Minister O’Dowd has deliberately run down the integrated education sector – says Gemma Weir
‘The inescapable fact is that integrated education has been deliberately sidelined by Minister O’Dowd and the Sinn Fein / DUP Coalition’, says North Belfast Workers Party representative Gemma Weir.
While welcoming the Review of Integrated Education announced this week, Ms Weir has blamed Minister O’Dowd for deliberately running down the integrated education sector on his watch. He has been Education Minister since 2011
‘The Minister cannot complain that the ‘growth of the sector has slowed in the last decade’ when he has been the Minister for more than half that period’ said Gemma.
‘Nor can he ignore the fact that his department is specifically required by the Good Friday Agreement to encourage and facilitate the development of integrated education, but he has spectacularly failed to do so’, added Gemma
‘The Sinn Fein /DUP Coalition has deliberately sought to substitute and promote a ‘shared’ education agenda which is little 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’, Gemma said.
This Review must clearly prioritise the role of Integrated Education, reject the bogus concept of ‘shared education’ and set out a robust implementation programme. The alternative would be to settle for the meaningless rhetoric of ‘reconciliation and sharing’ rather than setting about implementing radical and meaningful educational change’, Gemma concluded
There can be no room for racists and no room for racism
Lily Kerr, Workers Party South Belfast representative, has called for support for the local Romanian community and a public commitment to stamp out racism in the area.
Her call comes after the latest racist attack in which a local man had his car set on fire outside his home.
“It is vitally important that community and political opinion in south Belfast is focused on halting these attacks and in securing a welcoming, inclusive and supportive society”, Lily said
“There is a longer term problem to address and I am currently seeking ways of working with others on a number of anti-racism initiatives. However, the immediate impact of these attacks can be addressed by providing the PSNI with the information they need to secure arrests and convictions”, Lily said.
“Withholding information about racist attacks tells those involved that the community is prepared to let them get away with it. We must all clearly demonstrate that that is not the case”, she said.
“There must be no room for racists and no room for racism”, Lily concluded
Recent violence an assault on the community
Damien Harte, Workers Party representative in the Upper Bann constituency, has condemned the recent violence in the Lurgan area as “pointless, destructive and a blatant attack on the community”.
Speaking after several days of disruption caused by suspect devices on the Belfast – Dublin railway line, petrol bombing, rioting and armed attacks on the police Damien said,
“…there is absolutely no justification for the events which have unfolded in recent days. The community has been disrupted, working people have been intimidated, property has been destroyed and guns have been brought onto the streets”.
” There was never any justification for this type of behaviour there is certainly none now. Those who orchestrated these assaults are bankrupt – politically and morally. They have nothing to offer, no contribution to make and deal only in death and destruction. They are neither needed nor wanted”.
“They need to hear that message loud and clear and repeatedly from the community right across this area” Damien said.
South Belfast has the highest daily use of foodbanks
Lily Kerr, the Party’s South Belfast representative, has highlighted the high level of dependency on foodbanks in the constituency and has called for a strategic response to child poverty, lack of investment and health inequalities
Foodbanks “South Belfast has the highest daily average use of foodbanks in Northern Ireland – according to figures from the Trussel Trust the charity which operates the foodbank network.
This figure will almost certainly rise as a result of the cuts to benefits under the welfare reforms agreed by the Stormont Executive”, Lily said.
“While foodbanks bring much needed immediate relief for hungry people, there is a real danger that they will come to be seen as a normal response to hunger in Northern Ireland”, she added.
Investment and strategy “What is needed now”, said Lily, “is the introduction of the Living Wage, an overarching strategy to tackle child poverty , a public sector programme for building much needed affordable social housing and investment in our health and social services to improve health outcomes and tackle health inequalities.
Alliance Party won’t outlaw them
The Party’s North Belfast representative, Gemma Weir, has condemned the continued use of zero hours contracts and the Alliance Party’s support for them.
Around 30,000 people in Northern Ireland, many of them from North Belfast, are currently employed on Zero Hours Contracts.
“Despite the fact that these ‘contracts’ don’t guarantee any certainty of work, any guaranteed level of weekly pay and disregard a multitude of employment rights, the Assembly wants to keep them as a major feature of employment practice”, Gemma said.
Alliance won’t outlaw them “Alliance Minister for Employment, Stephen Farry, has refused to do away with zero hours contracts arguing instead that an outright ban would have “a disproportionate impact upon flexibility within the economy”.
That’s a lot easier to say when you are in full time employment and drawing a Ministerial salary than it is if you don’t know how much work you have from one week to the next or if you have no guaranteed level of regular earnings to pay your bills or plan for your future”, said Gemma
Low wage “Northern Ireland is being marketed worldwide as a low wage economy. Zero hours contracts erode employment rights, devalue employees and foster uncertainty and insecurity.
Zero hours contracts have no place in our employment practice and the Alliance Party has no right to use its Minister to protect them”, Gemma concluded.
Legacy overshadowed by attitudes to marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose – Weir
Workers Party representative in North Belfast, Gemma Weir, has wished Alban Magenniss well following his announcement that he will not be standing again in next May’s Assembly elections.
“I wish Alban well”, Gemma said. “For over three decades he has been an elected representative and a strong advocate for civil liberties and social justice.”
“Unfortunately this did not extend to supporting a woman’s right to choose, nor did he recognise the rights of same sex couples to legal and social equality,” Gemma noted.
“Despite his long record as a public representative in this area, Alban’s legacy will be forever overshadowed by his opposition to the Marie Stopes Clinic, to a women’s right to choose and by his refusal to support marriage equality in Northern Ireland”, Gemma concluded.