Hello, I’m Spartacus so I am.

So it seems to be a thing now where candidates feel they have to state they are “anti sectarian” in their General Council election blurbs. Why would they have or feel the need to do that? Is it perhaps because of the spectre of political sectarianism that has already been evidenced in the expulsion of two members due to their political leanings still hangs heavy in the air around certain groupings?

I don’t know about you folk but if someone’s introductory statement to me was “Hi, I’m so and so and I’m anti sectarian” I would assume one or more of the following to be the case.

1; They feel the need to distance themselves from association with past behaviours.

2: They think it is some form of validation that differentiates them from everyone else (whereas it is by and large the norm that the majority of people are not, by default, sectarian).

3: They think it makes them special (see 2 above).

4: They think people are stupid enough to be as impressed with such glib statements as they themselves are.

The whole General Council election has a depressingly familiar ring about it where rhetoric and slogans are to the fore and there is a complete absence of any strategy of substance to be seen anywhere.

Here we are nowhere.


“Curiouser and curiouser”.

That’s how the behaviours, structure, processes and political posturing and infighting within NIPSA has been described by a recent Tribunal where an allegation that two members were unjustifiably expelled was found to be true.

In the course of its examination of the claim the Tribunal laid bare the level of political control and interference that is tearing NIPSA apart. It identified the two factions as being equally self serving and, ultimately, politically indistinguishable with certain members claiming to be communist whilst advocating a socialist doctrine.

Both factions are using NIPSA, its members and its member subscription money as a political plaything to advance their political ideologies. While members are facing real challenges in the shape of no pay rises, attacks on their terms and conditions and increasingly hostile attacks from the Government and Assembly these political factions are hell bent on using subscription monies, resources and anything else at their disposal to try and run NIPSA like a political party.

If anyone wants to know just how ridiculous the situation in NIPSA has become they should take the time to read the Tribunal ruling in its entirety. To do so simply click here and in the “Tribunal Name” select “Both” in the “Decision Issued Year” type in 2016. In the “Case ID” box type 00043/15FET and in the “Claimant” box type Fleck. Then on the search results page click on the Word document icon (word_icon) and download the judgement in full. It makes for truly depressing reading.


Two indistinguishable factions involved in juvenile political point scoring and in-fighting whilst members suffer.


The union is run by two factions.

undue involvement

Yes, that’s right “…without any undue involvement from members”. A branch run by individuals of a particular political opinion who consider a turnout of less than 2% of the branch to be “such a good turnout”.  Cloud cuckoo land.

We can all see what’s been going on here, can’t we? Sadly this isn’t unique to this branch. For years these politically motivated factions have benefited from low turnouts at branch meetings as it enables them to advance whatever idiotic cause celebre might be seen by them to be en vogue at any particular time without fully democratically engaging the membership.

Many branches controlled by these two factions pay lip service to their members and democracy. The “union” is hemorrhaging membership as a result of the voluntary exit scheme and natural wastage yet the senior officials charged with the oversight of the union, whose very salaries depend on membership subscriptions, turn a blind eye to these malpractices rather than acting to counter the hijacking of the union and the abuses of office which have been clearly identified in this Tribunal ruling.

The General Secretary Alison Millar promised much in the way of change as part of her election campaign. She campaigned on the basis that she was truly independent and not aligned with any faction within the union. Let’s see some of that change. Lets see a strong General Secretary stick to her word and address this issue, openly.

The genie is out of the bottle, the Tribunal has exposed and made a mockery of the political control and infighting which has now seen this union become a laughing stock. A “union” which wastes members subscriptions by ignoring the rule of law, legal advice offered and democracy just to advance a particular political dogma is not a union. It is an organisation in chaos. An organisation too afraid to address its own shortcomings. An organisation which, clearly, allows bullying and which has bullied its way to becoming a vehicle to misrepresent the democratic voice of some 40,000 members to advance a political ideal which even some of its main proponents themselves fail to understand entirely.


Those involved in this whole sorry affair should be held to account. Those who failed and continue to fail to act appropriately in the interests of all the members should be held to account also. If this “union” aspires to be truly democratic then it must act to prevent this type of gerrymandering of votes, misrepresentation and, as has been the case here, the squandering of money.

It is a travesty that Conference in 2015 called for an increase in subscription fees in times of austerity where no real pay rise has been had for five or six years whilst simultaneously – unknown to the general membership – throwing away funds by ignoring several sets of legal advice, being subjected to proceedings and leaving itself open to ridicule all because of some egotistical political posturing.

Put a stop to this political chicanery. Stop the bullying. Stop the wasting of members subscriptions. Stop the bar stool psychologists advancing their political dogma at the expense of the ordinary paying members who have been taken for a ride for years – blissfully ignorant of what was going on in the union and the various overtly political agendas being advanced.

