Category Archives: Statements

‘Shared’ is not Integrated

shared educationLast week was ‘Shared Education Week’. “Ironically”,  says Gemma Weir,”its theme was Sharing the Present – Shaping the Future’. 

The Good Friday Agreement placed a statutory obligation on the Executive and the Assembly to facilitate the development of integrated education. They have not only singularly failed to honour that requirement, they have collectively connived to avoid it.

I accept than many pupils, teachers and parents see some merit in shared education, but shared education is not integrated education. That is no accident.

Divided and segregated society                                                                         The political power bases which have been secured and developed since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement depend absolutely on a divided and segregated society. That is the basis of both the DUP’s and Sinn Fein’s joint electoral and political strategy.

Gemma 2aa

Gemma Weir

The deliberate and scurrilous replacement of integrated education with the myth of shared education is a social, political and educational scandal. It goes way beyond the collective and premeditated decision of the DUP and Sinn Fein to ignore their legislative requirement to promote integrated education. It demonstrates, if further proof were needed, that both these parties have taken a decision between themselves to carve up Northern Ireland into two sectarian camps and feed off the fear, mistrust and ignorance that it generates.

Reinforces division                                                           The truth is that it’s not even shared education: it is temporary and limited contact more often than not an add-on rather than an integral part of learning and teaching. All the while it serves to reinforce the divisive concept of ‘separate but equal’

Given the efforts of Sinn Fein and the DUP over twenty years it is not surprising that integrated education remains undeveloped. While the number of pupils attending integrated schools inches up year on year, the increases amount to less than half of one per cent of the total school population. Based on that level of progress it could take up to five hundred years to achieve a fully integrated system.

Meanwhile the foundations of the self-serving sectarian politics of Sinn Fein and the DUP remain secure.

The idea of ‘shared’ education shaping the future looks anything but hopeful.

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Drugs: ‘playing catch up is not enough’

NVTV

Chris Bailie (left) speaking to NVTV about the drugs problem in North Belfast

Speaking after recording an interview with local TV channel NVTV Chris Bailie of the Workers Party said that drugs are ruining lives and ruining communities.

“The drug problem always seems to be several steps ahead of the attempts to address it. Playing catch up is not enough and the gap between the problem and the responses seems to be getting bigger”

Long term investment                                                                                               “Drug and substance abuse are caused by many factors and we can’t just ignore the need for long term investment in areas like North Belfast to help turn that around. Factors like social deprivation are more than a set of statistics – they have  real consequences for real people, and ‘escaping’ into a world of drugs is just one of them”.

“I fully support those who recognise that many young people trapped in a cycle of addiction  need help and that they need it urgently. We need a number of local initiatives to reach out to them and provide the support, guidance and help that so many of them desperately want. We need a much wider awareness of the extent of the problems caused by drug abuse – not just to the individuals involved but to their families and to the community.”.

RAPID scheme                                                                                                           The RAPID scheme (Remove All Prescription and Illegal Drugs) which provides a way of safely disposing of illegal and prescription drugs locally has been in existence for a number of years and is a positive scheme which I have no doubt has saved lives . Family and friends need to feel confident and supported in  taking drugs off the streets. That  is the right thing to do. “, Chris said

“The answers longer term lie in turning north Belfast around into a vibrant community with employment prospects, leisure opportunities and hope and prospects for young people. When we next hear about or witness the results of drug abuse we need to ask ourselves why our local politicians have not delivered the type of society where optimism has replaced despair.”, Chris concluded

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The Drugs&Alcohol Coordination Team can provide information and guidance around drug and alcohol related issues and link people or organisations to sources of help and support

https://www.drugsandalcoholni.info/thenidacts/

 

Clinton award “deeply offensive”

clinton pic.jpg

Hillary Clinton has a long history of supporting US aggression across the globe 

“Serious questions must be asked about the decision by Queens University to award an honorary degree to Hillary Clinton”, the Workers Party has said

