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Peter Hadden

Socialist candidates in local elections

(April 1985)

From Militant Irish Monthly, Issue 130N, April 1985.
Transcribed and marked up by Ciaran Crossey.

£4.6 million cut from the budget of the Eastern Health Board whose services cover 41% of the Northern population! In human terms this means up to 1,000 jobs may go, wards will close and services will be cut. Hospital waiting lists will grow longer and people will die.

This is only one of the issues which should be to the fore in the local government elections. There are many others. The province’s gas industry is on the verge of closure. Coleraine Council has just voted to close the local gas plant.

Jobs threatened

The proposals now being discussed by Belfast Council would mean an immediate 50% reduction in jobs in Belfast Gas and the shrinking of the industry to a level where its long term future is doubtful – to say the least! Meanwhile, the position of the Tory government is that the whole enterprise must close.

Local councillors run the gas industry. The councils appoint representatives to sit on the Health Boards, on the Education Boards and on the Housing Executive.

Because all the councils are controlled by Tories and bigots, there has been no fight to stop the cuts in services. Instead each and every one of these bodies has agreed to act as the executioner, the axe man, for the Tories.


Already from the major parties we have had a foretaste of their efforts to ensure that the election is a sectarian headcount. The DUP are running solely on an anti-Sinn Fein ticket. Others, like George Seawright, taking a cue from Sinn Fein, are trying to make an issue of which flag flies over the city’s leisure centres.

The reason is clear. These parties do not wish to fight on class issues because they have nothing to offer. They are either out and out Tories themselves, supporting the cuts, or they are bigots who are opposed to workers coming together to fight for the preservation of services.

What is needed is a class alternative to the Tories and bigots. This election was an opportunity for the trade unions to intervene, putting forward candidates on a labour ticket and on socialist policies. This has not been done – but as we go to oppress there is still time for the trades Councils to nominate candidates in areas where Labour candidates are not standing and to support these where they are.

The Labour and Trade Union Group has campaigned for over twelve months for such a trade union intervention and has gained much support from trade union activists, from the unemployed and the youth. Given that the trade unions have not themselves put up candidates the Labour and Trade Union Group had decided to contest at least some seats so that a socialist alternative is presented in some areas.

All workers, unemployed, women and youth should wholeheartedly endorse this bold step, and work for and vote for such candidates where they stand. Support should also be given to this standing on a bona fide Labour ticket in other areas. In this way elections can be used as a means of pressing the trade unions into political activity through the building of a mass Labour Party which could make the practice of sectarian head-counting at election time a thing of the past.

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Last updated: 19 December 2014