Poverty levels a damning indictment

More than 60% of children living in poverty come from homes where at least one parent is working

Around 14,000 local families are facing crippling debt, fuel and food poverty and mounting rent arrears unless the measures to mitigate against the impact of the Universal Credit system are extended immediately. Families will also endure further financial hardship if the £20 uplift introduced at the start of the Covid pandemic is not made permanent.

Despite a commitment in the New Decade New Approach agreement to extend the mitigation measures, the necessary legislation has yet to be passed by the Assembly.

As the deadline for ending the £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit payments approaches has the Assembly done nothing more that acknowledge that it will have a devastating impact on families here.

The Minister for the Communities accepts that the end of the uplift “will cause great distress and financial hardship” , but, unbelievably, the only action she has taken is to write a letter to the Westminster government asking it not to do it.

It is estimated that the ending of the uplift payment will push a further 11,000 children into poverty. That would be on top of the well over 20% of children currently living in what is identified as ‘absolute poverty’.

There can be no doubt that in addition to the mental health and emotional well-being pressures that will bring, it would also result in an increased reliance on food banks and an increasing number of families struggling to heat homes and afford winter clothing.

As the major parties here ramp up tensions and division ahead of next year’s Assembly elections the appalling levels of poverty in this community are a damning indictment of their prioritisation of tribal politics over the lives, well being and futures of the thousands of families who are treated no better than election fodder.

While Universal Credit is a consciously cruel and unworkable system that has to be scrapped, in the immediate term the Assembly must implement an extension of the mitigation measures already agreed and make permanent the £20 uplift introduced last year.

However, it is clear that only in a socialist society will child poverty, deprivation and despair be consigned to history.

Women: the hidden victims of hate crime

The extent and consequences of misogyny – the contempt and hatred of women – has been brought into sharp focus by the recent murders in Plymouth.

Despite re-assuring statements that events like this are rare, the reality is that hate crime, its levels, intensity and effects, is a brutally regular experience for many people here.  

For some reason, the myth persists that hate crime is not a serious issue in Northern Ireland. The reality is significantly different.

Facts & figures

Even a cursory examination of the statistics reveals the extent of the problems. Since 2007 there have been more the 17,000 sectarian incidents reported to the police. The actual figure, as with all hate crime, will be much higher.

In the same period, more than 1,000 race motivated incidents were recorded for seven of those years, and at least 3,000 reports of homophobic incidents were logged. Not a week has passed since 2007 withoutand multiple incidents of religious, disability or transphobic hate incidents being reported.

However, as the Plymouth murders have demonstrated, women are as much, if not more so, the subject of a persistent and deadly hate crime regime.

It is thought that, at some stage of their lives, 30% of women in Northern Ireland are subjected to psychological abuse in a relationship and that one woman in every six suffers violence at the hands of their partner.

The rates of femicide in Northern Ireland in 2017 were the highest in the whole of Europe, per head of population. In the past year alone, domestic violence has claimed the lives of nine women.

While there is legislation in place to address incidents of hate crime and, albeit limited, domestic violence legislation in force there is no overarching strategy to address and overcome the protection of women and young girls from violence.

Despite a private members bill in the Assembly, and promises from the Department of Justice, we remain the only part of these islands that does not have such a strategy.

Not only does that legislation need to be progressed as a matter of urgency but it also needs to be shaped with significant input from women and girls to ensure that it provides the appropriate direction and meets their needs.

However, legislation alone, vital as it is, will not be enough to overcome a culture which sees women and girls as objects and commodities and tolerates misogyny and prejudicial gender-based attitudes.

Nor will it be overcome for as long as we are subject to a capitalist economic and social system which has an intrinsic self interest in sustaining and perpetuating gender discrimination in its pursuit of profits, lower wages and working-class division.

Only a society grounded in socialist principles and values can secure the role of women, ensure their full participation and recognise their contribution. That is where we need to be.

