We must show we value teachers – Weir

Gemma Weir, the Party’s North Belfast representative this morning joined local teachers as they staged industrial action against the Education minister’s refusal to allocate a 1% pay rise.

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Teachers have no option – Gemma Weir

‘Teachers are hard-working and committed public servants on whom we rely to help, develop, educate and prepare our children for later life. I know that they have not taken the decision to strike lightly,  but I believe that they have been left with absolutely no choice in the matter”, Gemma said.

‘Education Minister Peter Weir  has ‘offered’ a 0% pay increase for 2015/16. This is derisory and insulting. The Minister has been given the money to make a 1% pay offer but refuses to offer it’,  added.Gemma

‘In addition to year on year pay cuts and excessive workloads teachers are also facing widespread job insecurity. This is not a small-scale dispute but a debate and a battle over the values this society holds and the value it places on its employees and children’s futures’ she said.

I am calling on the Minister to  avoid further strike action and relieve the pressure on teachers, parents and pupils by immediately implementing the 1% rise and entering into serious and realistic negotiations with the  teaching profession and their representatives’, Gemma concluded

Chance to say ‘They’ve had their day’

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Workers Party Election Statement

‘This election is unnecessary and  will solve nothing unless people use it to pass judgement on all the parties in Stormont’, the Workers Party has said.

‘The two Executive parties, in particular, have been irresponsible, arrogant and contemptuous. Returning them to power to do the same thing again makes no sense at all.

There needs to be a root and branch reform of the Assembly structures. At a minimum we need the introduction of voluntary coalition or majority rule, the abolition of community designation requirements and the removal of the Petition of Concern mechanism. 

Many of the outstanding requirements of the Good Friday Agreement which have been deliberately set aside must be introduced if devolved government is to continue to function. These would include a Bill of Rights, Integrated Education and the establishment of a Civic Forum.

What this election does offer is a chance for people to consider a socialist alternative. An alternative  to political irresponsibility, arrogance, sectarianism and the Executive’s agenda of welfare cuts, lower corporation tax, zero hours contracts, attacks on workers’ rights, social backwardness and of course privatisation of public services .

That is the message that the Workers Party will be delivering and the choice we will be presenting to the electorate.

The Assembly parties will trade on sectarian fears and tribal instincts to maximise their votes. We have seen what that produces.

They need to be told that  they‘ve had their day’.

Supporting ‘ Apollo House’ action

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Lily Kerr addressing the homelessness rally in Belfast

As a Dublin Court was  refusing to grant  a stay on the eviction order on the occupiers of Apollo House in Dublin, Workers Party representative Lily Kerr was one of a number of speakers addressing a solidarity protest outside Belfast City Hall.

The ‘Home Sweet Home’ group occupied Apollo House, a vacant building near Dublin city centre, last month and used it to provide accommodation and support services for a number of the city’s homeless people.

Speaking at the Belfast rally Lily Kerr said, ‘The occupation of Apollo House  stands in the best traditions of the Irish Left.and of Housing Action Campaigns in Dublin, Cork and Northern Ireland in the 1960s’.

‘It is disgraceful that the Courts in Dublin are refusing to allow homeless people to remain in Apollo House until appropriate, satisfactory and dignified accommodation can be provided for them’, Lily said.

‘There is also a housing and a homeless crisis in Northern Ireland’, Lily said.

‘Levels of homelessness have remained at historically high levels in Northern Ireland since 2005/6 and  it is a matter of public shame that in a period of a few weeks last year four people in Northern Ireland lost their lives sleeping on the streets’

‘ While empty barns and warehouses are being heated and profit made at the taxpayers expense people are left to sleep on the streets, in unsuitable accommodation and in  hostels.

‘There is no profit to be made from homelessness. That’s why it is not a priority. That’s why it is not at the top of the agenda. That’s how capitalism works’, Lily said.

McGuinness resignation -‘irresponsibility on top of arrogance’

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The DUP / Sinn Fein Coalition has consistently failed to deliver

The Workers Party has condemned as ‘irresponsible’ Sinn Fein’s decision to resign from the Executive and trigger an Assembly election.

