Abortion Services: two major decisions


Free, legal and safe services at home

Today saw two major decisions taken in relation to abortion services; a Court of Appeal reversal on a previous human rights ruling  and a decisions by the Westminster parliament to support NHS funded abortion services for women from Northern Ireland 

NHS funded abortion services    “The decision in Westminster to fund NHS abortions for women from Northern Ireland, while welcome,  is a Northern Ireland “solution” to a Northern Ireland problem”, the Workers Party has said.

“Women should be able to access free, legal and safe services in their own country.

Today’s announcement is progress but does not go far enough and still means that  working class women need to be able to fund their travel and other related costs and do not have access to services at home.


Court of Appeal Decision                                                                               Commenting on the this morning’s Court of Appeal’s decision  to support the appeal against the  ruling that abortion legislation was incompatible with the UK’s Human Rights Act obligations, the  Party  said,

“This is clearly hugely disappointing and a blow to women and their struggle for equality and reproductive rights”

“The decision that this is a matter for the Assembly and that “complex moral and religious questions” behind the issue should be determined by a legislature in a jurisdiction where it is clear that in the local legislature religious reaction trumps women’s rights and which at the time of writing cannot even agree to constitute itself, is a further cruel blow”.

“This is not a moral or religious question, it is a question of political equality and women’s rights”, the Party statement said

“While the Court has stated that the case the case should now go to the Supreme Court, the recent decision of the Supreme Court, by a majority, rejected an appeal by a mother and daughter in their legal battle for women from Northern Ireland to receive free abortions on the NHS in England, although two senior judges in that case, gave strong dissenting judgments and would have allowed the appeal in full”.

“As its stands the local legislative and judicial routes to full reproductive rights for women has been blocked, reinforcing the view that rights will ultimately only be won by struggle and agitation”.

“The figures show that more than 700 women and girls from Northern Ireland travelled to England and Wales to terminate their pregnancies in 2016”.

“This does not include those who travelled to Scotland or other European countries, or women who purchased abortion pills, because of their inability to travel”.





Flags, intimidation and sectarian politics


This type of tribalism debases our society

The issues around flags on lampposts, sectarian graffiti, territory marking and worse will continue for as long as political outcomes in Northern Ireland are determined by sectarian head counts at the polls’, Workers Party representative Gemma Weir has said

‘The erection of flags near a housing development in south Belfast is as intimidating as it is unsurprising. What other outcome can there be when the two main political parties – Sinn Fein and the DUP – whip their supporters up into a sectarian frenzy ahead of every election?

‘The only real surprise is that there have not been even worse consequences’ she said.

‘This is not an academic matter’, said Gemma. ‘It is not just fodder for radio phone ins and newspaper headlines. This type of intimidation, sectarianism and tribalism shapes and debases the society we live in and the values that it holds’.

‘We saw similar territory marking and intimidation at the new shared housing development at Felden in north Belfast at the end of 2015.

Responsibility lies with Sinn Fein and the DUP                                              Sinn Fein and the DUP rely on the maintenance of two divided communities to ensure their political power bases. They both go to great lengths to secure and maintain that position. Their respective spokespersons will try to justify the behaviour and the excesses of their followers while condemning their mirror image. Their scripts could have been, and probably are, written by the same person’, she added

‘Responsibility for this continued division, sectarianism and intimidation lies squarely at the feet of Sinn Fen and the DUP. They feed it, foster it and benefit considerably from it.

Well over half a million people gave their votes to Sinn Fein or the DUP in the last election. The payoff has been more intimidation, more flags and heightened sectarianism.

This society cannot continue to vote as it does and assume that there are no consequences’ Gemma concluded.

It’s not about the money – it’s about how it’s used

Foster May‘Anyone who still believes that austerity is a natural phenomenon will be surprised by today’s financial package which underpins the DUP / Tory deal’, the Workers Party has said.

‘When benefits were being cut, public sector workers made redundant, hospital waiting lists lengthening and banks bailed out with public money, we were told that the collapse of the economy had forced austerity on us all. Not so it seems.’

‘When the Tory Party needs to hold on to power, money is no object’

‘When the dust settles on today’s agreement Northern Ireland will be better off by over £1 billion but how much that will actually contribute to an improved quality of life and a better society is very questionable’, the Party said

  • £50 million to address ‘immediate pressures in health’ is likely to go the way of previous waiting list initiatives: straight into the pockets of private healthcare companies while the root causes of the problems are ignored.

  • Not one penny of the £50m earmarked for education will go towards implementing an integrated system. It will be used instead to shore up division.

