Commemorating the Civil Rights Movement

A commemorative plaque marking the achievements and the founding of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights movement has been unveiled in Belfast. The event also coincided with the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday ( see below).

The history of the struggle for civil rights has been re-written, distorted and deliberately misrepresented almost since it began.

The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) set out to reform and democratise Northern Ireland – not to overthrow it. In doing so its programme was also revolutionary in that it would fundamentally change the nature of the state.

NICRA’s five basic demands were

  • To defend the basic freedoms of all citizens
  • To protect the rights of the individual
  • To highlight all possible abuses of power
  • To demand guarantees for freedom of speech, assembly and association
  • To inform the public of their lawful rights.

Despite the often medieval responses and oppressive reactions to the the civil rights campaign by the then Stormont government many of thr early demands had been conceded by the early 1970’s.

Among the civil rights demands that were introduced were the establishment of the Housing Executive and the fair allocation of public housing, universal franchise – ‘One Man One Vote’ – and the end of multiple votes for business owners, the disbanding of the Special Constabulary (B Specials) and the disarming of the police.

Had the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, and other progressive forces, been allowed to pursue their legitimate demands, then those who engaged in the bloody and unnecessary carnage inflicted over three decades could never have hijacked the issue of civil rights as a pretext to justify their despicable and unjustifiable campaign of terror.

Thousands of lives were lost as was the opportunity for a united approach to tackling the social injustices of our society.

NICRA won many reforms but the fundamental change required to bring about real equality has yet to be realised.

That can only come with the creation of a new future, based on a united working class, a bill of rights that rejects sectarianism and racism and that builds a democratic, secular and socialist society.

The commemorative plaque is located at Donegall Street Place off Lr. Donegal Street in Belfast city centre

Picture: Professor Patrick Murphy and Deirdre O’Doherty unveil the commemorative plaque at Commercial Court, Donegall Street, Belfast. Looking on is Marian Donnelly, former President of the Workers Party and Secretary of the South Derry Civil Rights Association in the late 1960s

50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the deaths of 13 people at a civil rights march in Derry.

The events of that day are now well known. 13 people were murdered in cold blood by members of the Parachute Regiment, a 14th person died later from his injuries. Many were wounded and others arrested. This was a brutal military effort to repress a peaceful campaign for civil and democratic rights.

It was no accident. It was planned and deliberate. The government could deal with violence but it could not countenance peaceful and united mass democratic action. 

50 years on the Workers Party remembers the massacre at Derry and all those innocent people who were murdered and injured. They have waited a long time for justice but their names will stand as a memorial to the struggle for civil and democratic rights.

Marian Donnelly, a Workers Party stalwart and veteran of the civil rights movement, who was present at the Derry march that terrible day, believes that the struggle for civil rights was a mass struggle and that its legacy continues in those whose ongoing fight for social progress and peace is based on the unity of the working class, free from the taint of sectarianism and confident in their own future.  That remains the political goal of our times.

Our thoughts today are with the families and friends of those who were murdered and with all those across the world who continue to struggle for civil and democratic rights.

The background and the context to Bloody Sunday:

Support & Solidarity with Hostel Residents and Staff

Workers Party members have this evening joined with staff at the only, women-only, homeless hostel, Regina Coeli, in west Belfast in support and solidarity with them and the hostels residents.

Members of the UNITE union are now in the second week of a ‘work-in’ as they take a stand against the hostel’s proposed closure.

Party members presented a letter of support and solidarity to the residents and staff which expressed the widespread outrage that a hostel for homeless women, that has been serving the community for almost 90 years, is now on the verge of collapse.

The letter also said that it was an affront to people from Belfast and beyond that MLAs representing the parties of government would turn up to protest the imminent closure but have done nothing to ensure its future.

The immediate goal must be to keep the hostel open and in support of that our members have signed and circulated the UNITE the Union petition. (see link below)

The Workers Party has also contacted the Minister for Communities demanding immediate intervention and long-term financial support.

Sign the Petition

Period Products – Just Do It!

The Stormont Executive seems determined to add to the pressures and the indignity already experienced by thousands of women and girls here every month.

Instead of progressing proposals to provide free period products in schools, colleges, universities and other public places government departments are fighting amongst themselves over who should be responsible for it.

Recent research found that more than a quarter of puplis here have had difficulty getting period products, while about one in 12 said they had missed school because they did not have any. Another survey revealed that almost half of 12 to 19-year-olds have struggled to afford period products.

