Nethier Brexit nor Border Poll


Workers Party Local Government Election Statement


This community is scarred by poverty, inequality, zero hours contracts, housing crisis and the effects of Sinn Fein and the DUP’s welfare reforms.

Some parties would like to make this election about Brexit. Some would like to use it to advance a Border Poll, but the reality is that it’s about neither.

For this election to have any real meaning it must send a message to the main political parties that they have failed to deliver government and governance , and that they continue to fail ordinary people through the rundown of public services, the privatisation of  public assets and utilities, the erosion of the public space and the pursuit of  corporate  business approval.

If we were to call for a second referendum or for a ballot on Irish ‘unity’, we would doubtless attract more media attention, but that is not how the Workers Party sees the current social, economic and political priorities.

Reality of life                                                                                                            Nor does it reflect the reality of life for the thousands of people desperately seeking secure well-paid employment, families struggling to find and pay for local childcare or those growing older in an age unfriendly society.

Nor are border polls and ‘people’s votes’ the priority of the thousands of children and their parents living in poverty and low income homes, those on zero hours contracts or the young girls and women who face the monthly indignity of period poverty because, in 21st century Belfast, they cannot afford sanitary products.

Developers’ mindset                                                                                             Nor are attempts to transform our public spaces into homages to corporate America either relevant to or reflective of local life. The recent proposal to name the redeveloped Lower North Street area of Belfast ‘Tribeca’ in deference to an area in Lower Manhattan gives a glimpse into the mindset of the developers and the council alike.

Councils across Northern Ireland should be delivering for local people and acting as advocate and champion for improved housing, better mental health services, introducing a universal living wage, reversing welfare reforms and offering advice, assistance and direction to those in need of support.

A poor second                                                                                                          But that has not been the case. Sinn Fein and the DUP have used Belfast Council and its resources to build up their power bases through a sectarian carve up of this city. Poverty, employment, public services and opportunities come a very poor second to bonfire diversion schemes, and the funding of divisive cultural and historical projects.

This city is scarred by poverty, inequality, zero hours contracts,  housing crisis and the effects of Sinn Fein and the DUP’s welfare reforms.

The manner in which ordinary people, their lives, their needs and their futures have been abandoned by the main parties is an outrage and a disgrace. It verges on the criminal.

The interests of ordinary people                                                                            A vote for any of those parties on May 2nd will condemn the ordinary people of this city to yet more hardship, deprivation and suffering. It will also condemn another generation of young people to lives of underachievement and hopelessness. That is the price we all pay for the maintenance of sectarian political elites.

Only a party committed to class politics and the interests of ordinary people can make the kind of changes that are needed to secure a better life for all.

The Workers Party is that party.

  

The Workers Party s fielding seven candidates: six in Belfast and one in the Mid Ulster area

The Belfast candidates are:

Chris Bailie (Oldpark)

Conor Campbell (Black Mountain)

Paddy Crossan Collin)

Joanne Lowry (Court)

Paddy Lynn (Botanic)

Gemma Weir (Castle)

Hugh Scullion, is representing the party in the Moyola area of Mid Ulster Council

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The work of politically bankrupt gangsters

Lyra McKee: there can be no justification

Last night’s murder of 29 year old Lyra McKee was the tragic, but inevitable, outcome of recent violent activity and the ongoing attacks on the community by groups of politically bankrupt gangsters

There can be no justification for Ms. McKee’s murder, but doubtless there are those who will seek to explain it away in the coming days. Those who carried out this attack, and those who support them, have no contribution to make , bring no value and until they desist, have no place in this society.

We need to be very clear about the violent intent of these people and dismiss notions of the ‘lone gunman’: there is no such thing. People who bring weapons onto the streets have often a very sophisticated, support network of people who store their guns, transport them, provide them with cover and offer practical and moral support. Those people are as morally culpable for Lyra McKee’s murder as the person who pulled the trigger.