  • £400m worth of infrastructure projects will see the delivery of several high profile projects but not the 40,000 new homes that Northern Ireland needs over the next two years

  • £20m a year for the next five years for deprived communities will re-assure no one familiar with the funding of projects like the Social Investment Fund.

  • ‘City Deals and Enterprise Zones’ are also presented as a solution to high unemployment and the absence of an indigenous manufacturing base. They are the failed brainchild of the late Margaret Thatcher. Offering reduced rates of tax, deregulation and minimal government involvement they have failed in the past providing little employment, skills, training or support for local people’

‘Today’s additional funding has the potential to make some progress on a number of major issues. However, using it to fund private sector companies and pay for lower business taxes while failing to make long term investments in health, education, and public housing will see it frittered away’

The immediate priorities for the major parties in Northern Ireland now are to agree a working Executive as quickly as possible and bring forward a strategic plan to strengthen and improve public services, invest in education, skills and training, develop an indigenous manufacturing base and set out a programme for full employment,’the Party statement concluded.

‘Serious and systemic problems with our health and social care services’

waiting lists

We have the staff and the potential to provide a world-class service

The Workers Party has called for the final scrapping of Northern Ireland’s Health and Social Care Board arguing that it has never provided value for money, has not improved services and at a cost of £27 million a year is draining already  scant resources. It was due to be wound up last April.

The Party’s criticism follows the announcement by the Nuffield Research Trust that over a quarter of a million people here are on a hospital waiting list and fears that some may never live to see their first consultant appointment.
” A promise of £2 million to address this crisis is just throwing good money after bad”, the Party said
“There are serious and systemic problems with the management and resourcing of our health service from primary care right through to  Department level. Unless these issues are addressed and unless we stop  building up waiting lists to be cleared by the private sector with public money then this cycle will never be broken.”
“We have the potential and the staff to provide a world class health and care services but this is being thwarted by a lack of leadership, vision and  resources.
The restructuring of services to make GPs  health service employees rather than independent contractors would provide much-needed  stability  and greatly assist planning and development. Understanding, resourcing and developing home care services has the potential not only to provide greatly improved quality of care but also can relieve pressure on acute hospitals.
Finally, retaining all health and social care services in the public sector will, send the clearest possible signal that the NHS is safe and its funding secure”, the statement concluded

Northern Ireland must have its own free, safe and legal abortion service

Pro woman pro choice

The major parties do not trust women

The Workers Party has welcomed the possibility that women from Northern Ireland may be able to access abortion services from the NHS in Scotland, but assert that this is no substitute for a locally based, free, safe and legal abortion service.

“Making abortion services available on the NHS in Scotland would undoubtedly remove much of the financial pressure and anxiety currently experienced by women from Northern Ireland who have to travel to private clinics in England and incur costs in excess of £2,000”, the party’s statement said.
“The fact that a neighbouring jurisdiction has had to make this offer in the light of the Supreme Court’s rejection of  entitlement to free abortion services on NHS England, is a damning indictment of the major political parties here”
“It is scandal that the Assembly refuses to act on this issue and a tragic irony that as ‘equality’ forms part of the new Assembly talks process, women’s equality is not even on the agenda.”
The five main parties at Stormont do not trust women. The Workers Party believes in a woman’s right to choose and supports the provision of free, safe and accessible abortion in her own country  including practical facilities to support women seeking an abortion and quality post-abortion care. 
“One of the first pieces of legislation to be enacted by a new Executive must be the enablement of  free, safe, legal and accessible abortion in Northern Ireland.”, the statement concluded

SDLP Councillor should resign

“Cllr Pat Convery should now vacate his north Belfast council seat in the wake of his resignation from the SDLP”, Gemma Weir of the Workers Party has claimed.

Marie Stopes clinic

Women are subjected to verbal abuse and intimidation

Mr Convery and two other colleagues are at odds with the SDLP leadership following their refusal to support a motion condemning the harassment of women attending reproductive healthcare clinics.
“Cllr Convery’s position on the council is no longer tenable” Ms Weir said,
 “He has refused to support the original motion and now claims that he has been ‘treated with disrespect’ and that ‘moral issues should be matters of conscience’. He has expressed no regrets whatsoever for his  refusal to support the motion and is more concerned about his own feelings rather than those of the women subjected to verbal abuse and intimidation as they seek to access reproductive advice, guidance and support.”
“If Cllr Convery has any respect for women he should resign his seat immediately”, concluded Ms Weir

High rise residents need re-assurance


Grenfell: what price pubic housing in one of the richest  boroughs in one of the richest cities?

