Category Archives: Uncategorized

If employers cannot protect their workforce they should close down immediately

Workplace guidelines on health and safety must be enforced

The Workers Party has echoed calls by the trade union movement and others for the immediate and enhanced protection of workers in all essential services.

It is very clear that many workers delivering essential services are being put at risk by their employers who are refusing to adhere to public health guidelines on social distancing and personal protection measures.

It is also clear that a number of companies whose businesses are not essential in the current crisis are continuing to trade and are putting the workforce at unnecessary and unacceptable risk.

If  employers cannot protect their workforce they should close down immediately

The Party is calling on the Health and Safety Executive to enforce public health and government guidelines by ensuring full compliance with safety measures at work and is also calling for an immediate Executive Order to be enacted by the Assembly directed against those non essential firms which continue to trade. .

Workers providing essential services which are keeping our society function at this critical time are being put at serious  risk through the lack of personal  protection equipment and social distancing measures. Other workers re being told to report for work in non  essential  services  and in dangerous and unhealthy conditions like some call centres and production lines.

Unionised workforces at least have power and leverage to effect change but many, many thousands of workers are in non-union firms and are at the mercy of employers who place the relentless pursuit of profit above health, well being and life .

Those who put their workforce at risk must be challenged  and sanctione. Those who continue to trade without justification should be closed forthwith.

Such developments, however, must take place in the context of providing effective financial support measures to avoid mass redundancies and to ensure that jobs are protected and workers paid. 

Eradicating Sectarianism: a long, long way to go

Party members (l:r)Tom Gillen, Joanne Lowry and Hugh Scullion at the launch of ‘Sectarianism: the Key Facts’ report at Parliament Buildings, Stormont

Sectarianism remains the single biggest obstacle to working class unity, but its eradication remains a long, long way off.

A research report, commissioned by the Equality Coalition, addressing the institutional aspects of sectarianism was launched at Parliament buildings Stormont, today.

The report makes the welcome move away from a focus on personal behaviours and ‘cross- community’ initiatives as a way of addressing sectarianism and focuses instead on some of its institutional and organisational aspects.

Difficulties and dangers

Welcome as that approach is it is not without its difficulties and dangers. Workforce imbalances in large organisations and big companies can result from a variety of often complex factors which cannot be over looked or simply dismissed.

Reducing an analysis of sectarian practice to a numbers game sheds no light and serves little purpose. So too with equating every adverse decision to a sectarian motive or using the accusation of sectarianism to address every ill .

Immediate steps

There are a number of immediate steps which could and should be taken to starts to process of eradicating sectarianism from our society. An integrated and secular education system, a Bill of Rights , an integrated housing programme and the criminalisation of sectarianism would be a good start.

However, for as long as institutionalised sectarianism forms the basis of government structures and practices, there will be no political leadership from Stormont and no pressure to address either sectarianism or the vested interests which help perpetuate it. There is still a very long way to go.

https://www.equalitycoalition.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Secatrianism-The-Key-Facts-FINAL-LOW-RES.pdf

Death of John Jefferies

John Jefferies

The Northern Ireland Region of the Party is shocked and saddened at the untimely death of our esteemed comrade and friend, Comrade John Jefferies. John will be a serious loss to our Party at every level. He will be sadly missed by his comrades.

Committed
John was a good comrade, a committed Party member, someone who understood the fundamental importance of political ideas and the necessity for a radical transformation of the political, social and economic system in which we live. He understood well the nature of class and the class system and that capital confers political power which its ruling class uses to legitimise and protect its interests at the expense of the working class.

Tireless
John had long service on the CEC and was a tireless member of the Party’s International Section and he had travelled frequently to meet with his international comrades in the Communist and Workers’ parties.
Comrade John Jefferies was a dedicated political activist, a committed Marxist-Leninist, a life-long fighter for the working class.

In acknowledgment of his long service to the Workers Party, the
Party in Northern Ireland recently made a presentation to John to mark his unstinting and loyal service to the Party.

Party members in Northern Ireland mourn the passing of a truecomrade. He will be deeply missed by us all.

Making Mental Health Matter

Party members at the launch of the new Mental Health Matters mural

A new wall mural highlighting mental health issues and providing information on support services has been unveiled in Belfast.

It takes the space previously occupied by the Workers Party anti-sectarian message on the Northumberland Street wall in a temporary arrangement between the Party and a group of local artists concerned about mental health.

Collaboration

The Party’s collaboration with  the local artists seeks to highlight mental health issues and signpost some of the services and help available to individuals, families and friends.

Regrettably it comes at an opportune time. The number of people taking their own lives  in Northern Ireland is the highest on these islands. The rate is almost twice that of England and deaths in the Belfast area remain the highest in Northern Ireland.

More people have now taken their own lives since the paramilitary ceasefires of 1994 than died during the period of ‘The Troubles’

Understanding

The factors involved for each person can often be complicated, but research is consistently identifying the need for increased mental health service provision, rising drug and alcohol misuse, changes in family life and  expectations and the legacy of the ‘Troubles’ but austerity, high levels of poverty, social exclusion and disadvantage must be central to our understanding of this crisis.

