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

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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.

Working people are paying the price

stormont-oneill-foster

A fully functioning Executive remains “the absolute political priority”.

Following today’s talks between the Secretary of State and a number of the main parties The Workers Party has said that the restoration of a fully functioning Executive remains “the absolute political priority”.

‘Health, education and other public services are in crisis, budgets cannot be set, projects signed off or jobs and funding secured”, the Party said.

‘Some parties are happy to find reason after reason why a new Executive should not be formed but there are more pressing reasons why it should: hospital waiting lists, school budgets, housing schemes, eliminating unemployment, infrastructure projects, jobs, wages, benefits and quality of life are but a few’.

‘Sinn Fein won’t take their seats at Westminster and since January 2017  they haven’t taken their seats at Stormont. They continue to display an arrogant and contemptuous disregard for working class people, families and children’.

‘While those people bear the brunt of crumbling public services Sinn Fein’s undisguised disdain continues to place their own political ambitions front and centre regardless of the price paid by working class people’.

50 years on : celebrating and discussing the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement

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‘We Shall Overcome – a section of  the audience at the Party’s NICRA commemoration event in Ranfurly House, Dungannon. Co Tyrone

The 50th anniversary of the first civil rights march from Coalisland to Dunagnnon in 1968 has been marked at a Party event at Ranfurly House, the march’s planned destination.

Setting the record straight                                                                          Alternative histories and the passage of time combine to blur the nature, the purpose and the successes of the Northern Ireland civil rights movement. The meeting in Ranfurly House set that record straight.

The evening’s  three speakers, Hugh Scullion, Marian Donnelly and Dr Ultan Gillen (Teesside University) mapped out the development of the early civil rights strategy, focused on its anti-sectarian inclusive nature and placed it’s demands in a clear and considered class context.

‘Deceitful and distorted’                                                                                         Dr Ultan Gillen dispelled the myths around the civil rights movement, created on one hand by Irish nationalists and on the other by their unionist counterparts.

” To believe, as Sinn Fein and others claim, that the civil rights movement simply ran its course, was beaten off the streets and left no alternative other than the thirty odd years of terror and carnage which followed is to buy into a lie. It is simply not true and the historical evidence from the day proves that”, he said

“Similarly, the myths peddled, then and now, by some sections of unionism that there was no discrimination, no gerrymandering nor a crisis in housing allocation is equally untrue”, Ultan said.

Both forms of nationalism  have invented their separate, but complimentary, versions of events to justify their own positions and their own actions. They are as deceitful and distorted now as they were then”, he added

___

Marian Donnelly, an original member of NICRA and a participant in the 1968 Coalisland to Dungannon march, highlighted the purpose and the early successes of the movement .

Basic reforms – revolutionary demands                                                                 “NICRA was about the democratic reform of the Northern Ireland state. It was about the rights of all people n Northern Ireland, of all our citizens. It sought reforms to secure voting rights for all, the allocation of housing on need not creed, an end to gerrymandering, the right to free assembly and political activity  and the repeal of repressive legislation. These were basic reforms but revolutionary demands “, she said

“Within a very short time, NICRA had secured major reform in the Northern Ireland  state,” Marian explained

Reform secured                                                                                                           The RUC was disarmed, the B Specials disbanded, local government reformed, ’one man one vote’ introduced, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive was formed, and by 1972, the Special Powers Act repealed.

All these gains and the changes they laid the basis for, were to be undone. This was the result of a combination of recalcitrant unionism, reactionary armed nationalism, loyalist terror and state militarism”. Marian said

___

Still divided                                                                                                                As he introduced a video specially produced by the Party to mark the 50th anniversary of NICRA Hugh Scullion said,

“Opportunities were missed and opportunists have left us with a sad legacy. 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’.

___

NICRA won many reforms but the fundamental change required to bring about real equality has yet to be realised. 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Workers Party event at Ranfurly House, Dungannon to mark the Civil Rights Movement’s 50th anniversary 

NCRASLUG#2
The Workers Party will mark the 50th anniversary of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association with a meeting in Ranfurly House, Dungannon on Friday 24th August 2018 at 7pm – the date of the first civil rights march from Coalisland to Dungannon in 1968.
Speakers include Marian Donnelly and Eamon Melaugh both of whom were actively involved in the civil rights campaign fifty years ago and historian and academic Dr Ultan Gillen of Teesside University,  author of the booklet ‘Civil Rights – reform or revolution?’
The evening will also feature a specially commissioned video highlighting the role played by the Party in the formation and development of the civil rights movement.
*** *** ***
Fifty year journey for Maghera 4