‘The Northern Ireland Housing Executive must move quickly to further re-assure residents in high rise apartments that they are safe following the Grenfell fire in London’, Workers Party representative Chris Bailie  has said

He has also expressed concerns that the assurances given to date about the materials meeting a number of British Standard quality regulations are now insufficient in the light of the west London inferno.



Act quickly                                                                                                    “While the exact reason why this high rise building burnt so quickly and with such intensity has yet to be established it is important that the Housing Executive are ready to act quickly in the event that the cladding was a major contributor to the blaze. It is also very important that the NIHE is given all the resources it requires to undertake safety testing and take immediate remedial action if that is required”, said Chris

‘Beyond the immediate safety concerns there are also questions which need to be answered in relation to the use of cladding on this type of building.”, he said.

‘Some of the very understandable anger being expressed by relatives, residents and survivors of Grenfell questions the use of  cladding  as a  cheap way of protecting the brickwork rather than securing the safety of the residents.

Members of the Fire and Rescue Service  had expressed serious concerns  about the cladding of at least two hi-rise buildings in Belfast a few years ago – but both those projects went ahead.”, Chris pointed out.

More regulation – not less                                                                             ‘Some Conservative MPs, many of them private landlords, have been arguing  for less regulation, inspection and controls dismissing them as unnecessary red tape. The Grenfell fire proves otherwise”, said Chris.

‘ It is now very important that the bereaved and the survivors receive all the help and support that they need . They must also be given absolute guarantees that they will be rehoused in London,  in or as as close as possible to the Kensington & Chelsea area  and that the site of Grenfel House is not acquired for private development but remains a pubic housing area’, Chris concluded

‘Threat lists’ no solution to drug problem – says Bailie


Community cooperation and partnership the only response

Workers Party representative Chris Bailie has condemned those involved in circulating lists of names of alleged drug dealers in north Belfast as ‘people who have no contribution to make, nothing to offer and only their own self importance to worry about.’

There is a serious drug problem in communities right across the city and beyond’, said Chris, ‘ but this type of behaviour does not bring us one step nearer to overcoming it’.

The so called ‘Communities Against Drugs’ group is as faceless as the dealers and the criminals they claim they are opposed to.

‘I welcome comments from some community organisations  distancing themselves from this ‘wild west’ style activity and fully support community led initiatives working in co-operation and partnership with the statutory and voluntary bodies’, Chris said.

‘This is the only way forward’, he added

‘I would call on anyone who has information about drug dealing to contact the PSNI and I am calling on those responsible for circulating this list to stop their activities immediately and to recognise the legitimate role of the wider community and other agencies in tackling the drug dealing scourge’, Chris concluded

Restoring devolution the top priority

Restore Devolution

 “All five main parties should now get down to the business of restoring devolution in Northern Ireland”, the Workers Party has said.

“That is the most pressing and urgent priority for local people, for health, education, schools, the economy, community groups and the voluntary sector”, the party claimed.

“All the parties claim they want to restore the Executive  yet we are facing another period of stand-off because Sinn Fein keeps adding to its list of reasons why it won’t enter into negotiations”.

“It becomes increasingly obvious that they are more fixated with their personal  battle with the DUP than in living up to their responsibilities. The consequences of that intransigence and grandstanding will be lost jobs, no budgets, increasing poverty and a stalled economy”.

Not only are Sinn Fein refusing to represent their voters at Westminster they are also refusing to represent them at Stormont” 

“Talks to restore devolution should recommence as planned and all parties should deliver a speedy and secure return of the Executive”, the Party said.

Back to the Past

Orange&Green vote

A large step backwards

We are now faced with the most polarised election results in a generation or more.

Ironically, as many commentators were identifying a more ideological, left/right, battle between Labour and the Conservatives, in Northern Ireland we took several large steps backwards into the past.

Over half a million people here have voted for one form or another of conservative nationalism. They have done so in preference to addressing unemployment, a failing health and social care system, child poverty, a crisis in housing, segregated education and, more importantly, the causes of those problems.

Politics of fear and division                                                                            Sinn Fein and the DUP have fueled and then traded on the politics of fear, difference and division. Now, the possibility of DUP support for a Conservative minority government spells further regression with social policies the likely first casualty.

Given the mandate that both parties have received they now have a responsibility to re-instate the Executive and get the Assembly up and running without delay.

The reality of ‘the morning after the night before’ is that child poverty, unemployment, low paid jobs and zero hours contracts haven’t miraculously disappeared. Health education and housing all remain in crisis. Benefits remain cut, funding to youth services, arts and community groups remain reduced and thousands of low paid working people need to have their wages topped up by the state.

These are the realities, This is why working people, more than ever, need a Workers Party.