Mental health matters and that needs to be demonstrated by the Northern Ireland Assembly. Funding, resources, service developments, long term strategies and new initiatives are all priorities but so too must be a commitment to address and tackle the root causes of much of our mental ill health.

Suicide statistics

  • Three times as many people die by suicide in Northern Ireland each year than are killed in road traffic collisions
  • A total of 219,000 people have been directly affected by suicide since 2005
  • More than 70% of people who die by suicide are not known to mental health services
  • 10% of 15-16 year olds have self-harmed at some stage
  • In 1970, 73 people took their own lives in Northern Ireland, according to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency
  • In 2013, there were more than 300 deaths – and that figure has remained largely the same since then

Source: BBC

‘We are deluding ourselves’

“Do we even listen to ourselves anymore”? Workers Party representative Chris Bailie has asked after this week’s announcement of work on the wall dividing the New Lodge and Tiger’s Bay areas.

“Media coverage, and some local commentators, have announced thatone of the oldest peace walls in Belfast has been demolished”. No it hasn’t, and there are no signs that it is going to be”, Chris says.

Grim reality

“Whatever the arguments that this somehow represents ‘progress’, the grim reality is that this dividing wall is being rebuilt, given a cosmetic make over and handed a new lease of life”. he said.

“We are deluding ourselves about what progress looks like, then we try to convince the rest of the world that this society is moving forward” added Chris.

“There are over 100 dividing walls and barriers in Northern Ireland. Over one third of them erected since the paramilitary ceasefires in 1994.

“North Belfast is scarred by them as they snake their way across and around the local community. We even have a dividing wall running through the middle of Alexandra Park”.

‘Progress’ ?

“Ten years ago, the Northern Ireland Assembly committed itself to the removal of all ‘peace walls’ by 2023.  Yet in 2020 the Alliance party’s Naomi Long in her role as Minster for Justice publicly welcomes the rebuilding of one of the oldest dividing walls in the city and calls it ‘progress’.

“We are told that one of the features of the new, modern, dividing wall in Duncairn will be an increase in natural light. Maybe those who see building barriers as progress would also like to shed some light on the continued educational segregation of school children and the extreme poverty, ill health, urban dereliction and low levels of educational achievement and employment which blight North Belfast and other areas.

That would be progress indeed”, concluded Chris.

https://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/opinion/letters/duncairn-peace-wall-has-not-been-demolished-it-being-rebuilt-cosmetic-makeover-1483978

Health Service will be the test of the new Assembly

“Promised funding is disappearing faster than wood chips in an RHI burner”, Hugh Scullion

Hugh Scullion, the Party’s Mid Ulster representative, has cautioned against optimism on the return of the Stormont Executive.

“The restoration of devolution is welcomed, and long overdue, but there is a real possibility that the Assembly parties remain wedded to the Tory’s austerity policies of the past. That means the continued under funding of public services, including health and social care.” he said

“The funding promised in return for restoring the Stormont Assembly is disappearing faster than wood chips in an RHI burner.  Politicians are now being urged to make “hard decisions” – as if this is a virtue. Hard decisions usually mean cuts in public services leading to longer waiting times in hospital Emergency Departments, longer waiting lists for treatments and agony for patients”, Hugh warned.

 Suicide rates

“The Mid Ulster area has seen one of the highest rates, only behind Belfast, of death from heart disease and cancers. The rates of suicide since the signing of the Belfast Agreement has surpassed the lives lost during the thirty years of “the Troubles.”

“More and more young people are turning to alcohol and drugs with increasing drug related deaths. Meanwhile the area’s health services are dwindling. These cuts particularly affect those in poverty and greatest need”.

Starved of resources

“The promises of the Conservative Government so quickly accepted by our local politicians will not solve the many problems faced by working class people in Northern Ireland. The NHS will continue to be starved of much needed resources both in terms of staff and facilities”. Hugh said

“For some time, the Worker’s Party has been calling for an inquiry into the financing and outsourcing of health care in Northern Ireland but we fear the present Stormont Executive will continue with a programme of austerity and privatisation of public services.

Holding to account

“We will be watching and holding the Stormont parties to account. For the past three years and one day the they have failed to serve the interests of the working class. the electorate will have their say at the next Assembly elections in two years’ time. That  will be the time for the working class to hold them to account.”, Hugh concluded

‘New Decade – New Approach’ – same old story

Image result for new decade new approach ni

New Decade – New Approach’ – same old story

The most surprising thing about the ‘New Decade – New Approach’ deal that will see the return of an Assembly and an Executive at Stormont is that it took three years and a day to achieve.

There is absolutely nothing in this agreement that could not have been secured if the Assembly had continued to function: nothing.

Yet over a three year period the DUP and Sinn Fein held the people of Northern Ireland ransom to settle on a document that could and should have been written in 2017.