“Students, lecturers  and university staff have every right to call  University President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Greer and the Senate to account for this deeply offensive and sycophantic gesture”

The citation quotes  “exceptional public service in the USA and globally”as justification for her honorary degree. It is hard to believe that the  people of Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine, Cuba, Venezuela, Libya and Serbia share that assessment”, the statement said

“It is shameful that an educational institution like Queen’s University seeks to associate itself with a US politician like Hilary Clinton: a hawkish reactionary and free-marketeer”,

“At a time of great poverty and inequality Clinton unflinchingly champions market economics and has a long history of support for aggressive interventions across the globe and for the expansion of NATO and its war machine,“ the Party statement concluded.

Newsletter coverage

https://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/education/queen-s-university-honorary-degree-for-hillary-clinton-shameful-and-deeply-offensive-1-8662763

Party makes legacy submission

Legacy

More than 3,600 people were killed during ‘The Troubles’ and many thousands more were injured, many still suffer today

The Workers Party has submitted its views on addressing the legacy of Northern Ireland’s past.  Its submission opened with an acknowledgement of  “...the hurt, distress and on-going suffering of many victims’ families, friends and loved ones“.

“We are also acutely aware of the significant and on-going mental pressures and disadvantage endured by many Trouble’s survivors”, the Party said

“We therefore endorse approaches which place the needs of victims and survivors at the core of this process and are balanced, proportionate, transparent, fair and equitable.

It is against this backdrop that we welcome the Secretary of State’s ‘Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland’s Past’ consultation paper and the opportunity to comment on it.

Read the Party’s submission in full: Legacy Response_ Workers Party

Photo credit: Abbas/Magnum Photos

 

West Belfast is better than this

JoLO Homelessness

“We all need to work together on solutions rather than scapegoating those who are trying to make a difference”, Workers Party representative Joanne Lowry said in response to recent criticisms of the Welcome Centre at Townsend Street

“I understand perfectly the genuine concerns that local people have about drug addiction and the risks it can pose, but we also need to be concerned about homelessness, mental health issues, domestic violence and vulnerability”, said Joanne

Damaged society                                                                                                         “We live in a very damaged society which is often all too ready to write people off and throw them on the scrap heap. West Belfast ranks amongst the areas of highest social deprivation. That has been the case for decades and it is being made worse by the refusal of the main political parties to form a government.

“ It is crazy to pretend that cuts to public services, welfare reform,  a lack of affordable public housing and high levels of social deprivation will not result in the kind of problems we are witnessing on our streets”, Joanne said.

Political decisions                                                                                                       “It is even crazier to point the finger at, and lay the blame on, those organisations and groups that are trying to alleviate the distress and despair that those political decisions have caused.

“Be angry by all means but direct that anger at a system that devalues human beings and at the political parties which play along with that and which fail to represent the most vulnerable and needy in our community”, added Joanne

“I met this week with staff of  the Welcome drop-in centre  to talk about their work and the concerns of local residents”, said Joanne “I have nothing but praise for the difficult and often thankless work that they undertake. They need our support not our condemnation.

Caring and compassionate                                                                                     “West Belfast can be a caring and a compassionate community. We need to demonstrate that now more than ever and appreciate the complexities of the problems being faced. Organisations like the Welcome Organisation are worthy of our backing and our support for the challenging work that they do.

“Our justified anger should be directed at the political parties that have presided over the social decline that results in groups like the Welcome Organisation being needed”, Joanne concluded

Mental health services ‘woefully inadequate’

HS Mental Health 1Workers Party representative in the South Derry area, Hugh Scullion, has called for all GPs to undertake mandatory training and on-going professional development in mental health and suicide prevention and for an immediate and significant increase in the mental health budget.

“Because GPs are independent contractors they can choose what services they provide. Only around two-thirds of GP practices currently provide any form of in house counselling as part of their GP contract.” Hugh explained

Shortfall                                                                                                                   “The Health and Social Care Board, which commissions services in Northern Ireland, claims the shortfall for people with mild to moderate mental health conditions is covered by a range of community and voluntary organisations but the reality is that mental health services are woefully underfunded.

