Rear View Mirror

­Fortress Europe and the criminal legacy

It was a week which witnessed 27 more asylum seekers drown as they attempted to cross the English Channel, yet another report condemning the lack of progress on integrated education and further claims that childcare is in crisis.

In the first nine months of this year, almost 1400 migrants (men, women and children) died while crossing the Mediterranean Sea. A further 1400 died similarly the year before.

Last week 27 asylum seekers from the middle east, north Africa and Afghanistan drowned when the dinghy they were in capsized in the English Channel. They too were fleeing the consequences of wars and conflicts prosecuted by western governments and the European Union

The influence of right-wing parties, particularly in Italy, France, Hungary and Britain along with the political line pursued by governments in the EU, has led to a vicious and irrational populism against immigrants irrespective of their circumstances. The cruelty of Fortress Europe is clear as yet again bodies are being washed up on beaches.

The blatantly racist narrative that we are being swamped by asylum seekers, migrants and refugees is simply not true. Last year the UK received just over 36,000 asylum seekers. France settled three times as many and Germany almost four times as many. Turkey is now home to more than seven million displaced persons.

The thousands of people seeking security, shelter and a new life in Europe are victims of the wars pursued by western governments in Afghanistan, Syria, Iran and Libya. The criminal warmongering that has overthrown governments, destabilised countries and left thousands of innocent people dead or seriously injured now has its legacy in the trail of refugees forced to flee their homes. In turn, they fall prey to yet another criminal conspiracy in the form of human traffickers relieving them of their last resources in exchange for a place on an overcrowded dinghy.

These tragedies can be stopped. Not by patrol boats, repatriation, imprisonment or detention centres, but by governments accepting the consequences of their actions, facing up to the humanitarian crisis that they have created and by declaring that Refugees are Welcome.

While the long-term solution requires radical systemic change, that approach can contribute to putting the human traffickers out of business, ending the daily death and misery and give dignity and a future to the thousands of victims of war and aggression.


Read the Party’s submission to the European Communist Initiative this weekend:

Childcare Crisis

Alarm bells rang last week over the crisis in childcare provision.

It would have been nice to think that it was because costs here are the second highest in Europe, that there are not enough places to cope with demand and that one third of local parents say that childcare costs are their largest monthly outgoing, exceeding their rent or mortgage. But no. Crisis has been reached because 70% of childcare providers are reported to be making a loss or just breaking even.

The lack of available places and the cost of childcare remain major factors in discouraging women, in particular, from participating in the workforce. Many have no choice but to work reduced hours, enter casual employment or give up work altogether.

Socialist countries, like the German Democratic Republic, pioneered comprehensive childcare schemes as long ago as the 1940s and 50s.

We have a lot of catching up to do, and fast. The answer lies in publicly funded, affordable, flexible nursery and childcare services.

Integrated Education

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation

How many reports will it take to embarrass the Northern Ireland Assembly into implementing an integrated, and secular, education system?

Yet another, produced by Ulster University’s UNESCO Centre for Education, says that a lack of political will has left the divided system untouched and unchallenged. 

The Assembly and Sinn Fein and the DUP, in particular, have done everything in their power to successfully side step their responsibilities on this. They have repeatedly ignored the requirements of the Good Friday Agreement, they have promoted diversionary strategies such as ‘shared’ education proposals but basically, they have blatantly and unashamedly turned their backs on integrated education.

It is very clear that the political and religious vested interests which keep children separated and contribute to the perpetuation of division in this society will not yield that power voluntarily.

It must be the task of all progressive forces, teachers, parents, educationalists and of everyone who understands the necessity for a fully integrated secular education system to maintain the pressure and continue to call out the Assembly for its contempt and derision of this fundamental building block.

NHS crisis – a long project

Every newspaper headline, news bulletin and radio phone-in programme in recent weeks has declared that the NHS is in meltdown: that the system is broken and is on the verge of collapse.

What is seldom examined is exactly what the crisis is, how it has been caused and why it will continue under the present system.

Many of the stories of ten-hour trolley waits, backed-up ambulances, bed shortages and of an exhausted workforce are truly horrendous. These are the lived experiences of patients, relatives and staff.

But this, ongoing, crisis hasn’t been caused by the doctors, nurses, carers and support staff who are struggling to deliver the service. While there are particular organisational issues locally which are contributing to lengthy waiting lists, our healthcare problems are political and they are systemic.

From the day the NHS was founded, over 70 years ago, right-wing politicians, many of them close to home, have been orchestrating its downfall and planning to capitalise on, and profit from, our collective health and care needs. The plotting has been relentless and only the strong public support for the concept of a health service free to all at the point of delivery has helped fend off the many attacks and treachery.

