Rear View Mirror: a brief look back at the week that was

Coronavirus

Last week’s figures tell us that, not only is the Coronavirus spreading – but more importantly that it is being spread.

We are in unprecedented times. Even as the vaccine programme is rolled out, infection rates continue to rise, the number of deaths increases and health services and hospitals are stretched to their limit. In these circumstances everyone has a responsibility to follow public health guidance and government has a responsibility to call on all and every resource available to it to help overcome the pandemic and its consequences.

Public Health Agency Advice: https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/covid-19-coronavirus/covid-19-information-public

Universal Credit

Around 14,000 families in Northern Ireland, many of them in employment, rely on Universal Credit payments. The £20 ‘top-up’ payment introduced last year has provided a life line for many as they cope with the additional financial pressures of the pandemic. However, it is currently due to end in April.

While it is important that the we protect ourselves and others from infection it is also essential that we protect everyone’s mental health and well-being with financial support, educational resources, business and employment relief packages and full and proper recognition of all the members of the essential work force who have been ensuring that services and supplies were retained throughout.

Universal Credit payments are a key component of that. The “top up “payment must not only be extended it must be made permanent.

Mother and Baby inquiry

The announcement that the long overdue report on Mother and Baby homes in Northern Ireland – it was completed in February last year – is soon to be published comes as welcome news. However, it is unlikely to address all the issues or provide all the answers.

There were more than a dozen Mother and Baby homes here. The last one closed in the 1990s. Some 7,500 women and girls gave birth in the homes run by the main churches and religious organisations.  Many women suffered arbitrary detention, forced labour, ill-treatment, and the removal and forced adoption of their babies.

Only a public inquiry can fuller reveal the extent and causes of the suffering. The victims deserve nothing less

Domestic Violence

Welcome news last week that, as part of updated legislation on domestic violence, coercive control will become an offence in Northern Ireland for the first time

Coercive control includes psychological and financial abuse as well as non-violent intimidation.

Figures released last October showed  that domestic abuse crimes were running at record levels in Northern Ireland . They have risen by 12% in a year to 17,251, the equivalent of 47 per day. Five women lost their lives from March of last year in in domestically motivated murders.

In conjunction with the planned introduction of anti-stalking legislation, covering physical and online abuse, last week’s initiatives can contribute to overcoming the marginalisation of women in Northern Ireland society but only a radical class driven restructuring of society can guarantee full rights and equal standing for women.

1974 shooting of Patrick McElhone

The McElhone family from Pomeroy deserves praise for their fortitude and persistence over more than five decades as they fought to vindicate their son as a totally innocent victim of a murderous act.

An inquest last week ruled that Patrick McElhone, a 24 year old farmer, shot dead by a soldier near his home in Limehill, Pomeroy, County Tyrone in August 1974 was an “innocent man shot in cold blood without warning when he was no threat to anyone”.

He was described in the inquest ruling as an “innocent man shot in cold blood without warning when he was no threat to anyone”.

Academic Selection

Finally, as it was announced last week that the vast majority of grammar schools here will not use academic criteria to admit pupils in 2021 it once again raises the question why there is a need for academic selection at all. But we probably know the answer to that already.

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