Homes – not another ‘peace wall in disguise’

The priority must be integrated public housing

A call for the building of public housing on the former Mackies site on Belfast’s Springfield Road has been made amidst fears that the area could be used to develop ‘yet another peace wall in disguise’

The comments come from Workers Party representative Conor Duffy who says that “despite West Belfast having one of the highest public housing waiting lists in Northern Ireland, Belfast City Council is proposing to develop the 25 acre site as a park and green-way amenity area..

” There is currently a need for more than 2,000 publicly owned, affordable homes in West Belfast. The waiting list figures here are amongst the highest in Northern Ireland”, Conor said.

Sectarian balance

“It is unbelievable that Belfast City Council is turning its back on the opportunity to use 25 acres of publicly owned land to build desperately needed public housing, unless of course their concerns are not about providing homes, but are about maintaining a sectarian balance”, he said .

“We have seen this before in other parts of Belfast – the site of the old Girwood Barracks in North Belfast, for example. Instead of using that land to addresses the chronic shortage of public housing in that area it too was turned into a ‘shared community space’ – which in reality represents yet another dividing line in the community.

“That option means that new public housing isn’t built where and when it should be, so that the local electoral balance remains unchanged”, Conor pointed out

“There is a very real danger that that is what we are about to see happen at the former Mackies site”, Conor added

Integrated public housing

“Here we have perfect opportunity to build an integrated public housing development stretching between the Springfield and Ballygomartin areas in line with the Housing Executive’s ‘Building Good Relations Through Housing Strategy (2017).

 l have written to Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey and asked her to intervene directly before we have a bigger housing crisis and another yet another peace wall in disguise”, Conor concluded.

Care homes for people – not profit

The current care home model is in complete disarray

“The Coronavirus spotlight is being focused, quite rightly, on our vulnerable older community living in residential and nursing homes. Living together in larger numbers, they are always going to be at greater risk”, says Hugh Scullion , the Party’s representative in the South Derry area.

“The disastrous Health and Social Care Act of 2012 was designed to privatise health care, break the NHS into fragments, and to open up services and support to competitive tendering”, he said.


“The outsourcing of public services to private companies is a model in disarray. Having privatised large parts of our health care service, the government, through austerity measures, have made even more impossible to deliver adequate levels of care.

When the private sector can no longer maintain standards and turn a profit it is always left to the NHS to pick up the pieces”, Hugh said

“This process has been in train for over 30 years and the current structure is deeply embedded.

In 1979, 64% of residential and nursing home beds were still provided by local authorities or the NHS; by 2012 it was 6%.

The trend, especially in the residential sector, is for small operators to be replaced by large provider chains, some, owning more than fifty care homes, which in turn house up to a hundred residents each. How many residents actually consider these large establishments as home”?


“Although home-care services should be further developed and resourced, there are times when a person can no longer be safely cared for in their own home”, Hugh pointed out

“Surely, as part of our provision of care for older people, the NHS is capable of establishing smaller family sized care facilities that meet the needs of the residents and that they and their family can recognise as home”, he said.

The Coronavirus Pandemic has brought into sharp focus the disastrous consequences of privatisation of our elderly care service.

One of the legacies of this pandemic must be to rebuild care homes to meet the needs, comforts and safety of the residents and not the profits of large conglomerates”, Hugh concluded.

Time to rethink cemetery closures

It is time to rethink the decision to close cemeteries

The pattern of the Covid 19 pandemic continues to evolve. So too is our response to it.

There can be no doubt that many of the measures which have been put in place are having a positive, and life saving effect. Keeping our distance from each other, washing our hands, staying at home and operating essential services and businesses only, has undoubtedly helped to reduce the levels of transmission and consequentially lives.

However, it is time to rethink the decision to close cemeteries. The risk of transmission means that placing limits on the number of close family members attending the burial or cremation must remain in force, but restrictions on access to cemeteries is an altogether different issue.

The grieving process and remembrance of former family members and friends is an extremly important part of how we all come to terms with bereavement. It is a central part of our culture and also a very important part of the psychological process of coming to terms with loss.

The original decision may well have been taken as part of a blanket response to the management of public spaces and the control of the virus, but it can, and should, be re-assessed.

People have responded well and responsibly, for the most part, to restrictions on social gatherings and self distancing. It works effectively at supermarkets, chemists, off licences and post offices . It can also be applied at cemeteries .

With simple, and tried, controls in place responsible relatives and friends can visit gravesides without increasing the the risk of transmitting or contracting C19. The immediate psychological pressure of not being able to visit a loved ones grave would be relieved and a very possible mental health crisis in the longer term could be avoided.

The Executive must address this now.

VI Lenin: 150th anniversary of his birth

Lenin’s ideas transformed the world

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the great revolutionary and theorist of scientific socialism – an event which is being celebrated across the world.

