Trouble at t'Mill: the Clondalkin Sit-Ins 1982-87

- Des Derwin


A wave of workplace occupations broke across Irish industry at the beginning of the Eighties. At one point, early 1983, four workers' sit-ins proceeded simultaneously in the state ; Kingdom Tubes (Kerry), Carrigaline Pottery (Cork), Ranks Mills (Dublin) and Clondalkin Paper Mills (Dublin). The last era of shop floor militancy, before the (now hopefully thawing) Ice Age of unemployment and partnership set in, didn't end with a whimper. The Ranks and Clondalkin struggles, for instance, were minor epics of resistance to job closures.

Both evoked a movement of support among workers throughout the city andcountry. Occupations, blackings, city-wide stoppages - threatened and actual, defiance of hostile or lukewarm union officialdom, defiance of court injunctions, jailings, a hunger strike: these were features of one or the other, and in some cases of both. A Tale of Two Mills. The very context of the time seems a marvel to-day. For instance 1983 also saw a second, grassroots, campaign for PAYE tax reform, including industrial action coordinated by shop stewards, beginning in Waterford Crystal and spreading through the country.

From 'Red Banner' Nos 4 & 5 (May & Nov 99)
PO Box 6587 Dublin 6
red-banner@yahoo.com
with some very slight changes from the printed versions

The Clondalkin Paper Mills struggle was notable for many things. Three we may point out in particular: its longevity (two years at its height, more for the total saga), its alacrity and thoroughness in reaching beyond the occupation to build a crusade which attained significant industrial and political proportions, and its (relative) success . "The long, hard struggle of workers and their families to keep Clondalkin Paper Mills open ... has marked a new high point in the struggles of the Irish working class", exclaimed the Introduction to a contemporary account written by the trade union official most centrally and dedicatedly involved, Peter Keating of the Federated Workers Union of Ireland. (1)

Last paper mill

By 1982 Clondalkin Paper Mills (CPM), in what is now the extensive Dublin suburb of Clondalkin, was the only paper mill left in the state. There was one other on the island, at Larne, Co. Antrim. The mill was part of the Clondalkin group, which then included CB Sacks, Bailey Gibson, Cahill Printers and Guys of Cork. The Clondalkin group still exists today, after various sheddings of skin, and is quoted on the Stock Exchange at around 500 (at time of writing, anyway). CPM was one of the 'traditional' industries undergoing 'rationalisation' (usually closure) in the 1980s. There had already been 80 redundancies at CPM in 1980. Today the Clondalkin group is a "high performing" Irish multinational. It has gone the way of other Irish industrial groups, with only some Irish interests and plants across Europe.

The mill already had a history of struggle with a 21 week strike in 1966 and an 11 week strike in 1974. The workers were members of the Federated Workers Union of Ireland (FWUI, Nos.1 and 17 Branches), the Irish Transport and General Workers Union (ITGWU, No.16 Branch), TASS, the Bookbinders union and the craft unions.

There was an aspect of the 'mining village' to CPM. Generations from the locality had made paper there. (Danny Power, who started at CPM in 1966, remarks, "there was a time when if you didn't live in Clondalkin you wouldn't get a job in the Mill"). One of the essential ingredients leading to the sit-in was "a community who saw the struggle as its own "(Keating, p.5).

Mr. Henry Lund became managing director of CPM and the group in 1978 and "within three years he had the company in liquidation", though the plant "was a highly profitable one" (Keating). This view and the plant's state of liquidation no doubt led to the belief that here was "a management determined to asset-strip".

Henry Lund retired as chief executive of the Clondalkin group last year, the 20th anniversary of his joining the group. Clondalkin are strong on continuity: last year Lund's predecessor, Dr. Christopher Cusack, stepped down after a 60 year association with the company (Irish Independent, 16th April '98).

