Restoring Devolution – a bleak prospect

As yet another round of preliminary discussions flounders, the stark reality is that we could have an Assembly and an Executive up, running and functioning tomorrow: but that is not going to happen.

The main and seemingly only obstacle to the return of devolution is now Sinn Fein.

When Sinn Fein collapsed the Executive in January 2017 it claimed the DUP’s handling of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) meant that it could no longer work with them.  Subsequently, they raised Arlene Foster’s position as First Minister, the Irish language, same sex marriage and legacy issues as pre-conditions for a return to government.

The RHI inquiry led by the Right Honourable Patrick Coughlan was, in the words of Sinn Fein at the time to be “…an independent , no-hiding-place public inquiry into the RHI…”. That is what Sinn Fein demanded, and rightly so, and that, again quite rightly, it is what they got. That inquiry has investigated and will present its findings in due course: probably in a few months’ time.

Fair weather friends

The objection to Arlene Foster as First Minister was quietly dropped and quickly forgotten. It was replaced with demands for an Irish Language Act, although they have yet to spell out exactly what that would entail, but again a legitimate piece of legislation by any standards.

To that demand they later added a call for the legal right to same sex marriage, bringing Northern Ireland into line with the rest of these islands. Again, a very legitimate piece of social legislation. However, as parties inched towards an agreement last year that too was dropped from Sinn Fein’s red line list. Clearly, they support you for as long as they need you.

Border poll – a sectarian device

Although not directly linked to the restoration of devolution, they have now added the unnecessary, divisive and deliberately sectarian demand for a border poll to their shopping list – their rationale being that as the majority of voters in Northern Ireland, a state they have difficulty recognising let alone saying, voted to leave the European Union that a border poll is the next logical step.

It is nothing more than a device to heighten sectarian tensions: and they know it. Why an organisation that claims to have dedicated its life’s work to extracting the people of Ireland from one empire should want to be part of an even bigger one defies logic.

Sinn Fein has no intention of returning to the Executive, initially until after a general election in the Republic of Ireland and latterly until after the final withdrawal of the UK from the EU. Both are tactical decisions based on preserving and enhancing Sinn Fein’s electoral support.

While every other party is prepared to re-establish the Executive and the Assembly Sinn Fein refuses to do so on tactical grounds.

Appalling arrogance

Yesterday, Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald described the latest attempt to restart talks about a re-formed Executive as ‘a sham’.

It is hard to understate the appalling arrogance of that position.

Perhaps Mary Lou thinks it’s ‘a sham’ that people are waiting on hospital trollies, that cancer patients have no access to modern treatments and that victims of domestic abuse have less protection and rights than elsewhere. Strangely, Sinn Fein did not present those issues as red lines in negotiations.

Maybe it’s ‘a sham’ that public housing projects are put on hold while waiting lists grow. Could it also be ‘a sham’ that public services are grinding to a halt and that an entire generation of young people are at risk of unemployment, no apprenticeships and low paid insecure jobs for those lucky enough to get them? No sign of a red line on these issues either

Divisive and destructive agenda

It is Sinn Fein and its fellow travellers who are the shams, the fraudsters and the fakes. Their arrogance and their conceit take precedence over people’s jobs, housing, education, health, opportunities and prospects. Political, social and economic progress means nothing to Sinn Fein next to their divisive and destructive agenda.

It is time they were called out. We have often said that voting for parties like Sinn Fein, and the DUP, has consequences. For thousands of people in Northern Ireland today waiting on an operation, a home, a place in a nursery school, a job, or even a chance – those consequences are very real indeed and they are not going to go away.

It is time, not just for the electorate as voters, but for people of all ages as citizens to face up to the ransom demands – and those who make them – which are robbing us all a present as well as a future.

Reflect on support

Campaigning groups, cultural bodies, lobbying organisations and rights-based associations need to reflect on any support they have given wittingly or not to this continued denial of the right to an Assembly and a functioning Executive.

