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What is ‘Claiming our Future’ all about?

Anne Conway

10 November 2010

The ‘Claiming Our Future’ event on 30th October saw a turnout of over 1,000 people, a sizeable attendance. The aim of the organisers was to bring people from a diverse range of interests together to discuss how civic society could reclaim its future. As I scanned the delegates I was struck by the large number of full time trade union officials and leaders such as Jack O Connor of SIPTU, David Beggs President of ICTU, the ICTU Assistant General Secretary and the General Secretary of the TUI among others. Several trade union officials acted as facilitators of the group discussions which were organized around tables of approx 10 people at each table.

These officials were all fresh from their sell out on the Croke Park deal and apparently keen to sell their rotten politics to unsuspecting individuals and activists at the event. Their involvement in the proceedings makes it clear that those attending seeking genuine answers on a way forward in the unfolding catastrophe will be sorely disappointed and betrayed like the trade union members in the public service.

It was evident on the day and from the website of ‘Claiming Our Future’ that the trade union bureaucracy play a key role in it and their ‘Better, Fairer Way’ policy to solve the economic crisis permeated the day’s proceedings. Sally Anne Kinahan, the Assistant General Secretary of ICTU in a Vox Pop interview claims ‘she is going to the conference because the Government is getting away with it, they are implementing policies that are hurting the most vulnerable in society.......we need to get them out.’ So the way to get them out is to agree with them that we need to implement the austerity program with maybe a little tinkering with the time scale and the optics?

According to the ‘Claiming Our Future’ website, one aim of the day was ‘Creating the space for choice. We need to move from a reactive response to the present economic forces for change to a more proactive management of our collective future. We need to create the space to advance an alternative response to the economic recession. The various choices outlined below would be enabled by:

•    Establishing values that include equality, inclusion and sustainability and human dignity as the criteria for making public policy decisions.
•    A longer time-frame for adjustment of the public finances to the new economic reality.
•    Mobilising available resources to stimulate a new approach to economic, environmental and social development.
•    Effective regulation of employment relationships, business activity and the financial sector.
•    Developing more robust measures of well being and progress that address economic, environmental and social benefits and costs in a more integrated way’.

Point 2 of this shows the role ICTU play in Claiming our Future – deliver the cuts over a longer time frame, or put another way, kill off the public service and demoralise and destroy our futures over a longer period. Such a programme effectively makes many of the fine claims in the rest of the ‘choices’ redundant.

‘Claiming our Future’ appears to be akin to claiming another defeat with ICTU again overseeing it. Their previous victory in the ballot on the Croke Park deal accepts the previous cuts and all new ones scheduled for the next four years. 


The format of the day’s event was centred around delegates discussing proposals and prioritising them; in practice the proposals were centred around the premise that the Irish people are responsible for the crisis and so must jointly identify solutions to solve it. There was but minor mention of the responsibility of the Irish ruling classes for the crisis. The left, in particular the SWP and People Before Profit members, had a visible presence and as far as I could ascertain they held up green cards at the end of the event to endorse and show their confidence in the day’s proceedings.

I wondered what it would be like if all these 1,000 people were here to really fight the Government’s attacks, repudiate the debt and embrace the ideas of James Connolly and his fight for a Workers Republic. I put this idea forward to the delegates in my group and it was accepted particularly by two activists, one who campaigned against the third world debt and another in her community. 

One other idea put forward, based on my own experience of the London squatters movement in the 70’s, was that a campaign be initiated to take over NAMA residential properties for those on the housing waiting list and the homeless and to force the city and local councils to provide utility connections etc. for properties that were squatted.   This is the sort of direct action if liked to an overall socialist programme that really could lead to the Irish people reclaiming their future.

The organisers are preparing the consensors’ report from those ‘who were monitoring the process at the RDS, their report will set out the final results from the day’. I wait with interest to see if dropping the debt or if the proposal to take over NAMA properties will be in the consensors’ report.   A leaflet was distributed by Socialist Democracy to delegates addressing some of the  issues delegates needed to consider. 


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