O'Flynn defeated Noel Dowling (the same Noel Dowling who described himself as a "socialist" but supported management during the recent pilots' strike at Dublin Airport) by just over five thousand votes. O'Flynn got 57,592 votes compared to Dowling's 52,293.
Radical left wing candidate and factory worker Des Derwin got 7,512 votes. Unlike the other two candidates, Des had sod all access to the media. He had to take his annual holidays in order to campaign and had to finance his leaflets through a credit union loan.
Des had stood in the election to raise the issues of increasing democracy in the union, opposing 'social partnership' deals with the state and employers, and supporting workers who want to take on their bosses. Des also sought to emphasise that the general secretary is supposed to implement the decisions of the union conference rather than independently make new polices (at least that's the theory!).
As he said "This is not about getting Des Derwin elected. It is about the best showing for a different, a changed and forceful, SIPTU, with far greater member input. I am standing on a platform of change, revitalisation and the return of our Union to independence, fighting-form and control from below by the general membership".
The big lesson from this contest is how weak the opposition in SIPTU is. 6.7% is not a good vote! There is no opposition network, simply a number of individuals who are fairly isolated from each other.
The one good thing we can take from all this is that those 7,512 votes came as a result of hard work by Des and no more than about a dozen others.
We know a fair few 'dissidents' in our union - but the work of bringing them together to change the structures and policies is still ahead of us.
Alan MacSimoin (SIPTU member)
This edition is No73 published in November 2002