Quite apart from the pros and cons of Lisbon, it is comforting to know that a knowledgeable core of the electorate, when pressed, is strong enough to steer a safe passage through all the bluster and lies, from whatever quarter.
And now that SIPTU general president Jack O’Connor has put the country on notice that we are in for a winter of industrial unrest, we will need that core of stability to overcome possible challenges to our democratic structures. It is unfortunate that we must face into this uncertainty at a time when our political leaders are in disarray and our economy is virtually on life support. However, that is how it is. But why should four million people have to watch on helplessly as unelected, well-paid union leaders carve up a diminishing cake in the interests of well protected members, and at the cost of thousands of private sector jobs?
Trade unions are an essential part of any democracy but they are morally bound to respect the will of the people as a whole, and not just their members.
Disingenuous attempts by some union spokespeople to gloss over the proven differential in pay and conditions between the public and private sectors is simply laughable though, of course, those on lower pay should be exempted from pay cuts. Fat cats are not only to be found in the banks and the boardrooms — there are many fat cats in the public sector, and even in some of the unions.
Mr O’Connor and SIPTU’s head of communications, Frank Connolly, will have a large say in how the ICTU conducts its negotiations with employers and the Government. By virtue of their powerful positions as union leaders they have the leverage to progress or impede economic recovery. The signs to date, however, are far from encouraging. They seem to have chosen the path of confrontation. O’Connor and Connolly must face up to the reality of massive job losses and drop their far left mantra of “them and us”.