Support Cuban medics against Biden

Cuba’s medical and scientific community has launched an open petition demanding that US President Joe Biden retract his remarks about Cuba and their handling of the  Covid pandemic, and that he also ends the economic blockade against the island which is directly effecting the development and availability of a range of medical materials and scientific equipment.

Biden has openly claimed that Cuba is incapable of vaccinating its population, that it needs American vaccines to stem the spread of Covid 19 and that it is a failed state.

The remarks are a deliberate attempt to undermine Cuba’s world standing, pander to the Cuban exile lobby in Florida and further ramp up the aggression against the Cuban people which he and his administration have been demonstrating since his election.

Bidens claims are, of course, completely unfounded.

Not only does Cuba have a comprehensive, publicly funded health and care system freely available to all its citizens but many have claimed it to be one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Cuba’s scientific and research community also has an internationally renowned reputation for its vaccine development, its immunisation achievements, its commitment to international health aid and for the development of its own anti-Covid vaccines.

Since the outbreak of the Covid pandemic more than 2,000 Cuban doctors and other health care staff have travelled to countries across the world to help combat the diseaseba

You can show your support for Cuba, and its medics scientists, researchers and health care staff by signing the petition to President Joe Biden



Read how Cuba developed its health services to become a major contributor to global disease control and a successful exporter of medical products.


This is what nationalism looks like

If you ever wondered what nationalism looks like then you’ll find the answer in this week’s Bogside bonfire and in the mirror image bonfires built by loyalists.

As a political philosophy, nationalism – British and Irish – is inward looking, narrow, unimaginative and toxic.

No matter the protests from the people who embrace it, no matter the claims that their nationalism is a legitimate expression and nothing to do with the annual displays of raw tribalism.

Many nationalists may feel uncomfortable about these displays, they may even distance themselves for them, but events like these are the outworking and public display of nationalism’s core philosophy.

Nationalism, Irish or British, is not only a backward political philosophy: it is a toxic one. It seeks to divide and exploit difference. It blames others and otherness. It is a political cancer that deliberately subverts progressive politics and invariably is home to the worst examples of native gombeen men and women. At its worst it can become a hate fest.

If bonfire builders anywhere in Northern Ireland want to channel their energies towards building a different and better society, and that’s a very big ‘If’, then they should commit themselves to the struggle to defend public services, fund education, secure the NHS, champion the rights of women, eradicate sectarianism, racism, homophobia and misogyny, stand up for worker’s rights, oppose zero hours contracts or campaign for a real living wage.

Obviously, they find compounding and sustaining community division much more to their taste.

Only a Socialist Economy can save the Environment

Concerns about the environment and climate change have featured highly in news agendas throughout the past week as the United Nations IPPC report (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) declared a global ‘Code Red’ wakeup call and the need for immediate, urgent and decisive action.

A special meeting of the NI Assembly has been called also to discuss climate change and will be held ahead of the international climate conference organised by the United Nations in Glasgow during October.

Evidence ignored

Scientific evidence about the dangers of climate change have been ignored consistently by governments and multinational companies alike for decades. The current urgency has been prompted by a series of heatwaves, flash floods, forest fires and record high temperatures all attributable to increasing CO2 omissions.

The lengths to which some government’s, major companies and sections of the media will go to muddy the waters and deflect responsibility are significant. Placing responsibility on individuals – urging us all to use less aerosol deodorant for example – or diverting attention away from the polluters by listing the problem by ‘offending countries’ in a deliberate and dishonest attempt to shift the focus from where it should be.

Damaging changes to the atmosphere, and subsequently the global environment, are caused by the release of ‘greenhouse gases’ (carbon dioxide). The dangerous levels are the direct result of overproduction one of the key characteristics of the capitalist system. Capitalist production operates with one purpose in mind: creating maximum profits for individuals and multinational corporations, irrespective of the consequences for the economy or for the environment.

Capitalism tries to avoid responsibility for the damage it does to the environment. It pushes the responsibility and costs onto others. It is doing it now and it will continue if unchallenged.


