The Ulster General Strike (1974): Including Strike Bulletins of the Workers Association
Date:July 1977
Organisation: The Workers' Association
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Subjects: Ulster Workers' Council strike, 1974

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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

4th April 2011

This document is a compendium of bulletins issued by the Workers Association , essentially the British and Irish Communist Organisation , during the Ulster Workers Council Strike in 1974.

As it notes:

The Strike Bulletins were issued during the General Strike organised by the Ulster Workers’ Council in May 1974. Published as a pamphlet, June 1974. Republished with Introduction, July 1977.

The individual bulletins are of considerable interest, but some excerpts from the Introduction will serve to give an overview of the WA analysis of the UWC Strike. As might be expected from a document issued by the WA it takes a strongly polemical line.

It argues that the Strike which occurred in May 1974 and which saw the fall of the devolved Stormont power-sharing administration and the effective end of the structures introduced under the Sunningdale Agreement …

…the effective demand of the strike was that either the Council of Ireland aspect of the Agreement should not be ratified by the Stormont Assembly, or an assembly election should be called. Since it had been made abundantly clear by the Westminster election in February 1974 that a substantial majority of the electorate was opposed to the establishment of a Council of Ireland under existing circumstances, this demand was entirely reasonable. But the Government (which is to say the Stormont government under the hegemony of the Westminster government) resisted this demand with blind stubbornness for two weeks - and then capitulated in an extravagantly excessive manner. Not the slightest concession was made to the will of the majority for two weeks, and then a massive concession was made which exceeded the hopes of the most extreme opponents of Sunningdale amongst the strikers.

The document further argues that ‘Ulster is a region of the UK that is inherently unsuitable for devolved government, but devolved government was imposed on it against its will in 1920 by Westminster as part of a grand imperial strategy for reaching an accommodation with the IRA on an all-Ireland framework loosely associated with the UK’.

It continues ‘neither of these communities [“Catholic nationalist” and “British” are the terms used in the document] wished to have to cope with the other in a provincial statelet. Yet that is what Westminster insisted should be the case’.

And it posits that ‘What they [the communities] required in order to supersede their local antagonism was the greatest possible involvement in the politics of the larger multi-national state of the UK. What they got was a provincial statelet which sealed them off from political involvement in the mainstream politics of the United Kingdom’.

In this analysis it can suggest that:

Much has been written about ‘fifty years of Unionist misrule’ in Ulster. But that ‘misrule’ resulted from the very fact of devolved government rather from [sic] the behaviour of the party which had to operate it. Because the structure of devolution was itself inherently divisive, and because its establishment was opposed by the Unionist Party, it is unreasonable to hold the Unionist Party responsible for the consequences of devolution.

In relation to Sunningdale the document concentrates on the Council of Ireland.

A word needs to be said about the structure of the Council of Ireland. It was to have two tiers: A Council of Ministers and a Consultative Assembly. The Council of Ministers would be made up of members of the Dublin and Stormont governments (seven from each), and would “act by unanimity”. The Consultative Assembly would consist of 60 members, half of whom would be elected by the Dáil and half from the Stormont Assembly on the basis of proportional representation. There would therefore be a clear anti-Partitionist majority (the Dáil 50% plus the SDLP) in both the Council of Ministers and the Consultative Assembly. In the Council of Ministers this would be negated in executive mattersby the unanimity rule. But it would make the Consultative Assembly into an agitational centre for an all-Ireland government.

The actual Strike itself is therefore regarded by the Workers Association as an entirely legitimate political strike [see Strike Bulletin No. 1] since it regarded the Assembly as ‘grossly unrepresentative’ and the demands of the UWC and previous to that the UUUC as reasonable.

It notes that:

The Workers’ Association began to issue its Strike Bulletins on the first weekend of the strike. It had no connection with the UWC and no inside information. It began to issue these Bulletins on the evidence of its senses in order to counteract the gross misrepresentation of events in the media. By the end of the strike the Bulletins were in mass circulation.

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  • By: Jim Monaghan Mon, 04 Apr 2011 07:34:47

    They lined up with a near fascist reaction. It was like backing the pied noirs against De Gaulle.I am bemused their later conversion to old style nationalism. I remember in Paddy Devlins book his description of an incident where his police escort disappeared while he was approaching a loyalist checkpoint. This was a genesis of the PD and RMG fear of a Rhodesian situation. It was not a strike but a lockout.

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  • By: Starkadder Mon, 04 Apr 2011 11:20:31

    “their later conversion to old style nationalism.”

    I think I remember Brendan Clifford denying that the IRP Group was a nationalist or republican group,instead saying that it was still a “two-nations” group.

    One of the regular contributors to Athol Books is a woman named Julianne Herlihy, who wrote an article (“Buddhists and West Cork”, in “Church and State Magazine”, Fourth Quarter, 2010 )
    denouncing the Dzogchen Beara Buddhist centre.
    Herlihy claimed the centre was “completely out of
    place for this part of Ireland”, mentioned Buddhist riots in Asia, then went into full
    Áine Ní Chonaill mode with this rant:

    “there is a danger that Ireland can be too tolerant while we ourselves experience intolerance
    here at home and abroad”.

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  • By: Mark P Mon, 04 Apr 2011 17:20:51

    I’d seen some of these bulletins before. It’s fascinating to see them all in one place. Fascinating and horrifying.

    Also, Jesus Christ, Jim, give the pied noirs stuff a rest.

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  • By: Earl Williams Mon, 04 Apr 2011 18:07:34

    Only one-fifth of the Pieds Noir were actually of French extraction. The rest were from Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece. Maybe that made it easier for metropolitan France to cut them loose?

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  • By: Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen (und nicht so radikalen) Linken « Entdinglichung Tue, 12 Apr 2011 15:54:25

    […] of the Socialist Party of Ireland with Declaration of Principles (1951) * Workers Association: The Ulster General Strike, 1974, including Strike Bulletins of the Workers Association, 2nd Edition (1977, von einer Vorfeldorganisation der British and Irish Communist Organisation […]

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