The country's largest trade union, SIPTU, has called for new legislation to copper fasten the rights to trade union membership and recognition.

Delegates at the union's conference in Tralee passed a motion urging their union to actively campaign for better protection for workers seeking to be represented by a trade union.

Legislation passed in 2004 had created mechanisms allowing unions to pursue claims on behalf of members in non-union companies through the Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court.

But the scope of the 2004 act was significantly curtailed in a Supreme Court ruling involving Ryanair earlier this year.

A series of speakers highlighted the urgent need for replacement legislation. They also called for better protection for trade union activists and shop stewards.

Speakers claimed that union representatives in both the public and private sectors had been victimised and even sacked for their trade union activities.