All the issues that are being presented as bogus road blocks can and should be discussed and voted on in a reformed Assembly, with an amended Petition of Concern.

We need to take politics and political discussions in from the margins, away from vanity projects and place them centre stage in people’s lives for the benefit of people’s lives.

Until more people realise that this is never going to happen while people vote in their thousands for Sinn Fein and the DUP, in particular, then we are facing a very bleak future indeed.

Radioactive madness must be stopped

Plans o dump radioactive waste in areas of outstanding natural beauty must be opposed

The Department of Infrastructure and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) are being asked to intervene directly in the plans to consider the Newry and south Armagh area as a possible site for the storage of nuclear waste.

The call comes from Workers Party representative Dan Gebski, who says he is amazed that the proposal is even being considered

“The  Mourne mountains and the Ring of Gullion are both officially designated as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and yet they are being talked about as a possible site for the storage of radio active waste. This is unbelievable”, he said

Non- Starter

“The relevant Departments, Infrastructure and DAERA, must intervene immediately making it absolutely clear to the Radioactive Waste Management Company  RWA that this is a non-starter,” said Dan

“The Departments’ own websites highlight the very special environmental value of this area”, Dan explained. “It is described as ‘ …a unique geological landform, unparalleled elsewhere in Ireland or the UK …..and has been . voted onto the ‘Top 100 Geosites of UK & Ireland’ , Dan added

“In the past six years the Department of Infrastructure has rejected 317 planning applications in the Mourne and Slieve  Gullion areas . They should make it clear from the outset that that they will not even consider an application for an underground radioactive bunker”.

“Preventing this madness from going ahead would be greatly helped if we had a functioning Executive and Assembly and a  Minister to take decisions. This is just one more reason why we need to restore our devolved government”,  concluded Dan.

Party protests over Irish government’s support for Trump’s puppet in Venezuela

Party members Marian Donnelly (Magherafelt) and Joe Dowds (Belfast) present a formal letter of protest and confront Tánaiste, Simon Covney, about the Irish Government’s formal backing for the United States’ aggression against the government and people’s of Venezuela

Several Party members attending a Northern Ireland Civil Rights 50th Anniversary lecture in Iveagh House, Dublin have taken the opportunity to protest against the Irish Government’s support for Juan Guiadó , Donald Trumps Venezuelan anti- democratic puppet.

The coalition government’s support for this act of United States interference in another country’s affairs and its attempt to depose the democratically elected President of Venezuala Nicolas Maduro represnts the first time that the Irish Government has given its formal backing to an act of United States overseas aggreession

Northern Ireland Party members Marian Donnelly and Joe Dowds handed a formal letter of protest to the Irish Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tánaiste, Simon Covney TD spelling out the Workers Party’s  condemnation.

The Party is now awaiting the Tánaiste’s, a formal reply to the letter of protest

For further information see:


Public discussion needed on Zoo

There needs to be a public discussion about the future of Belfast Zoo

The escape of a number of chimpanzees from their enclosure, and the recent incident involving a rare red panda, has prompted Workers Party representative Gemma Weir to call on Belfast City Council to hold public discussions about safety at the zoo and also to begin a conversation about its future.

” These were serious and potentially very dangerous incidents”, Gemma said.

“These episodes  may be unusual but questions need to be asked about the resources available to the staff at Bellevue Zoo. Is this a question of under funding or staff cuts that are leading to these incidents or does the zoo need  a major upgrade to its infrastructure?” Gemma asked

“I believe that  the Council should call a series of public meetings to hear from council officials, take the views of zoo staff and allow the opinion of local people to be aired…. including a discussion about whether in the 21st Century it is appropriate to keep wild animals in captivity”, Gemma concluded .

Solidarity with Irish Nurses & Midwives

Belfast Party members in solidarity with nursing and midwifery staff in the Republic of Ireland

Party members joined with UNISON trade unionists at lunchtime today in a demonstration of solidarity with Irish nursing and midwifery staff currently engaged in industrial action.