We currently spend a mere £2.29 per person on Mental Health Counselling services”, he said.

Suicide rates                                                                                                              “An additional £50 million was promised over a year ago to support mental health services, but that has not been delivered. As we stagger on without a government at Stormont the levels of mental health problems increase, and suicide rates continue to rise. This is an intolerable situation”, added Hugh

“I am very happy to support the Participation and Practice of Rights (PPR) group which is campaigning for improved mental health services locally and across Northern Ireland”, he said

Specifically the PPR is calling for

  • counselling services in all GP practices
  • training for all GPs on mental health and suicide prevention
  • a mental health worker in every GP practice

“Counselling has been proven to very often be a lower cost and more effective treatment option than medication yet waiting lists for GP practice-based counselling range from between three to six months, and sometimes longer.

“GP contracts must be amended to include the provision of in-house counselling and the money to develop and support mental health services must be released immediately”, Hugh concluded

Sectarian graffiti ‘sickening and cowardly’

sectarian graffiti

A sobering reminder of the levels of sectarianism in our society

Sectarian graffiti at new housing development in Glengormley has been condemned as “a sickening and cowardly attempt to intimidate people in dire housing need from applying for homes in the area”.

Workers Party representatives Gemma Weir and Chris Bailie called on all local political representatives to, “clearly and unequivocally state their opposition to this type of intimidation”.

“It is very important that we all openly affirm that public housing should be available  based solely on people’s needs and not be on their religion, ethnicity or political views” , the pair said

“This gangster style attempt to ‘claim’ areas for people of one religion or another is a sobering reminder of the levels of sectarianism in our society, added Gemma and Chris.

“Sectarianism is institutionalised in our structures of government and is played out repeatedly in our daily lives. Educational segregation enforced from a young age further divides communities, fosters mistrust and compounds division, difference and sectarian tensions in every part of Northern Ireland”.

“Sectarianism and sectarian intimidation are wrong. Anyone with information about this type of incident should immediately report it to the PSNI”, Chris and Gemma concluded.

Members recall a peaceful revolution

Brackaghreily4

Some of the original members of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement in the South Derry area

A meeting in Brackaghreilly Hall in Maghera has heard how the peaceful and revolutionary demands of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement have shaped political life for more than half a century.

Workers Party member, and secretary to the South Derry Civil Rights Association in the late 1960s, Marian Donnelly told the  Party meeting of the significant role played by the Workers Party  predecessor the Republican Clubs and of the political gains the civil rights campaign secured.

NICRA’s demands

  • electoral reform, one man one vote, and end to gerrymandering
  • an end to discrimination
  •  adequate and fair allocation of public housing,
  • removal of the Special Powers Act
  • disbandment of the B Specials

“These were real tangible changes that could be achieved within the constitutional framework but had real revolutionary effects”, Marian recalled. “That’s what NICRA was trying to achieve, – a peaceful revolution”, she said

“What we shouldn’t forget and shouldn’t allow to be forgotten is at that at the time it was quite clear the driving force behind NICRA was the Republican Clubs. There is no doubt about that. Records of the time confirm this to be the case,” she added

“Even though the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement advocated peaceful means, even though it’s aims were limited, in the context of the state of Northern Ireland at that time, NICRA was a movement trying to achieve revolutionary change”, Marian said

Legitimate demands                                                                                          “Had the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association and other progressive forces been allowed to pursue their legitimate demands, then those who engaged in the bloody and unnecessary carnage inflicted over three decades could never have purloined the issue of civil rights as a pretext to justify their despicable and unjustifiable campaign of terror.

“Thousands of lives were lost as was the opportunity for a united approach to tackling the social injustices of our society”, she said.

“Fifty years on, our community is still divided: segregated education and segregated housing are still with us. Thirty per cent of our children are living in poverty. Low income homes are the norm, and forty per cent of the population is blighted by fuel poverty. Life expectancy is a post code lottery”, Marian added

Real equality                                                                                                                “NICRA won many reforms but the fundamental change required to bring about real equality has yet to be realised”, Marian said.

