Exclusive interview with NIPSA President Padraig Mulholland (personal capacity)
Socialist Party member Padraig Mulholland was elected President of NIPSA, Northern Ireland’s largest union with 45,000 members, at its annual conference in early June. socialistpartyni.net spoke to Padraig after his election.
What is the significance of your victory?
The delegates to NIPSA conference voted for a left candidate who is prepared to fight. I made it clear in all my literature that I am a member of the Socialist Party and a member of the Broad Left, which brings together activists who want a fighting, democratic union. Broad Left candidates also won the Vice-President and Honorary Treasurer posts-a clean sweep of the senior elected positions in the union. These votes indicate the beginning of a changing mood in the union. Activists and members know that their terms and conditions are under attack and that vital public services are being cut back and they know that a resolute leadership is of key importance in the months ahead. The full time officers of the union need to be aware that our union is controlled by its members and I intend to reflect their views robustly in the months ahead.
What are the key issues facing the union at this time?
We are resisting vicious cuts on our public services, effective wage cuts, and attacks on our pension rights. It is also vitally important that we continue to campaign and take action. Further co-ordinated strike action across the public sector is on the cards for the autumn. Our members in the Housing Executive are taking action in the next few weeks. I will do my utmost to build this action.
The NIPSA conference voted this year on a motion to begin a debate on the need for political fund. What is the significance of the nearly 50% vote for this motion?
If the motion had been passed it would have allows members a say in whether NIPSA should be more “political”. My view is that NIPSA, and all the unions, should be political. At the moment we can only defend our interests industrially. We need a political voice too-a new, anti-sectarian party which represents the interests of working class people. NIPSA, with its mass membership drawn from both communities, is very well placed to play a role in bringing such a party into being. I believe that we will achieve the support of two-thirds of delegates for the motion, as is required, at some point soon.
You spoke at the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) AGM in London on June 9th. What do you believe is the significance of such networks?
In Northern Ireland the Network of Trade Union Activists (NTUA) plays a similar role to the NSSN. The NTUA was established late last year around the time of the magnificent one day public sector strike on November 30th. It has been very successful in bringing together activists from both public and private sector unions. In my opinion the NTUA is playing a very important role in creating a new layer of fighting union activists across the entire movement.