In September 1981 the company sought major government funding and asked the unions to join in the quest, which they did. The company also sought major concessions from the workers. The workers conceded a series of them including 157 more redundancies, a seven month pay freeze, a new house agreement, and an injection of £660 per worker and arbitration on the bonus scheme. As Peter Keating relates:

"Foir Teoranta ( the state rescue agency) were prepared to inject 45% capital into the new company. The company was asked to match that amount, with the workers putting in the other 10%. Mr. Lund for his 45% wanted 100% control. The state and the workers (55%) would have no voting rights on the board. At our first meeting with Mr. Eddie Collins, Minister of State, the IDA, Mr. Lund and the trade unions, Mr. Lund was offered £1.7 million plus £0.35 million write-off of refundable grant plus additional money if required. He said he would need the week-end to consider the offer, and that he would inform all concerned by the following Tuesday. He was specifically requested by the minister not to close the company before he made his response to the offer . He agreed. The next morning Mr. Somers, appointed liquidator, took over the company. CPM was now in voluntary liquidation: so much for straight dealing. Lund knew at the meeting with the minister and ourselves that the company was already put into liquidation. He kept his mouth shut"
(Keating, p.7).

This put 470 jobs at stake. The workers' representatives and union officials then "spent days searching the Dail for Michael 0'Leary (Labour Party leader and Tanaiste in the Coalition government ) and anyone else we could get the ear of. Over a period of three months we forced conference after conference (with politicians etc.,). We got a couple of deferments of the closure date, but little else,"(Keating, ps. 7-8).

On Wednesday 20th January 1982, two days before the closure. the unions had a meeting with Foir Teoranta with the ICTU present. Proposals for saving the plant were drawn up, were acceptable to Foir Teoranta and were to be recommended by the joint union negotiating committee to a general meeting the next morning. Peter Keating takes up the story again:

"We took a handwritten copy of the proposals away with us. O'Leary's advisor, Dave Grafton, wrote the draft proposals by hand. The next morning, just before the general meeting started, a taxi arrived with a typewritten version of the handwritten proposals. The proposals had been altered to such an extent that the negotiating committee could not agree to recommend them for acceptance. We had to defer the general meeting until the following morning - the day of the closure. After we had left Foir Teoranta the night before, Dave Grafton had taken our agreed proposals to Mr. Lund who, without our knowledge, was in another room, and allowed him to alter the document. Grafton told us, in no uncertain manner, that we could like or lump the proposals as far as he was concerned; and that was final."
(Keating, p.8).

The eleventh hour cuts to the £24 per week bonus was the 'bridge too far' for workers on £85 basic. That night, 21st January, there were further talks, including CPM management, "aimed at averting the closure", the Irish Times of 22nd reported, and continued: "The liquidator of the mills put back the deadline for deciding the future of the mills until to-day."

On that morning, Friday 22nd January, the workers' general meeting lasted several hours. The workers unanimously endorsed the negotiating committee's rejection of "a crucial condition relating to bonus payments"(Irish Times). The meeting decided unanimously not to accept redundancy, but to fight for their jobs. It was decided "to elect a 35-worker action committee to direct the fight" (Keating, p.8).

The liquidator then closed the Mill.

A contemporary comment summed up as follows (though whether the closure came from delinquent 'asset-stripping', or the perfectly respectable 'market forces' of the 90s, can be a discussion for elsewhere): "Looking back its obvious that Clondalkin Paper Mills had no real intention to invest in the mills unless they could absolutely screw both the workers and the government. Quick profits from rezoned land sales proved far more attractive to these asset-strippers than future investment on even the most favourable terms. The government, through Foir Teo., were prepared to give them anything they asked for but the workers had to draw the line somewhere." (2)

Occupation

The workers met again on the following Monday (25th January) in a local sports hall "to decide what steps can now be taken to secure a re-opening of the mills"(Irish Times). The front page of the next morning's 'Irish Times' carried a rousing photograph of CPM workers climbing (not stepping) over the mill gates to secure a reopening of the Mill by occupying it. The similarity of the image to that of Lech Walesa clambering over the gates of Gdansk shipyard to spark the struggle of Solidarnosc, intensifying at that moment in the snows of Poland, was uncanny. Soon the snow too was to arrive (with a vengeance). The meeting had obviously adjourned en masse to the Mill, where ten of the 470 had detached and gone in to begin the occupation.