There is little point in appealing directly to those who carried out this murder – they are too self absorbed and self justifying to be even remotely interested . However, the community in which they skulk and hide can play a telling and crucial role. By ostracising these gangsters and their supporters they can be left without the cover they need to continue with their senseless and savage campaign of terror against the community.

We offer our deepest sympathy to Lyra’s family friends, and colleagues and call on anyone with any information about this murder to contact the PSNI and support them in their investigations

Local Elections: only a party committed to class politics can deliver the change we need

Chris Bailie (Oldpark), Paddy Crossan (Collin), Paddy Lynn (Botanic)
Conor Campbell (Black Mountain), Gemma Weir (Castle), Joanne Lowry (Court) and Hugh Scullion (Moyola)

Seven candidates wll be representing the Workers Party in next months local government elections.

North Belfast- Gemma Weir (Castle) and Chris Bailie (Oldpark) West Belfast: Joanne Lowry (Court), Paddy Crossan (Collin) and Conor Campbell (Black Mountain) South Belfast: Paddy Lynn (Botanic), and Mid Ulster: Hugh Scullion (Moyola)

Class politics

The Party is focusing on the legacy of deprivation, poverty and abandoned areas left by Sinn Fein, the DUP. The Pary’s election message is that only a party committed to class politics can deliver the changes needed to turn around the social decline, hopelessness and despair that characterises many working class areas of Northern Ireland .

Sectarian carve up

Sinn Fein and the DUP in particular have overseen a sectarian carve up of community funding and resources and have used that to sustain and develop their respective camps. In some areas of Northern Ireland child poverty is running at well over 30%, fuel poverty is even more prevalent, thousands of children leave school with low or no qualifications and mental ill health remains at crisis level.

The socialist alternative.

Among the initiatives included in the the Party’s programme are proposals for accessible, affordable local childcare, universal adoption of the Living Wage , a youth apprenticeship programme, well paid, well trained jobs with a career path for local care workers , the implementation of integrated education, access to appropriate talking therapies for people experiencing mental illness, improved public transport for our rural communities – especially to hospital appointments, the restoration of the Housing Executive as the primary provider of publicly owned housing, a public infrastructure programme building homes, roads, hospitals and schools and additional resources to support women and long term unemployed back into work.


PARTY DELEGATION MEETS WITH VENEZUELAN AMBASSADOR

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Members of the Party delegation which met with Rocío Maneiro,  the Venezuelan Ambassador to the UK and Ireland (right). L:R Helena Menéndez, Venezuelan Embassy official responsible for the Press, Party members Paddy Crossan, Gerry Grainger  (Workers Party International Secretary), Lily Kerr and Joanne Lowry

A delegation of party members has met with the Venezuelan Ambassador to the UK and Ireland, Rocío Maneiro, to convey the Party’s solidarity with the Venezuelan government and its peoples and to voice our condemnation of the US sponsored attempted coup and the ongoing attacks against the democratically-elected government of Nicolás Maduro.

The Ambassador outlined the current situation in Venezuela and the great dangers not only for Venezuela, but also the entire region, when long established principles of international law on non-interference and territorial sovereignty were being set aside.

Increasing aggression.

In welcoming the Ambassador and her colleague to Belfast the Party’s International Secretary, Gerry Grainger, expressed the Workers Party condemnation of the escalation in aggression against Venezuela.

“The international aggression against the Venezuelan government is being co-ordinated and supported by the United States, the European Union and the governments of the so-called ‘Lima Group’1, They are attacking the sovereignty and rights of Venezuela and the Venezuelan people”, he stated

“The Bolivarian government 2 of Venezuela, like the Republic of Cuba which also chose a development path in the interests of its people, has faced relentless hostility, threats of intervention and a planned strategy of embargo and economic war”, Gerry explained

 lnternational Solidarity

The Workers Party is calling for an immediate end to the interference and aggression against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, for respect for its sovereignty and independence and is appealing for International solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution and the Venezuelan people.

