Austerity, Concessionary Travel and Spreadsheet Economics

After more than a decade of imposed austerity, we have become far too accepting of the latest round of measures – ‘cuts in public spending’, ‘withdrawal of social programmes’, ‘living within our means’ and ‘tightening our belts’.

We have also been conditioned not to question the austerity agenda, to believe that it is a natural phenomenon – that we are all in this together and that we must knuckle down and live with the consequences.

From 2008 onwards we were not subjected to draconian austerity measures because too much had been spent on public services, because the welfare budget had been too generous or because we had overspent on health, education or housing programmes.  It was as the direct result of bailing out, recapitalising, and adding liquidity to a broken banking system.

Through these actions private debt was rechristened as government debt while those responsible for generating it walked away scot free, placing the blame on the state, and the burden on the taxpayer.

Cutting budgets, withdrawing funding and placing even more financial burdens on working people are all political decisions designed to secure the capitalist economy and re-affirm the relationship between those who produce the wealth and those who control it.

In the absence of a functioning Executive at Stormont, civil servants here have been setting a budget, announcing unprecedented cuts to public services, mental health and social welfare schemes and community projects. Would it really have been any different if the Executive was up and running?

Amongst the austerity measures are proposals to radically change or withdraw concessionary travel passes. Charges for medical prescriptions will surely follow and water charges can’t be far behind.

It would be naïve in the extreme to believe that any of these measures have not been in draft waiting for the opportunity to force them through.

The political philosophy that sustains this type of austerity agenda is fundamentally opposed to the state having any control over or input into our basic utilities.

The State should have an absolute responsibility to provide housing, health and education, energy, water, transport, and social necessities such as internet access for all.

The current proposals on concessionary travel are not an economic issue, they are a social statement about the type of society that capitalist economics demands: everything is for sale, everything is an opportunity for profit. Social cohesion, wellbeing, physical and mental health and the concept of society are secondary considerations, if they figure at all.

The manner in which the main stream media has approached the concessionary fares question makes it all too easy for those pushing the agenda.

Not one major media outlet has seriously questioned why this debate has been started. They have not only accepted it, they have helped divert attention away from its motives by engineering smokescreen debates about means testing, shifting the discussion from government to individuals. “What would you cut instead”? is a popular distraction question.

The failure of the main stream media to interrogate the root causes and purposes of proposals like these, and the blind adherence to free market profiteering, have resulted in a two-pronged assault by ‘press release journalism’ and ‘spreadsheet economics’.

The distraction and deception continues with the dominating politics of nationalism, British and Irish, with their razzle dazzle rhetoric, flags, cultural crusades and ‘jam tomorrow’ promises.

The continuing, and forced, segregation of our children’s education costs in excess of £600,000 per day. Well over £200 million each and every year.  

A conservative estimate on the price of keeping our 100 plus ‘peace walls’ would be around £2 billion annually. To that we can add the associated costs of running and maintaining ‘two communities’ and parallel societies. Factor in a morally and economically justifiable increase in Corporation Tax and all of a sudden our economic future takes on a different complexion.

For as long as nationalisms dominate the political debate, journalists consume what they’re fed and capitalist economics dictate the shape, content and direction of our lives, then potential will go unfulfilled, opportunities will be denied, and the cynical and deadly division of working people and the denial of their interests will triumph.

For those who hold a different world view, those on the Left, the agenda and the programme couldn’t be clearer, nor the responsibility to pursue that alternative more pressing. History will have an unsympathetic view if every opportunity to stem that tide and establish an alternative socialist society is not planned for, pursued and taken.

#austerity #concessionary travel

Francie Donnelly


Extracts from the eulogy for the late Francie Donnelly, delivered by the Chair of the Northern Ireland Region of the Workers Party, Gerry Grainger.

Today is a sad day. It is a sad day for Marian, Francie’s wife and lifelong comrade; for his childen, for his grandchildren and wider family and friends. Their loss, on the passing of this remarkable man,. is immense and immeasurable. 

He was a man who was deeply committed to the struggle for peace, justice and equality and he was not afraid, even in the darkest and most dangerous days of our history, to make a stand for what he believed. 

Francie was an activist for civil rights, in fact, he was the first Chairman of the Civil Rights Movement in South Derry. He also met Marian through their joint involvement in the civil rights movement – a moment which brought together two people who were to spend their lives committed to the fight for peace, democracy and class politics.

