Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

ULA nonaligned election to Steering Committee: Joe Loughnane

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On Saturday next, 28th April, the nonaligned members of the United Left Alliance will elect two of their number to the Steering Committee. There are three candidates:  Alan Gibson (Cork), Joe Loughnane (Galway) and Therese Caherty (Dublin Central).

In three posts we bring you their election statements. The second is from Joe Loughnane. It is from his website at the following link:

Election Statement for Non-Aligned Member of ULA Steering Committee

Hi, my name is Joseph Loughnane, I am 25 years old and am active in the Galway branch of the ULA. I am running for a position on the steering committee of the ULA on April 28th.

I have been active in Galway, both on the ground and in the University (NUI Galway) on a wide range of issues affecting working class and marginalised people. I have lived in Galway all of my life, and have a Bachelor of Arts in law and philosophy, an LLB (postgraduate law degree) and a masters in International Human Rights Law. My mother is from Pakistan and my father is from Dublin.

From the age of 16 I have been involved in many different activist groups and I was a member of the SWP for a couple of years. I started the Free Education for Everyone initiative in Galway and have helped it build across the country. I am a member of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, serving for 2 years as the auditor of the Palestine Solidarity Society in NUIG and have been an active member of the Galway Alliance Against War. I have been involved in many anti-racism groups in Galway; having been involved in a report into racism in the Galway Taxi industry and arranging meetings to highlight the plight of asylum seekers in Galway’s prison-like residencies. I was one the founders of the ULA and the Campaign against the Household Charge & Water Tax in Galway and have pushed it as a political force both in NUI Galway (biggest and most active student branch of the ULA) and in Galway city – instrumental to this are the links I have forged with a number of single-issue groups in the area and uniting them under the banner of anti-austerity.


Being independents in the ULA puts us, at the moment, in both a strong and weak position, depending on the level of struggle. As the Alliance is not currently a party, and we have 2 parties in co-existence alongside us; we are constantly looked to as “another vote” in backing up the position of the SP or the SWP when sectarianism arises. This highlights 2 problems, first of all that we are seen as individuals rather than as a collective by the other 2 constituent organisations and secondly, the increasing levels of sectarianism that we need to be opposing at such a time like this.
I propose, whether elected or not, that those of us independents in the ULA who identify capitalism and imperialism as the main cause of Ireland’s problems; that we come together and start pushing for the ULA to take stronger positions on a number of different issues. The overwhelming majority of us are pro-Palestine, anti-war, pro-choice, anti-commercialisation, anti all forms of discrimination etc.  –  through these commonalities we should be pushing to strengthen our own position on economic issues and those that directly affect the working classes everyday. Only by acting as a collective with our goal of becoming a party in mind, can we truly bring everyone’s ideas to the table and make the ULA a real workers party.
On the issue of sectarianism, it is our duty to push for a one member-one vote style organisation, where all those elected off the back of the ULA are held to account for their actions. Now is not the time to be deciding which of either the SP or the SWP are better allies, we should look to their members and argue for a mass workers party that does not fall into the pits of left-sectarianism – something that is already beginning to take place in specific campaigns.

For a party for workers:

It is our duty to combat the divide and conquer tactics of the Government. One of the main reasons many workers are not engaged in struggle is because of low confidence and a concept I like to call ‘Horizontal Blame’ – where private sector workers blame all their ills on their supposedly better-paid public sector comrades. The time has come for the ULA to actively discourage such beliefs by remaining in constant contact with all workers in our respective areas, be it by leafleting, postering or by a more proactive approach in the unions.

We should be calling for strike-action from this day forth. So many stores where employees have been laid off with little or no fightback have been ignored; we need to push for direct action and see these struggles as focal points for community struggle. The workers of La Senza, Vite Cortex and Game are an inspiration to us all, however, we must now start to tell all workers that their actions are not just for basic rights such as redundancy pay etc – such action is necessary and builds confidence and is vital to oppose all wage decreases, lay-offs and any other measures that are designed to make the employee think that cutbacks are necessary and that “we all need to take a hit”.

The unemployed have to be engaged with a lot more, especially seeing as many of us activists are unemployed ourselves. We should have meetings targeted purely at those out of work and put the idea in their heads that their time is better spent working out why they were made redundant in the first place. Campaigns against JobsBridge and unpaid internships can create a narrative around the idea of working for a decent wage rather than “experience”, a narrative that aims to undermine the careerist nature of the promotion of internships and the exploitative competition based approach of the employment sector.

For a party against all forms of discrimination:

It is in times like the present that differences in appearance, culturally etc become exaggerated and seen as the primary reason for the misfortune of another victim of this crony-capitalist state. It is our duty in the ULA to oppose all forms of discrimination either in combined campaigns or in single-issue formats.