Dysfunctional government

The inability, or the reluctance, to take decisions which benefit people’s quality of life has become a hallmark of the Stormont Executive. The government parties hold on power and re-enforcing their tribal and sectarian camps has always been prioritised over progressive legislation.

The Scottish Executive introduced a free period products scheme almost two years ago. Schools in England have been providing free period products since early 2020. Even Lidl supermarkets in the Republic of Ireland are providing free period products – but the NI Executive, despite committing to making products available in all schools, is still finding excuses for not implementing the scheme

Period poverty – do they really care?

The costs of tampons, pads and towels can be prohibitive for many women and young girls. It is estimated that 10% of school girls are unable to afford sanitary products and that around 14% have to regularly borrow from a friend. A further 10% say they have to improvise sanitary wear. As a result, their education is disrupted, school days are missed and they have to suffer the indignity and lack of wellbeing that results.

It is long passed time that stigma surrounding menstruation was dispelled. Long past time that women and girls have to suffer the indignation and stress of period poverty and the effects it has n their lives.

It is long past time for the legislation to be in place. Just do it!

Sham environmental strategy means more of the same

The Workers Party has heavily criticised the Northern Ireland Executive’s draft environmental strategy document, condemning its ‘business as usual’ approach – which completely ignores the fact that it is ‘business as usual‘ that has brought about the crisis in the first place.

The continuation of business as usual will lead to the continued destruction of the global environment now and for decades to come, the Party’s submission to the consultation document argues.

The very people who are making these proposals to save 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.

This global, and human created, crisis is a direct product of capitalism, the multi-national organisations and the corporate tycoons.

The Executive’s draft strategy doesn’t just gloss over that fact – it completely ignores it.

Capitalism has always sought to make workers pay for the consequences of its actions and distract from its culpability

This draft environmental strategy follows that line slavishly and without question.

The Capitalist system is based on over production and continuous growth. To do this requires the relentless consumption of fossil fuels, resulting in growing emissions of greenhouse gases.  That in turn brings the environmental crisis we now face.

Everyone who is genuinely concerned about the current and future environment must look beyond the Executive’s ‘business as usual’ sham strategy, look beyond the attempts to put all the responsibility onto individuals and their life styles, and instead focus on the need for a fundamental social change to production for need rather than for profit.

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

Only a socialist government, free from the distortions of the market, which prioritises the needs of people and environments, can lead to real environmental sustainability.

Violence against women: serious questions need to be addressed

The brutal murder of Offaly schoolteacher Aishling Murphy has devastated a family and sent shock waves through the local community and beyond.

It also raises serious questions about, and brings into sharp focus, the levels and nature of violence against women on this island

In the past year seven women were murdered in the Republic of Ireland. During the same period in Northern Ireland nine women were killed.

The patterns are horrifyingly similar. Over 60% of the victims were murdered in their own home. Well over half were killed by a current or former partner.

Updated, strengthened and robust legislation to protect women from violence and the threat of violence is urgently need in both jurisdictions

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.

Fuel Rip Off

The energy sector must be taken into public ownership

On a pro rata basis, motorists in Northern Ireland are estimated to have been overcharged by more than £4.5 million pounds last month.

Despite the wholesale price of petrol dropping significantly, petrol retailers failed to pass that on at the pumps – ensuring a staggering level of profiteering.

Petrol is not the only energy source affected. The costs of gas, electricity, and home heating oil are also inflated by the privately owned companies which control the vast majority of the earth’s natural resources. 

It is time to tackle the myth that the market and “consumer choice” can provide a solution.

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.

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

Recent research shows growing support for the public ownership and control of energy supplies, as well as a range of other aspects of public life including transport, roads, education, banks, prisons, air traffic control and, of course, health and social care.

The public ownership and control of our key utilities and public services is not just a question of saving money on filling up the car. It goes to the very core of the type of society we have, its priorities and its principles.

Tinkering with the system is no solution.

These resources must be brought under public control and developed by a socialist economy. There can be no compromises, there are no alternatives.

Sign the petion against Tony Blair’s Knighthood

Tony Blair has been awarded the highest form of knighthood by the archaic and elitist Honours system

This is the man who was heavily criticised by the Chilcott Inquiy into the Iraq war, the man who joined with George Bush in the invasion of Iraq without international legality and with manufactured claims of weapons of mass destruction.

Well over 1 million Iraqis died as a result.

He also launched military strikes in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan .Thousands more died as a direct result.

Tony Blair should be facing a war crimes court not being rewarded for the damage he has caused, the misery he has inflicted and the lives he has cost.

Sign, and share, the online petition to have his Knighthood rescinded