Your paying members deserve better.

Proof, if it were needed, of how capable the soon to be ex Deputy General Secretary Alison Millar is.

The General Council have decided they need to appoint two men to do the work Alison did by herself.

This will come as no real surprise to anyone who knows Alison but it will come as a monumental shock to some people that there are apparently no interviews to be held (what was that about a “democratic” union?) for the now two full time Deputy General Secretary posts nor any explanation as to how, in a time of austerity and decreasing membership, NIPSA intends to fund their salaries – which we have been led to believe is more than an average members / workers wage.

Hard luck to anyone who was hoping to compete for the post of Deputy General Secretary in a fair and democratic merit based process.





Vitriolic and divisive in defeat.

The Socialist Party have released the following statement on the rejection of their candidate in the recent NIPSA General Secretary election. An abject lesson on how to sell a defeat as a victory and yet more divisive rhetoric. Nothing new here.

Socialist Party’s Patrick Mulholland gains 44% – Broad Left emerges stronger throughout NIPSA

Kevin Henry, Socialist Party (CWI Ireland), Belfast

The last six weeks has seen one of the most high profile trade union elections in Northern Ireland for decades. The election was for general secretary of the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA), the largest union in in Northern Ireland, with members from across the civil and public services and the voluntary sector. Socialist Party member, Patrick Mulholland, stood as the Broad Left candidate in the election, against the candidate of the NIPSA establishment, Alison Millar.

Patrick’s campaign distributed tens of thousands of leaflets to hundreds of workplaces. It waged a high profile campaign which provoked discussion among people outside of NIPSA, about what type of trade union movement we need. Patrick’s campaign focused on the policies and programme necessary to make a difference to NIPSA members.

He committed to only taking a worker’s wage if elected and ensuring the trade union movement develops a real strategy to fight cuts. As general secretary he would have implemented decisions of NIPSA conference including advocating a democratic socialist alternative to austerity.

Patrick had the opportunity to speak at hustings and meetings across the country to put forward ideas that could transform the trade union movement and the fight against austerity

Alison Millar’s campaign had the support of the majority officials in NIPSA and the resources that comes with it. It did not stop a tirade of vile religious sectarian abuse being waged at Patrick and his supporters, which should be condemned by all in the trade union movement.

Build a movement against cuts

The victory of the Millar campaign is no doubt welcomed by the main political parties in Northern Ireland. For example, Jim McVeigh, the leader of Sinn Fein on Belfast City Council, and Nelson McCausland, former Democratic Unionist Party minister at in the devolved local government ‘power-sharing’ Assembly, both warned of the danger of the left in NIPSA winning the general secretary position. Their parties dominate the ruling Assembly Executive, which will decide on making huge cuts that will drastically affect NIPSA members, their families and the wider communities.

Patrick gained an impressive 44% of the vote, with 4,958 votes. The NIPSA Broad Left, many of who are members of the Socialist Party, still has a majority on the general council in NIPSA, holds the union’s elected president position and will be stronger in every area of the union in the turbulent years to come.

Socialists should now use this strength to build a movement against cuts, oppose attempts to link with sectarian parties and build a left-wing alternative in Northern Ireland.

Gracious and respectful in victory.

This is the message posted by Alison Millar on the occasion of her having been elected General Secretary of NIPSA.

“It is a privilege to be elected as the new Nipsa General Secretary and I would like to take this opportunity to thank every single person who worked on my campaign and every single member who took part in the election.

Whether you voted for me or not what is critical is the future of Nipsa and the trade union movement.

It is vital we move forward together and united to ensure we remain the strong independent trade union we have always been. Whilst there must be room for debate about the future direction of Nipsa, there can be no room for division.

Our opponents do not exist within the ranks of Nipsa. We have a common enemy that we must unite against and that is the enemy of austerity and those who would dismantle and destroy our public services.

We must place real member issues at the heart of everything we do and we must work together to build and strengthen Nipsa.

Thanks again to all those who worked tirelessly on my behalf to elect a General Secretary for All. I intend living up to that pledge”.


If Carlsberg did irony. One for the slow learners out there.

Courtesy of the Collins English Dictionary here’s a handy “cut out and keep” ready reckoner for those members of factions within NIPSA who like to harp on and wax lyrical about their own anti-sectarian credentials and how they are going to “fight sectarianism”.

Is it starting to make sense yet?
Is it starting to make sense yet?

Do you see the problem? Yes, that’s right, by definition you’re the problem.

Makes uncomfortable reading, doesn’t it?


Sore losers anyone?

It seems barely had the results been announced that the victim mentality recriminations began.

Rather than try to analyse where they might have improved on their performance in the General Secretary election or how best they might now, for the sake of all of the members, set about building bridges and forging alliances seeking to work together with those they have attacked and sought to demean, their political sectarianism and mud-slinging has begun.