Despite the esteem in which the NHS is often held world-wide, UK spending on healthcare is lower than in Finland, Iceland, Belgium, Luxembourg and Austria. In fact, it is the second lowest, per head of population, of the world’s large developed economies.

Healthcare expenditure based on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is also the second lowest of the large economies.

The current crisis has been brought into sharp focus by the demands of dealing with the Covid pandemic but its roots lie in the last ten years of austerity, the cuts to funding, staffing budgets and building maintenance; outsourcing, blatant privatisation of a public service and pay freezes. This is what many in the media refer to as ‘financial pressures’, as if they were part of the latest weather front

This is what many in the media refer to as ‘financial pressures, as if they were part of the latest weather front.

In parallel, the number of nursing and midwifery training places has been decimated since 2010. That led to staff shortages and they were filled by agency staff, supplied by private companies at a cost, just a few years ago, of over £115 million.

In that same decade, the number of hospital beds in Belfast alone, where most of the regional services are provided, were cut by 20%. This occurred during a period when the number older people over 75 rose by 12%. The cost of providing care for this age group, and above, is around three times higher than for the under fifties., Meanwhile, the health inequalities gap continued to grow and the ill health effects associated with areas of social deprivation added significantly to the problems and the pressures.

These are not just statistics. It is estimated that last year 5,000 people in Northern Ireland died while they were on a hospital waiting list. That is what austerity, attacks on the NHS and privatisation by stealth looks like.

The NHS has been under attack since its inception. Those attacks continue unabated today. A right-wing agenda to privatise the lucrative aspects of healthcare, politically motivated cuts to funding, staffing levels and resources and increasing calls on the service, are combining to make us believe that the very concept of a national health service is no longer viable. The additional ravages of Covid are being used to boost that deception.

The NHS is indeed in a crisis. It is being undermined, underfunded and cherrypicked for privatisation.

We owe it to the generations of front-line workers and support staff who have developed and delivered one of the best healthcare services in the world to defend it and their efforts against those who would sell it off to the highest bidder.

For now, a concerted effort will keep the NHS afloat, but only in a socialist society can it be guaranteed to achieve its full potential.

Nationalise energy production now

Fuel poverty is a harsh reality. The ‘official’ figure in Northern Ireland is 22% of households. Fuel poverty charities are now warning that recent energy price increases will push thousands of additional households into further fuel poverty.

The current energy crisisis a symptom of the crisis underlying global capitalism. The working class, the unemployed, the poor, those unable to work due to illness or disability, the elderly and retired are the ones who bear the brunt.

Recurring price rises, combined with the end of the furlough scheme and the withdrawal of the £20 uplift in universal credit, leaves thousands facing a bitter winter.

As the weather gets colder people, faced with extortionate and rising bills, are struggling to heat their homes and are living in cold and dangerous conditions which, in stark terms, means many will become ill and will die as a result.

These tragedies are preventable.  Energy is an essential service. The Workers Party has already made a number of immediate demands to mitigate the effects of fuel poverty and is also demanding the nationalisation of the energy network, calling for a publicly owned energy system.

The energy sector must be taken into public ownership. This will help address avaricious energy prices, alleviate fuel poverty and assist in the battle against climate change.

Public ownership would also ensure protection for the jobs of thousands of workers in the energy sector.

It is time to tackle the myth that the market and “consumer choice” can provide a solution. This model has patently failed. Lining the pockets of the capitalist class will only deepen the problems.

While an energy policy that is truly sustainable, meets the needs of the people and minimises damage to the environment is only realisable under a planned economy in a socialist system, now is the time to demand the immediate public ownership of the energy system.

Standing squarely with Cuba

The messages from this evening’s solidarity rally at Belfast City Hall were clear for all to hear – ‘End the Blockade’, ‘No more US Interference’ ‘Let Cuba Live’

The show of support at the event organised by the Cuban Solidarity Forum and supported by the Belfast Trades Council was impressive, colourful and loud.

After nearly seven decades of unrelenting aggression against Cuba and the Cuban people the US, under the presidency of Joe Biden, continues and escalates its belligerence

Despite 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. The US has opportunistically and criminally tightened the blockade during the pandemic.

But Cuba does not stand alone. In Belfast and in towns and cities across the world the solidarity is tangible, unbroken and determined.

Standing with Cuba

Over this weekend Workers Party members and supporters will be expressing their support for Cuba and the Cuban people at a number of solidarity demonstrations in Northern Ireland and in the Republic.

For more than 60 years the United States has imposed an economic embargo against Cuba and the Cuban people and has tried, unsuccessfully, to overthrow .the Cuban government on dozens of occasions.