Peter Keating again: "The CPM workforce - all sections, all grades (craft, non-craft, white-collared, the lot) - had joined together in a political fight to get the mill opened... The action committee got into action straight away. The mill was occupied, and would remain so, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Everyone was allotted a particular job to do."

A later assessment echoes this : "Clondalkin Paper Mills was a fantastic example of mass involvement in the occupation. A mass meeting was held once a week. The rota for occupying were read out. Various sub-committees, from publicity to blacking, were established to involve the most active militants. A new occupation committee was elected - rather than simply leaving the matter in the hands of the older established shop committee"(3).

What a contrast between these 'steps to secure reopening' and today's pathetic treks to corporate headquarters and to government departments to secure a 'task force' to 'attract' new industry that might, or might not, employ some of the sacked workers on unpredictable terms. (4)

Incidentally, as Minister for Enterprise, Mary Harney, was said to be taking a tough line with Fruit of the Loom, it is interesting to recall what she had to say when CPM closed in I982, when she was in opposition, in the locality and in Fianna Fail. "Last night (Mary Harney) maintained that - Clondalkin need not have closed down" (reported the Irish Times, 25th Jan.). "The whole thing has been badly handled by the Government from the start", she claimed. "If they had been prepared to put money into the company, in line with a package worked out before Christmas, the mills would not have closed down." She estimated that some £6 million would be needed to save the mills, "In one year alone, the workers in Clondalkin and the company itself would pay over £2 million in taxes. Now if the workers are put on the dole, it will cost the state another £2 million in social welfare payments. So the extra £2 million would be worth it."

According to the action committee's own literature, the closure would mean:

Media

"The media painted a picture of workers blind with greed for bonuses of £50 per week, choosing closure rather than cuts in bonus. The unions were forced to place their own statements in the newspapers, at enormous expense, to counteract the propaganda campaign and tell that their bonus earnings were £24 per week on average and their basic wage was £85.40 (Keating says £85.79), not £150." (5)

The action committee's publicity campaign and work of contacting other workplaces soon led to support from workers all over. Semperit, the neighbouring tyre plant, which itself closed in 1997, sent a cheque for £500. "Several large collections were taken up on the Alcan site in Limerick. Workers in factories as far away as Offaly and Westmeath sent representatives to meetings in the community centre in Clondalkin. Workers in all local factories gave financial support on a regular basis, as did the workers in Hughes Dairies in Rathfarnham,"(Keating, p.9).

Danny Power, who was Assistant Treasurer of the action committee, toured the country with colleagues seeking support and collections. They got a great reception at Waterford Crystal (it goes without saying). "We spent three days in Aer Lingus, out at Dublin Airport, doing collections. The workers of the country were fantastic. I know, I was the one doing the collections". (6) He tells of his visit to a printing works in a Finglas industrial estate. A manager came to them and said, 'If we could do anything to get Clondalkin open we'd do it', and demonstrated why. "He took a roll of French paper down off the machine and put up an old Clondalkin one. It ran like a dream, with no problems; not like the French paper", says Danny.

Myles Speight, action committee member, tells in a radio documentary on the Clondalkin closure, of travelling to Waterford to secure the support of the dockers for the blacking of imported paper (7). Eventually every port in the country would be backing CPM and refusing to handle imported paper , with the (significant) exception of Larne .

The Dublin Council of Trade Unions offered full support, as did the Printing Trades Group, who came and spoke at public meetings. "The workers in Merchants' Warehouses", says Peter Keating, "backed CPM to the point where two men were suspended. They were paid for the time that they were suspended, but by CPM cheque, not by their own company". There was scarce a march in the centre of Dublin in 1982 or 1983, with any connection to workers' issues (and with only an indirect connection, on occasion), that did not have the 'Clondalkin Paper Mills Action Group' banner on it. At least two different ones were made. (Is one still folded away somewhere?).

Danny Power differs with reports at the time of full support in the Clondalkin group. He remembers "no help from Bailey Gibsons or Cahills." As well as on CPM, mass pickets were put on other firms in the group: Cahills, Bailey Gibson and CB, against the use of imported paper. (Merchants Warehousing, not in the group, was also picketed.)

