Wigmore 18 April 1985 - Trade Unions, Hugh Leonard, teaching unions

  • 17 April 1985
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WHO SAYS solidarity and comradeship are things of the past? The legendary Christy Dunne has been languishing in a Spanish cooler in Palma since way back when, strapped for £6,000 bail money and no doubt depressed by tales from the old sod that some members of the family haven't exactly been busting a gut to come up with the readies.

Heartwarming, then, to discover that some of those who remember that Christy himself was never slow to put the hand in the pocket when others were similarly embarrassed have been making the relevant rounds and taking a collection. One decent Dub skin tossed in five ton a couple of weeks back.

As modest as they are charitable, none of those involved has sought public acclaim for this exemplary act of selfless philanthropy.

* * *

TRADE UNIONISTS intrigued by the glorious sun-tans sported by Gerry Quigley of the INTO and Billy Attley of the FWUI will be pleased to learn that the two brothers acquired the Greek-god-golden look while on a recent visit to Israel as allpaid guests of the Histadrut, the Zionist "labour" organisation which, according to its own constitution, exists for two main reasons: to keep Palestinians out of jobs in their own country' and, as far as is possible, to exclude Palestiinian produce from the Israeli market.

An emissary from this racist prootection racket attended the ICTU conference in Wexford last July and conveyed the invitation. Discussion at the executive of whether it should be taken up was heated, and spread over more than one meeting.

The invitation was eventually acceppted by a substantial majority. Those voting against included John Mitchell of !DATU, Phil Flynn of the LGPSU, Maureen Ganley of the TUI and Kieran Mulvey of the ASTI.

Among those voting in favour was Billy Wallace of the Tailor and Garrment Workers' Union, whose position on most matters is thought to be within shouting distance of that of the Communist Party of Ireland. Asked afterwards to explain this curious beehaviour, Wallace replied that if he hadn't supported the Histadrut invitation, other .executive members might in future decline to support invitaations from the trade union movement of the Soviet Union.

In exchanges following the final vote to accept, Phil Flynn described' the decision as "about the most unnprincipled thing I have ever encounntered in the trade union movement."

Oh, stick around Phil, there could be a junket to Johannes berg in the offing.

* * *

I NOTE THAT the Progressive Element has been nipping at the heels of Dublin Archbishop Kevin McNamara yet again 'over his advice to the Association of Primary Teaching Sisters that: "Young children in general have a great gift for memorisation which should be used to the full in religious education. Religious teachers should not be afraid to ask children to memorise what they do not yet fully understand."

There is only one aspect of this about which the Progressive Element is entitled to complain, which is that, matter of fact, young children in general do not have a great gift for memorisation. But no matter.

The reason it is important that ~ Catholic teaching is drummed into Q the tousled heads of very young:

children is that if this were left until later children might flatly refuse to accept the teaching at all. The strength of Christian teaching - and this appplies most particularly to its Roman Catholic variant lies not in its crediibility but in its incredibility. Miracles and mysteries are, by definition, not capable of rational explanation. They cannot be "fully understood". It is therefore vitally important to the Catholic church that it be allowed open access to potential recruits at a time when they are minded to accept notions which are, on the face of it, ridiculous, and that during this period there be no intrusion from purveyors or casual carriers of alternative sets of ideas. (Thus the concept of the "reliigious ethos of the school.")

As so often, Dr McNamara was not advocating anything unusually obbscurantist, reactionary or old-fashioned. He was describing to the sisters the only way it is possible for the Catholic church to continue to recruit a majoority of the populace to its ranks. The method flows directly from the nature of the ideas. It is, thus, perfect nonnsense to complain about the method while failing to confront the ideas. "Progressives" who do not oppose Catholicism as such should be told by Dr McNamara to go take a running jump at themselves.

* * *

FAIR PLAY to the Albanians!

When a telegram of condolence on the death of long-time leader Enver Hoxha arrived from Moscow the Allbanians promptly sent it back. At the same time they announced that they wanted no professional mourners from ruling classes around the world to book excursions to Tirana for the wake.

What a splendid example to other world leaders! How refreshing it would have been if, on the recent death of Comrade Chernenko, the Soviet Polittburo had responded to the stock exxpression of sympathy from the United States with a cryptic cablegram messsage: "Stick it, Ronnie."

But then, the Albanians never did learn the niceties of diplomatic exchange. The standard explanation of this has been that, self-isolated and highly Stalinised since the Second World War, the Hoxha regime has developed independently of changing trends in international relations and as a result just doesn't know how to beehave.

The real reason is that Enver Hoxha and Hugh Leonard are one and the same person, as the accompanying photographs clearly demonstrate. Hoxha/Leonard , anxious both to preeserve his tax-free status as a creative writer in Ireland and to indulge his tendencies towards megalomania in Albania, found it necessary to keep at least one of these countries (sometimes both) totally isolated from the rest of the world, lest, say, a Joe Walsh pack - . age tourist disrupt a May-Day demo in Tirana with the exclamation that:

"Jayshus, it's your man from the Late, Late."

Close observers have noted that no Hugh Leonard play has ever opened while the Central Committee of the Albanian Communist Party has been in session! It would be rather stretching credulity to suggest that this is mere coincidence.

* * *

ALL THREE major teaching union conferences (INTO, ASTI and TUI) at Easter weighed in heavy on the teachers -entitled -to -private-Iives bit:

Eileen Flynn case a disgrace, serious implications, need for protective legisslation, won't allow happen to our members, etc. And what a pity foolish Ms Flynn never joined a union . . .

would have made all the difference.

Would it now?

