‘New Decade – New Approach’ – same old story

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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.


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.


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.


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 supports Yard workers

Steelworker and UNITE representative at Harland & Wolff, Joe Passmore with Workers Party members this afternoon

A delegation from the Workers Party has visited the protesting workers at Harland & Wolf to express solidarity with their actions and to demonstrate the Party’s ongoing support for their protest and the demands that the Yard be re-nationalised.


The Party’s Northern Ireland Chairperson Gerry Grainger was joined by colleagues Lily Kerr. Tom Gillen and Joe Dowds. They met and talked with all the workers on the picket line and presented workers representative Joe Passmore with a letter of support and a contribution to the Yard mens’ Fighting Fund.

Speaking afterwards Gerry Grainger said,

The workforce at Harland’s has taken a decisive and progressive step. They deserve the full backing of the entire Northern Ireland community and immediate state intervention to save jobs and secure Northern Ireland’s industrial base.”

“The main parties here have failed to act in support of the Harland and Wolff workers and securing vital industrial skills, The contrast between the disregard shown by the DUP, Sinn Fein and the other parties and the decisive actions taken by the Scottish Assembly as they rescued shipbuilding on the Clyde could not be more stark”, he said,

Copy of the letter of support handed to Harland and Wolff workers

Sympathy, silence and the law of the jungle

As the workers of Harland a & Wolff continued to occupy the Yard and as the Administrators were appointed, there was ‘sympathy‘ from the DUP, silence from Sinn Fein and a stark reminder from the Tory government that the law of the free market jungle still applies.

Even if the Executive had been re-instated none of the main parties would have done anything different, or indeed, done anything at all.

Workers and trades union calls for the nationalisation of the Yard have been met with disinterest and contempt. The DUP has offered ‘sympathy and understanding’, the Tory government has dismissed the crisis as “ultimately a commercial issue” and Sinn Fein appears to have said nothing at all.

Neither they nor the DUP have made this a red line issue. Neither has demanded public intervention to keep H&W in business, retain its jobs and skills base or secure its future. But then, like the Tory government, the main parties here are ideologically opposed to state intervention in the economy – unless of course it involves bailing out the banks or lowering corporation tax. They too hold that it is “ultimately a commercial issue” .

There is a real danger that the administrators will now try to sell off Harland & Wolff to the highest bidding asset strippers: the final rivet in the coffin of a manufacturing and industrial base.

Workers Party members supporting the picket at Harland and Wolff

The struggle to save the jobs, the skills and the future of Harlands is not over. The Yard workers, their families, the trade union movement and everyone determined to see a positive future deserves our full and ongoing support.

Meanwhile, the free market parties who are happy to cut budgets, lower corporation tax, sell Northern Ireland as a low wage economy and now watch the shipyard slip away deserve to face the political backlash that surely needs to come.

H&W: a decisive and progressive step

Northern Ireland’s economy needs development and investment:
Party member Chris Bailie joined the picket line

The future of the Harland & Wolff shipyard is not just about the 130 jobs currently at risk. It is about how the the economy of Northern Ireland is organised and the absolute necessity for a centrally planned, publicly owned, strategic  approach to local manufacturing and economic development.

The fact that the work force at the Yard has been left with no option but to take matters into their own hands and occupy the premises, is a brutal indictment of the main political parties and their failure to form a functioning  Executive.

For over two and a half years we have been without a government. Workers at Harland and Wolff have taken more positive action in one afternoon than Sinn Fein and the DUP have done in over 30 months.

Northern Ireland industry needs development and investment. Our local skills base needs protection and expansion. Only a hands on, government led, industrial strategy can ensure that – secure  jobs and develop an indigenous manufacturing base.

Harland & Wolff, and Bombardier Aerospace, needs to be taken back into public ownership. They should be nationalised – to preserve jobs and  skills and to secure their future.

The workforce at Harland’s has taken a decisive and progressive step. They deserve our full support and immediate state intervention 

Nationalise H&W and Bombardier

Active intervention in the economy needed

The current threat posed to the future of Harland and Wolff and the precarious position of Bombardier Aerospace demonstrate clearly the urgent need for a strategic economic plan for Northern Ireland.

The failure of the main parties to form an Executive exacerbates the problems and makes a local rescue plan extremly unlikely.

Northern Ireland industry needs development and investment. Our local skills base needs protection and expansion. Only a hands on government led industrial strategy can ensure that, secure  jobs and develop an indigenous manufacturing base.

Both Harland and Wolff and Bombardier Aerospace should now be taken into public ownership. They should be nationalised – to preserve jobs and secure their future

Today’s news, and the ongoing refusal to form an Executive, further underlines Sinn Fein and the DUP’s arrogant and contemptuous disregard for working class people families and children.

 A fully functioning Executive committed to active economic intervention and the development of a state sponsored economic plan is the only way in which the local manufacturing sector can be saved, secured and developed. 

Welcome progress – but much still to do

Time to step up the pressure on Sinn Fein and the DUP

The prospect of significant changes to the laws on same sex marriage and abortion legislation in Northern Ireland are to be welcomed. 

Votes in the House of  Commons this afternoon amended the bill on extending the  deferral of  new Assembly elections until at least the  autumn, to include caveats which mean that unless an  Executive is formed by October 21 this year that  legislation on same sex marriage and changes to the  abortion laws in Northern Ireland would be  enacted.

This is progress but not as  we envisaged it.

It would be much better, politically and  socially, if these advances had been introduced and adopted  by a functioning Assembly. Two and a half years after Sinn  Fein collapsed the Executive that looked, and remains, a very remote possibility.

The difficulty with this  legislation being enacted through Westminster, welcome as  the outcomes are, means that ‘creeping direct rule‘  gains a stronger hold and the incentive for Sinn Fein, in  particular,  to thwart a return to devolution  here is strengthened.

Perhaps now is the time for  all social, cultural, civic and political groups in Northern Ireland to step up the pressure on the DUP and Sinn  Fein to restore an Executive  to debate the  economy, integrated secular education, health, housing, workers  rights, welfare reform, the growing  demand on food banks, in a local Assembly without the need for Westminster to intervene.

The best way to honour integrated education is to implement it

The Assembly has deliberately sidetracked integrated education

Gemma Weir, Workers Party representative in North Belfast and former Hazelwood integrated College  pupil, has congratulated The Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education and the Integrated Education Fund  on the news that they may be in the running for a Nobel Prize for their work.


“Formal recognition and commendation of the work of both these bodies, and the whole integrated schools network across Northern Ireland, is long overdue”, Gemma said.”I hope that this accolade, should it be awarded. will help to re-focus attention on the purpose and necessity of integrated education in Northern Ireland and on the urgency to progress its full implementation”, she said

“The work of both these bodies and of the parents, staff and pupils across the integrated sector over the years has helped to keep the movement alive. This is in sharp contrast to the  work of the Assembly which has abdicated its statutory responsibility to assist in the  implementation of integrated education , has sought to thwart its development and has deliberately and cynically diluted the concept with the false notion of ‘shared education’


“I wish the entire integrated education movement well and hope that should this award come to pass that it serves to redouble the efforts of all of us who believe in and understand the value and necessity of a fully funded, government driven integrated education system in Northern Ireland”, Gemma concluded.

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