So my two friends and colleagues - Billy Hutchinson
and David Ervine - are bastards and traitors. That
is not a statement emanating from the anti-agreement
unionist or dissident loyalist camp (who no doubt
agree with the statement) it comes from my friend
and trade union colleague Sean Smyth. According
to Sean, because Billy and David dared to seek
a mandate from the unionist working class - and worse
still, actually got elected as MLAs - they are
bastards and traitors who betrayed the working
class over a prawn sandwich and a glass of chardonnay.
Poor Hutchie, since he doesnt drink alcoholic
beverages his reward for selling out his working class
constituency was a mere prawn sandwich - and I am
not even sure if he likes prawn sandwiches.
am not an MLA but, like Billy and David, I belong
to one of the local political parties which Sean singles
out for criticism and, since all local parties
have, according Sean, given full support to the neo-liberal
capitalist agenda of the British and Irish governments,
I too must be a bastard and a traitor - and I hate
both prawns and chardonnay. Poor me - no reward at
all for selling out my class.
Much of what Sean says about the N.I. Assembly is
absolutely spot on. It had done absolutely nothing
for the working and workless classes except further
disempower them. The four parties represented on the
Northern Ireland Executive did nothing to address
the chronic social and economic issues facing working
class communities and, if we add up the numbers of
MLAs representing those four parties, it could
be said that the Assembly itself was as guilty as
the Executive. But that does not mean that every member
of the Assembly concurred in the sell-out to neo-liberal
Hutchinson and David Ervine certainly did not concur
and they have consistently supported PUP constituency
associations on a number of social and economic issues,
PUP is the only party at Stormont to oppose all
forms of privatisation and to endorse Unisons
Positively Public campaign.
PUP has been consistent in its call for a Living
Wage rather than a minimum wage and at our party
conference in October there was unanimous support
for a motion that the minimum wage be increased
to £7.50 per hour - at least £2.50 an
hour above what other parties in the Assembly have
reluctantly called for.
PUP is the only Assembly party to call for a minimum
income guarantee for all those in retirement of
£150 per week, and for the restoration of
the earnings link to the basic state pension and
up-rating to the level it would have been if the
link had not been broken.
PUP has demanded a revision and a strengthening
of the Social & Economic Rights section of the
draft Human Rights Bill because, in our opinion,
poverty is a violation of basic human rights.
party has pressed for a definite anti-poverty strategy
(with ministers accountable for it) to be incorporated
into the Programme for Government.
PUP was they only Assembly Party to support the
Fire Brigade Unions demand for £30,000
per year with no conditions attached.
party actively supported the term-time workers in
their struggle with the Department of Education
over pay and conditions and Billy Hutchinson is
supporting former Richardsons workers in their
struggle with their former employers over redundancy
pay and pensions.
party has been consistent in its opposition to the
11 plus and all forms of academic selection. In
North Belfast the only MLA to organise a public
cross-community debate on the Burns Report
was Billy Hutchinson. This debate, which was boycotted
by other local MLAs, involved educators from
both the Catholic Maintained sector and the State
sector as well as representatives from the community
education sector and pupils from both the Catholic
maintained and state sectors.
PUP opposed the budget for the Executives
Programme for Government and has been consistent
in opposing the lobby to lower corporation tax.
to my knowledge David Ervine and Billy Hutchinson
are the only two MLAs to oppose Plan
Colombia, and the PUP is the only Assembly
party to publicly endorse the work of the European
Social Forum in challenging global economic systems.
106 to 2 in the Assembly Billy Hutchinson and David
Ervine have, when not blocked by the big four
Executive parties, fought their corner on behalf of
their working class constituents. It is significant
that those who have whinged and girned for generations
about non-representation in the corridors of power
are some of the people who are now guilty of trying
to silence the PUP at Stormont and elsewhere. Billy
Hutchison and David Ervine may be a lot of things,
but they are certainly not the bastards and traitors
whom Sean Smyth claims are wining and dining with
the patrons of neo-liberal capitalism.
the first time since the inception of the state the
unionist working classes have representatives who
are prepared to represent their interests, and for
the first time in generations, working class unionists
are beginning to look to themselves for answers to
their social and economic problems. That is something
that ought to be encouraged, not knocked.
concern about sectarianism needs to be heeded. The
Assembly is structured on sectarian lines because
both the SDLP and Sinn Fein demanded a system of local
government that included them in Executive positions
as of right. They were so damned anxious to help administer
British rule in Ireland that they insisted on being
in government as of right. Yes, Sean. Those who campaigned
for so long against sectarian politics were the very
ones that demanded a sectarian head count at Stormont.
But sectarianism comes in many forms, and the broader
socialist movement has as many sects as
any other sector. Which socialist party would Sean
encourage working class unionists to vote for - Socialist
Workers Party, Socialist Party, Community Party, Workers
Party, IRSP, Social Democracy! If, by chance, one
of these parties were successful in having two members
returned to Stormont (or any other Assembly) would
they be any more successful than Billy or David in
the PUP is by definition a unionist party
and it is a fact that the vast majority of working
class Protestants (if we must use religious terminology)
support the union with Great Britain. They have a
right to be pro-union and they have a right to have
their pro-union aspirations validated. None of the
socialist parties which I have mentioned are willing
to acknowledge the right of working class Protestants
to be unionists and cannot therefore truly
represent their interests. As Sean knows, members
the PUP have been actively seeking to hold out the
hand of friendship to members of these socialist groups,
and a number of groups have responded favourably.
The whole debate about the merits and demerits of
the Belfast Agreement and working class politics needs
to be debated and some of us are doing just that,
but it does nothing for working class unity for Sean
to lump Billy and David ( and others like myself,
by association) along with the bastards and
traitors who oppose working class interests.
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