Health and well-being has become a negotiation game

The latest debate at the Northern Ireland Executive, on restrictions to tackle Covid 19, lays bare every contradiction that has marked the strategic direction of the Five Party Mandatory Coalition.

They have turned the health and safety of our citizens into a set of negotiations between the two big parties.

Follow the science

The health and wellbeing of Northern Ireland should not be a matter for compromise. At all times we should be following the science.

It was notable that during the Assembly debate one MLA stated that the Government couldn’t be expected to pay the wages of workers indefinitely.  That is in sharp contrast to that same Party position during the RHI debacle, when ‘Fill your Boots it’s Free Money’ was the flavour of the day. Mind you then it was businesses and a large multi-national company and political cronies who were the main beneficiaries.

Poverty and child care

It was also notable that poverty and child care were flagged up as major concerns, as were education and life chances for our children, as well as the pressure on our health and social care services. The blatant hypocrisy of these issues being used to curb restrictions is jaw dropping given the lack of any strategy over the past decades to deal with these issues.

The First Minister said in the Assembly that poverty can be a killer, but so can unemployment. Well we have been telling them that for years, yet despite promising an Anti-Poverty Strategy for over a decade, in various new start agreements, nothing has been done. Calls for an Economic Forum to include all sections and sectors of our society, to develop a cohesive plan to create manufacturing and sustainable jobs have been ignored too.

There has been no discussion or mention of affordable child care, which is fundamental to allowing women to enter the work force. Nor has there been any acknowledgement that it’s not possible to have equality of opportunity in the workplace without a Child Care Strategy.


In relation to education there has been a complete failure to tackle educational underachievement of working class children. Instead we have a blatant policy of shoring up the status quo. Money is being poured into shared education, whilst ignoring the commitment in the GFA to promote Integrated Education.

The debacle in relation to the exam results is indicative of how little this Executive cares about working class children’s futures. The health and social care services which have been to the forefront in saving lives and providing services, have continued to be underfunded and subjected to fragmentation and privatisation.

Socialist agenda

Vast sums of money public money are paid to provide agency staff, because permanent posts have been cut in order to balance the books. This has been deemed more important than dealing with health inequalities.

It’s clear that only a socialist agenda that puts the health and well-being of its citizens up front and centre can make the changes needed in our society.

Lily Kerr

World Federation of Trade Unions 75th Anniversary

Congratulations to the World Federation of Trade Unions on its 75th Anniversary

The Workers Party’s Trade Union Section has congratulated the World Federation of Trade Unions on the occasion of its 75th Anniversary.

WFTU was forged in the difficult conditions following the end of the Second World War. Its foundation was associated with the defeat of fascism and a recognition of the need to organise and build an international trade union movement on clear class grounds.

This anniversary takes place in circumstances where workers across the world face many problems, including precarious employment, attacks on social and labour rights, a lack of housing for workers and their families, privatisation, the underfunding of the health and social care system (which has been further exposed in the conditions of the pandemic), the challenges posed by climate change and where the world remains threatened by increasing imperialist aggression and war.

Sinn Fein owes West Belfast an explanation

Mackies ‘Master Plan’ – but no public housing

“Local Sinn Fein councillors, and Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín, owe the people of West Belfast an explanation over the plans for the former Mackies site off Belfast’s Springfield Road”, say Workers Party representative Joanne Lowry.

“It is now clear that there are no guarantees of public housing in the plans for the development of the ‘Forth Meadow Community Greenway.’ – as the old Makies site is now officially known”, she said.

Crisis point

The need for new and additional public housing is at crisis point in West Belfast. Currently the Housing Executive estimates that almost 2,500 new homes are needed.

“It is inconceivable that the former Mackies site, which is public land under the ownership of the Department for Communities, is not being earmarked for a major public housing project”, added Joanne.

“The people of West Belfast, and in particular those thousands of local families on the housing waiting list, deserve to be told whether or not new homes are to be built here.

“Why are  Sinn Fein so reluctant to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ on this issue and what exactly are they hiding?”, asked Joanne

See also;

New World Order: lessons learnt from Coronavirus

A new feature in which contributors give their opinions on a current or contemporary issue. Our first contributor is Hugh Scullion

In the spring of this year the worlds political and scientific leaders were scrambling for ways to prevent the spread of Covid 19.

They had little understanding of the virus or how to contain it. The capitalist world quickly came to realise they needed to protect their economies.

The cash register soon replaced public health as the number one priority.

The weak and vulnerable would be abandoned; the elderly discarded into unprepared care homes to make room for those economically productive in the population who might fall ill.

Having failed to stop the virus and with delays in finding a vaccine, the authorities decided to open schools, colleges and universities in a blind experiment hoping to generate herd immunity.

In its scramble to cope with Covid 19 the capitalist world has failed miserably.

Unashamedly, they have turned to socialist economics in the form of financial state aid schemes such as Furlough to save them from collapse.

If we are to learn anything from the pandemic it is that socialism is the only way the world can survive in the face of disease, poverty and climate disaster.

Socialism is the only way to ensure social and economic wellbeing in the world.

We also learned that the nurse, the cleaner and those in essential health and social services are far more important to society than the executives of the large corporations. We have learned that society can and is willing to make sacrifices, and to make the changes necessary to create a better world for everyone.

No one should be left behind in the new world order, not the ill nor the elderly, not the vulnerable, not the refugees or migrants.

These are the lessons we must learn and ensure they become our new normal.

Hugh Scullion