ICTU President aims to promote Israel boycott to other countries, including British TUC

From a speech by Patricia McKeown, president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions at the ICTU Biennial Conference this week.

.. most of all I want to pay tribute to our members across this movement for their unflinching support for the Palestinian People.

It has been my great honour as your President to take forward the policies so rightly agreed at our Congress two years ago.

Since we last met we have visited Israel and the Occupied Territories and we have seen at first hand what real racist repression looks like. Our report has been disseminated around the world.

We have engaged in direct lobbies of political parties, governments and the EU. And we are currently developing our Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign materials and programme. You will hear more of that later.

Most significant is the direct involvement of our members. In early 2009 thousands of trade unionists joined the Dublin demonstration in protest at the war on Gaza. In Belfast, in a protest organised by Congress over 5000 workers joined us on the streets. Solidarity activity within affiliated unions has intensified and across the trade union movement workers have contributed with extraordinary generosity to the Congress humanitarian appeal for medical aid to Gaza. Over 100,000 euro has been donated, via Irish Medical Aid to Palestine, for a field surgical unit and for the first payment for a permanent surgical unit at Al Awda Hospital in northern Gaza. We are deeply honoured that it is to be named the James Connelly Surgical Unit in recognition of the solidarity work of the Irish trade union movement. Without doubt, the plight of the Palestinian People is engaging people on this island in a way which no other has done since the days of our involvement in the anti apartheid struggle in South Africa.

We have promoted our policy with other trade union centres and made it a particular agenda priority on the Trade Union Council of the Isles, a body which comprises ICTU, the STUC, the Wales TUC and the TUC. We warmly congratulate the Scottish TUC for adopting its boycott policy earlier this year.

We have also promoted our cause to those who are critics of the ICTU position. Confident in the justice and morality of our case we engage all who challenge us.

There is major work yet to be undertaken but our small trade union movement, located on the western edge of Europe has proved once again that it is capable of punching well beyond its weight.