Gone is their “building an inclusive union” aspiration that was parroted during the campaign. They are not, nor were they ever, interested in the membership and the struggles they face. They are interested in themselves, power, control and how they might progress their political agenda.

Even in defeat they have to politicize everything.

Sectarianism at it's best.
Sectarianism at it’s best.
More political sectarianism
More political sectarianism

According to the above Padraig / Patrick campaign posts, Alison Millar and anyone, yes that’s right anyone, who voted for Alison Millar is by default “Rightwing”.

Well done. They’ve reverted to form and have once again exposed their narrow parochial political sectarianism for all to see. It seems  earlier expressed concerns were well founded.

They are about division, that is all.

So much for all their rhetoric and pretence about democracy and anti sectarianism. The mask has slipped, again. When they said “Elect one of your own” they meant it in a way only they could.

Time for change.

Now that the members have spoken and the results are in it’s time to look to the future.

Clearly the Socialist Party and its caucus the Broad Left ran and funded a very slick, and clearly expensive, campaign on behalf of Padraig / Patrick but the posturing, hypothetical sloganeering, revolutionary socialist calls to action, lack of experience, lack of policy or strategy detail and tokenistic gestures were democratically and demonstrably rejected by the majority of the voting members. No doubt there will be much soul-searching on the part of the Padraig / Patrick campaign as to how things might have ended differently.

The result shows that clearly it’s time to break with the past.

One thing this election has taught us is that NIPSA members want change and they want action beyond rhetoric. They want effective representation and as much protection from the Government led attacks on their rights and livelihoods as their union can realistically afford them.

One potential stumbling block which stands to prevent that is the current almost exclusively Broad Left / Socialist Party General Council.

Does anyone really believe that a faction whose leader has been defeated in a democratic election will work with the victor?

For example, in the interests of the entire membership will Padraig / Patrick share with Alison his often referenced, though never seen, strategy to fight the cuts?

The answers to these, and other questions, remain to be seen but on  past experience it seems entirely likely given that Alison Millar has defeated Padraig / Patrick in the General Secretary election that they will not be supportive of her and, in doing so, may through their actions / inaction cause detriment to the general membership and reputation of the union.

It is a fact that since holding the majority of seats on the General Council  the Broad Left / Socialist Party have set about and have been primarily focused on achieving their aim of taking over the union and the mandate of its members to further their own political aims.

They have a control fixation. They are obsessed with achieving their objective and their actions to achieve this whilst largely ignoring the plight of and attacks on the rights of the membership until after the fact is disgraceful. Throughout the election process the Padraig / Patrick campaign supporters implemented strategies on social media which they have for years denied using in real life situations. If you questioned them you were maligned as “right-wing” if you challenged them you were hectored, bullied and marginalized.

This exposure of their behaviours via social media proved to many to be a line too far and shone a rather uncomfortable analytical light on some of the strategies employed. Perhaps the most damning act was feminists attacking Alison Millar for having the audacity to be a female participating in an election. Moving forward these types of reactionary and ultimately bullying behaviours must stop.

It should be remembered that many of the majority Broad Left / Socialist Party current General Council members are long-standing on the General Council. What have they done in that capacity, in real terms, over the past three or four years other than push their particular political dogma? Cheap slogans, media soundbites, the cult of TV & radio celebrity and no action – that’s what. They are politically led, they seek to undermine colleagues and members who do not share their political ideology, they do not consult with the members, they seek to restrict the publication or circulation of anything that does not serve them or their political ends. They are highly selective in their support of members and likewise in their disciplining and expulsions. They appear to see and use the union as a means to an end.

It must also be remembered that whilst they hold the majority of places on the General Council they are not the only faction within NIPSA who appear intent on or capable of causing difficulties for the union as a whole.

It’s time for change.

Alison Millar stood on a non aligned ticket. She was clear and vocal about the fact that she was neither influenced by nor aligned to any political party or faction. This is the way forward that the membership have democratically chosen.

Politics, of whatever hue, has the potential to cause division and sectarianism and that is a fact we have seen during the course of this election. The voting majority in the recent General Secretary election agreed with Alison that politics and political influence should certainly be valued and held but that in a truly democratic union context they should be left at the door when it comes to fighting collectively for the rights of members.

We owe it to ourselves to unify and collectively support her efforts to stave off and ameliorate as best she can the attacks on us and our colleagues and in doing so proving to them the worth and value of true trade unionism and solidarity in order that we may grow in number and strength.

Ultimately, if people are so interested in and driven by a particular brand of politics – particularly one with a stated objective of taking over unions – then perhaps they ought to consider getting into politics for real and concentrate on that instead of using a union as a platform or vehicle, because a democratic union fighting for all irrespective of colour, religion, or political leaning should not be constrained by a singular political dogma and is not the place for them.