Inline image

Fifty years on: (L:R)Tony Crilly, John Mulholland, Gerry Mulholland and Will Gribben
 
 Four members of the then Republican Clubs from Maghera who travelled together to the march that day in a 1950’s Ford Popular car will also be come together again at Ranfurly House to mark the anniversary. 
Technical issues permitting they also intend to arrive in that same car, fifty years on.
*** *** ***
 
Where is it?
Ranfulry House is located at
26 Market Square, Dungannon, Co. Tyrone BT70 1AB

Call to take up cancer screening appointments

Screening

People living in socially deprived areas are also 10% more likely to contract cancer
than people in more affluent areas

Almost 30% of women do not take up the offer of free cancer screening services: despite the fact that the disease accounts for almost a third of deaths here.

Now,the Workers Party’s  Joanne Lowry  is urging all women between 25 and 64 years of age to take regular cervical smear tests and to attend for breast screening when called.

“Research by the McMillan Cancer organisation and Queens University has shown that the diagnosis of a number of cancers, including cervical cancer, is higher in west Belfast than in other areas of Northern Ireland”, she said.

Social deprivation                                                                                              “People living in socially deprived areas are also 10% more likely to contract cancer than people in more affluent areas”, Joanne said.

“Screening is one way in which cervical and breast cancer can be identified at an early stage. The earlier the detection, the better chance there is of overcoming it.

“Cervical smear tests prevent 75% of diseased cells from developing. These can be lifesaving appointments”, she said

“However, nearly 30% of women miss their screening appointments. The tests are free, they are offered to all women in the „at risk‟ age groups and they can save lives”.

“I would urge all women to go along, have the screening tests and look after their health and well-being”, said Joanne .

Awareness                                                                                                                    I have been in touch with the Public Health Agency (PHA) to ask them to consider ways of raising awareness amongst local women about the availability and importance of these screenings”,

They have told me that they intent to:

“…raise awareness by highlighting the availability and importance of attending cervical screening and breast screening appointments through the PHA’s social media channels this Autumn and also in the New Year”.

“In addition to this activity they will be promoting the importance of looking out for changes and being aware of symptoms in between screening appointments (breast awareness) through posters which will be distributed to pharmacies and GP surgeries in October”, Joanne  concluded

 

 

The Left mostly whispers

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Talking class politics: Workers Party’s Gemma Weir with panel chairperson Fergus O’Hare 

Billed as ‘The Left Speaks’,  it should have been one of the showpiece debates of the West Belfast Festival / Feile an Phobail. It was more of a whimper than a bang.

Five parties were represented on the panel: the Greens, Sinn Fein, People Before Profit, Progressive Unionists and the Workers Party.

In her opening remarks the Party’s representative Gemma Weir set out a position that was to put the other parties on the back foot.

One of the main ‘difficulties’ about being the Left is that anyone can claim to be so and many do” she said.   

“The acid test, the touchstone and the confirmation  comes not with the claims but with the realities.  It’s not what people and parties claim to be – it’s what they are that counts. Don’t listen to the rhetoric – examine the policies”, argued Gemma.

The left credentials of the other panelists were exposed by questions from the audience and by their own admissions.

People Before Profit, the Greens and the PUP could not understand how demonstrations  like PRIDE, abortion rallies and the result of the Same Sex Marriage referendum in the Republic had not translated into major political change: mistaking a desire for social evolution with radical class based politics.

Sinn Fein was repeatedly challenged about its socialist credentials, its support for lower corporation tax and its collapsing of the Executive.  It’s representative, Senator Niall O’Donnghaile, was less than convincing as he effectively apologised for his Party’s position on tax breaks for big business and bluffed his way through a response on Sinn Fein’s socialist credentials. The audience was largely unimpressed by his efforts.

While comfortable with the trappings and rhetoric of socialism it was clear that only one of the panel understood the realities of class politics and the nature of the struggle.

Summing up, Gemma said, “It is class politics that differentiates the left from all other political philosophies and class politics that differentiates between those who claim to be on the left and those who actually are. It is class politics, not identity or cultural politics, which really shape our world”

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The Left Speaks panel: Fergus O’Hare (Chairperson), Niall O’Donnghaile, (Sinn Fein). Brian Smyth (Greens), Gemma Weir (Workers Party), Matthew Collins ( People Before Profit) and Hugh Ennis (Progressive Unionists)

 

Gemma’s opening remarks:  The Left Speaks

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