Election Manifesto: ‘The Socialist Alternative’

wp-manifesto-ae-2017‘This election is unnecessary and will solve nothing unless people use it to pass judgement on all the parties in Stormont’.

That is the stark and realistic introduction to the Workers Party Assembly Manifesto – The Socialist Alternative

It goes on to say, ‘The two Executive parties, in particular, have been irresponsible, arrogant and contemptuous. Returning them to power to do the same thing again makes no sense at all’.

The manifesto highlights the failures of the last and previous Assemblies and of the DUP / Sinn Fein Coalition in particular, highlighting welfare cuts, attacks on workers’ rights, the privatisation of public services. plans for lower corporation tax and the refusal to implement progressive social legislation.

‘For devolution to work there needs to be a root and branch reform of the Assembly structures’, the Party says.

It also points out that many aspects of the Good Friday Agreement have been deliberately abandoned while in every aspect of social, economic, cultural and community life working class people have been subjected to public expenditure cuts, marginalisation and exclusion.

The Socialist Alternative presented by the Workers Party addresses economic growth, strategies to tackle poverty, sectarianism and the growing housing crisis.

It also sets out policies on health, education and rural development and the case for a womans’ right to choose.

However, the Party’s manifesto also points out that problem of inequality and exploitation must be tackled at its root by eradicating the current economic system and constructing a socialist society.

The Workers Party is standing five candidates in the Assembly Electi0ns:

Belfast North:Gemma Weir Belfast South:Lily Kerr  Belfast West:Conor Campbell

Mid  Ulster: Hugh Scullion   Upper Bann: Colin Craig

Workers Party Manifesto:  workers-party-manifesto-ae2017

BBC and Electoral Commissions’s approach is now deeply disturbing.

soap-box-lilly‘The reason I’m standing on this soap box is because it’s the only box the Workers Party is likley to get on around here’, Lily Kerr told a protest outside the BBC in Belfast this afternoon.

The protest was called  in response not only to the  BBC’s paucity of coverage for smaller parties but because of the implications the policy has for democracy, public discussion and public service broadcasting.


Alternative voices dismissed

election-gagMembers of the Workers Party, including a number of their Assembly candidates,  have staged a protest outside the BBC Headquarters  to highlight the suppression of alternative political views during the current election camapign..

The Electoral Commission and the BBC have agreed between them that to qualify for an election broadcast a party has to stand a minimum of twelve candidates in at least six constituencies – effectively putting a price tag on political airtime and also ensuring that the larger, better financed,  parties can perpetuate the political circus without serious challenge or alternative  views being aired.

The minimal coverage of smaller parties is further compounded by BBC guidelines whihc at the last election saw candidates from smaller parties interviewed in the staff canteen rather than in studio.

A letter from the BBC to the Workers Party confirmed that the airtime they have been allocated for the election camapign amounted to 25 seconds, aired a month before polling day.

Ironically, during the past week BBC NI has found time to  air a number of ‘news’ items including stories about a dog driving a tractor ( 30 seconds), runaway rhododendron in Co Kerry (38 seconds) and the worlds biggest Jaffa cake  (2 mins 24 secs).

The BBC and the Electoral Commissions’s approach to elections in Northern Ireland is now deeply disturbing.

Alternative views are sidelined, financial constraints are placed on access to public service broadcasting and the political status quo goes effectively unchallenged as a media class seeks to  dictate what the  political discourse should be.

The Party plans to meet with both the  BBC and the Electoral Commission after polling next Thursday.

‘Free, safe, legal and accessible’

free-safe-legalThe Workers Party kicked off its activities in support of International Womens Week with a public meeting to discuss the status of a woman’s right to choose  in Northern Ireland and the Republic

Gemma Weir, the Party’s North Belfast candidate in next week’s Assembly election, addressed the situation in Northern Ireland and the specific issues around the 1967 Abortion Act and calls for its extension to Northern Ireland.

Mary Diskin, a member of the Workers Party in Wicklow and  a long time women’s rights campaigner provided an overview and update on the history of the struggle for abortion legislation  in the Republic of Ireland and the current ‘Repeal the 8th Amendment’ camapign.

