Present: Alana Heaney, Aly Renwick, Amanda Nichols, Angie Birtill, Austin Harney (late), Di Parkin, Dorothy Macedo, Feidhelm Doolin, Geoff Bell, Laura Sullivan, Maire Doolin, Mick Sullivan, Nadine Finch, Richard Chessum, Sheena Clarke, Ty Galvin

Apologies: Anne O’Daly, Austin Harney (for lateness)

Welcome and Introduction: Nadine welcomed the steering group members in attendance, and outlined the rationale for the meeting. The group had begun and grown informally some three years ago, and had planned for an inaugural AGM in April 2020 which had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. In order to set up a bank account, membership system and website it was necessary to put the group on a constitutional footing and so this inaugural meeting had been convened as an interim measure, with a view to holding a full AGM within a year.
Adoption of constitution, statement of principles and code of conduct: (All three documents had been previously circulated among the steering group, discussed in meetings and amended accordingly.) Nadine explained that membership of LFIU would be open to Labour Party and trade union members and members of the Irish community who agreed with the statement of principles. There was also provision for labour movement bodies such as Trades Councils to affiliate. An executive committee would meet bi-monthly to oversee the general running of LFIU, the co-chairs and secretary would assist the membership secretary with the start-up of the membership system, and sub-groups would meet bi-monthly to develop the work of the organisation (see item 7 below). The constitution, statement of principles and code of conduct were all agreed nem con.
Office holders: the following were elected nem con:
Co-chairs: Laura Sullivan and Nadine Finch. Laura assumed the chair of the meeting
Secretary: Angie Birtill
Treasurer: Alana Heaney
Minutes secretary: Amanda Nichols
Membership secretary: Anne O’Daly
Women’s officer: Dorothy Macedo
Trade union liaison officer: Austin Harney
Political education officer: Geoff Bell
Youth officer: Feidhelm Doolin
Editorial group convenor: Richard Chessum
Irish community liaison officer: Maire Doolin
Labour Party liaison officer: Mick Sullivan
Auditors: Cody Hanby and Sheena Clarke
It was noted that there is provision in the constitution for co-option to unfilled posts at a later date, and it was clarified that it was not necessary to be a Labour Party member to be a member of the EC, as membership of the EC as with LFIU as a whole was open to trade union and Irish community members too.
Website: Mick fed back on the development process so far. Harry Robbins at digital media company Outlandish had kindly agreed to build a basic LFIU website gratis, with a further meeting to discuss content to be held on 26th February. It will be part of the remit of the editorial group to look after the website and collect material for it. Mick has registered two domain names, Angie suggested making a link between the two so that whichever is ultimately chosen will be easy to find. Angie will contact photographer Joanne O’Brien who may allow LFIU use of archive material for visual impact. The history sub-group already has some articles ready for the website. The editorial sub-group will meet on 15th February to brainstorm website content, in readiness for the meeting with Harry on 26th February, this will include up-to-date campaigning material and links to other relevant organisations and campaigns.
Bank account: Mick reported on his research. Most banks offer a “treasurer’s account” structure for charity and community entities, although it was not clear whether all would include political organisations. Unity Trust Bank, based in Congress House, seemed the most appropriate for our purposes, charges permitting. A Paypal Business account would also be required to enable an online membership system. Angie proposed, Maire seconded and the meeting formally resolved, nem con, to authorise the treasurer to set up a suitable bank account and a Paypal Business account in the name of Labour for Irish Unity. Alana and Mick will liaise on the set-up. The bank signatories (as per the constitution)will be Alana (treasurer), Laura (co-chair), Angie (secretary) and Anne (membership secretary), with oversight from Mick.
Contact details: it was usual for two free email addresses to be provided with a domain name. In addition a postal address will be needed, in particular for receipt of membership forms and payment from anyone not able to apply and pay online. This would be discussed at the first meeting of the EC.
Sub-groups: Laura explained that much of the work of the organisation would be carried out in these groups, some of which had begun to meet informally. Any LFIU member would be able to join one or more groups if they wished, and the groups, meeting bi-monthly in between EC meetings, would report back on their work to the EC. The groups formed to date, and their membership so far, were as follows:
History: Geoff (convenor), Di, Ty, Aly, Nadine, Mick, Maire, Eamonn O’Tierney, Mary Sullivan
Civil liberties and equalities: Maire/Nadine (convenor), Austin, Angie, Richard, Laura, Feidhelm, Dorothy
Editorial: Richard (convenor), Aly, Geoff, Mick, Laura, Alana, Nadine, Amanda, Feidhelm, Angie
Trade union liaison: Austin (convenor), Maire (needs more members and to meet to discuss affiliations)
Report-backs: Maire reported that the Civil Liberties and Equalities group had recently held an interesting meeting to plan for future speakers and campaigning topics.
Geoff reported on an initial meeting held via Zoom with representatives of The World Transformed, who apologised for the lack of inclusion of the topic of Ireland in TWT’s work so far and were keen to incorporate more. Geoff has drafted a paper to send them, including suggestions of speakers, and will circulate this to LFIU when complete. We have the opportunity to help shape TWT’s thinking on Ireland.
It was agreed for Mick, as LP liaison officer, with input from Alana who is in contact with a Momentum officer with an interest in Ireland, to liaise with Momentum about their process for prioritisation of LP Conference motions. As LFIU’s model motions are now out-of-date, Nadine, Mick and Geoff will draft a new one for discussion at the first meeting of the EC; Ty remarked that it should address the convergence of both parts of Ireland as that was the prime focus of LFIU. Dorothy as women’s officer will investigate the processes and deadlines for putting motions to LP women’s conference. Mick noted that at this stage, LFIU had little expectation of Ireland being debated at LP conference, but nonetheless a motion was needed for education and awareness-raising within the LP.
Annual membership fee structure: subject to the approval of Anne as membership secretary, the meeting agreed the proposed structure which had been circulated in advance:
Individual: £10; Concessions (benefits, students, OAPs): £5
Local TU branches/trades councils: £10; Regional TU organisations: £20; National organisations: £40
Solidarity rate: unlimited
In addition there will be a facility for donations via a Donate button on the website.
Any other business: Austin volunteered to write a press release for the Morning Star, Irish Post, An Phoblacht etc about the LFIU launch, based on these minutes and with a quote from one of the co-chairs, and to be circulated to the group before submission to publications. Angie agreed to write a formal statement for LFIU’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Everyone present wished to remain on the steering group email list for now, although a separate list would be required in due course for EC members.
Angie reported that the group’s message of solidarity to Jeremy Corbyn had been sent to him, as had a follow-up email to Keir Starmer re the CHIS Bill, to which again no reply had been received. Nadine has continued to follow the progress of the Bill and will circulate details to the group.
Date of first EC meeting: Monday 29th March 2021 at 7pm.