Northern Ireland Protocol: incompetence and hypocrisy

Tuesday’s announcement of proposed changes to the existing EU Protocol reek of both hypocrisy and incompetence.

Many will ask why these relatively straightforward solutions – like a Green Lane and a Red Lane – have taken so long to get to the negotiating table.

Others will question the gross incompetence of the Tory government in its drafting and acceptance of the Protocol Bill in the first place. Yet more will point to the hypocrisy of the Irish Government, Sinn Fein and the SDLP for their aggressive defence and unconditional insistence on its full implementation when they knew all along that it was flawed and problematic.

The changes to the Protocol will take time. The changes can be made and they can wait for the amendments to take their course.

What cannot wait is the need for a fully functioning Assembly and Executive to start addressing the real and growing problems facing working people and their families, the cost of living, NHS wating lists, the shortage of public housing, low pay, integrated education, a Bill of Rights and the absence of accessible affordable childcare.

The Democratic Unionist Party must now return to Stormont, appoint a Speaker, nominate a Deputy First Minister and bring to an end, the current phase of, this dysfunctional government.

Amnesty proposals disregard the needs of victims

Irrespective of how it is dressed up, what conditions are attached or how often the British government says it – an amnesty for those responsible for murder and other serious crimes during the ‘Troubles’ will never be acceptable.

Any attempts to bypass and forgo full judicial scrutiny of legacy murders and other serious crimes of the Troubles are designed to cover up and excuse the excesses of state and terrorist actions.

Such proposals totally disregard the needs of victims, survivors and their families.

Whatever process is finally adopted it cannot and must not provide an escape route for murder irrespective of those responsible.

There is an alternative to the politics of austerity

Far from addressing the cost-of-living crisis, Tory proposals to cut 91,000 jobs in the civil service will worsen the situation.

Workers, including key workers and those occupying frontline roles, are likely to be targeted. Many of those who risked their lives during the pandemic are now facing a loss of their jobs. 

Public services, already under pressure, will be adversely affected with longer waiting lists for passports and driving licences. This proposal is connected with the earlier announcement that various agencies such as the DVLA would be considered for closure or privatisation.

This is a further attack by capital and its representatives on the working class, a mechanism to weaken the public sector and to further the privatisation agenda – an attempt by capital to consolidate class power. It also reopresents continuing confrontation with the trade unions seeking to protect the livelihood of their members.

The continuing erosion of workers’ pay and conditions, cuts to essential services, privatisation, the proposed reduction of taxation on income and an increasing number of direct charges imposed on those least able to pay is all the current social order has to offer.

As we made clear our recent Election Manifesto there is another way.

There is an alternative to the politics of austerity. It is an immediate programme of progressive, publicly funded investment in the public sector and the replacement of the current noxious social system by a new, centrally planned, socialist society as the only way to a better future.

No Executive – No Salaries

The Democratic Unionist Party has an obligation and a responsibility to the electorate to immediately propose an Assembly Speaker, take their seats and nominate a Deputy First Minister. Nothing less is acceptable.

The Northern Ireland Protocol needs to be amended. Many of its aspects are damaging and unnecessary, but walking away from the Executive is not the answer.

We witnessed the pattern of ‘stop/start’ government throughout the last Assembly and now, yet again, the Executive has been collapsed.

The structures of government set out in the Good Friday Agreement may be understandable in the context of the time when agreement was reached, but they are no longer fit for purpose – in part due to the ways in which these structures and mechanisms have been abused.

To secure the ability of the Assembly to function, to hold parties to account and to ensure that neither the DUP nor Sinn Fein are ever able to collapse the institutions in future, we need, as a minimum,  to move from mandatory to voluntary coalition, abolish the  community designation requirements and  reform the Petition of Concern to ensure that it can never again be used to veto social or equality legislation.

In the meantime, those MLAs who are preventing the Assembly from functioning by frustrating the election of a new Speaker and blocking the formation of an Executive should have their salaries withheld until they return to government.


No Executive – No Salaries

If DUP MLAs do not take their seats , nominate a Deputy First Minister and allow the Executive to function then they shoud not receive their salaries until they do

Sign the Petition

Joint letter spells out the harsh realities

The Workers Party’s six Assembly candidates have written a joint letter to the editors of Northern Ireland’s three daily newspapers questioning how the election results will change, for the better, the lives of working class people, the young, the old and the vulnerable.

Dear Editor,

The major parties and most of the media have hailed the outcome of the Assembly elections as one of major change. How have they come to that conclusion?