Collapse

SInn Fein collapsed the Executive primarily because of its concerns about the Renewable Heating Initiative (RHI), yet apart from a commitment to form a committee to look at the report’s findings and an undertaking to learn lessons, there’s hardly a mention of it in the new Agreement.

That said, fourteen paragraphs and 727 words are devoted to Language and Cultural Rights. Integrated education is mentioned – literally mentioned – once.  The word Poverty is mentioned once in the main report and there are absolutely no references to women or homelessness.

Clearly these are not Sinn Fein or DUP priorities. Nor will they be.

Crisis

During this period public services reached the point of collapse, mental health deteriorated, homelessness increased, school budgets couldn’t cope, and hospital waiting lists increased and for the first time in their history nursing staff were forced to picket their own hospitals.

Ultimately Sinn Fein and the DUP have now signed up to a return to work – not as a result of their own efforts but because the British and lrish governments wrote the text for them.

And what have they returned to? Simply stated, a continuation of the sectarian carve up on which they came to power and which they intend to maintain to stay in power. The maintenance of power and the consolidation of differences are the only real winners in today’s developments.

All the more reason to build and pursue the socialist alternative to sectarianism and all class alliances.

New Year’s Message

Workers Party President Michael Donnelly

Workers Party President, Michael Donnelly has used his New Year message to criticise what he branded “… the complete failure of both Sinn Fein and the DUP to offer anything in the way of either credible government or credible policies in Northern Ireland”.

“While there are apparently ‘high hopes’ of some sort of brokered deal in the immediate future”, he said, “it is highly unlikely that whatever government is formed will be one that will have any major impact on the crises that beset ordinary workers and their families at this time”.

He went on to highlight Northern Ireland’s “..crumbling social services, a health system that is being relentlessly ground down in preparation for possible privatisation…and the low-wage economy which formed the basis of what passed for an economic strategy by the previous SF-DUP administration. All of this must be fought against relentlessly, and the Workers Party must play a leading role in that resistance”, he said

“Both in Northern Ireland or in the Republic we have consistently argued that any government that commits itself to relentlessly pursuing an unashamed pro-private capital- financial speculator agenda and presides over the mismanagement of  health, education  and  public welfare, does not deserve to either  continue in office or be returned office”, the Party President said.

“We need to remember also that, in both parts of this island, despite the claims of the big system parties, there remains deep and persistent poverty and inequality, both of which are deeply imbedded and form an integral part of the island’s socio-economic reality.

More than ever before, wealth is concentrated overwhelmingly in the secure vaults and accounts of the already wealthy elite, the privileged ones in whose interests their governments rule.”, he added

“Whether it is homelessness, poverty, excessively high rents, low wages or poorly funded health and social services, the cause is not ‘individual irresponsibility’ but the direct consequence of the  deep structural factors that are part and parcel of a system that privileges private capital over the public good. he concluded

See Party President Michael Donnelly’s New Year Message in full here:

Supporting the Strikers is Supporting the NHS

Today sees an unprecedented day of strike action by healthcare workers across Northern Ireland.

This is a situation that has been forced upon them as they rightly pursue parity of pay with colleagues across the NHS and seek safe staffing levels.

All five main parties in Northern Ireland are collectively to blame. The Northern Ireland Executive broke pay parity in 2014 – a decision subsequently confirmed by successive health minsters.

Breaking point

The media and others claim that strike action puts patents at risk. The stark reality is that patients are already at risk and staff and services are at breaking point.

How much this is a crisis manufactured to pave the way for further privatisation of health and social care is an interesting question.

What is clear, however, is that the main political parties will continue to abdicate their responsibilities and offset the blame for as long as they refuse to reform the Executive. They should go back to Stormont today.

Important

Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of citizens and the safe delivery of a public health and social care service.

Supporting the striking health care workers and their demands for pay party and safe staffing levels is a demonstration of support for the NHS.   

Muckamore Abbey: public inquiry demanded

There must be a full and open public inquiry

“The revelations of the systematic and sustained abuse of patients at Muckamore Abbey Hospital  are both staggering in their proportion and horrifying in their implications”, Party representative in north Belfast Gemma Weir has said.

“Permanent mental scars have been inflicted on the patients involved, their families and friends”, she added . 

“The PSNI inquiry will address any criminal wrong doing by individuals but there are wider and longer term issues to be addressed also.  We have seen that, in similar situations, the organisations involved follow an established pattern of initial downplaying or denial followed by minimal acceptance and attempts to diffuse responsibility and blur accountability”, Gemma said. 


“It would be an  outrage and  a totally unacceptable insult  to patients and their families if that pattern were to be followed here. Only a full and open public inquiry can now address these issues, the culture which  facilitated them and identify all the factors and the people responsible”.


No doubt hundreds of reasons will be offered as to why we should not have a public inquiry but there is one overwhelming and undeniable reason why we should – the most vulnerable of the vulnerable in our society have been abused and mistreated by the people and  the system into whose care we entrusted them “, Gemma argued .


They deserve nothing short of a full and open public inquiry.

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