At all times, we should be fostering the idea that the only real difference is class, and that it is the capitalist class who the average worker should blame for their problems. Travellers need to be supported as has been seen in recent house-burnings and developments in the UK. All aspects of the asylum-seeker and refugee process should be questioned with an aim to expose the Government for the institutionalised racism it has fermented. Casualised racism has become acceptable in our discourse, this must be combated and a language of equality It is essential that we recruit those directly affected to the ULA and involve them in all aspects of any anti-discrimination campaigns. The LGBTQ community are being compartmentalised by the Government with issues surrounding gay marriage and adoption being avoided until legislation on the matters brings them into any sort of media spotlight. The need for grassroots activism against all levels of homophobia  is urgent, the ULA has to have a strong message that combats the pervasive conservative and religious views that dominate our current hegemony. The disabled in our society are still only catered for as a last-minute policy decision. Having worked as an academic personal assistant to 4 different students with disabilities over the past year, I have begun to understand the deeper structural problems that disabled people face everyday, the ULA needs to be seen as the force to change that.

The current work being done by the ULA surrounding the X-case is crucial. Our pro-choice agenda has to be used as an initial sword into the patriarchal society we inhabit. From this we have to combat all aspects of sexism that pervade our consciousness. From the objectification of young women across University campuses to the casualisation of sexism in our daily discourse, the discrimination that women experience needs to be one that all male activists on the left understand fully and something that the ULA begins to highlight in a proactive manner.

For a 32-country Party:

As anti-imperialists, we must never forget why Ireland is currently a 26-country Republic. The austerity measures being imposed on those living in the occupied counties are no different to the ones we are facing, bar the parties imposing it. We must be aware of the current fostering of a Northern Irish culture, a culture built off the back of ignoring all of the fundamental problems that underlie society in the North, a culture that promotes tourism as an answer to improving the lives of workers, a culture that has as its core objective, the creation of a colony with a large body of workers willing to compete against workers in the South, uniting them only in their ability to further the aims of the capitalist system.
For us Independents, we must establish links with those like-minded individuals in the North. Many activists on the ground in that area have very few options for a real left alternative.  For those who value their right to vote, for those who have used this right before to achieve equality for different religions in the North – the ULA can be a vehicle for them to foster proper working class solidarity, one which goes beyond religious sectarianism and one which doesn’t fall foul of the sectarianism that plights the left in the UK, something which is already beginning to spread to the North with the presence of certain organisations.

For a Party that creates a clear and distinct counter-hegemony:

The battle of ideas will only be won if we begin to challenge the dominant hegemony that our media, politicians and institutions of power propagate everyday. Leaflets and posters are not enough; there is a need for a much larger media presence, especially for the ULA, and this will begin to be realised by the creation of media outlets set up to focus on exposing the right-wing bias in the national media.  Gramsci spoke of organic intellecuals – each and every one of us, as on-the-ground activists, must start spreading the ideas of real solidarity, real democracy, real equality via methods we usually ignored for fear of politicising our leisure time. We must highlight how people have very little time to question the acts of their Government, explain to them that their problems are being felt by 1000s of other people across the country, and from this build their confidence to help to organise also.
Music, art, all forms of entertainment are used by the capitalist class to  further  ”enrich” their bourgeois ideals. The ULA must begin to engage with such aspects of culture, especially at University level, and push any counter-cultural movements that promote a socialist message.

For a Party for young people:

Thousands of young Irish people have left these shores over the past few years. Our education system is designed to quell any critical thinking and foster “entrepreneurship” . The ULA must fight for a fully free education system, from primary to third level, opposing commercialisation and promoting the idea that you go to University to seek knowledge and not to become yet another employable product of an education factory. A proposal I believe will  help young people to begin the fightback themselves is the replacing of the teaching of religion in secondary schools with the teaching of philosophy. This will serve to counter one of the most crippling forces of the education system, the Catholic church, and get young people thinking outside the parameters of the severely institutionalised Irish education system.

For a Party that recognises the importance of our Environment:

The presence of Shell and their robbing of our natural resources is something that the Left in Ireland has allowed to quieten down. There are so many different groups who organise for progressive reasons but fail to connect the destruction of our ecological surroundings with the rise of neo-liberalism. We in the ULA must present the party as an organisation that stands against the commodification of our scenic landscape, that argues for all our natural resources to be organised and used for the people of Ireland and by the people of Ireland and finally, as a party that has the ability to be understood despite rural and urban differences between the working class.

I would please ask you to vote for me on April 28th, and any help in my candidature would be appreciated. To contact me, you can find me on 


Written by tomasoflatharta

Apr 23, 2012 at 4:35 pm

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