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Reply to Sinn Fein attacks on classroom assistants

category antrim | worker & community struggles and protests | opinion/analysis author Thursday November 29, 2007 15:51author by s Report this post to the editors

The following letter was written in reply to statements from Paul Butler of Sinn Fein after classroom assistants protested outside the headquarters of Sinn Fein and the DUP at which placards made by individual strikers compared Caitriona Ruane with Maggie Thatcher. The letter was sent to The Irish News and the Andersonstown News but has not been publivhed to date.

23rd November 2007

Dear Editor,

Not even many Sinn Fein supporters will be either impressed or fooled when party leaders attempt to invoke the memory of the hunger strikers to deflect attention from the right wing policies being carried out by their Stormont Ministers.

Paul Butler (19th November) wants NIPSA to apologise to the people of West Belfast for the fact that striking classroom assistants dared carry posters comparing Caitriona Ruane to Margaret Thatcher during a protest outside Sinn Fein’s Lower Falls office and close to the Bobby Sands mural.

Bobby Sands, according to Richard 0’Rawe’s book “Blanketmen”, said that “he would not be interested in a united Ireland that wasn’t socialist and that a capitalist Ireland wasn’t worth the life of one Irishman.” True, the Sinn Fein leadership dispute some of the claims of that book although none have contradicted that particular quote. In any case the more “favoured” biography of Sands written by Denis O’Hearn is similarly peppered with direct quotes from Sands emphasising that his was a socialist as opposed to a purely nationalist outlook.

If these quotes are accurate – and those Sinn Fein leaders who were in prison with him, and who know the truth better than me, are free to contradict them if they want – it is not hard to work out what attitude the Bobby Sands of 1981 would have had to a Sinn Fein Minister cutting the hourly rate of low paid workers in order to conform with Peter Robinson’s “made in Northern Ireland” (in reality “made in Westminster”) budget.

As to the posters of Thatcher carried by classroom assistant, it is obvious to all but those who want to deliberately twist things that these were not in reference to her callous and intransigent role in the hunger strike, but to the all out assault on trade unions and workers’ rights for which she is chiefly remembered.

Caitriona Ruane may defend herself from the strikebreaking, anti union charge by pointing to those unions, apart from NIPSA, who either have endorsed her miserly offer or else are permanently “consulting” their members rather than join the strikes.

She should remember – and so should those trade union leaders who are currently sitting on their hands – that during the historic 1984/5 miners strike Thatcher was similarly supported all along by the misnamed “Union of Democratic Mineworkers” who kept the Nottingham coalfields going throughout.

Meanwhile other right wing trade union leaders who did not lift a finger to back the miners had no hesitation in verbally stabbing the miners’ leadership in the back. Few who were active at the time will forget the disgraceful comment of Electricians leader, Eric Hammond, at the 1984 Labour Party Conference, that the miners were “lions led by donkeys”.

There are never exact historical parallels. However there are comparisons that can be fairly drawn – comparisons for example between the role played by some union leaders in 1984/5 and some of their counterparts today.

It is also fair to say that Caitriona Ruane’s attempt to face down strikes in order to impose a pay cut on classroom assistants would have Margaret Thatcher’s full and enthusiastic approval.

Yours truly,

Peter Hadden

Regional Secretary,

Socialist Party

author by dpublication date Fri Nov 30, 2007 16:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

can be found at

author by Former Blanketmanpublication date Fri Nov 30, 2007 18:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Paul Butler should apologise to the families of the Hunger Strikers for using the memory of Bobby and his comrades to score political points over the striking class room assistants. The people on the Falls who were cheering and honking their support didn't seem to feel agrieved by the posters.
I am a former Blanketman and I know that very few who lanquished in the H Blocks with the Hunger Strikers want anything to do with the present Sinn Fein, except for a few who are in the paid employment of the Shinners.
I fully realise that the war is over and agree with that but what sickens me is the fact that all the sacrifice and courage of the Hunger Strikers was in vain because those we trusted to free us from the shackles of British rule are now as corrupt as ever they were.
Paul Butler and company are no better than the Blanket Ordelies of the H Blocks.

author by B Murphypublication date Sat Dec 01, 2007 18:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

As the Shinners and the DUP keep reminding us the people voted them in. Anything, even a Dictatorship is OK as long as we aren't killing each other.
The people should realise that the IRA will never go back to war, there's too much money to be made in criminal activities especially as everyone is turning a blind eye, even to murder in order to keep the institutions up and running.

The longer the people keep these partys in Government the more arrogant they will become.

author by F Urquhartpublication date Sat Dec 29, 2007 13:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Not surprising to see the Socialist Party leeching on to an industrial dispute,its all they ever seem to do apart from attacking the real political parties and abusing trade unionists who do not support their simpleton views. No wonder these jokers cant even get a councillor elected,never mind an MP or an MLA. If they want to try to understand why working class people despise them and vote for working class parties like Sinn Fein in elections,maybe they should drop in to their nearest Sinn Fein advice centre and actually meet some working class people.

author by Jolly Red Giant - Socialist Party/CWIpublication date Sat Dec 29, 2007 16:48author address author phone Report this post to the editors

as Sinn Fein have amply demonstrated their willingness to attacks workers rights - I will ignore your definition of a 'working class' party and I will pass on visiting a Sinn Fein advice centre - after all the last time Classroom Assistants visited a Sinn Fein building they were abused by a prominent member of Sinn Fein.

author by WTpublication date Sat Dec 29, 2007 18:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I wouldn't dispute that there are grass-root members of Sinn Fein who work diligently for the working class people in their areas and are silently disgusted at what is happening at leadership level.
I fully understand that they have to make a living and are forced to tow the party line by those who pay their wages.
What I don't understand is, how can those in the upper echelons of the party who are supposed to be on an industrial wage like everyone else, afford to buy property and businesses when only a few years ago many of them had nothing?
Surely there are questions to be asked or is this another case of turning a blind eye?

author by Leechfinder General - Smash Hypocrisy Now!publication date Thu Feb 21, 2008 13:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Not too many of the well-heeled Trots on Nipsa's General Council and other bodies on an"industrial wage",Wolfie.These people are dripping with wealth and are an embarrassment to those of us who care about working class politics.There's not one of them would know a pick from a shovel.Thankfully we still have some parties that do care,like Sinn Fein.

author by WTpublication date Thu Feb 21, 2008 15:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Not too many Well-heeled $hinners on an Industrial wage neither. As for parties who care I most definitely wouldn't include Sinn Feign amongst those, if any exist that is.
Sinn Feign are a party on the move; Going between their various properties in their 4x4s as the Dark described them.

author by L Trotsky(deceased) - Unconsciously pickypublication date Sat Feb 23, 2008 13:48author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Some of us would certainly know an ice-pick from a shovel.

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