The Clondalkin group had another company, Swiftbrook in Saggart, Co. Dublin, and pickets were placed on the warehouse there. Swiftbrook were non-union and were distributing paper from Brazil, Spain and Germany. There were court orders for the release of paper from Swiftbrook and against picketing there. According to one report, the picketing of the rest of the group went on with "official backing from TASS and FWUI. There has been no support from ITGWU. The ITGWU instructed hauliers to cross picket lines."

Another report said, "John Carroll of the ITGWU told the workers out straight that the Union would not institute an official blacking of imported paper, due to the Supreme Court ruling in the Talbot case. The FWUI is following A similar policy. But the CPM people have gone direct to stewards and found more backbone there." (8)

"Support in the local community was also forthcoming. Round Towers GAA Club officially pledged support for the sit-in, and put ads in the national and local press to this effect. The local papers supported and gave coverage to the sit-in. All the TDs and tradespeople in the area were lobbied, and gave support. Two dinner-dances organised by the strike committee and the women's committee (see below) raised hundreds of pounds"
(Keating p.10).

This was not going to be Fortress Clondalkin, with the workers holed-up in the mill, waiting for victory. The occupation became the nub of a national industrial and political campaign. A salient feature of the CPM struggle was the willingness to reach out for solidarity, to link up with workers all over, and the thoroughness with which this was undertaken. Not only did the occupiers go out into the wider world for support; they opened the Mill to supporters and to other workers in struggle, as we shall see.

Women and 'wives'

Should the notion arise that CPM was a manly last throw of an all-male industrial workforce, disabuse yourself of it. Yes, the leaders were all male and you would be forgiven for imagining at first that the workforce was all-male. "Mothers, wives and children joined their husbands, fathers and sons in bringing home to all in Leinster House that it was not just the CPM workers who were losing their jobs: it was also the families who were suffering" (Keating, p.9). In 'Out Of The Limelight', the radio documentary, Myles Speight, in drawing attention to a deserted floor of the mill mentions that "a couple of hundred" women worked there. Presumably their families were suffering too. Nevertheless, even as "wives" or "local women", women were very much brought into the struggle. (Here was another characteristic shared with the Ranks sit-in.) On International Womens Day, 8th March 1982, "the wives took over the occupation for twenty-four hours. This was a manifestation of the great support and spirit of the wives throughout the struggle. Indeed, a committee of local women had been formed to support the workers, which organized public meetings, lobbying, fund-raising events, etc." (Keating p.13).

The first Peoples March for Decent Jobs, an unemployed march from Waterford to Dublin, sponsored by two trade unions, seven Trades Councils and the Clondalkin Paper Mills Action Committee, came right into the occupied plant on 2nd July 1982. Marcher John Cane recounted:

"The real climax of the March was maybe not the Dublin demo but the day before when the March hit Clondalkin to be met by the Clondalkin Paper Mills workers and a contingent from De Lorean in Belfast. Here met the leadersof the resistance to unemployment in the working class withthe nucleus of the unemployed fightback. It was an expression of that unity of employed and unemployed that the March was all about. Mutual back-slapping, words of encouragement. A happy March moment and maybe evenone to tell the kids about"
('Gralton', Dublin, Aug.-Sept.1982).

Another marcher, Eddie Conlon, remembers: 'A great day. What we're always talking about - workers fighting to defend their jobs uniting with the unemployed and all that. There was a great crowd in the mill. We conducted a meeting there with emotional speeches. There for the occasion were workers from the De Lorean car-plant occupation" (9).The next day the CPM banner would follow the De Lorean banner on the 'triumphal entry' of the Peoples March into the city centre.