“That can only come with the creation of a new future, based on a united working class, a bill of rights that rejects sectarianism and racism and that builds a democratic, secular and socialist society”, Marian concluded.

Party to mark NICRA 50th anniversary

Marian Donnelly

Marian Donnelly

The 50th Anniversary of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association is to be marked with an event next Saturday September 22nd, organised by the Party’s South Derry branch.

Fittingly, it will be held in Brackaghreilly Hall, the focal point of civil rights activity in South Derry during that period.

The evening is being organised by the South Derry branch of the Workers Party and will include contributions from local people involved in the civil rights campaign. Among them will be Marian Donnelly from Maghera who was secretary of the local branch of NICRA at the time.

Reflecting on events at the time and since Marian said

‘Bloody and unnecessary carnage’                           “Had the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association and other progressive forces been allowed to pursue their legitimate demands, then those who engaged in the bloody and unnecessary carnage inflicted over three decades could never have purloined the issue of civil rights as a pretext to justify their despicable and unjustifiable campaign of terror.

“Thousands of lives were lost as was the opportunity for a united approach to tackling the social injustices of our society”, she said.

“Fifty years on, our community is still divided: segregated education and segregated housing are still with us. Thirty per cent of our children are living in poverty. Low income homes are the norm, and forty per cent of the population is blighted by fuel poverty. Life expectancy is a post code lottery”, Marian added

Real equality                                                                                                                “NICRA won many reforms but the fundamental change required to bring about real equality has yet to be realised”, Marian said.

“That can only come with the creation of a new future, based on a united working class, a bill of rights that rejects sectarianism and racism and that builds a democratic, secular and socialist society”, she concluded.

Civil Rights video                                                                                                  The anniversary evening will include a short video on the formation and history of the Civil Rights movement which has been specially commissioned by the Workers Party in South Derry

 Everyone who was part of the civil rights campaign or who has an interest in it is welcome to come along. Founding members of the civil rights association will be on hand to answer questions about the period.

Meeting starts at 8pm

Cavehill is ‘too dangerous to walk’

 

Cavehill walk

The Cavehill has become too dangerous for walkers, families and nature enthusiasts, according to Workers Party representative in the Castle area of north Belfast, Gemma Weir.

“This is not a new problem”, she said, “but it is getting worse”. “Mountain bikers have turned this local public amenity into an unofficial downhill race track”.

“Mountain biking down the Cavehill and through the Cavehill Country Park is putting people increasingly at risk and causing serious damage to the environment. Now it is also being widely advertised as a mountain bike downhill venue”, Gemma claims.

Refusal to endorse bylaws                                                                                     “This issue goes back to at least 2002 but still Belfast City Council refuses to fully enforce its own byelaw which prohibits riding a bike in a way which is unsafe or likely to cause damage to the park, cause annoyance or harm to people in the park.- a perfect description of high speed, downhill mountain biking”, she said

Despite the publication of a specialist report over ten years ago a number of councillors continue to argue against making the Cavehill safe for the quarter of a million visitors who use it every year. That report concluded that the Cavehill “… does not allow for sustainable multiple uses by pedestrians and mountain bikers at the same time and conflicts between these users is inevitable.’

But a decade later the byelaws are not being enforced, decisions are not being taken, the risk of injury and damage to the environment is increasing and Cavehill is being advertised throughout the world as a mountain bike venue*

Real and present danger                                                                                          “It is beyond belief that the City Council and a number of councillors continue to drag their feet on this issue. There is a real and present danger that people may get injured – including the mountain bikers – and that habitats and the environment will suffer irreparable damage.

Belfast City Council in its own leaflets describes Cavehill as an area containing “…natural and historical features…. livestock, picnic areas, woodland areas and species rich greenland ”, but are doing nothing to prevent damage to those amenities or ensure the safety of those using them.” said Gemma.

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