The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) set out to reform and democratise Northern Ireland and in doing so its programme was also revolutionary in that it would fundamentally change the nature of the state. It faced many obstcales including state oppression and violent reactionary opposition on the streets.

Among the many successes of the civil rights movement were the establishment of the Housing Executive and the fair allocation of public housing, universal franchise 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 unnecessary campaign of violence.

Every time you spoke to Francie, there were always two topics to the forefront of his mind, the need to confront sectarianism and the demand for a Bill of Rights. Throughout his life he maintained a vision for a future free from the poison of sectarianism which divided, and continues to divide, our people.

Francie was not one to hide his strongly held beliefs. Courageously, he represented the Republican Clubs and the Workers Party in many elections for over 30 years representing the Party on Magherafelt District Council. He won respect from many across the community, including those who disagreed with him.

Francie was a committed socialist and he was committed to the principles of internationalism. He and Marian travelled to Cuba for May Day in 2009 to celebrate the anniversary of the Cuban Revolution.

Francie Donnelly was a remarkable man. It is not a word he would have used to describe himself but it is a fitting description nonetheless. Francie was a modest and gracious man but for us, his comrades, he was a giant and an inspiration.  That is demonstrated by the many messages of condolence from across the island and abroad.

His words of advice, his analysis of political events, his unstinting opposition to sectarianism and his steadfast dedication to the class politics and ideology of the Workers Party will be sorely missed. Francie understood the fundamental importance of political ideas, of the centrality of class politics and the necessity for a radical transformation of the political, social and economic system in which we live.

A dedicated political activist to the very end, he was a stalwart of the Party in South Derry and beyond. Francie Donnelly believed that workers unity was fundamental to building a socialist society. He will always be remembered by his comrades and friends in the Workers Party.

Polls Apart

The winners in last week’s elections were our own local nationalisms – British and Irish. The already tight grip they collectively hold on political power was strengthened even further by an overwhelming majority of voters.

Well over 50% of first preference votes went to either Sinn Fein or the DUP. Smaller nationalist parties like the TUV and Aontu were also endorsed by the electorate.

The losers are anybody and everybody who wants an end to sectarian division, segregated education, segregated housing and tribal politics. Anybody and everybody who wants secure well-paid employment, an end to the culture of zero hours contracts, a low wage economy and an absence of affordable, flexible childcare.

In fact, anybody and everyone who wants a progressive, caring and supportive society can say goodbye to the possibility of movement on any of those fronts.

Class Politics

Nationalism, British or Irish, is not about any of these things. It is about division, difference, belligerence and tribalism. It is also about capitalist economics. That is why we are a Workers Party, that is why our politics and our programme are class based. That is why we refuse to roll over and submerge ourselves in sectarian populism.

Make no mistake, nationalism, both British and Irish, is a political poison that stands in the way of uniting working people here, just as it divides workers across the globe.

 Nationalism is not only a backward political philosophy: it is a toxic one. It seeks to divide and exploit difference. It is a political cancer that deliberately subverts working class unity and the struggle for socialism. We must strive at every turn to combat this toxic ideology, and never give an inch in our relentless struggle against it. We have seen time and again where it leads.

Trade Unions

It is hard to reconcile the actions of the thousands of trade unionists, workers, their families and friends who have taken to the picket lines, marches and rallies in recent months in defence of public services, jobs, better conditions, better pay and a better society, with the outcome of the local elections.

The left urgently needs to re-analyse and re-orientate itself to face down this growing political cancer and its consequences.

The trade union movement needs to ask itself if it is a vehicle for protest or a vehicle for change. We all need to ask how the power, the dynamism and the class consciousness of working people, so clearly demonstrated in recent times, can become a catalyst for positive change and a bulwark against the most reactionary and divisive elements of our society.

It is not a task that can wait.

Our Votes Send a Message too!

The major political parties are urging the electorate to use their vote next Thursday to ‘send a message’.

Depending on the party, it will be a different target, but the same message.  All their messages and all their energies are directed at their direct political opponents. It’s easy to summarise: ‘Vote for us to stop them winning’.


The Workers Party wants to send a message this Thursday too. It’s a message to all those parties who have presided over child poverty, lengthening hospital waiting lists, underfunded and under resourced community care, an absence of accessible flexible child care, a lack of affordable public housing, segregated education, a divided working class, zero hours contracts, low paid part-time jobs, run down and privatised public services, a crisis in mental health provision, inadequate public transport and a lack of jobs, hope or prospects.