Lenin translated the theory of socialism into practice.

He and his Bolshevik Party led the working class to power and in so doing founded the first workers’ state. creating unprecedented economic, social and political achievements for the working class.

Lenin’s ideas, brought to fruition in the October Revolution, transformed the world. The October Revolution constituted a decisive break with the old world order, abolished private ownership of the means of production and laid the basis for the political, social and economic liberation of humankind.

As internationalists, together with our comrades in the international communist and workers’ parties, we proudly celebrate this anniversary, we acknowledge and defend the great contribution of Lenin’s ideas and works to the international movement and we commit ourselves to the achievement of workers’ power and the building of a socialist society.

Capitalism never wastes a crisis

The expert medical opinion is that we have not yet reached the peak of the Coronavirus, but already some conservative economists are talking about the world after Covid 19, and they have a pretty clear idea of how it will look.


There hasn’t been an economic crisis or a natural disaster that capitalism hasn’t sought to turn to its advantage. The millions of pounds of public money that were poured into banks after the economic collapse of 2008, the way in which the European Union imposed crippling economic  straight jackets on the Republic of Ireland and Greece, for example and the privatisation of public services they forced as a condition of bail out.

Further examples include the land grabs and demolition of public housing that took place in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It was then sold off to private investors as prime real estate. Already there are examples of venture capitalists snapping up businesses forced to sell up because of the Covid virus.

There is nothing sympathetic, collective, or social about capitalism. The relentless pursuit of profit is its sole motivator.


Locally and globally, capitalism is already preparing the ground for the world after C19. In the coming weeks we can expect to be bombarded by economists and politicians: from the centrist social democratic parties to the conservative far right.

Each will be arguing that we’re all in this together and that ‘regrettably’ we will have to introduce water charges, increase taxes, cut back on public housing and infrastructure projects, review the National Minimum Wage, reassess workers’ rights, and start paying directly for our visits to the GP, A&E departments and for homecare services.

Capitalism has never wasted a crisis to tighten its grip on working people and wring an extra pound of profit out of the situation. The Coronavirus crisis will be no different.

It is more important than ever that there is a progressive and radical response to this crisis and to those who seek to profit from it.

Solidarity with frontline workers across the world

Workers providing essential services which are keeping our society functioning at this critical time are also being put at serious risk through the lack of personal protection equipment and social distancing measures.

In supermarkets, shops, offices and warehouses workers are placing themselves on the frontline to serve their customers and provide the essentials for everyday life.

These workers also have lives and families. They are facing the same difficulties and uncertainties as everyone else.

Supermarket workers are exposed daily to hundreds of customers and to potential carriers of the virus with little or no protection. Their employers meanwhile are amassing huge profits.

Last Wednesday, workers across Greece, organised by PAME – the co-ordinating body of trade unions in Greece – held a National Day of Action in support of these workers.

The Workers Party sends its best wishes and solidarity to PAME and to our fellow workers in Greece and across the world.  

See the PAME statement in full below

The negative role of SYRIZA In the Trade Union Movement of Greece ...
Coordinating body of trade unions in Greece

Abortion Services: Free, safe and legal – at last

Free, safe and legal…. at last!

At last! Women in Northern Ireland finally have access to free, safe and legal abortion services.

The Department of Health has now confirmed that it has received legal advice that abortions can be carried out at health and social care premises.

The current arrangements still have a way to go to meet the full needs of women but, after years of struggle, protest, legal actions and personal trauma pain and suffering, this is a hugely significant moment for abortion services in Northern Ireland.


The regrets remain that it took legislation tabled by Labour MP Stella Creasy at Westminster to bring about these changes, rather than legislation at Stormont. Moves to rewrite the current legislation continue to pose a risk to women’s health here.

Also welcome, but again from Westminster, was the lifting of restrictions on accessing and taking abortion pills up to ten weeks.


The initiative of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) should also be applauded.  From 9th April, women in Northern Ireland will be able to call a dedicated number to arrange tele-consultations with a doctor in Northern Ireland. 

The charity has undertaken to provide, by post, and in consultation with a GP, abortion medication for women who cannot travel to a hospital or health facility during the Covid 19 crisis. This service will be free of charge to women in Northern Ireland. BPAS will meet the costs of treating women as part of its charitable remit.

Anyone in Northern Ireland who needs services provided by BPAS can call 0300 500 8086 to arrange a teleconsultation with a doctor in Northern Ireland.

It’s about PPE and much more

Care workers and their services are undervalued and under resourced

The current lack of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for care workers in the community and residential care settings is symptomatic of how they, and the essential services they provide, are understood and valued”, Workers Party spokesperson Hugh Scullion has said.

“These workers are the Cinderella’s of the NHS”, Hugh claimed. “Over the last decade neither the Department of Health and Social Care, Assembly Heath Committees nor successive Health Minsters here have ever recognised the vital role that care workers play in our health system”.


