Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

ULA nonaligned election to Steering Committee: Therese Caherty

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On Saturday next, 28th April, the nonaligned members of the United Left Alliance will elect two of their number to the Steering Committee. There are three candidates:  Alan Gibson (Cork), Joe Loughnane (Galway) and Therese Caherty (Dublin Central).

In three posts we bring you their election statements. The third is from Therese Caherty:

Election Statement

As a socialist, feminist, single-issue activist I joined the ULA because it has the potential to become a broad anti-capitalist party capable of attracting in and representing a broad range of people. This includes those without an extensive history of involvement in Left politics who are beginning to question the government’s policies in tackling the economic and fiscal crises. The founding organisations are to be commended for having brought us to the point of this conference and election. But we are now undeniably stuck and need to look at ways to re-energise, refocus and move forward to realise our potential.

 

Non-aligned ULA members are particularly well placed to build the alliance as a new, active, diverse radical party. We need to work to ensure that the ULA is promoted on the public and political stages and that attention and resources are devoted to the alliance rather than to several campaigns and recruitment drives directed back at the founding organisations. We also need clear structures to ensure the ULA has a healthy, open democratic internal life.

The non-aligned grouping is beginning to take shape but has no structure. Whoever is elected will not be so much representing as building us into a force. We have the possibility to lead by example – how we develop should be a template for how the ULA develops. A priority is to draft a “memorandum of agreement” on how we conduct ourselves as a group, online and off. Recent wrangles, on the nonaligned Google mailing group, with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner and a Youth Defence-type supporter show how important it is to have simple protocols around joining our discussion group and rules of engagement when interacting.

The term “non aligned” does not express who we really are. In fact, a major challenge for us is that we are all definitely aligned. The terms non-party activist / independents explain that while we might have similar views we are not members of the three founding parties. We have to acknowledge our political differences but pledge our commitment to the programme of the ULA and its development. This programme is sufficient as a starting point to organise around and is adequate for people who have a long track record of involvement in Left politics and those like myself who do not. Despite our diversity, we need to forge our own distinctive identify within the ULA so that we speak with one voice on agreed issues – and are ready to include newcomers who may never have been involved in a political organisation but who are angry and anxious to defend their living and working conditions.

Our experience is not uncommon: there are other parties in Europe from which we can learn how to progress.  On that basis, I believe we should start speaking immediately to those in sister organisations across Europe: Die Linke in Germany, Partie de Gauche and the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste in France, the Left Bloc in Portugal, Red Green Alliance in Denmark and learn from their experience.

We need more women in the ULA – on committees, sub-committees, public platforms and so on. And we have to be more explicit in our public commitment to a woman’s right to choose. Lack of access to safe free legal abortion in Ireland is a profound discrimination. It denies women self determination and is the basis for questioning our agency and ability to make “the right decisions” not just on abortion but in many other areas.

We independents should produce our own literature. This would help to advertise the existence of a third force within the ULA that can accommodate those who don’t want to join the People Before Profit Alliance or the Socialist Party. The ULA itself needs its own publication. At this point, having public meetings where the founders have a visible presence through their newspapers but the alliance as a whole does not, makes no sense.

Again, on the broader ULA front, we need more communication from the centre. The arrival of two full-timers has been great: regular bulletins and updates on activities were long overdue. But we should have edited minutes of steering committee meetings. Info on committee members should be available on the website. Open internal bulletins and activist meetings are vital for developing political discussion and beginning to create an internal political life for our alliance. The proposed ‘Branch Council’ would be a welcome step in this direction. Also welcome is the election of two nonaligned members to the steering committee.

Nevertheless if the ULA is to survive and thrive, the practice of handing down decisions by a small committee (mostly appointed by the founding organisations) is not sustainable for too long.

Finally, the ULA should register as a political party and take definite steps towards becoming a party.

Brief biog

Throughout twenty years working for national newspapers (freelance, later staff) I was secretary of Dublin Freelance branch of the National Union of Journalists; elected on a job-share to the Executive Council where I was Training Officer and Freelance Officer; I was also Ireland’s rep on the union’s Freelance Industrial Council. When staffed, I became secretary of the house chapel and worked consistently to ensure that our union agreement was adhered to by management.

Currently, I’m co-convenor of Feminist Open Forum, a space open to all where issues of the day are discussed from a feminist perspective.

I am also anchoring two projects: to commemorate the Irish Women Workers Union with a sculpture to be unveiled on International Women’s Day 2013; an event to critique Ireland’s partisan media.

Written by tomasoflatharta

April 23, 2012 at 4:49 pm

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