Change is in the air

Eamonn McCann.
Eamonn McCann.

Veteran rights advocate Eamonn McCann has said that there is now a “real appetite for a different way of doing things”.

Addressing the meeting on government cuts at the Maldron Hotel in Derry this week, Mr McCann pointed towards a resurgence in interest and activity involving trade unions, which he said was part of a wider societal metamorphosis that included the revival of “once moribund organisations”.

A section of the attendance at Wednesday night's meeting at the Maldron Hotel. DER0315MC065

A section of the attendance at Wednesday night's meeting at the Maldron Hotel. DER0315MC065

“We have a lot of discontent in Northern Ireland and right across the island at the minute,” he said. “We are about trying to give organised expression to carry forward the discontent and the anger that certainly exists in the north, but because it is a class anger, it is rarely expressed in our conventional politics.”

Mr McCann said the Derry Trades Council and union movement was “far more vibrant today than it has been at any time in the last 10 years”.

“Whether it is about work, whether it is about what is happening in the community, there is more and more a sense that working class people are going to have to get together and fight back, and fight back in a coordinated way,” he said.

Talking about the expected day of strikes by public sector workers across the north, Mr McCann added: “We have to make March 13th a very significant day in Northern Ireland. We have to see a big demonstration, thousands of people. There has to be banners from every community group in Derry out in Guildhall Square, there has to be every union involved.

“Belfast and Derry are the only places, as I understand it, where rallies have been planned but it’s common sense that it will be raised everywhere else; to see that right across the north so that people remember March 13th was the day there were thousands out across the north in a way that there haven’t been before.

“Look what happened in the south a few weeks back with the big water demonstrations. When you did an analysis, as my union the NUJ did with all the local papers right across the south, all the locals, the Derry Journals of the south, and the media tends not to exaggerate the numbers at these demonstrations, it came to over 320,000 people- a huge demonstration of discontent across the south.

“The only thing wrong with it was that it was only on a 26-County basis. What would have been the most healthy thing ever in the politics of this island was for that to have happened right across the island, and it could have happened. The issues are the same. Tax on public service, jobs.”

He added that the recent campaign spearheaded by families in Derry to save respite facilities for disabled children had been made stronger after they linked up with families in Omagh and Fermanagh who used services there and would likewise have been affected.