Nationalism: narrow, bankrupt and dangerous

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The real priorities  are defending  public services, funding education, securing the NHS, standing up for workers rights, opposing zero hours contracts, campaigning for a real living wage and securing free, safe and legal choices for women

The politically bankrupt nature of nationalism was never more evident than in the recent letter to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

The two hundred people who co-signed the letter demanding that the Irish Government support and champion nationalists in Northern Ireland could have done so 60 years ago when the old Nationalist Party absented itself from Stormont just as Sinn Fein has done from the Assembly.

Nationalism, Irish or British, never blames itself, never questions its actions nor reflects on its own behaviour. In the world of nationalists and nationalism someone else is always at fault . So it is with the content and tone of this letter. 

Sinn Fein collapsed the Executive, forced an election and ever since have presented excuse after excuse for their failure to form a new Assembly.

Undermining the principle of consent                                                                    The ‘200 Letter’ mirrors exactly the Sinn Fein agenda. It presents an extremly narrow version of events and a dangerous one at that.

While claiming to seek to protect the Good Friday Agreement it callously undermines one of its main cornerstones – the principle of consent. It points to the outcome of the EU referendum and argues that it will ‘reinforce partition on this island’. The Good Friday Agreement confirmed the constitutional position of both parts of this island and that was endorsed by the vast majority of citizens in Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Nationalism is not only a backward political philosophy : it is a toxic one. It seeks to divide and exploit difference. It blames others and otherness. It is a political cancer that deliberately subverts progressive politics and invariably is home to the worst examples of native gombeen men and women.

Very few of the two hundred signatories to this letter have been to the fore in the struggle to defend public services, fund education, secure the NHS, stand up for workers rights, oppose zero hours contracts or campaign for a real living wage. Fewer still, for all their alleged concern about a rights based society, have publicly sought the right of women in Northern Ireland to make their own decisions about their own bodies.

Contempt and disdain                                                                                      Given that not one of the two hundred signatories could bring themselves to say ‘Northern Ireland’ in this letter shows the contempt and disdain they are happy to display in pursuit of these narrow, exclusive and dangerous objectives.

The immediate priority for Northern Ireland is the restoration of the Assembly and the Executive. But that would mean no hiding place for the failed and failing politics of nationalism.

 

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Party Conference

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Delegates at the Party’s annual conference

The Party held its 2017 Annual Delegate Conference in Dublin this weekend.

The conference theme ”Building a Socialist Future’  provided the backdrop for discussion debate and policy decisions on the economy, housing , education, transport, health and social care, reproductive rights, violence against women,  the absence of devolved government in  Northern Ireland and international resolutions on Palestine and Catalonia.

The conference also marked two historic events celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia in 1917 and the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) in 1967.

Several Party members from South Derry and Belfast who participated in the association’s initial meetings and marches gave personal and political insights into the  events, the times and the outcomes.

Party President Michael Donnelly closed the conference with a call on the Party and Party members to ‘proudly stand as the vanguard force in the struggle against capitalism and the fight for justice, jobs and equality… and to work towards establishing a new world that banishes poverty and unemployment.. refusing to be either silenced or censured in that struggle’.

Conference elected the following members to the Party’s incoming Central Executive Committee:

Joe Dowds, Sean Garland, Ultan Gillen Gerry Grainger, John Jefferies, Lily Kerr, Adam McCarthy, Mickey McCorry,  Seamus McDonagh, Richard O’Hara, Hilary Rock-Gormley, Eilis Ryan  and Gemma Weir

The four reserve members elected were Justin O Hagan, Gavin Mendel-Gleason, Hugh Scullion and Ted Tynan.

 

 

 

 

100th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution

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The October Revolution: ‘one of the greatest events in human history’

A Workers Party delegation, led by International Secretary Gerry Grainger, has attended and addressed the 19th International Meeting of Communist and Workers Parties this weekend in Russia marking the 100th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution in 1917.

Addressing the international audience Gerry Grainger described the Russian revolution as:

‘ one of the greatest events in human history, an occasion of historic global significance which changed forever the power relations between exploiters and exploited and made real the vision of a new socialist society. 

The object of the October Revolution was to abolish all forms of exploitation and oppression and to construct a new society based on socialist ideas.  The Revolution inspired the workers and oppressed of the world and offered real prospects for change and invested the workers’ movement with a revolutionary consciousness and objective, educating, organising and mobilising the mass of the working people in the task of building a new society.

The October Revolution transformed the world. It constituted a decisive break with the old world order, abolished private ownership of the means of production and laid the basis for the political, social and economic liberation of humankind.

See the Workers Party address to the XIX International meeting of Communist and Workers Parties in full at:

Workers Party Contribution to 19th IMCWP St Petersburg, Russia, 2-3 November 2017

‘Unite to face down racism’

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The Rahman family leaving their York Road  home

“Hate crimes and racist attacks are not what defines north Belfast and we must ensure that they never do”, Workers Party representative Gemma Weir said in response to last night’s attack on a family in the York Road area.

“There must be no room for racism in our community and  no ‘if’s and buts’ about just how abhorrent and vile these type of attacks are”,she said.

“The only response worthy of the entire north Belfast community is an unequivocal and public condemnation of all forms of racism and hate crimes, full and unqualified support for those affected and a united resolve to face down racists and racism”, Gemma said.

“Anyone with any information, no matter how small, about this or other attacks, should contact the PSNI or use the Crime Stoppers number to pass  that information on “,she concluded.

Photo Credit: Matt Mackey

NATO warships not welcome

NATO flotilla

NATO wars have left hundreds of thousands dead and injured

The Workers Party has condemned the presence of a flotilla NATO warships in Belfast this weekend as  ‘a blatant propaganda stunt to normalise the ugly face of war’.

