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May Day 2017

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May Day: a time to proudly re-affirm and recommit to class based values

May Day is celebrated across the globe – and rightly so.  It is a day when working  people can not only take pride in the contribution they make to the society they live in and celebrate their links with other working people around the world, but it is also a day when we can proclaim and re-affirm our values.

For the Workers Party in Northern Ireland that means recommitting ourselves to class politics and rejecting the narrow, divisive and deadly rhetoric of nationalism in all its local forms.

It means standing up against sectarianism, racism, homophobia and misogyny.

It means actively opposing cuts to public services, tax breaks for the rich and denial of opportunities to yet another generation of young people.

It means focusing on, and providing a class based analysis of  the real issues affecting working people. It means not being sidetracked by gesture politics. smoke and mirrors and snake oil peddlers.

It means being a Workers Party for working people. There is no better day to recommit to that task than on May Day – the day of  working people and their parties world wide

Strengthening resolve the only response

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Nationalism – British and Irish – trades on fear, division and separation

The prospects for social, political and economic progress in Northern Ireland may have been set back for at least a generation.

That is the stark reality facing the citizens of Northern Ireland after Thursday’s poll.

The results of the Assembly election have confirmed  British and Irish nationalism as the dominant political force here.

Nationalism of any sort  is never progressive.

It is always  insular, small minded and ultimately conservative – despite its claims to the contrary.

No Different                                                                                                     The Sinn Fein / DUP Coalition  which led the last Executive borrowed millions of pounds to make 20,000 public servants redundant, it slashed public services, it planned to give tax breaks to multi-national companies and it bottled its opportunity to stand up to a devastating programme of welfare reform. Their next coalition will be no different.

When discussions around a new Executive begin this week, jobs, health, education, housing and deepening sectarian division won’t even be on the agenda.

There are more than 100,000 children in Northern Ireland living on or below the poverty line, 15,000 people are officially classed as homeless and the average wage is less than it was ten years ago.  There is a crisis in education, health and social care. Which of the parties likely to participate in the Executive, will be prioritising these issues?  Where are the proposals, the strategies and the emergency plans to meet the real and immediate needs of working people?

Nationalism , British and Irish,  trades on fear, division and separation. We have seen that to our cost and we have seen what results. Nationalism attracts all classes to its cause, though for different reasons.
A new DUP /Sinn Fein Coalition will be formed at some stage but it will not be to the benefit of the disadvantaged, the dispossessed or the downtrodden in our society. Ironically, it will not even be to the advantage of the vast majority of people who were duped into voting for it.
 

Smoke and Mirrors                                                                                                            The “negotiations” in the coming weeks will be all smoke and mirrors.   They will attempt to convey an impression of progress but will, in reality, do nothing more than consolidate  the position of each sectarian bloc at the expense of ordinary working people in Northern Ireland.

But it will also confirm that the radical, class-based analysis of the Workers Party and its demand for the Socialist Alternative presented in its manifesto is more relevant, more pertinent and more urgent than ever.

Nationalism, conservatism and capitalism will not go away of their own accord. They must be dispatched. That is the task we have taken on.  Election results will not diminish our resolve.

 

‘Free, safe, legal and accessible’

free-safe-legalThe Workers Party kicked off its activities in support of International Womens Week with a public meeting to discuss the status of a woman’s right to choose  in Northern Ireland and the Republic

Gemma Weir, the Party’s North Belfast candidate in next week’s Assembly election, addressed the situation in Northern Ireland and the specific issues around the 1967 Abortion Act and calls for its extension to Northern Ireland.

Mary Diskin, a member of the Workers Party in Wicklow and  a long time women’s rights campaigner provided an overview and update on the history of the struggle for abortion legislation  in the Republic of Ireland and the current ‘Repeal the 8th Amendment’ camapign.

The common message from both jurisdictions was that a woman’s right to choose must first be secured and that is should be ‘free, safe, legal and accessible’

Both speakers emphasised the class nature of the abortion issue and the differences for those who can afford to travel and avail of services in England and elsewhere and those who can’t.

It is likely that today’s meeting will prompt an updated  policy paper on the Party’s position on a woman’s right to choose in the near future.

The Socialist Alternative

alternative-stormontIn the Assembly Elections on March 2nd the Workers Party will be representing the Socialist Alternative

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 an Anti-Poverty Strategy and and a viable Economic and Job Creation plan

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.