Notes:

1The ‘Lima Group’ comprises 12 northern, central and southern American countries and is supported by the United States.It overtly condemned the presidential elections called for by the Bolivarian government, describing them as unobserved, unjust and undemocratic. Days before the planned election date, the Lima Group – alongside the United States and the European
Union – called for the cancellation of the election. Following the election which strengthened President Maduro’s position, the fourteen member nations of the Lima Group recalled their ambassadors from Venezuela.

2 The Bolivarian  Revolution is a political process in Venezuela that
was led by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, the founder of the Fifth
Republic Movement and later the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).

The Bolivarian Revolution is named after Simón Bolívar, the early 19th-century Venezuelan and Latin American revolutionary leader, prominent in the Spanish American wars of independence in achieving the independence of most of northern South America from Spanish rule.

International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day: still relevant, still important

International Women’s Day remains an important date in the political calendar – not just because the struggles for equal rights, for equal pay and for the right to control reproductive choices still need to be fought, but because there is a lobby, made up mostly of the middle classes, that pretends that ‘women have never had it so good and we can all stop agitating now’.

Now more than ever those vicious myths need to be exposed, now more than ever those who want to pull the ladder up behind them need to be challenged.

That is why the Workers Party and other progressive forces will continue to
demand free, safe and legal abortion for all, not just the few, why we will campaign against the ruthlessness of zero hours contracts, the exploitative nature of much part time employment and why we will continue to struggle for full participation by women in all aspects of political, social, economic and cultural life .

That is why we continue to hold International Women’s Day to be an important date and an important event.

Party condemns latest attack on Belfast / Dublin rail link

Low level criminality directed against the entire community’

The Workers Party in Lurgan has condemned the latest in a series  of attacks on the Belfast / Dublin rail link.The hijacking and burning of a van in the Lake Street area has resulted in the closure of the line between Lisburn and Portadown.

The Party has challenged those responsible to come into the open to explain their actions and spell out exactly what  they think they are trying to achieve.

“This community, and the all those who depend on the rail link, have had enough.  These are the actions of faceless cowards with nothing to offer except destruction and disruption.

There is no purpose or political rationale involved: this is nothing more than low level criminality directed against the entire community. Those responsible, and those who direct them, deserve no cover, no sympathy and no hiding place”, the Party said

“Anyone with any information about this or previous incidents should contact the PSNI” , the statement concluded

Northern Ireland Progressive Women’s Forum launched

The inaugural meeting of the Northern Ireland Progressive Women’s Forum

Members of the Workers Party’s Women’s Committee have attended the inaugural meeting of the Northern Ireland Progressive Women’s Forum – launched on Monday to coincide with International Women’s Day later this week.

The Forum will provide a left wing platform for the discussion and advancement of women’s issues – in particular working class women’s issues.

The time is always right for a socialist critique of social, economic and political issues affecting women in Northern Ireland, but maybe no more so than at the moment.

The demand for free, safe and legal abortion remains a high priority, zero hours contracts, part time employment and participation in the political process by progressive women are all issues affecting women in real terms.

Party members have also been involved with the steering group which organised the Forum’s initial meeting. The meeting endorsed a set of aims and objectives and that work will now be built on over the coming months with the adoption of a formal programme of work.

Why are we surprised?

“The recent spate of arranged sectarian fights in north Belfast highlights the breadth and depth of the problems this community faces”, the Workers Party’s Chris Bailie has said.

“Over 60% of the electorate in north Belfast – the mothers, fathers and family members of those who shape up to each other on local waste ground and vacant sites- vote for parties which make no pretence of their tribal intentions”, he said

“The very structure of government in Northern Ireland is based on community difference. The Good Friday Agreement institutionalises the sectarianism that Sinn Fein and the DUP feed and fete on. Why should we be evenly remotely surprised, never mind outraged, when that sectarian mindset passes down yet another generation and ends up in confrontation on the streets”? asked Chris.

