The great lock-out in 1913–14 was “an apprenticeship in brutality, a hardening of the heart of the Irish employing class” (Connolly). The current attack on Irish workers by the state sees the ruling class re-enacting that brutality through its continuous austerity measures being hurled at workers, their families, the unemployed, and community organisations.
For the last three years we have been active witnesses to this. There is not a household or an individual unaffected—some worse than others—unless you are in the “fat cat” bracket.
The consequence of the triumph of the bankers and their fellow-travellers has led the country to an economic crisis, which has almost destroyed our existence as an independent, sovereign state. Now, self-interest furnished by greed is not unusual in a capitalist state: what is unusually was the previous Government’s response. They accepted liability for the debts of private speculators. The second staggering blow to the Irish people is that the present Government is continuing with this policy. These policies are not in working people’s interest: the poor, the marginalised, the unemployed are the scapegoats.
Let us put the debt and the present economic and political policies into context. The decision to continue to pay the speculators has resulted in Ireland carrying 42 per cent of the entire euro-zone bank debt. Now that is overwhelming: to put it in context, every man, woman and child pays €9,000 of bad bank debt, compared with €192 per capita in other euro-zone states. (These figures were supplied by Michael Taft of Unite.)
Connolly understood that the working class needed fighting, militant trade unions to defend their interests, given the irreconcilable divisions between workers and a capitalist class that sought to brutally maximise profits at its expense. But trade unions are only one part of the representative coin. It is political parties that make the decisions that affect all citizens. The question is, are trade union interests being represented by present Labour Party policy?