Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History


Matt Merrigan, Eagle or Cuckoo?: The Story of the ATGWU in Ireland, Matmer Publications, Dublin 1989, pp332, £9.50/£19.95

Many Irish workers continue to belong to unions based in Britain, just as they did before the Irish Republic was established. The Irish Region of the Transport and General Workers Union has its title prefaced by the word Amalgamated because of legal harassment by the Dublin based ITGWU.

This book is disappointing in that it gives a disproportionate amount of space to national conferences and bureaucratic quarrels compared to that devoted to grass-roots struggles. This is surprising, considering that Matt Merrigan is a highly respected left wing former official of the union, who has an outstanding record of service to the movement. However, as the book’s title implies, international recognition and legal considerations have been very important in fighting off nationalist attacks on the ATGWU’s right to exist.

These attacks have failed, partly because excluding British based unions from the Irish Republic would implicitly accept partition. The author accepts the Connolly/nationalist doctrine, which is more popular among the British left than among Irish workers, although he is more critical of the Catholic Church than Connolly ever was.

John Sullivan

Updated by ETOL: 12.7.2003