Belfast Party member Lily Kerr said, ” We are proud to be standing with UNISON members today to show our solidarity and support for the nurses and midwives in the Republic of Ireland and also to demonstrate our resolve to stand by health care workers in Northern Ireland”.

In Dublin, Party colleague Cllr Eilis Ryan said “In 100 years of trade union organisation, the nursing unions are going on strike for only the second time in their history. In a profession which is challenging, under-resourced and under-paid, this fact shows the scale of commitment which nurses and midwives have to their patients”.

The parallels between Dublin and Belfast are clear. Public services and the staff who provide them have been under funded, underpaid, subjected to privatisation and increasing work loads in both jurisdictions – to the detriment of patients. services and staff.

” I believe the actions of nurses are essential, not only for their own well-being, but also in order to prevent a further deterioration of conditions in our hospitals – something nurses are more acutely aware of than any Minister.” Cllr. Ryan concluded

SDLP needs to ‘come clean’

A call for the SDLP to ‘come clean’ on the party’s new partnership with Fianna Fail has been made by Workers Party representatives Chris Bailie and  Joanne Lowry.

“There is clearly a major difference of opinion and a lot of unease amongst SDLP members about the new relationship with Fianna Fail” they said.

In North Belfast, former local councillor and MLA Alban Magennis has distanced himself from the merger while current local MLA and party deputy leader Nicola Mallon has been enthusiastically selling the deal to party members.

Now local SDLP Councillor Paul McCusker needs to let people know where he stands.”, said Chris.

” It would be hard to believe that Paul’s principles sit comfortably with a conservative  party like Fianna Fail. Nor would Fianna Fail’s slavish support of  free market economics, one of the causes of the current housing crisis in the Republic, find favour with someone like Paul McCusker, who has done so much for homeless people locally”, observed Chris.

It is a similar story in West Belfast. ” Long standing and well-respected councillor Tim Atwood has expressed his disapproval of the merger publicly” said,

“I have my political differences with Tim, but I and many others admire the work he has done, the service he has provided and most importantly the principles he has upheld over the years. Clearly this new arrangement with Fianna Fail runs contrary to what he and other SDLP members believe in”, Joanne said

Fianna Fail is the party that teamed up with the European Union’s Troika to introduce the crippling austerity measures making ordinary people pay for the bail out of Irish banks and financial investors while public services were decimated, and additional taxes placed on ordinary people.

“The SDLP needs to let people know where it stands. It would be hard to believe that either Tim Atwood’s or Paul McCusker’s principles sit comfortably with a conservative party like Fianna Fail”.

“We need to know – and the SDLP needs to tell us – where it stands on this deal with Fianna Fail and what the position of all of its candidates in the council elections is”, Joanne and Chris concluded

Call for park refurbishment

Damage in Newry’s Carlingford Park

Newry, Mourne and Down Council is being asked to intervene in support of residents of the Carlingford Park area of Newry who are struggling to cope with sustained anti-social behaviour and vandalism.

Workers Party representative Dan Gebski said, ” this is a problem that has been going on for a number of years now and it is getting progressively worse”

” Youths and teenagers regularly congregate in the area behind the houses in Carlingford Park, and area  that once provided a play park and a football pitch. Now it is the a night time gathering point  for young people  and a scene of vandalism and anti-social behaviour”. Dan said.

“I have spoken with residents in the area and a number are now reluctant to venture out at night. There have been a number of fires started in the area and broken bottles and other rubbish are common place”, he said.

“The long term solution, of course, is to provide constructive outlets for our local teenagers to allow then to express themselves without causing damage to the neighbourhood or placing residents in fear”, said Dan

“In the meantime, I am calling on the council to address the immediate problems by:

  • installing new lighting in the area, 
  • erecting improved fencing
  • securing the area after dark,and 
  • by bringing forward a refurbishment plan that will restore the park area to its original condition”, he said

“I am also calling on the young people who gather there to consider their neighbours and their neighbourhood, to support the redevelopment of the park area and to desist from any further damage or disruption,” Dan concluded.