The common message from both jurisdictions was that a woman’s right to choose must first be secured and that is should be ‘free, safe, legal and accessible’

Both speakers emphasised the class nature of the abortion issue and the differences for those who can afford to travel and avail of services in England and elsewhere and those who can’t.

It is likely that today’s meeting will prompt an updated  policy paper on the Party’s position on a woman’s right to choose in the near future.

Supporting Arts & Culture

arts1The Party’s Assembly  election candidates have welcomed an initiative by the organisation Visual Arts Ireland  (VAI) to highlight the position of arts and culture during the election campaign and beyond.
 Among the proposals made by VAI are:
  • A Department for Culture to support the arts across all government departments
  • A commitment to design and deliver the Programme for Government in consultation and with the support of the Arts sector.
  • Increased spending on public art programmes
  • Increased capital, project, and core funding to be made available
  • Recognise that creativity and the Arts play a key role in education and learning
  •  Link the budgetary spend to the UK / Ireland average per head

Responding to the VAI proposals the Party’s candidates said, “We understand and support the contribution which art and culture can and do make to society”.

 “We are also acutely aware of the relentless commodification of our society, the resultant debasing of many of our values and the persistent repetition of the erroneous argument that the arts are an add on in life and should therefore pay for and look after themselves. We don’t believe that this  is overstating the case”
 “The Workers Party has identified and been critical of the cuts to arts and culture projects across Northern Ireland and of the immediate and longer term impacts that will have”.
 “We are supportive of the initiative taken by the Visual Arts Organisation in setting out a series of objectives and broadly welcome these as an important marker in the public debate about the role of arts and culture, the contribution they can make, the involvement they should have and the centrality they should enjoy”.
Party members plan to meet with VAI and a number of other arts and culture groups post-election to discuss the future role, influence and funding of the visual and performing arts in Northern Ireland.
Link to Visual Arts Ireland:  http://visualartists.org.uk/

An Irish Language Act?

Corvus Irish Font Alphabet Stamp Set Lowercase 3mm for stamped jewelry - The Urban Beader

There is no reason why an Irish Language Act should not be introduced

 Acht na Gaelige?

The Workers Party has no difficulties with people using the Irish language.

A tremendous amount of very good work has been done by language activists to develop an awareness and acceptance of Irish in everyday life.

However, it is very important to separate out the intent of linguists and Irish language enthusiasts from the narrow and divisive agenda pursued by parties like Sinn Fein in particular and the counter measures of the parties like the DUP.

Neither party does a service to the Irish language or to those who promote it. Nor does it inform or enlighten the discussion around the introduction of an Irish language Act.

The issue has been reduced to a zero sum gain.

If the DUP prevent the introduction of an Irish Language Act then they have won and Sinn Fein has lost. If Sinn Fein secures an act then they will claim a victory over the DUP.

Neither will be particularly concerned about the content of the act or its roll out.

For them this is yet another battle ground in their sectarian head to head confrontations.

The principle of an Irish Language Act has been acknowledged in the St Andrews Agreement and the UK government has recognised the role of the Irish language by signing up to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

There is no reason why an Irish Language Act should not be introduced and every reason why it should.

The position of some of those who purport to support the development of the language means that this is unlikely to happen and that if it does it will be in circumstances detrimental to the language movement and to its public acceptance.

We are aware also from historical experience that legislation alone is likely to be insufficient to protect or revitalise the Irish language.

We need a wider language policy to address the interests of the language and Irish speakers which is free from the taint of sectarianism and which encourages common ownership of the Irish language.

A realistic Living Wage


Time for a realistic Living Wage

Workers Party candidate in Upper Bann, Colin Craig, has repeated calls for the introduction of a realistic living wage following a damning Revenue & Customs report which ‘named and shamed’ seventeen local companies.

“It is completely unacceptable that people are being exploited in this manner, particularly young workers, and that  many of the firms involved seek to minimise their culpability with half-hearted and, quite frankly, insulting excuses”

“The DUP and Sinn Fein have been travelling the world selling Northern Ireland as a low wage economy. Today we see what that means in real terms for working people ‘, Colin said.