Later on, when the Ranks workers occupied their Mill, on Dublin's Northside, there was 'hands across the water' of the Liffey, linking Clondalkin and Phibsborough. Later still, CPM would join the other sit-ins in endorsing the remarkable 'Ranks Manifesto', which ended with the words "Nationalise Industry - Now!" (10)

A peculiar thing about the occupation, in many ways a model of how to do it, was that when the workers went in the liquidator and some of the Clondalkin management staff continued to operate on the premises. The occupation did not have full control of the premises and this remained the situation. However the workers maintained a mass picket on the Mill. (11)

Danny Power tells of a couple of incidents arising from this situation. An oil tanker arrived at the Mill gates to deliver heating oil. The oil driver (of all people) was willing enough to go through but the picket was not happy to let him. He went away and consulted his ITGWU Branch. The Branch told him to pass the picket, which he proceeded to do. (During the occupation the members of the ITGWU went over to the FWUI. The attitudes of the FWUI and the ITGWU to the struggle were not identical. At Branch level they were very different: one ITGWU official was particularly unhelpful while one FWUI official was more than helpful.)

The committee had a meeting at 10 a.m. every morning during the occupation. "Committee people used to check around the plant to see that everything was all right", says Danny; "that nothing had been moved. One morning we were on patrol when we met one of the managers taking out some instruments in a basket on a hand trolly. We asked him where he was going. He tried to maintain that we were preventing him from leaving the building. During the conversation, while his attention was taken up, the instruments, basket and hand trolly disappeared. They had actually gone into the machine-pit."

Paper chase across three governments

Six days after Clondalkin Paper Mills closed, the Coalition government itself closed. John Bruton's Budget did it. The CPM saga was to last across three governments (12). As it happened an unemployed candidate, Sean Corr, recently made redundant from J &C McLaughlin, was standing in the February 1982 election in Dublin West - Ballyfermot, near Clondalkin, and surrounding areas. Standing as an independent, his slogan was 'Fight for Jobs'. His platform included the "spread of the tactic employed by the threatened Clondalkin Paper workers". A delegation from the sit-in spoke at a public meeting of the candidate in Ballyfermot. The workers also made a contribution to the election fund of their consistent supporter, the then independent-minded Labour TD, Mervyn Taylor. They stressed though that they wanted no party jumping on their bandwagon. (13)

It was a measure of the political significance that CPM had even now attained that Fianna Fail had already given written and verbal assurances to the workers that the Mill would be reopened. After the election Fianna Fail did not have an overall majority. To secure the support of the independent, left-wing, inner-city TD, Tony Gregory, Haughey concluded a long 'shopping-list ' bargain with him. The reopening of CPM was included in the 'Gregory Deal'. (14)

Albert Reynolds (for it was he), the new Minister for Industry and Energy, was at first going to open the Mill on 9th June. It didn't happen. The unions went to see Haughey. He set September or October for the opening. Again it didn't happen. What happened was that Haughey's government closed.

"It is important to relate the dying days of the Haughey regime. Albert had given to the ICTU and the CPM committee a written guarantee to to pay to the liquidator 10% of the purchase price of the mill within seven days of getting a written guarantee from all ex-CPM employees to the effect that the Government would receive an unencumbered mill."(Keating, p.11). This was to be a prelude to a full transfer. A couple of problems materialised - water rights and a problem plot of land - to prevent a government buying the company. To solve them would take time. That was something the Fianna Fail government had little of.

Danny Power still laughs when he tells the story of when, during the election campaign (probably the one that now followed, in November I982), action committee member John O'Keefe got a loudhailer from Fianna Fail TD, Sean Walsh (now deceased). John recruited Danny into driving him. It was plausible that CPM workers might support Fianna Fail. They had given the original commitment to reopen the Mill and all along deployed as champions of the CPM workers. Congress met Fianna Fail at crisis points in the saga, when they were in opposition. Fianna Fail put the motion for reopening to the Dail in November 1983. Fianna Fail also failed to deliver on their early promises. Hence the actual message that was broadcast on the loudhailer, throughout Ballyfermot, from Danny Power's car (an eventuality he was unprepared for and a little mortified about): 'A vote for Fianna Fail is a vote to keep Clondalkin Paper Mills shut.'

