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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.

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.

SDLP needs to ‘come clean’

A call for the SDLP to ‘come clean’ on the party’s new partnership with Fianna Fail has been made by Workers Party representatives Chris Bailie and  Joanne Lowry.

“There is clearly a major difference of opinion and a lot of unease amongst SDLP members about the new relationship with Fianna Fail” they said.

In North Belfast, former local councillor and MLA Alban Magennis has distanced himself from the merger while current local MLA and party deputy leader Nicola Mallon has been enthusiastically selling the deal to party members.

Now local SDLP Councillor Paul McCusker needs to let people know where he stands.”, said Chris.

” It would be hard to believe that Paul’s principles sit comfortably with a conservative  party like Fianna Fail. Nor would Fianna Fail’s slavish support of  free market economics, one of the causes of the current housing crisis in the Republic, find favour with someone like Paul McCusker, who has done so much for homeless people locally”, observed Chris.

It is a similar story in West Belfast. ” Long standing and well-respected councillor Tim Atwood has expressed his disapproval of the merger publicly” said,

“I have my political differences with Tim, but I and many others admire the work he has done, the service he has provided and most importantly the principles he has upheld over the years. Clearly this new arrangement with Fianna Fail runs contrary to what he and other SDLP members believe in”, Joanne said

Fianna Fail is the party that teamed up with the European Union’s Troika to introduce the crippling austerity measures making ordinary people pay for the bail out of Irish banks and financial investors while public services were decimated, and additional taxes placed on ordinary people.

“The SDLP needs to let people know where it stands. It would be hard to believe that either Tim Atwood’s or Paul McCusker’s principles sit comfortably with a conservative party like Fianna Fail”.

“We need to know – and the SDLP needs to tell us – where it stands on this deal with Fianna Fail and what the position of all of its candidates in the council elections is”, Joanne and Chris concluded

Party President’s New Year Statement

Party President: Michael Donnelly

 

Private profit first

In his New Year statement, Workers Party President, Michael Donnelly, has singled out the relentless pursuit of private profit as the determining factor in low wages, precarious employment , poor public services and homelessness in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The world of market forces “….is a world that rests on the principle of private profits first; all other things a poor second. It is this system that they insist shall prevail that is the primary cause of all our social ills and problems.

This exaltation of private profit ensures that there will be poverty, that there will be low wages and that there will be homelessness,” he said.

Northern Ireland

Addressing the situation in Northern Ireland Mr Donnelly attacked what he called the Sinn Fein and the DUP’s collective commitment to a sectarian carve-up of power and squabbling over the perks of office….. that has condemned the people of Northern Ireland to two years of uncertainty and a fear of sliding back into the deadly grasp of violent ethno-nationalism.

“Without a united working class “, he said “there will only be a suffocating and deadly divisive ethnic and sectarian political climate in which workers and their families will continue to suffer. Whether green or orange, a capitalist ruler is still a capitalist ruler!”

Sean Garland

Paying tribute to former Party President and life long revolutionary Sean Garland who died earlier this month, Mr Donnelly said, “…without his vision and foresight the Party as we know it would most probably not exist as it does, as a Party dedicated to revolutionary change, built upon the ideology of Marx and Lenin, of Tone and Connolly.

“The struggle continues to build the Workers Party into a political force capable of establishing a democratic, secular, socialist, unitary state on the island of Ireland – a Socialist Republic”, Comrade Donnelly concluded.

Follow the link for the full New Year statement:

Party President’s 2019 New Year Message

Joint New Year statement from Party’s Belfast representatives

Unfortunately, we can be fairly confident about what 2019 will bring, local Workers Party representatives have said.

In a joint New Year’s statement Party representatives in Belfast, Conor Campbell (Black Mountain), Gemma Weir (Castle), Patrick Lynn (Botanic), Chris Bailie (Oldpark), Patrick Crossan (Colin) and Joanne Lowry (Court) said:

“This year will see thousands of local people struggling to make ends meet. Thousands of teenagers will leave school with little or few qualifications. Many of those seeking a university education will find it unaffordable. Others will search in vain for apprenticeships”

Sectarian Standoff

“The Assembly will continue its sectarian standoff as Sinn Fein and the DUP prioritise local cultural identity issues over political progress, and both parties will continue to stand idly by as education, health, housing and other public services grind to a standstill”.

“Both parties will also ramp up the sectarian temperature, creating further divisions and leaving themselves no room for compromise because of the expectations they have engendered in their supporters”, they said

“Those who vote for this toxic stalemate should question their actions and examine the consequences”.

“At the last Assembly election nearly 650,000 people voted for parties that supported cuts to public services, segregated education, zero hours contracts, lower corporation tax and austerity for working people and their families”.

“All the while there are more than 100,000 children living in poverty and at least 15,000 people officially homeless. We are looking at a generation scarred for life”

“Tribal politics and sectarian brinkmanship can only survive if it receives support. If we continue to condone it, then subsequent condemnation is meaningless and worse.

Realities

“These are the realities we face going into 2019. Potential, opportunity and achievement are all sacrificed at the altar of sectarianism fuelled by the worst excesses of British and Irish nationalism”

“Working people, those seeking employment, students and the elderly need a socialist, secular and anti-sectarian road map to chart a way forward which offers a quality of life for all in a society run by them, for them. We have seen what the alternative offers”, they concluded.

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