Final Report: ICTU North/South Retired Workers’ Seminar

Thursday and Friday 20th and 21th April 2023.

The seminar was held in Whites Clayton Hotel, Wexford.


The ICTU North/South Retired Workers Seminar was initiated some years ago with a view to meeting retired colleagues from unions in the South of Ireland. The Affiliates of Congress greatly value the continued participation of our retiring workers in the day to day business of the trade union movement.

Congress currently has two retired members committees, one based in Dublin, and a Northern one in Belfast and the RM workers Seminar alternates between the two annually. This year Jimmy Whelan (South) and Margaret Galloway (North) co-chaired the event.

The opportunity to meet with like-minded retired workers from the widest cross section of the movement in Ireland, and share information and experiences must be seen as vitally important. Certainly since the first seminar, the organisation and participation of union affiliates has grown as has the interest. Seminars have to date been held in Dublin, Belfast (twice) and now Wexford.

Over the two days (as currently scheduled) an agenda jam-packed with issues of concern to our retired workers is presented and debated. This year items covered politics in the UK post pandemic, action on climate change, Fraud. How to avoid being scammed, the crisis in hospital emergency depts. And (due to a speaker being late) an additional presentation on “The Marriage Bar” by Laura Bambrick, a member of the Congress Admin. This proved very interesting and certainly caught the attention of the delegates. (Note: we have requested a copy of the PowerPoint presentation used).

Speakers included: Owen Reidy, General Secretary of Congress, Gerry Murphy, Assistant General Secretary (with responsibility for the North) Jan Short, General Secretary, National Pensioners Convention, Michael Wall, President of Wexford Trades Council and Tony Fitzpatrick, National Director, INMO.

Almost all union affiliates of Congress were represented as were a large number of trade’s councils. Speakers and guests came and went over the course of the event but the delegate attendance was probably around fifty.

The Northern Unions present included Unite, Nipsa, Unison, Siptu, UTU, Into, Gmb, and of course CWU. Trades Councils included Belfast, Ballymena / Antrim and Fermanagh.

The branch delegation was comprised of J.Dowdall and myself and Joe’s report is included.   (Appendix C, follows) Sincere thanks are extended to the branch committee for continuing to support this event, note: we were one of two branches from the NI region present.

Overall, this was a well-attended, interesting seminar organised by ICTU and facilitated by Natalie Higgins (Congress Admin.) All the arrangements were extremely good, accommodation excellent, hotel staff efficient and friendly, and spacious, airy seminar rooms.

CWU (UK) delegates to ICTU Retired Workers Seminar in Wexford were Lawrence Huston, Joe Dowdall NI Telecom Branch and John Martin, Michael McAlinden, NI West Branch.

CWU (UK) delegates to ICTU Retired Workers Seminar in Wexford were Lawrence Huston, Joe Dowdall NI Telecom Branch and John Martin, Michael McAlinden, NI West Branch.

Review Focus.

As part of the current Review of Retired Members services across the Northern Ireland Region, this seminar was an opportunity for John Martin and I to network with many unions across both jurisdictions, with a view to catch up on current issues, membership levels and future planning. 

Day 1 2pm – 5pm

(Note: The agenda is attached as per Appendix item A and the biographical details of keynote speakers is at Appendix B)

Evening Dinner.

The evening continued with an informative pre-dinner talk by Michael Wall, President of Wexford Trades Council on the history of the Wexford labour movement and was very well received as was an excellent dinner provided by the Clayton Whites hotel.

Day 2 

Again a number of keynote speakers addressed the seminar (Adequately covered in Joe Dowdall’s report.)

(Note: Copies of any slide presentations will be at Appendix D)

Lawrence C. Huston

N. Ireland Telecom Branch. (delegate)

28 April 2023…

Retired Workers Seminar North/South

Thursday 20th & Friday 21st April 2023Whites Hotel, Wexford

Thursday 20th April

1.30 – 2.30pm Registration and Lunch

2.30pm Welcome – Jimmy Whelan and Margaret Galloway

2.35 – 3.15pm Laura Bambrick, Congress, The Marriage Bar. A ban on employing married women.