The election brought Tweedledee back for the second time in 1982, but this time the Labour arm of the Fine Gael-Labour Party coalition had a new hand: Dick Spring was the new Labour leader. Before Christmas 1982 the workers' representatives had a meeting with him' where he told them that it was part of the coalition deal with Garret Fitzgerald, leader of Fine Gael, that any agreement on CPM entered into by the previous government would be honoured by the new one. Peter Keating again:

"Come January 1983, the new minister for energy, John Bruton, agreed to meet us, but kept putting the meeting off. When we finally met him, after considerable pressure wasapplied, his opening words - "I hope I have not raised your expectations meeting you so soon" - set the seal on the meeting. He told us that he was not aware of any commitment by his government to reopen the mill. He further advised us that he would have to examine the situation, when it waspossible and feasible to do so. He would then have to speakto his colleagues about the matter. He did not know when that was possible or feasible. He was asked to meet us inin, two or even three week's time, and give us a Yes or No answer. He flatly refused. He could not tell us when he would meet us, Up yours, in other words"
(p.12).

Showdown and victory

On 19th January 1983 about 100 CPM workers staged a demonstration outside the Department of Industry and Energy and then marched to Leinster House. Myles Speight said, "£40 million worth of plant and equipment was lying idle at Clondalkin. Jobs could be created for a small investment compared with the cost of setting up a new industry from scratch." Denis Kenny, an industrial engineer at the Mill, "who helped draw up the viability plan which has been prepared by members of the former management team," said, "the plant could be viable within three years." (15)

The occupation was now a year old. At this stage the liquidator decided to sell off the mill. He got an injunction to have the workers removed. The workers stayed put. They didn't even contest the injunction, though they did appear in court later. Four times the liquidator applied to the local gardai to enforce the injunction. The gardai made no move.

Committal proceedings took place to jail six action committee members: Gerry Courtney, Brian Nolan, his brother Niall Nolan, Eugene Charles, John O'Keefe and Denis Kenny. Gerry Courtney, action committee chairperson, made a speech from he dock: "I have worked in Clondalkin Paper Mills for twenty seven years. I have reared seven children. My wife or none of my children have ever been in court. This is the first time in my life to be in a court, All I want is my job back so that I can support my family and live like a man again; I don't consider myself a criminal." The judge said, "I will not send you to prison today, I will wait until next Tuesday (8th February) - I am sending you home to your wives for the weekend; maybe your wives will have more sense than you have." 'Wives' were big in those days, even with women judges.

The night before the six were to be jailed "the Executive Committee of the ICTU met the Government, demanding that the mill be bought" (Keating, p.13). Can you get your head around that - the Executive Committee of Congress meeting the government (until 2 a.m.) to demand that the demand of a sit-in be met? To help you, here is Peter Keating providing some context: "Under pressure from the ICTU (but more importantly, under greater pressure from the effects of CPM workers going to jail, and the likely consequences of such a move - massive strikes in support of the jailed men) the Government yielded, and paid the liquidator 10% of the £1.75 million. The balance was paid on the 22nd March 1983."

This is where Peter Keating's pamphlet breaks off, and about when, apparently, it was written. This allowed the title: 'Clondalkin, A Worker's Victory'. And that's what it was - at this point. Even his prognosis for the future was not incorrect: "We have been given every assurance that the mills will be reopened. We are satisfied that it will." Peter Keating doesn't give a full breakdown of the resolution, which didn't provide for the retention of all the 458 jobs. The details were as follows, according to Eugene McEldowney: "as part of the deal, the former workers were to receive £120 redundancy money for each year of service. This included the 220 workers who hoped to be re-employed when the mills reopened. In addition the liquidator paid a lump sum of £140,000 which was to be distributed by the unions involved among the 280 workers who had been supporting the occupation. The total payment came to £1 million and was in addition to the statutory redundancy payments which totalled another £1.6 million" (16).

However the show wasn't over yet. Not by a long shot. And when it was finally over the critics would have noted a triumph in the first half, a triumph in the Final Act, a show that would run and run until the final curtain had to came down at last. And still the stage hands lingered on long afterwards, packing away the props for ever.

Nevertheless, Peter Keating is dead-on in his wrap-up, about the "essential point" of what had been won so far. "The essential point is that when workers properly mobilise themselves in a genuine fight for the right to work, they will obtain the political and financial support to enable them to win through." (We presume in 'political' support he includes industrial, local and public support.)

