belfast muralists Danny Devanny and Mark Ervine. It depicts banners, signs and logos of the constituent unions, including the National Union of Journalists.

Michael Fisher (NUJ), Lord Mayor of Belfast Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, ICTU President John Douglas, John O'Farrell ICTU Photo: © Kevin Cooper Photoline

Michael Fisher (NUJ), Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, ICTU President John Douglas, John O’Farrell ICTU Photo: © Kevin Cooper Photoline

I represented the NUJ at the unveiling in my capacity as Chair of the Northern Ireland sub-committee of the Irish Executive Council. The artwork tells the story of organised labour from the Dockers’ and Carters’ Strike of 1907 and the struggle of women in the factories and mills, up to the current campaigns against austerity and for social justice.

Mural detail with NUJ logo beside BECTU and RMT Photo: ©  Michael Fisher

Mural detail with NUJ logo beside BECTU and RMT Photo: © Michael Fisher

Afterwards the proceedings moved to the nearby John Hewitt Bar. The Lord Mayor unveiled an item of particular significance for the Belfast Trades Council. It is a bell and commemorative plaque which were presented to Samuel Munro in 1893 when he was President of the Council.

TUC 1893 Congress Belfast

TUC 1893 Congress Belfast

The same year the former Northern Whig employee who came from Lurgan in County Armagh and represented the Typographical Association was elected as President of the Trades Union Congress then encompassing Ireland and Britain. On September 4th to 9th 1893 the TUC held their 26th annual Congress over six days at the Ulster Hall in Belfast. At the time there were 380 delegates from 226 unions, representing 900,000 members.

The Chair of NIC-ICTU Pamela Dooley gave a short speech followed by remarks from Paddy Mackel, Secretary of the present Belfast Trades Council which Munro had led. The story of this committed trade unionist who rose through the ranks and held the top post in the TUC was related splendidly by Francis Devine of the Irish Labour History Society, who finished with a poem he wrote himself in honour of Munro. He explained how Munro came from the old craft section of the trade union movement and was conservative and cautious by character. “Defence not defiance” was his way of operating.

Munro’s address to the TUC on the second day of Congress (September 5th 1893) was illuminating, according to Devine, and demonstrated radical foresight, with demands that were very advanced for their time for the organisation of women, factory reform and protective legislation, labour representation and temperance.

Belfast Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir & Brian Bingham at unveiling of bell at John Hewitt Bar Photo: © Kevin Cooper Photoline

Belfast Lord Mayor Cllr Máirtín Ó Muilleoir & Brian Bingham at unveiling of bell at John Hewitt Bar Photo: © Kevin Cooper Photoline

It was a shade ironic therefore that the memento of Munro should now be displayed in a pub! Brian Bingham from Belfast was present, a friend of Munro’s last known relative, his granddaughter, who lives in London and who presented the bell to the ICTU.

MAY DAY PARADE

maydayThe annual ICTU May Day rally and parade is taking place in Belfast on Saturday 4th May. Gather beside the NUJ banner at Writers’ Square near St Anne’s Cathedral at 12 noon for speeches followed by a march through the city centre accompanied by brass, pipe and samba bands. The march will finish back at Writers’ Square where food and entertainment will be provided. Help celebrate the wins and achievements of the trade union movement over the years and show that we are proud to be trade unionists. It’s one of a series of events organised by Congress on the occasion of the centenary of the 1913 Dublin lockout.

BBC Strike, March 2013

BBC Strike, March 2013

The May Day march is among the biggest in the UK and Ireland, and will feature speeches from leading union activists. With sponsorship from the European Union Regional Development Fund, Belfast City Council and the Community Relations Council, are presenting an extended festival programme with events for everyone, including walking tours, exhibition launches, lectures and the May Day and Diversity Festival. Amongst the numerous events taking place will be the collaborative exhibition World of Work (WOW) at the Golden Thread Gallery, to celebrate the essence of May Day and showcase the often hidden value of trade union learning initiatives. The gallery will also host the Through the Lens Photographic Exhibition. Over the last six months groups of trade union members and activists have worked to interpret ‘Diversity’ through digital photography. They have come up with images of diversity in all its forms. The opening night will include a DJ set from Love Music Hate Racism and a performance piece from Scream Blue Murmur.

RACISM IS WRONG CAMPAIGN

Trade unions building links between migrant workers and local communities

Trade unions in County Monaghan are playing an important role in a new initiative to build links between migrant workers and the local community and to stop racism. The secretary of Monaghan Trades Council, Peter McAleer from Clones, joined an audience of over seventy people in Newry for the launch of the “Racism is Wrong” campaign. Chaired by TV presenter Pamela Ballantine, the event featured a panel discussion including the North’s Transport Minister and Newry and Armagh MP, Conor Murphy (Sinn Féin), Jane Morrice of the Equality Commission in Belfast and Kasia Garbal, Migrant Worker Coordinator with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

Conor Murphy MP & Peter McAleer, Secretary Monaghan Trades Council

Racism is Wrong has used local people from black and ethnic minority communities as the “faces” for an advertising campaign. Their profiles will be seen over the next five months throughout Monaghan and Louth as well as the areas of Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon, and Newry and Mourne. The campaign has received European funding through the PEACE III Programme. It aims to raise awareness of racism and includes newspaper and radio advertising, billboards and a website at (new window) www.racismiswrong.org. It is supported by the Equality Commission in the North and the Unite Against Hate group.

Michael Fisher, Jane Morrice (Equality Commission) & broadcaster Pamela Ballantine

Among the priorities for this cross-border partnership is to change the perceptions and stereotypes that exist in relation to ethnic minority communities. It aims to develop, promote and facilitate the integration of migrant workers and local communities. It hopes the campaign will help to improve understanding and support between local communities and migrant workers or ethnic minorities.