Open main menu

Wikipedia β

Irish Congress of Trade Unions

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (often abbreviated to just Congress or ICTU), formed in 1959 by the merger of the Irish Trade Union Congress (founded in 1894) and the Congress of Irish Unions (founded in 1945), is a national trade union centre, the umbrella organisation to which trade unions in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland affiliate.

Ictu logo small web.jpg
Full name Irish Congress of Trade Unions
Founded 1959
Affiliation ITUC, ETUC, TUAC
Key people Patricia King, general secretary
Peter Bunting, assistant general secretary
Office location Dublin, Ireland
Country Ireland (Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland)
Website Republic Northern Ireland



There are currently 55 trade unions with membership of Congress, representing about 600,000 members in the Republic of Ireland.[1] Trade union members represent 35.1% of the Republic's workforce.[2] This is a significant decline since the 55.3% recorded in 1980 and the 38.5% reported in 2003.[3] In the Republic, roughly 50% of union members are in the public sector. The ICTU represents trade unions in negotiations with employers and the government with regard to pay and working conditions


The supreme policy-making body of Congress is the Biennial Delegate Conference, to which affiliated unions send delegates. On a day-to-day basis Congress is run by an Executive Committee and a staffed secretariat headed up by the general secretary, Patricia King who succeeded David Begg in the position in 2015.

John Douglas of Mandate became President of Congress at the biennial conference in Belfast in July 2013 succeeding Eugene McGlone of Unite. The president serves for a two-year period and is succeeded by one of two vice-presidents.

Congress is the sole Irish affiliate of the ETUC, the representative body for trade unions at European level and of the International Trade Union Confederation ITUC

Social pactsEdit

Congress enjoyed unprecedented political and economic influence over the period from 1987 to 2009 under the umbrella of Ireland's social partnership arrangements[citation needed]. This involved a series of seven corporatist agreements with the government and the main manufacturing/services employer body IBEC and the construction employers' lobby, CIF (Construction Industry Federation). It was a classic European-style alliance of government, labour and capital built on six decades of voluntary employment relations regulated by state institutions such as the Labour Court.

For many years the union leaders agreed to dampen pay rises in return for regular reductions in income tax rates. They also negotiated a new system of pay determination for public service employees under the rubric of "benchmarking" using external assessment of pay scales for assorted grades.

The era of Christian democratic style corporatism also saw a dramatic fall in trade union density from 62% in 1980 to 31% in 2007 and consolidation through mergers of many affiliated trade unions.[4] Efforts to launch recruitment and organising initiatives failed to secure adequate support from affiliated unions while attempts to secure indirect forms of union recognition through legislation collapsed after successful legal challenges and appeals by the anti-union Ryanair company.

Ireland's period of centralised 'social pacts' ended in late 2009 when the government imposed pay cuts of between 5% and 8% on public service employees. The joint-stewardship of the state's FÁS training and employment authority by Congress and IBEC and accompanied waste of public and EU funds and excessive spending on directors 'junkets' further weakened the public standing of Congress and its 'social partnership' structures.

In an assessment of the post-partnership situation, Congress general secretary David Begg prepared a strategic review paper in which he identified the increasing weakness of the Congress and individual trade unions being due to "recession and change in the balance of power with capital" as well as job cuts, poor organisation, especially in high-technology companies, and a growing rift between public and private sector employees.[5]

On a more positive note Begg asserted that the ending of social partnership arrangements "liberates us to advocate and campaign for our own policies".[6]

Other activitiesEdit

A "mass rally", organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Amnesty International, and the Rainbow Project in support of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland[7] took place on 13 June 2015 in Belfast, with a 20,000 person turnout.[8]

