Health tsunami warning

A warning of a pending health tsunami has come from Workers Party representative in Newry and Armagh, Nicola Grant.

The link between poverty, stress and ill health are well documented”, Nicola said

“Newry and Armagh already has the seventh highest number of deaths from circulatory disease There can be no doubt that low pay, precarious employment and rising prices will contribute significantly to those figures. I am seriously concerned about the impact this will have on local people and on our health and care services”, she said.

“In addition to the physical effects, low pay, unemployment and poverty can devastate people’s mental health and wellbeing. We could be facing a devastating and deadly health crisis, placing even more pressure on our already under resourced health and care services”, Nicola warned.

“This can be prevented with investment in secure, well-paid employment, training opportunities, adequate and affordable childcare and the immediate announcement of an energy and fuel allowance scheme”, she said.

“We cannot continue to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that the spiralling cost of living, low wage economy and lack of investment in public services are without consequence”, Nicola warned

Complete fracking and drilling ban call

The prospect of a complete ban on on-shore drilling for oil and gas has been welcomed by Workers Party representative in Lagan Valley, Patrick Crossan, but he has also warned against complacency.

“The possibility of legislation which would put us on a par with the rest of these islands is good news but a much more comprehensive approach is needed if we are to secure our environment and the health of the community”, he said  

“There are too many loopholes and get-out clauses in the current bill”, Patrick warned. “Only a complete and comprehensive ban on fracking and on shore oil and gas drilling will do”

We have already seen the potentially disastrous use of chemical cocktails in drilling operations here and one of the pending applications takes in areas around Lough Neagh which supplies 40% of our drinking water”. Patrick said

Homeless health help welcomed

Plans to provide an extended health safety net for local homeless people has been welcomed by the Workers Party’s South Belfast representative, Patrick Lynn.

Health checks and ongoing support are extremely important for everting, and particularly for those who are homeless. The average life expectancy of people sleeping rough is thought to be around 43 years.

That is an appalling indictment of the society we live in and the priorities it has. Initiatives like this, and the tireless work of groups like the Welcome Organisation, are always to be supported.

However, only the public provision of affordable housing and meaningful strategies to address and overcome homelessness can stem this tide and offer dignity, security and a quality of life to all.

Sinn Fein’s appalling record

Sinn Fein’s record of representation in West Belfast is nothing short of appalling and an affront to the people of west Belfast, local Workers Party representative Conor Duffy has said. .

“The story has been one of rising unemployment, an increasing reliance on benefits and food banks, escalating levels of poverty and low-income”, Conor said

This is how West Belfast has fared under three decades of Sinn Fein representation:

  • 43% of children in West Belfast are growing up in poverty
  • Local unemployment levels are running at almost 8%
  • Only 6% of Invest NI funding has come to West Belfast in the past three years
  • Nearly half of all local people over 16 are dependent of at least one form of benefit
  • A lower number of pupils from West Belfast, than elsewhere, go on to further education”

“Sinn Fein will say that West Belfast has suffered years of neglect and a lack of investment. What they avoid saying is that it’s happened on their watch”., Conor said

“It couldn’t be any clearer that working class people – employed, unemployed, young people and pensioners – need a Workers Party, committed to defending their interests”. he concluded.

Cost of living crisis – it’s a rip off!

‘Heat or Eat’ isn’t a slogan, it’s the grim and stark reality facing thousands of local families, says Workers Party representative in South Belfast, Patrick Lynn

“We are facing one of the worst cost of living crisis in recent memory, one that will have long term and very serious implications for health and wellbeing. Yet, against that background comes the news that the six big energy companies made a combined profit of more than £600 million and that was before the recent increases in bills”, he said.

“Any economic system that imposes crippling and unbearable financial burdens on ordinary working-class people and uncaringly sees them go to the wall while pricing basic necessities beyond their reach must be challenged and overturned”, said Patrick.

“We have to ask ourselves why we tolerate this. Why do we meekly accept our lot as if it was inevitable and unavoidable?”, he asked.

“All the main political parties support and perpetuate this ‘free market’ free for all. They have no intention of facing up to the multi-national energy companies because they play an important role on their behalf.

We are constantly drip fed the myth that these are ‘international matters’ that no one has any control over – they just happen and, while its regrettable, we can’t do anything about it. Wrong. We can”. Patrick argued.

“Immediately, the Westminster government should impose an emergency tax demand on the energy companies and regulate energy prices. The Stormont Assembly, if it was currently functioning, should fund an energy crisis payment programme”.

“If we are to break free of this economic stranglehold, and all the misery, hardship and poverty it imposes, then the answers lie in bringing energy resources from private ownership into public control and the establishment of a socialist economy. There can be no compromises, there are no alternatives”, Patrick concluded.

Gambling Bill a Bad Bet

“Plans to change local gambling laws will only add to the current misery caused by betting addictions”, says Conor Duffy, Workers West Belfast representative.

Proposals brought before the Assembly would extend the opening hours of bookies’ shops and provide no body to regulate the local industry.

“Research on gambling addiction has found that Northern Ireland ranks third highest amongst the top twelve countries, worldwide. The level of gambling problem here is twice as high as it is in Wales, three time higher than in Scotland and more than four times higher than in England”, Conor revealed.

“These are not just cold statistics – these are the stories of people lives, and regrettably, in a number of cases their deaths as gambling problems can, and do, lead to people taking their own lives”, he said.

“We are constantly bombarded with television, radio and online advertising from betting companies.  Many sporting teams and events are sponsored by betting companies. Internet betting has made gambling more accessible, more tempting and available around the clock.”, Conor added

“We need to urgently review our gambling culture and the consequences it can have. Millions of pounds in profit for betting companies can mean misery, and worse, for individuals and families”, he urged.

Further loosening the regulations around betting shops and gambling is not the way forward”, Conor concluded.

Collapsed Executive: neither positive nor progressive

The DUP’s collapsing of the Executive is neither a positive nor a progressive move.

Neither is the hand wringing of other parties about the work which cannot now be completed. It  rings very hollow given the Executive’s  appalling record of underachievement.

This level of political brinksmanship has never been occasioned by the scandalous levels of child poverty in our society, It has not been sought as a solution to hospital waiting llists, fuel  poverty, rising energy prices, homelessness, low pay or the rising reliance on food banks. 

Not only must the First Minister resume his responsibilities immediately, but the collective Executive should start delivering for the ordinary people that they have so readily abandoned.

The issues around the Protocol must be addressed, but this is not the way to do it

Health services must be accessible

“Local healthcare should always be safe, of the highest quality and be professionally delivered – but it must also be accessible”, says Workers Party representative in Newry / Armagh, Nicola Grant.  

“There is considerable public concern over the announcement that emergency surgery will no longer be performed at Daisy Hill Hospital”, she said  

“We have heard promises of ‘temporary’ changes before and they have nearly always proven to be permanent. That cannot be allowed to happen this time. Every time there is a reduction in service there is an automatic suspicion that it forms part of the privatisation agenda”, Nicola said.

“It looks like the Southern Trust thinks it can use an administrative solution to address a very human problem”.  

“This ‘temporary ‘arrangement and any subsequent reconfiguration of services will mean local patients requiring urgent surgery could face a journey of over an hour to Craigavon”, Nicola added.  

“I have been in contact the Southern Trust calling on them to review and reverse their decision and to bring forward proposals for securing emergency surgery at Daisy Hill”, Nicola concluded.