‘Today’s resignation will  solve nothing. The RHI scandal will remain unaddressed, the waste of public money will continue, there will be no inquiry and the DUP will be let off the hook. This is  Sinn Fein irresponsibility on top of DUP arrogance’, the statement said.

‘The almost inevitable election which will  follow may prove to be one of the most polarised in recent history. The stage has been set for yet another sectarian headcount’.

‘Over the past ten years the DUP /Sinn Fein coalition has consistently failed to deliver for the people of Northern Ireland. Its stewardship has been characterised by a cycle of austerity, crisis, scandal and ineptitude’. 

‘Pressure must continue  for a full public inquiry into the RHI scandal – something Sinn Fein  is clearly keen to avoid. But beyond that  it is clear that the Assembly structures must now be reformed – mandatory coalition has institutionalised sectarianism, Petitions of Concern have been abused to block social policy  and key elements of the Good Friday Agreement including a Bill of Rights, Integrated Education and a Civic Forum have been deliberately and cynically sidelined by Sinn Fein and the DUP.

‘Only when all these issues have been addressed and the Assembly is made fit for purpose can we resume with a devolved administration’, the Party statement concluded

Sperrins mining – Public Inquiry a must

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‘Sperrins mining plan must be subject to a full public inquiry’ Hugh Scullion

Local Workers Party  representative Hugh Scullion has added his voice to calls for a public inquiry into plans for a gold mining scheme in the Sperrins.

‘The work of the ‘Save Our Sperrins’ group has helped to bring this issue to the fore and their insistence on a public inquiry into plans by mining company Dalraidan Gold is an absolute must and should be undertaken without delay’, Hugh said.

‘It is almost beyond  belief that a mining operation involving the use of cyanide in a location  officially designated as an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty should be allowed to proceed without even a comprehensive environmental impact assessment’, added Hugh

‘At any one time  the company plans to store between five and twenty tonnes of cyanide on site and return the water it uses in the extraction process back into the local watercourse after on site processing’.

‘The relentless pursuit of profit at any price  must be exposed and halted in its tracks. The fact that the DUP, through one of its local Councillors, is supporting the scheme should be sufficient cause for alarm on its own’, Hugh said

‘During November, 10,000 snow geese were killed by toxic waste from a former mine in British Columbia Canada. The Sperrins are home to a host of wildlife including otters, salmon and fresh water mussels’, said Hugh

‘The recent drilling operations at Woodburn Forest outside Carrickfergus took place beside a water reservoir  without a full environmental impact assessment’ Hugh pointed out, ‘and were finally halted by public protest and pressure.It seems that the same pressure and protest will be needed in the face of this scheme’, he said.

‘This mining scheme cannot be allowed to proceed with out a full public inquiry into its processes, the risks and the potential impact on the environment. That announcement should be made immediately and unambiguously by the Infrastructure Minister’, Hugh concluded

‘Foster must step aside for a full public enquiry’ – Kerr

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Empty barns and buildings are heated for profit while fuel poverty in Northern Ireland continues to rise

‘Supreme arrogance and contempt for both public opinion and the political process have led to a situation where only a full and impartial enquiry will now be able to uncover the facts behind the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme’, Workers Party representative Lily Kerr has said.

‘The facts behind this debacle could have been aired much earlier and without the drip, drip release of information that we have seen over recent weeks’, she said

‘Arlene Foster and a string of DUP spokespersons have attempted to minimise the scale of this issue, hide its financial implications and play down the impact it will have on the people of Northern Ireland,  Lily said.

‘It is unforgivable that as levels of fuel poverty continue to rise an Executive programme pays people to heat empty barns and buildings. It is reprehensible that those responsible should seek to avoid accountability with arrogance and contempt’.

‘Just one year ago the same DUP was demonising people in receipt of benefits and refusing to even consider presenting an alternative to the welfare cuts agenda.  However, they have had no difficulty in burning millions of pounds of taxpayers money’, she added.

‘Arlene Foster must now step aside and allow a full public enquiry to establish and publish the facts, including the details of those who joined the scheme in its final weeks’, Lily concluded

Debate generating more heat than light

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Assembly priorities created these conditions

The debate over the renewable heating initiative is generating more heat than light, Workers Party representative Lily Kerr has claimed.