Attributing responsibility for climate change to the actions of individuals or specific countries is a smokescreen.

Just 20 global companies are responsible for over 35% of all greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere in the last six decades. Most are oil or fossil fuel producers.  The United States military and its global reach ranks 47th in the list of global polluters, and that is based only on its fuel usage.

For as long as the environment is treated as an expendable commodity it will always be at risk.

Unless the central and fundamental issue of the role of capitalist production is addressed, challenged and reversed, the problems for the environment will persist and worsen. Unfortunately, many ‘Greens’ and environmentalists fail to understand or accept this.

Health Warning

While the decision of the NI Assembly to hold a special debate on Climate Change is welcome, it must also come with a health warning. The very people who will be debating the future of the environment are the same MLAs who granted licences for drilling and the use of cyanide for mineral extraction in Greencastle, Co Tyrone an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and a fracking licence using a cocktail of chemicals in the search for oil in an area in Co Antrim just a few hundred meters from a water reservoir supplying thousands of local homes.

The environment is not safe in the hands of the current Assembly. It is not safe in the custody of capitalist production.

The Workers Party will be making a formal submission to the Assembly setting out the socialist alternative to safeguarding the environment and the health and well-being of our citizens.

Clear message: End the Blockade of Cuba!

A wall mural expressing opposition to the ongoing economic blockade of Cuba has been unveiled in Belfast.

Party members were pleased to be part of the event and to have the opportunity to expresses solidarity with the people, government and Communist Party of Cuba in the face of increasing provocation and aggression by the United States.

Addressing the gathering, the Party’s International Secretary, Gerry Grainger, said, “The Workers Party condemns the recent attempts to manipulate international public opinion by deliberately spreading misinformation as a pretext for further US intervention against Cuba and its people”.

“The US blockade is the most enduring blockade in history and is conservatively estimated to have cost the Cuban economy billions of dollars over the last 50 years. Every year the United Nations General Assembly passes a resolution condemning the blockade, only to be ignored by the United States”. 

“Despite the weight of world opinion, the economic, commercial and financial blockade applied by the government of the United States against Cuba is being maintained and it continues to have profound repercussions on the Cuban economy. The blockade is deliberately designed to limit Cuba’s right to follow its own development path”.

It is important that we take every opportunity to condemn these acts of international aggression against the Cuban people and continue to express our support and solidarity”, Gerry concluded.

What does this say about citizenship?

With a significant number of people remaining unvaccinated, or refusing to be vaccinated, the risk of increased community infection, hospital admissions and even further fatalities persists.

In the last two weeks there have been over 17,000 positive cases recorded. 60% of Covid patients currently in hospital have not been vaccinated. Twenty-eight people have died in the last seven days and infection rates are now twice as high as they were during June.

Refusal, or reluctance, to get vaccinated against the worst global pandemic in over a century raises serious questions about how we discharge our social responsibility to each other, the value we place on institutions like the NHS and what role, if any, citizenship plays in our society.

Many of those refusing, or reluctant, to take the Covid vaccination rely on spurious claims based largely on social media generated myths and deliberate misinformation to justify their ‘freedom of choice’ arguments. Others fall back on conspiratorial, religious and paranoid beliefs.

What does this say about citizenship and collective responsibility in our society? 

Amongst other things, it says that there is an unashamed culture of “I’ll do as I please and to hell with the consequences.” It says that many people don’t believe they have a responsibility to others, let alone to themselves, and that they are sufficiently emboldened to proclaim that publicly.

It says that the core values of the dominant culture in our society – individualism, selfish disregard and an absence of personal accountability – are now jeopardising the vulnerable, the future health of the population, the resources of the NHS and the possibility of a further wave of infections.

What is welcoming is the fact that the majority of people are and have acted with a real sense of social responsibility in spite of the lead given by many so called political and social elites. Recent months have been littered with examples of well-known people and organisations blatantly flouting their responsibilities and compounding the indignity of their actions with self-justifying and insulting ‘apologies’.