“I am particularly outraged at the news that a recruitment firm based in Portadown, a firm which  enlists employees for other firms, came top of this list of shame by underpaying  143 workers by more than £26,000”.

I am calling on the next Assembly to introduce, as a matter of urgency , a realistic Living Wage for Northern Ireland of at least £8,50 per hour”, Colin said

Party Conference sets out the Socialist Alternative

The Wconf2017orkers Party’s Northern Ireland conference has set out the Socialist Alternative platform its candidates will stand on in the forthcoming Assembly elections.

In a day long event covering debates on the economy, education, women,international affairs and the environment speakers identified the class nature of our society and the issues and problems which that gives rise to.

In his opening address the Party’s Northern Ireland chairperson  Gerry Grainger summed up the realities of life for many people in Northern Ireland today

“…we have more than 100,000 children living in poverty”, he a said. “Average weekly pay in Northern Ireland is lower than it was a decade ago. Northern Ireland has the second highest level of workless households of all regions in the UK.

“There are at least 15,000 homeless people and in Northern Ireland. There is a crisis in education, health and social care. There are cutbacks to social welfare. Funding to culture and the arts has been very significantly reduced”.

“In every aspect of social, economic, cultural and community life working class people have been subjected to public expenditure cuts, marginalisation and exclusion”. 

“After years of austerity imposed on the working class by capital and its able lieutenants in the Stormont Executive, working people have suffered in terms of jobs, pensions, benefits, facilities and services. Particularly vulnerable people with long-term sickness or disability and with great reliance on both welfare benefits and key public services, such as social care, have suffered severe negative effects”

“That is why we must present the Socialist Alternative “, Gerry concluded.


Message of support from Greek Communist Party KKE

The Greek Communist Party (KKE) forwarded greetings and support to the Party conference and forthcoming elections, saying

‘On behalf of the KKE, the Greek communists, we convey to you a sincere message of solidarity in the context of the elections that will be held in Northern Ireland on the 2nd of March.’

We well know that the elections will take place in difficult, complex conditions for the working class and the popular strata of your country, who are being confronted by capital’s offensive and the grave consequences of the anti-people policies.

Full message:message-of-support-from-the-greek-comunist-party-kke

The Socialist Alternative

alternative-stormontIn the Assembly Elections on March 2nd the Workers Party will be representing the Socialist Alternative

There needs to be a root and branch reform of the Assembly structures. At a minimum we need the introduction of voluntary coalition or majority rule, the abolition of community designation requirements and the removal of the Petition of Concern mechanism. 

Many of the outstanding requirements of the Good Friday Agreement which have been deliberately set aside must be introduced if devolved government is to continue to function. These would include a Bill of Rights, Integrated Education an Anti-Poverty Strategy and and a viable Economic and Job Creation plan

What this election does offer is a chance for people to consider a socialist alternative. An alternative  to political irresponsibility, arrogance, sectarianism and the Executive’s agenda of welfare cuts, lower corporation tax, zero hours contracts, attacks on workers’ rights, social backwardness and of course privatisation of public services .

That is the message that the Workers Party will be delivering and the choice we will be presenting to the electorate.

The Assembly parties will trade on sectarian fears and tribal instincts to maximise their votes. We have seen what that produces.

On March 2nd vote for the socialist alternative

GP crisis must be resolved says Colin Craig


GPs need to become employees like everyone else in the service

Workers Party Upper Bann candidate Colin Craig has called for GPs to become NHS employees, instead of serving as private contractors.

Speaking about the collapse of GP services in the Portadown area Colin said,

‘This simple step would improve the service, reduce waiting times and address many of the problems currently faced in primary care.

‘For as long as GPs remain as private contractors there will continue to be difficulties in recruitment and threats to services”, said Colin.

‘It would be inconceivable that other health and care professionals like nurses, social workers and hospital doctors would sit outside the NHS rather than be its employees’, he added

This problem needs to be tackled head on. GPs need to become employees like everyone else in the service if we are to tackle the crisis we are currently facing’, Colin concluded