Are trade union leaders in the Republic of Ireland bringing people onto the streets acting patriotically? The extraordinary economic environment in which we are currently living is intellectually very thought provoking. What an opportunity has been missed by leaders generally not to redefine ‘patriotism.’In nationalist Ireland for far too long ‘nationalism’ has been identified with the notion of giving one’s life for one’s country: The song ‘ The Patriot Game’ with the immortal words: “For the love of one’s country is a terrible thing” perpetuated the notion of ‘ being part of the patriot game.’
As someone who lived through the playing out of ‘the patriot game’ on all sides in Belfast for thirty years I believe the time has come to update our sense of patriotism. This does not mean someone who feels British ceases to be British or someone who is Irish ceases to be Irish but a redefinition of patriotism places an onus on each and everyone to share responsibility at every level of society.
It means in the public sector willingly taking big cuts to make sure people at the bottom of pile are protected. In the private sector workers have already taken cuts high as thirty per cent. What has gone before is now irrelevant. All Oppositions went with the spending spree of th past decade.
Now is the time to face up to where we are. Having been a trade union leader for years I am arguing true patriotism demands of union leaders now not to falsely raise people’s expectations in leading them onto the streets. Governments haven’t got money to meet the demands of many union leaders on behalf of their members.
We know all the arguments about the governments underpinning banks etc. The banks are behaving appallingly but union leaders should not play with the emotions of people in dire straits in creating false hopes.
Spend more time behind closed doors wrestling with government ministers to establish how the homes of young couples like the two young coulples who appeared on The Late Late Show who are facing ruin as the banks seek to take possession of their homes.
This is where the real role of the Unions rests.
In expending this energy in constructively using their time they would not have time to bring people onto the streets raising false expectations. This is not about propaganda victories but about true patriotism – rallying where we can.