The very concept of responsible citizenship has been under assault for many years – indeed the many social gains of post-World War II era, including the NHS, have been subject to systemic undermining since their inception. Margaret Thatcher’s infamous ‘… there is no such thing as society- only individuals’ speech encapsulates the campaign to erode the principles of citizenship.

Thatcher’s declaration in 1987 was a demonstration of the determination of the class she represented to wage war against the unions, dismantle social benefits and gains and to privatise health, education and public utilities in favour of individualism. It was also an open assault on the socialist principles of benefit for the many not the few. 

Failure to take responsibility through firm and decisive action at the outbreak of the Covid crisis, rapidly led to managing the pandemic through a reliance on personal responsibility, social distancing and mask wearing.

The combination of government failures, the arrogance of elites and the ignorant and self-centred attitude of those who have bought into the capitalist myth of ‘personal freedom of choice’ has serious consequences throughout society. 

It puts health and well-being at risk, it provides cover for corporate exploitation and challenges the concept of social responsibility and citizenship.

Educating children, and adults, in the benefits and responsibilities of citizenship is an important and ongoing task. However, only a radical transformation to a socialist society can ultimately establish citizenship, social responsibility and a collective society as our core values.

It’s Food Poverty, Minister!

The Workers Party has written to the Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey , rebuking her and her department for the use of the phrase ‘food insecurity’

The Party’s South Belfast spokesperson, Patrick Lynn, said “…it is obscene, highly insulting and extremely derisory to attempt to disguise one of our greatest social problems with a meaningless verbal smoke-screen”.

“What the Minister should have said, but tried instead to camouflage, was that there is a food poverty crisis in Northern Ireland, that it is directly effecting the lives of thousands of children and that it’s happening on her watch”. Patrick said

“It’s Food Poverty. No one should be attempting to run away from that or to cover it up with corporate-speak”, he said

“The reality is”, said Patrick, “that more than 79,000 emergency food parcels were distributed to people facing crisis in Northern Ireland between April 2020 and March 2021, including 31,000 for children”. 

“That Minister, is Food Poverty. At least have the decency to call it as it is”, Patrick concluded.

Don’t wait – Get the Jab Done now

Covid kills. It can also make you very ill. You might need to be admitted to hospital. You might even end up in Intensive Care.

If you get it, you could also pass it on to others – family, friends, mates. You don’t want to do that.

Everyone who gets protection from the coronavirus by getting a vaccination helps get us all that bit closer to normal life.

Even if you’ve been unlucky enough to have had Covid 19 already, you should still get the vaccine.  It will help you and it will help others

The sooner you get vaccinated, the sooner you are protected, the sooner we can all feel safer. Don’t wait.

Childcare: securing the present, investing in the future

From birth to the age of five or six are accepted as the most important years in a child’s early development.

You might expect that this would be reflected in the structures, support and services available to children and parents in those formative years.  You’d be wrong.

Early years support, play groups, child care and pre-school facilities make up a very patchy patchwork of services. Accessing them, where they are available, can be complicated and costly.

Some working parents can spend as much as 40% of their income on childcare. The lack, or absence, of affordable, effective and co-ordinated services and support prevents many people, women in particular, from seeking employment. 

The current hit and miss nature of childcare services significantly impacts on the development of many young people at an early age. That disadvantage can stay with them for life.

Working class families, and working-class children are particularly affected.

Securing the future development of children’s cognitive, social and academic abilities cannot, and should not, be left to chance in a social and postcode lottery.

The right to a guaranteed start in life must be available to all. We must make that a legal entitlement.

Only when children’s early education and development is served by a high quality, centrally planned, publicly funded, accessible and flexible childcare system can we say that we are investing in our future. 

Only then will parents have the security to remain in work, training or education. Only then can our society and our economy fully realise the benefits of a skilled and confident workforce, secure in the knowledge that future generations are being given the best start in life.