3.15 – 4:00pm Carol-Anne O’Brien and Brendan Young, B-OLD Climate Action
Empowering older people to participate in community climate action
and just transition.

4:00- 4.20pm Coffee break

4.20 – 5:00pm Jan Shortt, General Secretary National Pensioners Convention
Life and politics in the UK after the pandemic.

7.15pm Dinner , Guest speaker Michael Wall, President Wexford Trade Council
The history and work of Wexford Trades Council.

Friday21st April

9.30 – 10.30am  Gerry Murphy, Assistant GS ICTU
The current state of the trade union movement and future plans.

Owen Reidy, General Secretary ICTU
Reports on trade union and other political activities by retired workers
across the movement and island.

10.30am. Coffee break.

10.45. -11.15am 

Paul O’Brien, Head of Public Affairs, Banking of Ireland
Fraud is Everywhere – Know how to protect yourself.

11.15 – 12:00 noon 

Tony Fitzpatrick, Director of Industrial Relations, INMO
The crisis in our emergency departments for patients and staff.

Close – Jimmy Whelan and Margaret Galloway.

ICTU Retired Workers Seminar North/South.

Venue: Whites Clayton Hotel, Wexford Town.

The journey by Train worked perfectly with the Enterprise connection with the Wexford Train working out because there was no delays in both directions which apparently is unusual. Travelling with the Smart Pass was economical and we only had to pay a nominal amount to upgrade to First Class to guarantee a seat.

Jimmy Whelan and Margaret Galloway the respective Chairs of the Southern and Northern ICTU Retired Workers Committee opened the proceedings with a welcome and introduction to the Program.

Jan Shortt the General Secretary of the UK National Pensioners Convention give a talk on politics in the UK after the pandemic and explained the different working practices her organisation adopted to keep their systems working.

Carol-Anne O’Brien the co-founder of BOLD Climate action group explained why it was important for older people to come forward and take an active role in getting more people to act to reduce climate change. This BOLD organisation gets great support from Friends of the Earth.

At this point we were supposed to get a speech from Gerry Murphy the Assistant General Secretary of the ICTU. He however was delayed due to an urgent meeting with NIO Ministers at Stormont. This was then substituted by a presentation by Laura Bambrick an ICTU staff member on the history of the “Marriage Bar”. This was a very informative talk and laid bare so uncomfortable truths about the role of Trade Unions in instigating and perpetuating discrimination in employment to the detriment of women in general and married women in particular. We all should be getting a copy of the presentation and I would be eager to have this used at not only an RMS meeting but across the Branch.

We stopped at 5.00pm and had dinner at 7.15pm with a presentation by Michael Wall President of Wexford Trades Council on the history and work of the Trades Council. The meal was excellent and the night went well….

We started early at 9.30am with a speech from Owen Reidy the new General Secretary of the ICTU. He laid out his targets to achieve during his tenure and shared his vision of the future.

After a coffee break Paul O’Brien Head of Public Affaires Bank of Ireland give us a detailed insight into the types of Fraud being perpetrated across the country and shared useful tips on spotting a scam. He repeated a very exact statement that you cannot possibly be scammed if you do not give out your Bank details and PIN number so just don’t do it unless you are certain and have checked the validity of the person you are dealing with.

Following this Tony Fitzpatrick Director of Industrial Relations in the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation give a detailed talk on the crisis in the Irish Hospitals regarding shortage of beds and Trolley waits. As in the North due to under investment staff shortages and lack of proper post hospital social care leaving patients “Trapped” in Hospital beds instead of getting home.

The seminar ended at 12.00pm and a packed lunch was provided to facilitate travel home. An interesting seminar with good opportunities to network and share ideas.

Joe Dowdall