Last month, the Unite Youth Conference (Irish Region) unanimously passed a motion which called for Unite to cease its support for the renewal of the Trident missile programme. This motion was then brought to the National Unite Young Members Conference (UK + IRE) for discussion where this position was defended by our two Irish Unite Youth reps: Paddy Wilson (Belfast) and Vanessa O’Sullivan (Dublin).
Today we received the good news that this motion has been passed by popular vote and will now be discussed by the National Executive Committee of Unite the Union (IRE+UK) for possible adoption. We’re delighted by this decision and couldn’t be more proud of our Irish representatives for helping make this happen.
Dublin members were represented today by Vanessa O’Sullivan who is the elected rep for service workers on the Unite Dublin Area Activist Committee and the Unite Youth Committee. Below is the text of her speech:
My name is Vanessa O’Sullivan and I am a retail worker from Dublin. I live in a neutral country which has a proud history of supporting peacekeeping efforts rather than war. Across the whole of our island there are no nuclear facilities; either civil or military, and our citizens have successfully opposed their introduction on numerous occasions. Irish people are proud of this but we remain fearful of the consequences of nuclear technology due to our proximity to Britain and the very real threat of nuclear war on a global scale in the future. Both of these issues are outside of our control.
I’ve provided this context not to criticise comrades from other regions but to highlight that as a cross-border union; we must be aware of our cultural and historical differences when we make policy positions. Many members from the UK may have accepted Unite’s position on Trident renewal as a typical trade-union statement; whereas Irish young members were appalled to hear that our union, which is usually one of the most progressive voices in Irish society, would adopt such a short-sighted and militaristic line. In response to these concerns, we developed this motion in consultation with young members and passed it unanimously at our recent youth conference.
When we talk about the Trident missile programme; we’re describing a fleet of four nuclear armed submarines. Each submarine carries up to 40 nuclear warheads and each warhead is at least 8 times more powerful than the atomic bomb which vaporised 80,000 people one morning in Hiroshima on August 6th 1945.
This is main issue at hand; that our union is supporting a weapons programme which serves no purpose other than to kill as many working people as possible, be they soldiers or civilians, and Irish young members refuse to support this stance.
The cost of maintaining Trident is around 6% of the annual UK Defence budget, while replacement costs are estimated to be up to £100 billion over 30 years. This money would be enough to fully fund A&E services for 40 years, employ 150,000 new nurses, build 1.5 million affordable homes, build 30,000 new primary schools, or cover tuition fees for 4 million students.
If this money was saved then it could easily be put towards guaranteeing employment for former Trident workers. Especially considering that only 500 civilian workers are exclusively linked to the nuclear element of Trident. In reality, the vast majority of its’ mixed workforce could be guaranteed transfer and similar conditions in other related occupations. The role of our union is to secure the working conditions of our members, not to endorse nuclear war.
Our motion from the Irish Youth Conference calls on Unite to cease its support for Trident and we are not alone in this call. Poll after poll has shown that a consistent majority of the British population are against nuclear weapons. Furthermore, our comrades in Unite Scotland recently took a similar anti-Trident position at the Scottish Labour Party conference. Finally, our motion has gained support from workplaces outside Ireland with the Leeds Hospital Branch recently passing a resolution which specifically endorsed our motion against Trident.
Please stand with us for peace and justice.