“Is it any wonder than when a crisis like Covid 19 hits, that these staff are the least resourced and least supported”? he asked.

“It is galling in the extreme to see politicians at Stormont wringing their hands and promising to get things done, when they collapsed the Assembly and allowed a report 1 on community care, which recommended  fundamental changes to the way care workers are valued, remunerated and resourced , to lie on a shelf gathering dust”, Hugh said

“When the NHS was founded by Nye Bevan in 1948 ‘Home Helps’ were the corner stone of the new service. Society has come a long way since then, but have we really developed the concept of community-based care and support sufficiently in that time?

Care on the cheap

“The reality is that we have been getting care ‘on the cheap’ for years now. We have been underpaying and under resourcing an increasingly skilled workforce, privatising many of the services, raiding the community care budget to make the books balance elsewhere, and deliberately failing to invest”

“Why should it take a world pandemic to wake us all up to the vital role played by care workers and their colleagues? Hugh concluded.

Sectarian abuse of Minister condemned

Health Minister Robin Swann

The Workers Party has condemned the on-line abuse directed at Health Minister Robin Swann asvile, grossly offensive and totally unrepresentative of the views of citizens across Northern Ireland‘.

Minister Swann is currently co-ordinating Northern Ireland’s health and social care services in the battle against Coronavirus.

This type of abhorrent sectarian abuse can never be justified. That it is directed against Robin Swann and his family at a time when he is discharging his public duties, under considerable pressure, on behalf of the whole community, makes it even more repulsive.

Robin Swann deserves the full support of everyone in Northern Ireland , including his colleagues in government, as he helps to deliver the strategic response to C19.

Capitalism and public health are incompatible

Workers Party Councillor Ted Tynan
Workers Party Councillor Ted Tynan

The Coronavirus pandemic is revealing that capitalism is incompatible with public health.

Right wing governments in Ireland and the UK are now implementing measures which only a few months ago would have been dismissed as the idealistic and unaffordable dreams of socialists. But now, the public health emergency of COVID-19 is making socialism the only alternative.  

Struggling health systems

The Republic of Ireland’s two-tier health system appears for what it always has been: an unjust, unequal distribution of care to those who can afford it. We needed the virus, it seems, to convince ourselves that this cannot continue. While in Northern Ireland an underfunded and under resourced NHS tries to keep ahead of C19.

The injunction to ‘stay in home’, meanwhile, has forced us to confront the precarity of people’s daily lives in a context of insecure work and eroded public services. Many have no savings to fall back on, cannot afford to take time off work, lack access to sick pay, and are at the mercy of rapacious employers and landlords. Many others are homeless. The inequity of this state of ‘normality’ suddenly becomes apparent in the context of the pandemic.

The disease that is capitalism

It has taken a contagious disease to cause the political establishment in this country and elsewhere to reckon with the fact that capitalism as we know it today is itself a kind of disease proliferating upon the Earth.

The novel coronavirus was produced not by an angry Nature but by the poverty and overcrowding that current economic conditions force upon so many in the poorest parts of the world. Trump and others try to blame China, but the more humanity as a whole exploits animal life and the natural environment, the more these kinds of crises will become the norm as the 21st century goes on.

Caring for life

Many of the world’s leaders now talk about a ‘war’ with the virus, but such metaphors demonstrate a deep misunderstanding. A virus is a replicator, a fragment of genetic code that copies itself over and over, and which needs organisms (such as humans and animals) in order to do. Although viruses are not technically alive, they show us life at its most basic level: as a will to propagate. We should not go to war against life but should learn to care for it properly. Caring for life properly means attending to all kinds of life, human and non-human, as best we can.  

But capitalism only cares about a certain kind of life it calls economic ‘growth’. There is a conflict here between two kinds of life, and the economic disruption caused by the virus shows us this dramatically. In one week, six trillion dollars were wiped off the stock market.

Citizen versus Consumer

The phenomenon of panic buying resulted when people believed their ability to be consumers was compromised. The idea of being a citizen and not just a consumer is becoming so alien to us that, when our habits of consumption are threatened, we enter into a frenzy of irrational shopping until the shelves are bare.

It sometimes seems as if money can propagate like a virus, making more of itself constantly on the stock market, and the capitalists cheer when the markets go up as if it were all down to the magic of money. But when workers withdraw their labour, money dies as surely as a virus does without a body to carry it. The pandemic is life taking its revenge on us for caring only about a certain kind of flourishing that goes hand in hand with economic growth.

Economic dominance

From the point of view of the working class, the solution to this crisis lies not in keeping the economy going no matter what but in challenging the dominance of the economy over all other aspects of life.

It is not a question of going to war against the virus, but of caring for life in all its forms. This requires that capitalism, based as it is on an unsustainable commitment to economic growth at all costs, gives way to a healthier system.