Affiliated unionsEdit

Former membersEdit

General SecretariesEdit


Year President Union
1959 Conroy, JohnJohn Conroy Irish Transport and General Workers' Union
1960 Larkin, Jnr, JamesJames Larkin, Jnr Workers' Union of Ireland
1961 Kennedy, NormanNorman Kennedy Amalgamated Transport and General Workers' Union
1962 Fitzpatrick, BillyBilly Fitzpatrick Irish Union of Distributive Workers and Clerks
1963 Macgougan, JackJack Macgougan National Union of Tailors and Garment Workers
1964 McCarthy, CharlesCharles McCarthy Vocational Teachers' Association
1965 Murphy, DominickDominick Murphy Transport Salaried Staffs' Association
1966 Kennedy, FintanFintan Kennedy Irish Transport and General Workers' Union
1967 Thompson, BobBob Thompson General and Municipal Workers' Union
1968 Conroy, JohnJohn Conroy Irish Transport and General Workers' Union
1969 Dunne, JimmyJimmy Dunne Marine Port and General Workers' Union
1970 Morrow, JamesJames Morrow Amalgamated Union of Engineering and Foundry Workers
1971 Cosgrave, MauriceMaurice Cosgrave Post Office Workers' Union
1972 Cox, JimJim Cox Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers
1972–73 McGonagle, StephenStephen McGonagle Irish Transport and General Workers' Union
1974 Larkin, DenisDenis Larkin Workers' Union of Ireland
1975 Barr, AndyAndy Barr National Union of Sheet Metal Workers, Coppersmiths, Heating and Domestic Engineers
1976 Griffin, MattMatt Griffin Irish National Teachers' Organisation
1977 Harkin, BrendanBrendan Harkin Northern Ireland Civil Service Alliance
1977–78 Mulhall, JohnJohn Mulhall Irish National Painters' and Decorators' Trade Union
1979 O'Sullivan, HaroldHarold O'Sullivan Local Government and Public Services Union
1980 Curlis, JackJack Curlis General and Municipal Workers' Union
1981 Murphy, DanDan Murphy Civil Service Executive Union
1982 Wylie, DavidDavid Wylie Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers
1983 Cardiff, PaddyPaddy Cardiff Federated Workers' Union of Ireland
1984 Graham, JamesJames Graham Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers
1985 Merrigan, MattMatt Merrigan Amalgamated Transport and General Workers' Union
1986 McCusker, JimJim McCusker Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance
1987 Carroll, JohnJohn Carroll Irish Transport and General Workers' Union
1988 Wallace, WilliamWilliam Wallace National Union of Tailors and Garment Workers
1989 Quigley, GerryGerry Quigley Irish National Teachers' Organisation
1990 Blair, JimmyJimmy Blair Amalgamated Engineering Union
1991 Kirwan, ChristyChristy Kirwan SIPTU
1991–93 Douglas, TomTom Douglas GMB Union
1993–95 Flynn, PhilPhil Flynn Irish Municipal, Public and Civil Trade Union
1995–97 Freeman, JohnJohn Freeman Amalgamated Transport and General Workers' Union
1997–99 Browne, EdmundEdmund Browne SIPTU
1999–2001 McCormack, InezInez McCormack UNISON
2001–03 O'Toole, JoeJoe O'Toole Irish National Teachers' Organisation
2003–05 Mackin, BrendanBrendan Mackin Amicus
2005–07 McLoone, PeterPeter McLoone Irish Municipal, Public and Civil Trade Union
2007–09 McKeown, PatriciaPatricia McKeown UNISON
2009–11 O'Connor, JackJack O'Connor SIPTU
2011–13 McGlone, EugeneEugene McGlone Unite
2013–15 Douglas, JohnJohn Douglas Mandate
2015–17 Campfield, BrianBrian Campfield Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance
2017-19 Nunan, SheilaSheila Nunan Irish National Teachers' Organisation


1959: Walter Beirne
1960: John Conroy
1967: Fintan Kennedy
1982: Patrick Clancy
1985: Christy Kirwan
1989: Edmund Browne
1995: Bill Attley
1999: Jimmy Somers
2001: John McDonnell
2003: Joe O'Flynn

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Affiliated Unions & Trades Councils » About Congress » Congress – Irish Congress of Trade Unions
  2. ^ AIAS
  3. ^ The state of trade unionism Archived 2 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ The Irish Times – Mon, Jan 25, 2010 – Membership down to 31% of workers, notes CSO
  5. ^ The Irish Times – Mon, Jan 25, 2010 – Searching for answers in wake of collapsed partnership
  6. ^
  7. ^ McDonald, Henry (24 May 2015). "Northern Ireland under pressure after Irish gay marriage referendum win". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 25 May 2015. Retrieved 25 May 2015. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions will join Amnesty International and gay rights group the Rainbow Project to hold a mass rally in support of equal marriage rights on 13 June, while a legal test case has also been lodged with Belfast’s courts. 
  8. ^ "Thousands attend same-sex marriage rally in Belfast". 13 June 2015. Retrieved 15 June 2015. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Other Public Service Unions
  10. ^ a b c d Other Unions, ICTU
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h Teachers Unions, ICTU
  12. ^ a b Other Industry Unions, ICTU
  13. ^ a b c d e Electrical Engineering and Construction Unions, ICTU
  14. ^ a b Postal and Telecommunications Unions, ICTU
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Professional and White Collar Unions, ICTU
  16. ^ a b c General Unions, ICTU
  17. ^ a b c d Distribution Retail and Transport Unions, ICTU

External linksEdit