“Knowledge is power and I’m looking forward to bathing in know,edge and spreading it after the weekend” is how ICTU President Eugene McGlone ended his welcome address today at the 4th annual Global solidarity summer school in Wexford.
Eugene’s words came after Minister of State Joe Costello opened the summer school with words about his area of responsibility for trade and development at the department of foreign affairs. The minister is putting the finishing touches to a white paper for Irish aid which is a result of extensive consultations with civil society in Ireland. Minister Costello spoke about how he intends there to be a summer school for Irish aid in the future. He also spoke on how the trade union movement has a role in bonding society together. This was a common theme through the afternoon as delegates were poised with the question of how do we make the union movement relevant. One way is through participation in society as a whole and be active in campaigns, campaigns like the one that will replace the millennium development goals which are up in 2015. As Ireland takes on the eu presidency for the first half of 2013 this small country could have influence on what will replace these goals.
The global solidarity summer school had approx 80 people all trying to find ways that they can help make a difference. These people are a starting point, a chance to go back to the wider trade union movement in general and Force change upon it. Discussions took place around Colombia where one of the Colombian delegation that travelled with an international group this year has been missing since April. There was also talk about Palestine where jack o conor from siptu is on the record as saying “what’s happening in Palestine is the greatest crime to humanity over the past hundred years”.
Roland Munck from dcu posed the question to delegates “what is global solidarity “. Is it just stopping the race to the bottom? is it about decent work for all? is it stopping forced child labour? Or is it more? He suggested we can’t look at one country in isolation and that globalisation is not only about capitalism spreading its wings it can be about organised labour too. It made for a good debate and the question is there more to global solidarity or is it just good to have friends is one that will provoke reaction from all involved in trade union activism. Judith kirton-darling spoke of solidarity being a two way process, where workers in Latin America support their European colleagues in the battle against Austerity
The range of speakers was really impressive, visitors from the TUC in Britain and the wider trade union movement were in attendance. Judith, as mentioned above, is a member of the ETUC and Jeffrey Vogt was over from the ITUC. There was talk of the Cuban 5 and how Irish trade unions could work with sister unions in the us to get these people freed and allowed to see their families. The diversity of opinion from the floor meant that we could have been talking al night about the inequalities of the world but one thing was for sure the people in attendance on this wet Friday afternoon want to try and engage with the wider trade union movement and society as a whole to see if we can really make this a better and fairer world for all.