Exactly the same parties that were elected the last time have been returned this time. The same parties that, when they weren’t collapsing the Executive, were responsible for growing waiting lists, a lack of public housing, economic stagnation and pay cuts to public sector workers.

Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O’Neill even went as far as claiming that the election results were “…  a defining moment for our politics and for our people. Really?

Throughout the election campaign we made the point that, when the polls closed, the priorities for working class people would remain the cost of living, health, education and low pay. That certainly hasn’t changed.

Given the re-election of the same parties, and in most cases the same people, there seems little chance that it will.

The hype, the self-congratulations and the media circus will fade and the realities of the outcome will kick in. Twenty-four years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement we still have no Bill of Rights, we continue to educate our children separately, we have developed a low wage, part time, zero hours economy, our public services are run down, underfunded and fragmented and we are living with a mental health crisis.

The task of socialists and progressives must to continue to present the alternatives, stay on the backs of the new Executive, if one is ever formed, and hold them to account at every turn.

Eoin MacNeill, Nicola Grant, Hugh Scullion, Patrick Lynn, Patrick Crossan and Lily Kerr

It May Look Different, but it’s Same Old, Same Old

The media and the Big 5 parties have trailed this election as the most significant one in over twenty years. But what has really changed?

Workers Party candidates said consistently throughout the election campaign that the morning after polling day the big issues would remain, the cost of living, health, education, low pay and the environment. Nothing has changed that.

Beyond the rhetoric and the social media hype only the names on the doors have altered.

Thousands of working- class people voted in their droves for parties that do not, will not and cannot represent their interests.

Partly, that is because politics here has moved from a culture of representation and accountability to a big business circus replacing substance with glitz and glamour. That scenario has been re-enforced and replicated by sections of the media which treat politics here as a cross between a game show and a beauty contest.

The winners, once again, are the professional political classes, their media acolytes and the economic system they serve.

“The names on the doors have changed. Nothing else“.

The losers, once again, are working class people, public services, the young the old and the vulnerable. In that sense too, nothing has changed

The task of socialists, those on the left and other progressives is to present a coherent and class-based programme to challenge and counter the privatisation, low pay, zero hours and free market agenda of the big five parties.

It must remain our task to defend and to protect working class people,to speak out for their interests, to present and deliver the socialist alternative and to radically change this society and social system. That hasn’t change either.

Assembly Needs Major Reform

Later today the votes will be counted and the election results declared: but that doesn’t mean that we’ll have a working Assembly.

In the past four years we have seen the Executive collapsed twice, once by Sinn Fein for a period of three years and a few months ago by the DUP.

The structures established by the Good Friday Agreement have long since reached their sell by date. They are no longer fit for purpose and now stand in the way of effective develoved government.

The Assembly structures urgently need root and branch reform.

The starting point has to be getting rid of the sectarian and inoperable structures that the two main parties in particular continue to use, abuse and hide behind.

At a minimum, we need to move from mandatory to voluntary coalition, community designation requirements should be abolished and the Petition of Concern reformed to ensure that it can never again be used to veto social or equality legislation.

We cannot endure another five years of stop / start government. Immediate and far reaching reform is the only way in which a new Assembly can function effectively.

Make changes tomorrow…Friday will be too late

In a joint eve of poll statement, Workers Party candidates in six constituencies have urged voters to focus on what is important to them, not what the main parties try to tell them is important.

“When we all wake up on Friday morning the issues that will be affecting our lives won’t be a Border Poll, the Protocol, Flags, Culture Wars or who the First Minister is.

It will be the Cost of Living, the Health Service, Housing, Education, Low Pay and the Environment.”, they said.

“What difference will it make to a family facing a daily dilemma of heat or eat, who the First Minster is?

What difference will it make to people living in chronic poverty, poor housing, or even no housing?

What difference will it make to young mothers desperately wanting to work but not being able to find or afford child care?”, they asked.

What difference will a Border Poll make – win, lose or draw –  to a young student unable to go to university, a teenager unable to secure an apprenticeship or a family with no heat and little food? Absolutely none”, they said

“Thursday is the day that change can be made. Friday will be too late. 

Only the Workers Party offers the socialist alternative to dysfunctional government, sectarianism and self interest and offers real hope for radical change in this society.”, they said 

The Workers Party is running candidates in six constituencies :

Belfast North          Lily Kerr

Belfast South          Patrick Lynn

Belfast East            Eoin Mac Neill

Belfast West           Patrick Crossan

Mid Ulster               Hugh Scullion

Newry & Armagh    Nicola Grant