As the workers of Harland a & Wolff continued to occupy the Yard and as the Administrators were appointed, there was ‘sympathy‘ from the DUP, silence from Sinn Fein and a stark reminder from the Tory government that the law of the free market jungle still applies.
Even if the Executive had been re-instated none of the main parties would have done anything different, or indeed, done anything at all.
Workers and trades union calls for the nationalisation of the Yard have been met with disinterest and contempt. The DUP has offered ‘sympathy and understanding’, the Tory government has dismissed the crisis as “ultimately a commercial issue” and Sinn Fein appears to have said nothing at all.
Neither they nor the DUP have made this a red line issue. Neither has demanded public intervention to keep H&W in business, retain its jobs and skills base or secure its future. But then, like the Tory government, the main parties here are ideologically opposed to state intervention in the economy – unless of course it involves bailing out the banks or lowering corporation tax. They too hold that it is “ultimately a commercial issue” .
There is a real danger that the administrators will now try to sell off Harland & Wolff to the highest bidding asset strippers: the final rivet in the coffin of a manufacturing and industrial base.
The struggle to save the jobs, the skills and the future of Harlands is not over. The Yard workers, their families, the trade union movement and everyone determined to see a positive future deserves our full and ongoing support.
Meanwhile, the free market parties who are happy to cut budgets, lower corporation tax, sell Northern Ireland as a low wage economy and now watch the shipyard slip away deserve to face the political backlash that surely needs to come.