“North Belfast has the lowest proportion of school leavers achieving at least five high grade GCSEs. Sinn Fein and the DUP have provided another generation of young people with no hope and no future. They have given them no prospects, no options and very little in the way of a secure and productive future,” he added

“Are sectarian gang fights a good thing? Of course not. They terrorise local communities, they end in injury and hurt at best and they leave young people with criminal records. A number of young people have been referred to the juvenile justice system as a result of these sectarian confrontations”.

“This problem and its consequences are likely to be with us for some time to come. A start can be made by changing the culture and the mindset that feeds and benefits from it”, Chris said.

If we educate children separately, make them live apart and divide them with imagined cultural differences, then what do we expect will happen”. asked Chris

“If people vote for sectarian parties, if they turn a blind eye or if they just pretend it’s not happening then the outcomes will remain exactly the same. But start challenging the sectarian basis of our society, start questioning the real purpose of ’peace walls’ and ’interfaces’ and start realising the short, and long, term benefits of integrated education and then we can start looking forward to a different type of society: one where young people aren’t manipulated to beat each other up on waste ground”, concluded Chris


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We need to look again at ‘anti-social behaviour’

Workers Party representative Joanne Lowry has questioned the way in which we look at and respond to ‘anti-social behaviour.

“Anti-social behaviour has been dominating west Belfast headlines and social media sites in recent months, with a particular focus on Dunville and Falls Parks.

“Young people have been gathering on street corners, at shop fronts and other public spaces for generations: it’s nothing new. However, when it ends in assaults, criminal damage and attacks on cars and houses then it should quite rightly be condemned, and solutions sought”, she said.

Making it worse

 “However, we need to be clear about what we identify as anti-social behaviour and make sure that the answers we propose don’t end up making the problem worse.

It is always more attractive to try and find a quick ‘solution’ to the consequences rather than taking time to examine the causes. Are we in danger of doing that when it comes to young people’s behaviour? she asked

Big problems

“West Belfast has got problems – big problems. Nearly half the population over 16 are in receipt of some form of benefits. We have the second highest levels of unemployment in Northern Ireland and even then, 17% of local people who have jobs need to claim Employment and Support Allowances because their jobs are dangerously low paid. In some parts of west Belfast that figure rises to over 22% in Clonard and over 26% in the Lower Falls”, Joanne said.

“More than one fifth of west Belfast teenagers leave school with less than five high grade GCSEs.  More than 40% of children in west Belfast live in low income families. – the highest levels in Northern Ireland”,

“We have the third highest crime levels and the third highest incidents of anti-social behaviour.  Can we really pretend that all these facts are not related? she said.

A positive role

“When we propose solutions to anti-social behaviour, we can’t ignore the context and the causes. This is not just a matter for the PSNI, we all have a role to play – but it must be a thoughtful and positive one.

Much good work is being doing by local youth leaders, most of it in their own time. Their interventions on the ground are constructive and helpful toward young people and their work is characterised by timely interventions and experience of working with teenagers and adolescents. They need our support.”, Joanne said

“Young people need to socialise, they need to meet with others of their own age and interests. We can’t simply close parks and cordon off public spaces hoping that the problem will go away. The actual amount of anti-social behaviour is relatively small given that one third of the west Belfast population is aged between 15 and 24”, she pointed out

Support

“Supporting those who know what they are doing and addressing the long-term causes of this type of behaviour is a much more constructive approach than some than have been tried.

“Very often, the people who make the most noise about anti-social behaviour, who demonise teenagers and who point the finger at the police are the ones who make the least effort in ensuring better prospects for the young people involved.”, concluded Joanne.

Irish News Letters page http://www.irishnews.com/opinion/letterstotheeditor/2019/02/28/news/often-more-attractive-to-find-quick-solutions-than-to-examine-the-causes-1561734/

Restoring Devolution – a bleak prospect


As yet another round of preliminary discussions flounders, the stark reality is that we could have an Assembly and an Executive up, running and functioning tomorrow: but that is not going to happen.

The main and seemingly only obstacle to the return of devolution is now Sinn Fein.