‘There are of course questions to be answered but it is the Assembly’s political priorities which should be coming under public scrutiny’, Lily said.

The media debate is focusing on finding someone to blame and making them pay the consequences but in doing so it is completely ignoring the Assembly’s  priorities and policies which have created a climate in which this kind of scandal can thrive’

‘Commentators are also queuing up to point the finger at the public sector – conveniently ignoring the near collapse of the economy and the need to bail the banks out with public money just a few years ago’, Lily said

‘If civil servants were negligible in administering this scheme, or in the commissioning of the new Strangford ferry, then explanations must be forthcoming.

However, responsibility ultimately rests with, and must be accepted by, the Ministers involved’.

However it was the Assembly which took the decision to borrow millions of pounds to delivery thousands of civil service redundancies as part of the ‘Fresh Start’ deal. You cannot take thousands of experienced staff out of the system and expect that it will perform as normal’, said Lily

‘They also decided that there was no money to offset welfare cuts but had no difficulty in finding the £400 million the renewal heat initiative is estimated to be costing.

‘This winter children, families and older people will wake up in cold homes, trapped by fuel poverty. They don’t feature in the  Assembly’s priorities. Nor do the thousands of people affected by welfare cuts, many who although working require benefits to help them make ends meet’, she said.

‘There must of course be transparency and accountability in public policy but there must also be a set of priorities which address fuel poverty, benefits cuts and the maintenance of a viable public sector’, Lily concluded

‘Affordable public housing key to homeless crisis’ – Weir

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The Northern Ireland Housing Executive must be allowed to be the lead body in tackling the housing crisis

‘Any initiative which helps homeless people, even temporarily, should be welcomed  but the Stormont Executive  has a responsibility to deliver affordable, publicly owned housing and it should not be let off the hook’ Workers Party representative Gemma Weir has said.

Gemma was responding to news that the charity Extern is to buy a number of houses in north and west Belfast to help homeless people over a two year period.

‘The charity and voluntary sectors make a welcome and telling contribution to the lives of homeless and vulnerable people’, she said ‘but there are serious problems in relation to the provision of public housing and levels of homelessness have remained at historically high levels in Northern Ireland since 2005/6′.

 It is already a matter of public shame that in a period of a few weeks earlier this year four people in Northern Ireland lost their lives sleeping on the streets. 

‘Over the years the Executive has overseen the gradual privatisation of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.  The NIHE must be maintained as the primary public housing body in Northern Ireland for both the provision of new homes and as landlord of public sector tenants.  Our homelessness crisis cannot be properly addressed without the reinstatement of the NI Housing Executive as the lead housing agency’, Gemma concluded.

Read Gemma’s comments in full at:

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Wreath laying marks Fidel’s life and work

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Veteran Party member Dennis Toner is joined by the Party’s International Secretary Gerry Grainger(left) and Ciaran McGeough of the Party’s Belfast Secretariat as he lays a wreath in recognition of the life and work of the late Fidel Castro

The Party’s International Secretary, Gerry Grainger has spoken of the ‘real Fidel Castro’ – not the one portrayed in the media over the past week.

Despite being a small country faced with a US led economic blockade Cuba has constructed a global programme of extensive development aid and humanitarian assistance and has sent thousands of teachers, doctors and medical staff across the world’ he said

He was speaking at a wreath laying ceremony in Belfast organised by the Workers Party to mark the life and work of the former Cuban president.

There will be no monuments, statues or busts of Fidel, no streets or parks named after him – because that is what he wanted – no personality cult’.

‘Fidel belonged not only to Cuba but to the entire world. He was our comrade. He was one of us and that is how we remember him’, Gerry said.

Book of Condolence

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Extending condolences to the Cuban People

Workers Party members have signed a book of condolences to the Cuban people on the death of former President and Commandant of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro.

Pictured are Party representatives Lily Kerr Gemma Weir and Gerry Grainger signing the book of condolences in Belfast today following a wreath laying ceremony to mark the life and work of the Cuban leader.

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