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|Subjects:||Ulster Workers' Council strike, 1974|
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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.