The force includes vessels from the navies of Latvia, Estonia, Germany, Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands.

NATO is an aggressive military alliance representing the extension of US military power and acting exclusively in the interests of imperialism. The history of NATO cannot be separated from the history of foreign interference in the affairs of other nations and war. NATO promotes the militarisation of Europe, the continuation of the arms race and increases the threat of war and nuclear terror.

It urges all member states to increase military spending to at least 2% of GDP at a time when those states should be spending money on hospital, education and the welfare of their people.

NATO’s wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya have left hundreds of thousands dead and injured; destroyed these countries’ infrastructure and worsened the lives of millions of ordinary working people. Millions of people have been forced to become refugees and flee their homes in search of a safe place for them and their families to live.

The presence of such a force in Belfast is a matter for shame. No to war and aggression! No to NATO!

Free, safe, legal and accessible

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Party members joined the ‘Rally for Choice’  in Belfast city centre this afternoon as part of the ongoing campaign to secure the provision of  free, safe, legal and accessible abortion services in Northern Ireland.

The Assembly has refused repeatedly to act on this issue and it is a tragic irony that as ‘equality’ forms part of the new Assembly talks process, women’s equality is not even on the agenda.

The five main parties at Stormont do not trust women.

The Workers Party believes in a woman’s right to choose and supports the provision of free, safe, legal and accessible abortion in her own country including practical facilities to support women seeking an abortion and quality post-abortion care.

‘Conversations about Choice’

Conversations about ChoiceWomen in Northern Ireland don’t have a right to abortion services. That right, available in England Scotland and Wales, continues to be denied to women in Northern Ireland by the major parties at Stormont. Quite simply they don’t trust women to make choices about their own fertility.

How do those who do trust women move that debate on? How do we counter the often vitriolic attacks of the right-wing, the moral hypocrisy of churches and the often misinformed opinions of ordinary people. How do we engage in the conversation about a woman’s right to choose?

That was the subject of a Party run workshop in Belfast earlier today. Group work, scenarios, mock media interviews and role plays helped to highlight many of the issues involved, present solutions to problems and identify techniques for engaging in informed and rational debate – even when that is not reciprocated.

The workshop preceded a Rally for Choice held in Belfast City centre – see above.

Health Inequalities remain the big issue

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Health & social care must remain publicly funded and free at the point of delivery

Workers Party representatives have addressed  all five of today’s Health and Social Care Board Meetings in Belfast, Downpatrick, Craigavon, Derry and Ballymena.
 
Party representatives criticised the ‘shambolic and cynical way’ in which the Department of Health released an additional £40 million of funding just days after the end of a public consultation on cuts to services, saying ‘…it is either gross incompetence or cynical political manipulation to call for cuts to services while knowingly sitting on millions of pounds of available money’ .
 
They also attacked the privatisation of services and identified the eradication of health inequalities as a major priority

Principles                                                                                                               The Party’s statement to Trust Boards emphasised the need for health and social care to remain publicly funded and free at the point of delivery.  ‘These principles are far from safe and secure’ the statement said.

Health inequalities, most notably in working class communities, continue to be the biggest determinant of our health and well-being yet are largely ignored in health care planning.

‘We cannot continue to privatise community care and watch hospital admissions grow out of control, patients die on trolleys and the system go into melt down’.

Halting privatisation                                                                                         There must be an end to “creeping privatisation”, to the outsourcing of health services and jobs to the private sector. Vested interests, including the vested interests of private healthcare, must be confronted and challenged. The Workers Party believes that a properly funded health service designed to deliver quality health outcomes is central to a humane and decent society.

 Engagement                                                                                                     ‘There must be direct democratic engagement with working people, both as patients and users of the service as well as the workers who deliver the service and their trade union representatives’, the Party said.

‘This is the only way to develop a cohesive health and social care strategy, including community care, which tackles existing health inequalities and accords a proper level of funding to meet the needs of all citizens.

A Party delegation will also be addressing the Health and Social Care Board meeting on Tuesday 17th October

 

 

Housing must be free from sectarian threat

1CantrellClose001‘Intimidating people  can never be justified, nor can forcing them to leave their home’s , the Workers Party in south Belfast has said.

The condemnation follows the sectarian intimidation of a number of families from the Cantrell Close area.

‘Shared housing development initiatives are an essential part of securing a single united community’, the Party said.

‘Everyone must have the right and the opportunity to live where they wish. Every political party must state that clearly and publicly condemn these recent incidents.

Those who have made these threats should retract them immediately’, the statement concluded.

Party pledge on Votes @16

NIYF Votes at 16

Launching the ‘Votes@16’ camapign

The Workers Party has pledged its support for the ‘Votes@16’ campaign launched this morning by the Northern Ireland Youth Forum.

Sixteen year olds in Northern Ireland can leave school, work full-time, leave home, pay
taxes, get married and join the armed services: but they can‟t vote in elections.

If Northern Ireland is to be a fully participative democracy the involvement, and active participation of 16 and 17 year olds is essential to that process.

Research has shown that this age group are even more likely to vote than 18-24 year olds. At a time when voter turnout continues to fall that is an encouraging sign.

Of course this has to be about more than extending the franchise. Unless young people critically assess the nature of society and use their votes and their voices to challenge sectarianism, segregated education and inequality and work actively to replace our current social and economic system, then this initiative will compound our problems not help to overcome them.

16 and 17 year olds in the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey have voting rights and Scotland also extend that right during the independence referendum.

Northern Ireland can and must do the same.

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