Chris Bailie and Lily Kerr with UNISON representatives campaigning against home closures
The Workers Party has pledged its support for the campaign to keep two Belfast NHS residential care homes open. Pine Lodge in the east of the city and Chestnut Grove in north Belfast are among ten homes across Northern Ireland being considered for closure under proposals contained in the ‘Transforming Your Care’ document.
Party representatives Lily Kerr and Christopher Bailie said Party members would be joining the demonstration at Stormont on September 28th to demand a reversal of the closure plans.
‘It is very important that we remember why these homes have been targeted for closure’ , Lily said. ‘It is because they are seen as a quick an easy way to save money.
This has nothing to do with improved care for older people. These are the financially driven decisions – not of the Tories at Westminster – but of MLAs at Stormont’, Lily said.
Lily Kerr: Problems in Primary Care must be faced
Workers Party spokesperson Lily Kerr has said that GPs becoming NHS employees, instead of private contractors, would improve the service, reduce waiting times and address many of the problems currently faced in primary care.
‘The College of General Practitioners is calling for more funding, warning about the shortage of GPs and pointing out the age profile of existing GPs. This situation also has a knock on effect for A&E departments – hence the long waits’, Lily said
‘GPs consider themselves to be the solution to many of the current problems and argue that if funding was increased there would be shorter waiting times for appointments and more flexible opening hours.’ she said
‘But these issues were all supposed to be part of ‘Transforming Your Care’ , the plans for re-organising health and care services, yet none of it has happened. And the people Northern Ireland, who have some of the highest levels of deprivation and health inequalities in the UK, are left to suffer, she added.
‘This is not acceptable’, Lily said. ‘There is no reason why some of these solutions cannot be put in place now. A large part of the problem with the shortage of GPs may be because they are not a part of the Health Service, but independent contractors. Many of those seeking a career in General Practice may not be able to buy in to practices. The real issues here should be tackled head on and they should become employees like everyone else in the service’, Lily concluded.
Only fundamental changes to the Assembly will end the cycle of crises
The Workers Party’s support for a devolved administration in Northern Ireland is well known and long standing. We believe it to be the best means of governance for the people of Northern Ireland.
This position comes from our democratic principles and recognition of the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. But the Assembly is not delivering for the people of Northern Ireland.
The details of the current crisis maybe unique, but the causes are not.
A major reason for this is that the Assembly is built on the existence, acceptance and accommodation of sectarianism and sectarian structures and societal practices which are evident in almost all areas of life.
Only fundamental changes will avoid the cycle of crises the Assembly has produced since 1998.
The Party is proposing five major changes to the way in which the Assembly works
Click here for the full statement on the Assembly crisis
US and NATO attacks the root cause of the refugee crisis
Three rallies organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and Amnesty International have been held in Northern Ireland, the biggest outside the Belfast City Hall.
Addressing the crowd, Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland programme director of Amnesty International, said:
“We’re facing the biggest test of our humanity in decades – to date David Cameron and the UK government have failed badly. It’s time for the UK to accept its fair share of people fleeing war and persecution. We can only solve this crisis with co-operation and solidarity across Europe”.
In supporting the rallies the Workers Party also highlighted the root causes of the problem and called for an end to the US and NATO interventions in Syria, Libya and Iraq which have provoked the current crisis.
Integrated Education: a commitment in the Good Friday Agreement
Workers Party representative in North Belfast, Gemma Weir, has criticised both the Assembly’s Education Committee and its report into ‘Shared and Integrated Education’.
‘The Good Friday Agreement was very clear that the Assembly had a responsibility to ‘…facilitate and encourage integrated education…’ Today’s report thumbs its nose at that commitment and seeks to substitute integrated education for a shared model based on a ‘separate but equal’ approach’, she said.
‘Shared education sustains division’ Gemma said. ‘It is firmly embedded in ‘two communities’ politics and does nothing to bring about a truly integrated society’.
Invisible ‘peace’ walls
‘North Belfast has two of the best integrated schools in Northern Ireland which cater for the abilities of all of their pupils by providing religious integration and comprehensive education. Promoting shared education instead of integrated education is akin to building invisible ‘peace’ walls between yet another generation of our school children’, Gemma added.
