Most people in Northern Ireland, including trade union members, know very little about the political associations of those who lead our trade unions but from time to time we learn a little about that mysterious world of trade union leadership.
The Socialist Party, formerly known as Militant, is a far-left Trotskyist organisation. It has contested elections in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic and has achieved some electoral success in the Republic. In the 2009 European elections, Joe Higgins was elected as an MEP for Dublin as well as a councillor on Fingal County Council. Elsewhere the party picked up five council seats. Then at the 2011 general election the Socialist Party took two seats in Dail Eireann.
However in Northern Ireland the party has had an abysmal electoral record and has never had anyone elected in local government elections or in Stormont or Westminster elections. At the 2003 Assembly election it secured just 0.05% of the vote. More recently it fielded two candidates in the 2011 elections for Belfast City Council - Paddy Meehan (Laganbank), Pat Lawlor (Lower Falls) - but both polled badly and were eliminated. The candidates from the Socialist Party are unelected and unelectable.
Nevertheless this miniscule Trotskyist party exercises considerable influence in the trade union movement and earlier this year they were able to report on their success in getting three members elected to the executive of NIPSA. NIPSA: Left sees major gains
The Socialist Party reported on its website that, 'The broad left increased its seats on the 25-member executive from four to 12, with three Socialist Party members topping the poll.'
NIPSA has 46,000 members and is Northern Ireland's largest trade union. It is split into two groups - the civil service group and the public officers' group - with Billy Lynn, a long-time member of the Socialist Party, as chairperson of the civil service group and Eileen Webster, who is also a member of the Socialist Party, as chairperson of the public officers' group. The report on the Socialist Party website was written by Padraig Mulholland, who is described as a member of the NIPSA public officers group executive, and the NIPSA website names Patrick Mulholland as the vice-president of NIPSA.
We do well to take note of those from the far-left, both Communist and Trotskyist, who wield such power in the trade union movement.