General Secretary election
"Enemies" and Partners

AFTER THE results of the March election for General Secretary, Carolann Duggan said something just right for the occasion, but which seems to have shocked some in the media. While she has been critical of the union leadership, she said, members should never lose sight of the fact that the employers were the "enemy" (Irish Times, 2 April 1998). The strange thing is that the leadership would probably baulk at this valid concession because they would almost certainly never portray, in public discourse, the employers as enemies.

We can only repeat what we said after the VP election: our congratulations for another outstanding performance. In a year you have caused a major upset to the cosy club that thought the general officer positions were there waiting their turn; and placed an alternative, fighting view of trade unionism (and of politics too) before workers right across the trade union movement.

Carolann's share of vote was maintained (22%, compared to 21% in the VP election) after it was halved from 42% in the Presidential election. She came third and last (but a strong last) compared to second in the VP race. The Presidential election had only two candidates. Her absolute vote was up 3,768 (see table) since last time.

So we can repeat and confirm what we said in October last year following the VP poll: "the result showed the conscious core of Carolann's constituency - and this newsletter - to be about 20,000 members or 20% of those active enough to vote". We cannot now be so sure of what we went on to say: that the result underestimated "the balance in SIPTU between the establishment and the forces for change" because Des Geraghty could have been seen by many to have been an oppositional candidate and could have taken some of the 43% anti-P2000 vote and the previous 42% Carolann vote. There is no way that either John McDonnell or Brendan Hayes, whatever their particular appeals and qualities, could be mistaken for rebels.

Carolann's vote was held back this time by, in hindsight, two very strong candidates who got the vote out. But neither of them was, like Des Geraghty, "the ideal candidate to take on Carolann Duggan by taking dissident votes from her" (SIPTU Fightback no.3). So it seems that the hard, conscious core is presently about 20,000/20% and rising slightly.

"The night belonged to the mainstream of the union" commented Padraig Yeates dispassionately in the Irish Times. Brendan Hayes polled particularly well not having had the benefit of either a rebel vote or (it appears) the machine vote. A deeper analysis might show that he picked up votes from both sides.

Or a surface interpretation might conclude that two equally strong (not to say indistinguishable) conservative candidates roughly divided the mainstream votes, relegating the 'left' to its proper place.

The moderate side did so well by getting out a new vote. According to the 'Irish Times' report, "Mr McDonnell owed his victory to an 80% turn out in the south west, well above the national average of 65%. He also did better than expected in some other areas, particularly the Dublin private sector."

Yet, of the extra 8,000 overall votes cast this time Carolann got over 3,500 and the frontrunner John McDonnell, who apparently had a pact with Des Geraghty from the previous election, dropped (you might say) 2,000 below the previous frontrunners. Brendan Hayes got all the other votes from the VP election (Hunter, Greene & Croke) plus the lion's share of the new votes (30,000 + 4,500 + 2,000 from the machine frontrunner). With the machine next time and without (?) Carolann: sure, you're laughing Brendan!

John McDonnell went 'that extra mile' beyond the orthodox line during his campaign. The demand for a minimum wage of £5 per hour had already become radical chic ('where's my clothes?' cries Carolann!) but John added REPEAL (not amendment)of the 1990 Act, and MANDATORY union recognition (not at all the message from the ICTU in Raglan Road). We'll hold you to it, General Secretary.

On his election, the new General Secretary said he hoped that "the constituency that she represented will come forward with us in SIPTU". A big hearted acknowledgement, John. No bother, you lead the members in the fight and we'll be with you. 100%. You tell us to lie down, or side with our betters behind our backs, and we'll opppose you. Finally, John said, "we want SIPTU to be a major crusading organisation in this country". So do we, John, so do we.

Des Derwin

Union Recognition...

In the last issue we wondered whether Jimmy Somers had, after all, put his name to the High Level Group report which advised a voluntary, no sanctions code for recognition disputes. We're grateful to 'Labour Comment' (Feb. 98) for the information that the Report which despite its circulation by the President is hard to get hold of) notes that the ICTU position going into the talks was that "neither mandatory recognition nor mechanisms for binding arbitration were being sought as objectives in themselves". The ICTU position "did not envisage penalties or sanctions as part of such a mechanism". It's a long, long way from Clare to here. Apparently, the Congress executive has sent it back for further talks having seen voluntary mechanisms in the light of Ryanair (Nolans, Pat the Baker .... ?)

Number Crunching : General Secretary Election Results

Financial Membership of SIPTU (1996, last year for which annual report available) - 179,019

Total valid poll - 110,956 (62.5%)

Quota - 55,478

First preferences

J. McDonnell (elected on 2nd count)

49,408 (44.3%)

B. Hayes

36,706 (33.3%)

C. Duggan

24,842 (22.4%)

Vice President Election Results

D. Geraghty (elected 1st count, 70 votes over quota)

51,554 (50.2%)

C. Duggan

21,074 (20.8%)

G. Hunter

14,890 (14.5%)

N. Greene

11,610 (11.4%)

N. Croke

3,839 (3.7%)

Presidential Election 1997

J. Somers

51,651 (57.6%)

C. Duggan

37,940 (42.4%)

Total valid poll 89,591 (50%)


C. Duggan's vote was 21.2% of the electorate (financial membership) in the Presidential Election, 11.76% in the VP election and 13.8% in the General Secretary election.

The frontrunners have maintained their remarkable similarity:

J. Somers


D. Geraghty

51,554 a difference of 97 (0.1%)

J. McDonnell

49.408 a difference of 2,146 (4.2%)

To the SIPTU Fightback page