Each year, the United States government spends millions of dollars funding anti-Cuban projects and opposition groups .

In the past two months alone Joe Biden’s administration has allocated almost $7 million to twelve organisations for projects designed to destabilise and undermine the Cuban government.

These twelve groups alone are set to receive $18 million over the next three years. There is clear and growing evidence of misinformation, direct US funding and interference, and support from individuals and groups with a history of violence against Cuba. The European Union continues to encourage this interference

The main demonstration in Northern Ireland, organised by the Cuba Solidarity Forum and supported by Belfast Trades Council will take place on:

Monday 15 November at 5pm outside Belfast City Hall.

See the Workers Party statement in full:


Energy Costs: 5 Immediate steps

The Workers Party has reiterated its call for the Northern Ireland Executive to take 5 immediate steps to address the crisis caused by rising energy costs

The latest announcement of a 38% hike in gas prices comes on the back of higher oil, electric and petrol prices and the knock on effects to grocery shopping and the general cost of living.

any media reports and commentators talk of a ‘global crisis’ as if this was a natural phenomenon and beyond anyone’s control. It is not. Fuel poverty is a class issue.

The Workers Party proposals for 5 immediate mitigating steps are:

  1. Confirm an initial emergency fuel payment of £250 for every household
  2. Restore and secure the £20 Universal Credit uplift
  3. Initiate a comprehensive home insulation scheme
  4. Legislate for a Fuel Poverty Strategy to address current and future need
  5. Prioritise renewable energies over fossil fuels

The longer term struggles to protect and secure our environment, and ensure affordable energy for all, must focus on reclaiming the ownership of the world’s natural resources from private hands. It is here that the real battle for the environment must be waged. It is here that all our efforts must be directed.

Only when these resources are brought under public control and developed by a socialist economy will fuel poverty and a ravaged environment be a thing of the past. There are no compromises, there are no alternatives.

Irresponsible and immature

The Workers Party has criticised what it terms the “irresponsible and politically immature” decision by Billy Hutchinson and the PUP to withdraw support for the GFA as a form of protest against the NI Protocol.

The WP claims that the decision risks political instability, shifts the focus away from resolving Protocol issues and will be seen to lend support to the inexcusable and inflammatory remarks of the European Union threatening ‘war’ in the event of the triggering of Article 16.

Tynan tells it as it is

Workers Party President, Cllr. Ted Tynan, has told a climate change rally in Cork, held to coincide with the COP 26 meetings in Glasgow, that capitalism, its insane overproduction and its relentless pursuit of profit at any cost, is  the overwhelmingly critical factor in global warning and the biggest threat to the safety of our environment. 

“Nobody should be fooled into believing that this global, and human created, crisis can be laid anywhere but at the door of capitalism, the multi national organisations and the corporate tycoons.”. Ted said  .

“Capitalism has always sought to make workers pay for the consequences of its actions and distract from its culpability”, he said . “It is attempting to do exactly that now by telling us that each individual must reduce their own carbon footprint  to save the planet, while it continues to plunder the worlds assets, its forests and its natural resources in the pursuit of profit”. 

“Only a socialist system can save the environment, protect the planet and secure our future. “Red is Green”, he said, “a better, safer life is possible, but only in a socialist society”.


The news that Northern Ireland’s only Enterprise Zone (EZ), the Atlantic Link site, near Coleraine, has cost ratepayers £3m and attracted one tenant since it opened for business in 2017 is hardly a surprise.

A decade ago, in its response to  the UK Treasury consultation document on “rebalancing the Northern Ireland response economy”,  the Workers’ Party provided clear evidence that Enterprise Zones are an expensive waste of money and fail to create jobs.

The Party wrote then that “if Northern Ireland signs up to the Enterprise Zone scheme, no real jobs will be created, and the costly scheme will only benefit super-rich corporations”. In fact, due to the failure of the market and despite the lure of state subsidies,  only one medium-sized company benefitted from setting up shop in the Atlantic Link site.

Thatcherite Policy

First proposed in Britain in 1978, and a key Thatcherite policy in the 1980s, Enterprise Zones are designated sites which offer tax incentives and simplified planning procedures to help attract businesses to a specific area. In the absence of a genuine industrial policy, around 40  such zones were set up under Thatcher and John Major, offering tax breaks, rates holidays and other incentives to companies locating within them.

In Northern Ireland, two enterprise zones were set up, one in Derry and another in the Duncrue Industrial Estate in North Belfast, an area of the city where, according to recent research, one in three children grow up in poverty . If anyone gained from Thatcher era enterprise zones, it wasn’t the working people of North Belfast.