Among the lessons he concluded from the struggle so far, were: in a closure situation the clear starting objective should be to retain the jobs; a closure demands a different structure than a normal industrial dispute, action by the workers and a politicised response; involvement of, and communication to, all the workforce; information to, and link-ups with workers in other firms; involvement of families and the local community. One of these points was underlined in a later overview of occupations: "Many of the occupations failed through a lack of politics. Because the tactic of occupation is to win, it must be seen as a political fight from the beginning. That was the secret of the victory of Clondalkin." (17)

Three days after the court case against the six was dropped an army lorry arrived at the Mill. Any occupiers still there that day might have thought that the state had finally decided to effect an end to the occupation, despite the settlement. Or that the army was a little tardy in their response. Apparently the army, far from being tardy, were being a bit previous. The lorry was full of secret files to be pulped (18). In fact, the Mill was only to open after much time and travail.

The only thing the CPM workers had beyond the 10% down payment was "a document the last Fianna Fail government agreed to back in November I982. They have received a verbal assurance that it will be adhered to. 'We've got to keep the pressure up. Getting the purchase by the state is no good in itself. We've got to still make sure they agree to proper manning levels,' said Brian Nolan, the PRO of the Clondalkin Workers Action Committee. It is that determination...which has brought Clondalkin Paper Mills workers the closest to forcing the state to nationalise to save jobs" (19).

After the 8th February resolution the active CPM workers stayed together. They needed to. In fact, there was a triumph yet to come, one probably more dramatic and more substantial than that of February. This sequel was extraordinarily similar in its form (a last-minute government climbdown in the face of a self-sacrificial stand at CPM and the industrial movement it evoked) and in the ultimate disappointment hidden within the outward victory. Whereas the first climax centred around imminent imprisonment in February '83, the Clondalkin Paper Mills struggle climaxed for the second time in November '83 around a hunger-strike.

In Part Two we'll go into the second year of the CPM struggle and beyond; from the end of the first occupation and the state purchase of the mill to the enormous clash that loomed between organised workers and the government over the mill's reopening, through the joyous resumption of production to the final closure and the long sustained finishing chord.

 

On to Part two of this article


(1) Peter Keating , 'Clondalkin, A Workers' Victory' (Communist Party of Ireland pamphlet, undated, probably early 1983).

(2)'The Worker', Dublin, election special, Feb.'82.
(3) Kieran Allen, 'Socialist Worker' (Dublin), March 1985.
(4) The Fruit of the Loom closures in Donegal, and other recent closures, seem to have met passivity. This passivity is not 'general all over Ireland.' There's a thaw, as mentioned. When the workers at Hartmann International, of New Ross, Co. Wexford, returned from this year's Summer holidays, they found the gates locked and dogs behind them. They begun a picketing vigil which at least led to the return to work (temporarily and without, unfortunately, their shop steward) of a section of the workforce.
(5) Des Derwin (who?),'The Worker', Mar-Apr '82.
(6) Danny Power, interview with author. (I remember well Danny coming up to Unidare in Finglas to see the shop stewards.)
(7) 'Out Of The Limelight', RTE Radio1, 1990, presented and produced by Betty Purcell.
(8) 'The Worker', June-July '82 & Mar-Apr'82.
(9) Interview with author.
(10) 'Gralton', June-July '83.
(11) Danny Power.
(12) The coup de grace was administered on the first day of a fourth government, and the machine wasn't finally switched off for quite a while after that.
(13) 'The Worker', election special, Feb.'82 & Mar-Apr,'82.
(14) Cf. Garret Fitzgerald, 'An Autobiography', Gill and Macmillan, Dublin, 1991, p.404, for a disapproving account of the Gregory Deal.
(15) 'Irish Times', 20-1-83.
(16) Eugene McEldowney, "Its over...but the memory will linger on", 'Irish Times', 17-11-83.
(17) Kieran Allen, 'Socialist Worker', (Dublin), March 1985.
(18) & (19) 'Clondalkin proves it - occupation works', 'The Worker', Feb-March '83.


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