On March 2nd vote for the socialist alternative

‘Pledge not to accept White House invite’ – Kerr

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Local parties should refuse invitations to the White House

The Workers Party has called on all politicians in Northern Ireland to make a pre-election promise that they will not accept an invitation to the White House for St Patrick’s Day.

The call comes in the wake of the Trump administration’s ban on immigrants and refuges from a number of countries and seeks to secure a commitment from all parties that they will not attend the White House while the ban remains in place.
“The vicious inhumanity of this ban cannot be overstated”, said Workers Party spokesperson Lily Kerr. “It is essential that it is met with a resolute,  united and a global response – including Northern Ireland”, she said
 “Thousands and thousands of individuals and families from these shores have made new lives in the United States. We now need to stand in support of the immigrants, refugees and others who have been denied that opportunity by this racist and reactionary order.
We need to add our voices to the progressive protesters across the United States who are saying ‘Refugees are Welcome’ and demonstrate our support by refusing to attend St. Patrick’s Day celebrations at Trump’s White House”, concluded Lily.

Party welcomes PANA meeting

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A number of Party members were amongst those who attended PANA’s first meeting in Northern Ireland

The Workers Party has welcomed the first meeting  of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA) to be held  Northern Ireland

Founded in Dublin over twenty years ago the group  advocates for an independent Irish Foreign Policy, defends Irish neutrality and promotes a reformed United Nations as the institution through which Ireland should pursue its security concerns.

The meeting – called to discuss the likely impact of the election of US President Donald Trump on American foreign policy and military interventions abroad  – was addressed by Murad Quereshi of the ‘Stop the War Coalition’ and Roger Cole of PANA .

Part of the discussion focused on the role of Shannon Airport and the fact that over 730 US military flights landed at there in 2016. – more than two a day over the entire year. Of these, 413 were operated by the US Air Force, Navy or military, and the remainder were contracted troop carriers.

Discussions are to be held with a view to establishing a Northern Ireland branch of PANA .

Further information:

http://www.pana.ie/

http://www.stopwar.org.uk/

http://www.shannonwatch.org/

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.

Urgent reform of prison system needed

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We have some very serious and systemic problems in our prison system’

‘The latest death of an inmate at Maghaberry Prison further heightens concerns about the fitness of our prison regime and the way in which duty of care is approached’,  Workers Party representative Gemma Weir has said.

Her comments come in the wake of a yet another death in custody and a  series of incidents at the prison one of which involved a prisoner blinding and self harming himself will under observation by prison staff.

‘ We have some very serious and systemic problems in our prison system’, Ms Weir said. ‘This has to be the top of the Minister for Justice’s agenda and a comprehensive, all-inclusive and far-reaching action plan must be forthcoming within  weeks: not months or years’, she said

‘Prisoners in the care of society  are inflicting harm upon themselves and in several cases taking their own lives. This is not a time for pious platitudes, it is a time for a root and branch examination of the entire prison system with a view to making it safe, effective and accountable’ she said.

I extend my sympathy to the family and friends of the deceased and am calling for an immediate and incisive response from the Justice Minister’, Gemma concluded.

Academic selection ‘reinforces privilege and disadvantage’

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Academic selection reinforces privilege and disadvantage

The announcement by Education Minister Peter Weir that primary schools can now coach and support pupils ahead of ‘transfer tests’ effectively confirms the formal reintroduction of academic selection at 11 years of age – despite the overwhelming evidence against such a move.

Educational disadvantage                  Reports by the United Nations and, more recently, the Iliad Report  – commissioned by the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister and undertaken by experts from Queen’s University and Stranmillis University College in Belfast – repeatedly confirm that academic selection reinforces “privilege and disadvantage” and recommend the end of academic selection in Northern Ireland as a key way to reverse educational disadvantage.

All those opposed to academic selection – parents, teachers, trade unions and others – must reignite this debate and campaign not just for the reversal of this decision but the complete and final abolition of academic selection at 11.

 

Proud to support PRIDE 2016

PRIDE 2016Once again the Workers Party will be proud to support the LGBT community at the PRIDE parade on Saturday 6th August.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people are full citizens of Northern Ireland, contributors to this community and have every right to expect the same level of protection, support and legal safeguards as everyone else.

Throughout the year Party members have participated in rallies and demonstrations in support of marriage equality, marched against attacks on the LGBT community, participated in the Foyle PRIDE parade and presented a ‘Petition of Concern’ at DUP headquarters in protest against that party’s persistent blocking of an Assembly vote on marriage equality

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