From Militant Irish Monthly, No. 76, Sept. 1979.
Transcribed by Ciaran Crossey – marked up by Pat Lawlor.
The entire gas industry in Northern Ireland has been pointed in the direction of the scrapyard by the Tories. In one announcement they have effectively axed over 1,200 jobs as well as imposing the burden on thousands of gas consumers of finding an alternative energy supply.
This decision will hit the poorest section of the population hardest. Apart from the job losses and the consequent loss of opportunities for youth the loss of gas will hit mainly the working class areas, especially in Belfast. The majority of gas consumers are working class people. In their statement the Tories have stated that grants to convert to another energy form might have to be considered but have hinted that a means test would apply.
All in all the closure of the industry would mean chaos. It would take about five years and an estimated £16,350 million to finally close the largest gas undertaking in Belfast. On top of this would be the twin wastage of over 1,000 people on the dole, and the highly sophisticated refining equipment at Sydenham lying idle. Industry also would be affected as all the major engineering firms, companies such as Shorts, Harland and Wolffs, Mackies, depend partly or largely on gas. There are entire Housing Executive estates dependent on gas for cooking and heating. The trade unions must take up the fight to stop the closure of this industry. To date their opposition has been limited to a few statements. These fine words must be converted into action.
It is already ICTU policy that there should be a rationalised, integrated and entirely publicly owned energy industry. If gas, electricity, coal and, other safe energy forms are developed in unison, not in cut-throat competition, each could be accorded its proper place.
Such a sane approach to the organisation of society’s energy needs is not possible under the Tories and their economic system. Only firm action by the entire trade union movement can effectively give the Tories the answer they deserve.
By Peter Hadden
Last updated: 25.9.2013