When Sinn Fein collapsed the Executive in January 2017 it claimed the DUP’s handling of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) meant that it could no longer work with them.  Subsequently, they raised Arlene Foster’s position as First Minister, the Irish language, same sex marriage and legacy issues as pre-conditions for a return to government.

The RHI inquiry led by the Right Honourable Patrick Coughlan was, in the words of Sinn Fein at the time to be “…an independent , no-hiding-place public inquiry into the RHI…”. That is what Sinn Fein demanded, and rightly so, and that, again quite rightly, it is what they got. That inquiry has investigated and will present its findings in due course: probably in a few months’ time.

Fair weather friends

The objection to Arlene Foster as First Minister was quietly dropped and quickly forgotten. It was replaced with demands for an Irish Language Act, although they have yet to spell out exactly what that would entail, but again a legitimate piece of legislation by any standards.

To that demand they later added a call for the legal right to same sex marriage, bringing Northern Ireland into line with the rest of these islands. Again, a very legitimate piece of social legislation. However, as parties inched towards an agreement last year that too was dropped from Sinn Fein’s red line list. Clearly, they support you for as long as they need you.

Border poll – a sectarian device

Although not directly linked to the restoration of devolution, they have now added the unnecessary, divisive and deliberately sectarian demand for a border poll to their shopping list – their rationale being that as the majority of voters in Northern Ireland, a state they have difficulty recognising let alone saying, voted to leave the European Union that a border poll is the next logical step.

It is nothing more than a device to heighten sectarian tensions: and they know it. Why an organisation that claims to have dedicated its life’s work to extracting the people of Ireland from one empire should want to be part of an even bigger one defies logic.

Sinn Fein has no intention of returning to the Executive, initially until after a general election in the Republic of Ireland and latterly until after the final withdrawal of the UK from the EU. Both are tactical decisions based on preserving and enhancing Sinn Fein’s electoral support.

While every other party is prepared to re-establish the Executive and the Assembly Sinn Fein refuses to do so on tactical grounds.

Appalling arrogance

Yesterday, Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald described the latest attempt to restart talks about a re-formed Executive as ‘a sham’.

It is hard to understate the appalling arrogance of that position.

Perhaps Mary Lou thinks it’s ‘a sham’ that people are waiting on hospital trollies, that cancer patients have no access to modern treatments and that victims of domestic abuse have less protection and rights than elsewhere. Strangely, Sinn Fein did not present those issues as red lines in negotiations.

Maybe it’s ‘a sham’ that public housing projects are put on hold while waiting lists grow. Could it also be ‘a sham’ that public services are grinding to a halt and that an entire generation of young people are at risk of unemployment, no apprenticeships and low paid insecure jobs for those lucky enough to get them? No sign of a red line on these issues either

Divisive and destructive agenda

It is Sinn Fein and its fellow travellers who are the shams, the fraudsters and the fakes. Their arrogance and their conceit take precedence over people’s jobs, housing, education, health, opportunities and prospects. Political, social and economic progress means nothing to Sinn Fein next to their divisive and destructive agenda.

It is time they were called out. We have often said that voting for parties like Sinn Fein, and the DUP, has consequences. For thousands of people in Northern Ireland today waiting on an operation, a home, a place in a nursery school, a job, or even a chance – those consequences are very real indeed and they are not going to go away.

It is time, not just for the electorate as voters, but for people of all ages as citizens to face up to the ransom demands – and those who make them – which are robbing us all a present as well as a future.

Reflect on support

Campaigning groups, cultural bodies, lobbying organisations and rights-based associations need to reflect on any support they have given wittingly or not to this continued denial of the right to an Assembly and a functioning Executive.

All the issues that are being presented as bogus road blocks can and should be discussed and voted on in a reformed Assembly, with an amended Petition of Concern.

We need to take politics and political discussions in from the margins, away from vanity projects and place them centre stage in people’s lives for the benefit of people’s lives.

Until more people realise that this is never going to happen while people vote in their thousands for Sinn Fein and the DUP, in particular, then we are facing a very bleak future indeed.

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