‘Putting Class Back Into Politics’

‘Never has class politics been more important, more relevant or more necessary– the Workers Party annual Northern Ireland Conference has heard.

Speakers addressing a range of issues including Homelessness, Childcare, Education, the Restoration of Devolved Government, Healthcare, the Cost of Living Crisis, and Citizenship, focussed on how class impacts these and the effects that has on working people and their families


Representatives of the three largest Unions in Northern Ireland, NIPSA, UNITE and UNISON also participated in the conference.

UNISON Branch Secretary Conor McCarthy delivered an address on the current industrial action in the NHS, safe staffing levels and fairer pay awards.

NIPSA General Secretary Carmel Gates and Kevin McAdam Regional Officer of UNITE formed part of the panel discussing ’25 Years of the Good Friday Agreement’ where they were joined by Professor Liam Kennedy of Queens University, Belfast, Dawn Purvis, former MLA and previously leader of the Progressive Unionist Party, and John Lowry of the Workers Party.

Contributions from panel members, and comments from the floor, highlighted of the Agreement’s fundamental flaws which have resulted in the institutionalisation of sectarianism and the affirmation of the ‘two communities’ model, along with the failure of many of those charged with implementing the Good Friday / Belfast Agreement to deliver for working class people.

Photo Caption: (left to right) Kevin McAdam (Regional Officer UNITE), Dawn Purvis former MLA and previously leader of the Progressive Unionist Party), Gerry Grainger (Workers Party and Discussion Chair), John Lowry ( former General Secretary of the Workers Party), Carmel Gates( NIPSA General Secretary) and Professor Emeritus Liam Kennedy (Queen’s Universty Belfast).

The Conference in Quotes

“Reforming the structures of the Good Friday Agreement should be a priority – it can be done”, Liam Kennedy, QUB

“The Good Friday Agreement gave us the chance to shape the type of society we live in, yet interface areas are marked by the worst health, the least opportunities and even more ‘peace walls,’ Dawn Purvis

“The GFA requires a serious overhaul, major surgery. Part of that must be introducing Voluntary Coalition and the formation of an official Opposition”, Kevin McAdam

“We never expected the Good Friday Agreement to deliver the kind of social change we need and it hasn’t. That is a task for every one of us in the Workers Party,” John Lowry

The GFA was not intended to change society for working people in the way that we envisage that. Only revolutionary socialism can deliver that”, Carmel Gates.


“Many of the agencies and individuals involved in homelessness issues are desperately keen to make progress and tackle the immediate problems. Current structures are not helping.  Each council should appoint a lead officer on homelessness and agencies should develop common standards to ensure compassion and understanding”. Trevor Taylor


Student fees and expensive loans continue to plague higher education, and limit the options available especially to working-class children. Critical thinking as encouraged by the humanities are under sustained attack by a Tory government. There is a clear political agenda here, to reduce the ability of citizens to critique capitalism and its flaws”. Oisin Scullion


Early childhood is a key period for brain development. During the early years of life, and especially in the first 1000 days, a child’s brain develops rapidly. What happens in the early years, matters for a lifetime.

If women are to achieve equality in the workplace, then child care must be a priority”, Ursula Meighan


If it were to become a force in society, the concept of socialist citizenship, based on class politics, working class unity and solidarity, would help to re-define our relationships and responsibilities to each other and to the institutions of government through clear and guarantee relationships underpinned by a Bill of Rights,” Justin O’Hagan

Cost of Living

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. Only a socialist government and a socialist economy can begin to reverse the misery and degradation being heaped upon working people”, Joanne Lowry.

Health and Social Care

One of the major causes of problems in Primary Care is that GPs are independent contractors and are not employed by directly by the NHS. The majority of domiciliary and residential care has been privatised turning the most vulnerable in our society into commodities to be bought and sold”, Lily Kerr

Devolved Government

Restoring the Executive and the Assembly will not automatically solve hospital waiting lists, the chronic shortage of public housing let alone deliver on key objectives like Integrated Education and a Bill of Rights”, John Lowry

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