Resurrected by Cameron and Clegg

Like a horribly predictable sequel, the Enterprise Zone idea was revived under David Cameron’s disastrous austerity government, during which UK life expectancy plateaued,  the gap between rich and poor widened precipitously, and those jobs that were created in the wake of global financial collapse of 2008 were mostly badly paid and insecure.

Research shows that of those jobs that are created in Enterprise Zones, most are displaced from other areas. In other words, at the taxpayers’ expense few  to zero new jobs are created. EZs have been good news for a few  for huge corporations, mostly in the USA,  which have succeeded in making massive profits by siphoning off taxpayers’ money and leaving the scene as soon as they no longer advantaged by government largesse. In general terms, however, Enterprise Zones have proven costly and ineffective and Northern Ireland’s EZ has produced no new jobs and no inward investment.

Few Jobs, Mostly in Retail

Elsewhere in these islands, Enterprise Zones have not been successful, even by Thatcherite profit-driven standards. According to a 2019 Report by the thinktank, Centre for Cities, since 2012 Enterprise Zones in England have seen the creation of 13,650 jobs, not all of which are attributable to investment as a result of EZ incentives. This is a much smaller figure than the 56,000 new jobs touted by Cameron and Clegg in 2012. In addition, breaking down the data shows that those jobs that were created were mostly low-skilled activities in local services such as retail, and not the high-skilled, export-oriented jobs touted by the Tories.

Incidentally, back in 2010 Sinn Féin “quietly” bought into the development of Enterprise Zones in Northern Ireland, which was in line with its commitment to reduced corporate tax rates.  According to business magazine, Agenda NI “quietly, the party supports the UK Government’s enterprise zone commitment, while expressing scepticism that this will come about”.

Blame Game

When the local press highlighted the failure of the Atlantic Link site,  an almost comic round of finger-pointing began. Independent Unionist MLA Claire Sugden said it was a “wasted opportunity so far” and that “everybody involved needs to step up their efforts in order that this asset is not wasted”.

A Department of Economy spokesperson said that the council had the “lead responsibility for marketing the campus as landowners.” Democratic Unionist Party councillor Aaron Callan  went on the defensive,  saying that “we, the council, are not the only partner in this, there is the University [of Ulster], there is Invest NI and others that need to come in behind this project. There needs to be more willingness to put weight into it”.

But the blame game is a distraction, aimed at hiding in plain sight the fact that none of those involved have the slightest idea of an alternative to this failed and disastrous approach to job creation. And so, they talk of ‘wasted opportunities’ ‘the need to step up efforts’,  and lack of ‘willingness’. People seeking alternatives should look elsewhere.

Climate Change – there is an alternative

Speaking at the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow,  UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told delegates that “…addiction to fossil fuels is pushing humanity to the brink”, saying “we face a stark choice – either we stop it, or it stops us. We are digging our own graves.”

The warning is indeed stark, and the UN Secretary General has science on his side. Research by climate scientists at the NASA Goddard Space Institute indicates that if global warming rises above 2°C (relative to the pre-industrial era), sea levels  could rise by several metres, submerging many coastal areas around the world.

Arctic summer sea ice and permafrost will disappear, which will  further accelerate global heating by releasing methane, which is eight times more toxic than carbon dioxide, resulting in the extinction of up to 30 percent of the species that currently exist and increasing the chances of a sudden collapse of the earth’s ecological systems.

Guterres is right to say that we face a stark choice. But his analysis doesn’t go far enough. ‘We’ are not ‘addicted’ to oil. This is not a lifestyle issue, and ‘we’ are not all in this as equals. The US military emits more greenhouse gases than Portugal or Sweden. If the Pentagon was a country its emissions would make it the world’s 55th largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Similarly, according to a 2017 report,100 huge companies have been responsible for 71% of global greenhouse gas emissions since 1998. But to focus only on these enormously destructive polluters would be to miss the most important point.

Capitalism as a system is based on over production and continuous growth. This requires the consumption of fossil fuels, which results in growing emissions of greenhouse gases that threaten to bring about global social and ecological catastrophes, on an even greater scale than those that are already evident. Only a social change to production for need rather than for profit can bring any hope of positive and substantive environmental change.

In terms of hope, the stakes are so enormously high and the projected outcomes of ‘capitalism as usual’ are so terrible that, that people will either react with despair or apathy and accept the pseudo ‘lifestyle’ and market-based ‘solutions’ offered by all shades of pro-capitalist opinion.

However, another world is possible. The alternative is to replace the Capitalist system and establish Socialism to save the planet and life on earth.