Danny Burke, geography teacher in St Peter's Secondary School in West Belfast for twelve years, was an active and fully paid-up member of the INTO when dismissed from his job in April last year. His recognition as a teacher had been withdrawn by the North's Department of Education which .claimed that inspectors had criticised .his work.

No one involved in the case doubted .that at least as relevant was the fact that Burke was/is a political activist with strong left-wing convictions which led him into conflict with the Norrthern authorities (over H-Block, for 'example), and with the Catholic school management over a variety of .issues. This was eventually confirmed when the departmental file on the case was opened at a High Court hearing in Belfast in June last year.

Before that, however, the INTO, at its annual Northern conference in the Forum Hotel in Belfast in March, had voted unanimously to take indusstrial action if Burke's case - he had already been notified of the intention to withdraw his recognition - was not satisfactorily resolved 'and an indepen-' dent procedure for reviewing discipplinary action against teachers introoduced. The specific industrial action proposed was withdrawal of cooperaation from the inspectorate.

When St Peter's went ahead and sacked Burke in April, no industrial action was forthcoming. Instead, the INTO took Burke's case to court, which (cf Eileen Flynn) achieved nothing. Still, there was no move to implement the unanimous March deciision to take industrial action.

At the AGM of the West Belfast branch of the INTO in January, Burke's credentials for attending were challennged by a prominent member of the union's Northern Committee - on the ground that he was no longer a teacher! The challenge was upheld by the chair.

The union, having resolved to fight his sacking by industrial action, has, in effect, expelled him for having been sacked. He is now unemployable as a teacher in the North, has no union to represent him in any effort to remedy this situation and can while away the time he spends in dole queues calcuulating how much he paid in dues during his dozen years as a loyal member of the INTO.

WASP-WAISTED, odd-socked, svelttsuited, Henry Mountcharles, Lord of Slane Castle and dispenser of freebie tickets and back-stage passes for the upcoming Springsteen back-garden bash; sex-symbol, political thinker and vibrant all-round personality, is Wiggmore's Man of the Month!

The title goes to Henry in recogniition of his clear-minded call for a new political party, published in Hot Press (the Irish Times of the under-40 set) last week.

Urging Mr Desmond O'Malley to go the whole hog and launch a party which will sweep away the "hotchhpotch of mini-alliances bearing no relationship whatsoever to ideological and philosophical divisions," and indiicating that if Mr 0 'Malley does so he, Henry, will not be a bit backward about coming forward with the annual subscription, he sets out to define the exact ideological and philosophical content of a party which would reeflect the aforementioned divisions.

On the National Question: "Since 1970 there has been much confused and ambivalent thinking on the Naational Question. (There is thus need for) a redefinition of Republicanism."

And here it comes: "A new political party would have to stand by the Republic, and draw its inspiration for its thoughts on constitutional matters from the United States of America."

That's it. The redefinition of Reepublicanism.

Now for social and economic mattters. " ... need to push for legislative reform in areas of social concern, reflecting the changing complexion of society, taking steps to protect the interests of minorities and the more deprived ... A specific programme of legislative measures in this area should be put together."

Note that Henry does not call for any old programme of legislative measures. He demands a specific programme. Clear-minded, as I say.

So much for the National Question and the social and economic thingummmies. We now turn to the alienation of the populace from political instituutions: "It is perhaps on the very buildding blocks of imagination and courage that the future of a new political party 'will depend."

Argue with that.

I am reminded. of a gathering of socialist intellectuals in the North in February 1969 at which a manifesto was being pieced together for that month's Stormont election. It was felt that our policy for the agricultural secctor in the imminent revolution should be spelled out in some detail. A fourrhour discussion took place during which the experiences of the Chinese peasantry did not go unmentioned, nor the theories of Michael Davitt, Stalin's "liquidation of the Kulaks as a class," de Valera and the land annuiities, the unrepresentative nature of the National Farmers' Union and so forth. The policy statement finally read (in full): "A sharp new approach to agriiculture."

Worked a treat.

Henry's a genius. Apart from being dispenser of freebie tickets, backkstage passes - and maybe even intros to Brucie himself! And Wigmore Man of the Month. .

* * *

Man of the Month - Henry Mountcharles

NOTHING illustrates better the ideoloogical bankruptcy of the Free State business class than the fact that someeone as shallow-minded and badly-read as Ivor Kenny can emerge as its main spokesman.

Foolishly ignoring my kindly-meant advice that, in light of the ICI fiasco, persons such as himself and Niall Crowley should make like Cistercian monks for a decent number of decades, the capering Kenny took to the boards to entertain the Mullingar and District Chamber of Commerce and Industry with a treatise on, as the Irish Times put it, "How business can fight back against the 'New Left' media."

Said Ivor: "Members of the New Left do not 'control' the media. In many instances they are the media."

That bears thinking about. Think about it. The Evening Herald. Eoghan Harris. The morning Indo. The Sunday Press. The RTE nine o'clock news. The Gay Byrne Hour. BP Fallon ....

The late Myles na gCopaleen once penned a piece alleging the existence of a squad of malevolent ventrilooquists whose sport it was to infiltrate the company of important persons and cause them to appear to voice sentences and sentiments which made them objects of general ridicule. I fear that a detachment from this squad may be prowling the vicinity of Mullingar.

Ivor also informed the burghers of Mullingar that "Fear and dislike are healthy democratic instincts," before going on to try his hand at Profound Aphorisms ("Education is always raissing questions. Advertising is always giving answers.") and finally promiising a new macho style of replying to the anti-business taunts of the New Left media-folk: "What has to be done, to set the record straight, is a public rebuttal, detailed, polemical and sharpply phrased, so as to challenge the reeporter's professional integrity."

It could be that the rattled little fellow has finally flipped the lid. On the other hand, maybe he's serious.

Come on, Ivor, make my day.