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Mick Lynch praises NI unions and warns Belfast rally against ‘ultra right’ causing division

The British union leader praised unions across Northern Ireland that had taken industrial action in recent months at a rally gathered at Belfast City Hall.

UK TRADE UNIONIST Mick Lynch has told a crowd of workers and activists in Belfast that the “ultra right” is causing division during the cost-of-living crisis, and it should be resisted.

He also praised unions across Northern Ireland that had taken industrial action in recent months, and called for the trade union movement to begin in every town and county, saying that people were “ready for change”.

The general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) said he has received a “tremendous” welcome as he met and marched with activists and trade unions through Belfast.

Lynch rose to prominence last summer following a series of media interviews about a rail workers’ strike held in the UK in a long-running dispute over pay and conditions.

The trade union leader, whose father left Cork city in 1941 to travel to Britain to work, and whose mother is from Co Armagh, addressed a rally gathered at Belfast City Hall today.

Addressing trade union groups including Unison, Nipsa, Unite and the Northern Ireland Teachers Council, who have all taken industrial action in recent months, Lynch said that the values of the trade union movement “are back on the agenda”. 

embedded271397544 Mick Lynch James Manning / PA James Manning / PA / PA

He said that nurses in Britain “are on the move” towards industrial action following on from strikes by nurses in Northern Ireland, which was met with applause.

“The trade unionists on this island are the salt of the earth, and they’ve kept the movement going through thick and thin, through all the struggles that you’ve had, the struggles for peace and justice and democracy.

“It’s been the trade unions that have kept our spirits alive, that have kept this movement going, bringing all of our people together, no matter what their heritage, no matter what their background, and we have to keep doing it.

“Because we know what’s being said: the ultra right are going to exploit division.

“They’re seeking to do it in the south, they’re seeking to do it up here.

“They’re seeking to do it in England.”

He said that “open Nazis are trying to divide our people one from another”, by “trying to blame some of the poorest people in the world for our problems over here”.

“We cannot allow that to happen,” he said.

He warned against authorities using global crises for denying workers better pay and conditions.

“They can dress it up wherever they want, they can blame it on the pandemic.

“They can blame it on the economy.

“Now they’re blaming it on a war in eastern Europe.

“What is to blame is capitalism, exploitation, the deliberate creation of poverty so that they can enrich themselves and we’ve got to stand up to that.”

As trade union members gathered in Writers’ Square ahead of the march through Belfast, Lynch was asked to pose for pictures and selfies with workers bearing various trade union banners.

He was given a small bust of the founder of the 1916 leader James Connolly, a book about the history of trade unions in Ireland and pinned a University and College Union badge given to him to his jacket.

As he began to address, he praised the prominence of women in Northern Ireland in the trade union movement, after the crowd was addressed by leaders including Unison’s Patricia McKeowan and Unite’s Susan Fitzgerald.

ICTU assistant general secretary Gerry Murphy said Lynch was addressing the May Day march as “every trade unionist across these islands, and many outside our movement, have been inspired and encouraged by the wisdom and clarity offered” by  Lynch.

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