Gemma Weir supporting the Woodburn protest
Serious concerns about threats to north Belfast’s water supply have been raised by Workers Party representative Gemma Weir as a gas and oil company goes on site at Carrickfergus to prepare for exploratory drilling.
The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment has granted the gas and petroleum exploration company Infrastrata licence to drill at a site 350m from the North Woodburn Reservoir – which supplies drinking water to large areas of north Belfast and other parts of the city
Contamination “I am extremely concerned about the potential contamination of our local water supply”, Gemma said. “It is beyond belief that Northern Ireland Water is leasing land right beside a major reservoir to a gas and oil exploration company which plans to drill and inject chemicals into the ground adjacent to the reservoir. It is even more alarming that the Department of the Environment has not intervened to halt this pollution threat”, Gemma added.
Congratulating those individuals and groups who have been protesting and raising awareness of the issue Gemma said,
Serious questions “There are serious questions to be answered about the manner in which this licence extension has been granted. I am deeply concerned that no environmental assessment seems to have been undertaken and of course about the potential pollution and health risk this drilling may cause”
Jobs and skills must be retained
The loss of more than 1,000 jobs at the Bombardier plant in Belfast has been described by the Workers Party as
‘…a further blow to Northern Ireland’s manufacturing base and evidence, if it was needed, that the Assembly has no viable job creation programme to secure existing jobs and expand the economy’
“This announcement comes in the wake of major job losses in Ballymena and elsewhere marking a rapid decline in Northern Ireland’s manufacturing base”, the statement said.
‘The Assembly has no plan to address these job losses. The First and Deputy First Ministers and a string of MLAs are lining up to say how terrible it is but have no proposals to address the situation.
Not only must jobs be secured and defended but the skills that go with them must be protected and retained in Northern Ireland.
Economic Summit It is now time for an Economic Summit involving the NI Executive, the trade union movement, employers and broader civic society to address and develop an economic and job creation plan for Northern Ireland.
The alternative offered by the Assembly is to sit on its hands and watch jobs, skills and manufacturing know-how haemorrhage away’
The Assembly does not trust women
The Workers Party has expressed its ‘bitter disappointment’ at last night’s vote in the Assembly and the decision not to permit the termination of a pregnancy in cases of foetal abnormality.
“This is much more than maintaining the status quo, it represents a major step backwards in social policy and a complete dismissal of the rights of women to make their own choices”, the statement said.
“It is quite clear that Northern Ireland is still dominated by socially conservative voices and that these are having an adverse and traumatising effect on local women.
The DUP proposal to establish a commission does nothing but push this debate to the other side of election day and prolong the suffering and anguish of women and their partners”
“We will all have an opportunity to express our views on this and similar issues in the Assembly elections on May 5th. No one should vote for a candidate or a Party that does not trust women”, the statement concluded
Supporting an investment strategy for Ballymena
Saturday’s rally in Ballymena attracted additional media interest because of the very welcome celebrity endorsement which it received.
But, as the media focus shifts elsewhere the reality for the community in Ballymena, for those who have recently lost their jobs and for young people in the town seeking employment is that without a strategic investment plan very little will change.
Political obligation Investment, manufacturing and job creation will not happen by chance. Nor can people rely on the private sector to provide the secure future that is required. The Assembly has a major responsibility and a political obligation to present a co-ordinated strategic investment programme designed to address the current situation and lay the ground work for future recovery.
Yet in the face of this economic crisis the three things that underpin the Assembly’s economic strategy will fail, fail and fail again.
The Assembly’s failure The Assembly is sacrificing 20,000 public sector jobs to fund the lowering corporation tax for big businesses but it cannot guarantee that one single new job will be created as a result.
The Assembly has made swinging cuts to the university and training budgets. Inward investment wants a well trained and well educated workforce. The Assembly are pulling in the opposite direction.
The Assembly continues to promote Northern Ireland as a low wage economy and is refusing to outlaw zero hours contracts.
The harsh reality for the people of Ballymena and Northern Ireland is that the Assembly’s agenda is geared to handouts to the private sector, promising low paid short term employment and cuts to education and training.
Elections to the Assembly on May 5th this year will be an opportunity for us all to pass a verdict on the the major parties and their economic priorities.
Standing up to Sectarianism
Saturday’s Irish Cup 6th Round match between Lurgan Celtic and Knockbreda FC saw the unfurling of an anti-sectarian banner, courtesy of the Workers Party in Upper Bann.
Party representative Damien Harte said,
“Local Party members were delighted to be able to sponsor this banner for the cup match.
It is very important that we take every opportunity to stand up to sectarianism and use every public gathering to reinforce our opposition to this social cancer”
“In recent years the Irish Football Association has played a major role in giving sectarianism the boot and I am delighted that the Workers Party in Upper Bann has thrown its weight behind that camapign”, Damien said
The Workers Party is supporting the Ballymena Jobs Rally and is adding its voice to those calling for a secure employment future for the area.
In particular we are calling on the Assembly to launch a co-ordinated and resourced investment strategy, a centrally planned job creation programme and real, secure and well paid jobs the Ballymena and wider Antrim area.
That is a task that must be taken on by the Assembly – not left to the whim of the private sector.
The Assembly has bent over backwards to reduce corporation tax for big businesses and is prepared to pay for that by slashing university places and the skills and training budget.
Northern Ireland needs a highly skilled and qualified workforce but the Assembly would rather give tax breaks to the rich than invest in young peoples’ futures and secure well paid employment.
The Workers Party has said consistently that only a programme of public investment will turn the economy around and provide the jobs that will sustain and develop it.