‘Shared Education is nothing more than a political fig leaf to justify the continued segregation of our children into religious and political tribes and offers no alternative to those parents who want more for their children’, she said.
‘It is quite clear that the future of education in Northern Ireland is too important to leave in the hands of the Assembly. Only an independent commission can properly assess and report on how we can progressively reform our current failed structures’, concluded Gemma.
No room for racsim
Racist and anti immigrant graffiti daubed on walls in west Belfast has been removed by local members of the Workers Party.
Party member Joanne Lowry explained.
‘Local residents contacted Party members when they saw the graffiti on Monday morning. It was racist, extremely offensive and completely contrary to the view of the local community which has been outspoken in its support for the refugees currently struggling to find sanctuary and safety’ Joanne said.
‘We quickly organised a team to paint over the offending slogans and contacted the Northern Ireland Housing Executive to discuss arrangements for its complete removal’, she added.
‘West Belfast is a warm and welcoming community, so it is very important that we let everyone know that we have no time for racists and no room for racism. The prompt response to this incident and the outrage it has caused amongst the local community has been very heartening’ said Joanne
Lily Kerr address the Belfast Rally
Workers Party members joined with other concerned groups and citizens outside the offices of the European Union in Belfast this afternoon to demonstrate solidarity with the thousands of people, families and young children who are fleeing from Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and beyond and seeking sanctuary and a new life in Europe.
The horrendous scenes of the past few weeks and the vicious responses of most European governments – from razor wire fences to corralling people in camps, to turning their backs on those is need of shelter, food and clothing – have galvanised those who want open borders, humanitarian responses and an end to the US and NATO led attacks which are responsible for the current crisis.
The demonstration in Belfast, addressed by Workers Party representative Lily Kerr, was the first of a number planned for the coming week and just one of thousands of rallies held across Europe today.
Welcome refugees and their families
The Workers Party has called for immediate international humanitarian assistance for refugees and has demanded an end to the US and NATO interventions in Syria, Libya and Iraq which have provoked the current crisis.
‘The suffering of those forced to seek refuge in Europe due to the destruction of their home societies is an indictment of the current political establishment in Europe. The images of the dead being washed on to the beaches of the Mediterranean should stand as the defining epitaph of the EU’s immoral agenda.
The resettlement of refugees is currently the responsibility of the government at Westminster but the Workers Party is calling for the Stormont administration to be given those powers and to welcome refugees and asylum seekers to Northern Ireland.
Humanitarian ‘It is our moral and legal obligation to ensure those fleeing conflict are provided with immediate humanitarian assistance including onward travel to areas where suitable accommodation and support is available to them. Instead refugees are being forced into the grip of human traffickers and as we have witnessed many, including young children, are dying as a result’.
US and NATO involvement in Syria, Iraq and Libya has been and remains responsible for the scale of the conflict and the resultant exodus and human suffering we are witnessing on Europe’s borders.’
Welcome Northern Ireland will willingly welcome the victims of the US and EU policy in the Middle East and North Africa. We must do so now and we must also ensure the end of the US, NATO and Gulf states role in destabilising the middle east and surrounding regions.
Axing languages: ‘an act of barbarism’
The Workers Party has criticised as ‘an act of barbarism’ the announcement by Ulster University that it is to axe its modern languages department at the Coleraine campus.
‘Not only has the Northern Ireland Executive failed to prioritise and invest in higher education but it is now set on a course which will force thousands of young people to pursue their studies outside of Northern Ireland’.
‘At the same time as the Executive pins all our economic hopes on attracting foreign direct investment, it withdraws funding from the very courses and skills which employers will expect to find amongst a young educated workforce’.
‘The short sightedness of the Executive’s funding cuts to higher education are compounded by the argument that there is no money in the budget to fund these courses while at the same time it plans to lower corporation tax at an estimated cost of £300 million’
‘The Executive is clearly signalling that tax breaks for the rich are a higher priority than an educated and multi-lingual workforce’
Foyle Pride 2015
Party members have participated in the Foyle Pride Festival supporting the local LGBT community and re-enforcing the demand for the introduction of legislation to guarantee Civil Marriage Equality in Northern Ireland.