And our message is clear and easy to understand. The major parties haven’t failed to tackle these problems – they simply haven’t tried!


Flags, culture wars and division is all they have offered because that is all it takes to keep working people divided, to foster the divisive narrative of two communities and to secure their own futures for another term in office.

At a time when we should be moving forward together, at a time when we need to demonstrate strength and solidarity we have gone backwards. We have been dragged backwards.

British and Irish nationalism, represented mainly, but not exclusively by Sinn Fein and the DUP, see flags, community identity, language and symbolism as more important that the lives and prospects of working-class people. We are not in that camp.

A Party of Class

We are a Party of Class. Unapologetically, a Party of Class seeking the radical transformation of society and of our economic and social systems.  We have all been dragged down nationalism’s political cul-de-sac.  Now, it’s time we put Class back into politics. Now it’s time to deliver on Health, Housing, Education, Childcare and all the other priorities for working people.

Only the Workers Party can promise that, and we are committed to helping people to realise their full potential and secure a better quality of life for working people and their families.

An appetite and a desire for Class politics

As candidates and Party members continue to leaflet and canvas their respective constituencies, one thing becomes clearer by the day: now more than ever there is an appetite and a desire to see class politics consign the sectarian agendas of the major parties to the dustbin of history.

We are going to the polls in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, energy and other household bills are soaring out of control, our public services, including the NHS, are being cut back and privatised, and thousands of nurses, teachers, lecturers, council staff, civil servants, road workers, postal staff and others have been forced into taking industrial action to protect services and secure a decent wage.

That is why it is more important than ever that people vote for candidates that are prepared to make all those issues their priorities.  

That is why we must put the class back into local politics.

May Day 2023: Solidarity ,Resolve and Determination

Workers Party members joined with thousands of trade unionists at Saturday’s May Day March and Rally in Belfast city centre.

It was an impressive demonstration of solidarity, resolve and determination at a time when an economy based on greed and profit is forcing thousands of working people and their families in to poverty.

The message from today’s rally, addresed by RMT General Secrertary Mick Lynch, was loud and clear: working people will fight back – working people will win and only a socialist society can provide the equality, dignity and security they deserve.

Election Manifesto Launched

Working People need a Workers Party – manifesto puts Class back into politics

The Council elections on May 18th are set against a background of a decade of cuts to public services, economic hardship, precarious employment, the worst cost of living crisis in recent memory, thousands of workers forced into taking industrial action and, yet again, no Executive at Stormont.

We are lectured by Tory Ministers, right-wing think tanks and others on the need for even more cuts to services, further job losses and the need to impose charges for our water, pay for our prescriptions, charge for domiciliary care, withdraw free travel for the over-60s and hike up university tuition fees.

Targeted, penalised and punished

The old, the young, workers and the most vulnerable are once again targeted, penalised and punished while energy companies make obscene profits, the Stock Markets outperform themselves and the profits of multi-national corporations exceed even their own expectations.

And all the while the five largest parties here mouth platitudes, pledge their commitment to making things better, but do absolutely nothing. They point fingers in every direction but their own, they abdicate responsibility they pass the buck to Westminster, they blame Brexit – but they do absolutely nothing.

More than £600 billion in unpaid taxes and accounts in off shore tax havens is lost to the public purse.  The Trident submarine programme and its Dreadnought replacement will cost £40 billion.

Segregated Education

Much closer to home the cost of maintaining two separate, segregated education systems cost £226 million per year: something that is supported and sustained by both Sinn Fein and the DUP.

Yet, we are told we can’t afford universal Child Benefit, affordable and accessible childcare, a modern health service, decent pay for working people, quality public services and a university education for our young people.

These elections, like all elections, are about the type of society we live in the choices that are made, the priorities that are selected and how we value our elderly, our young people and the most vulnerable in our society

The Socialist Alternative

In council chambers, Parliament Buildings, the House of Commons or elsewhere, working people need a Workers Party to protect and advance their interests and to promote the message that socialism is the alternative. That is the business we are in. Those are the goals we have set ourselves.

Putting Class Back into Poliitcs: Workers Party Election Manifesto 2023

Candidates Quotes

Party candidates on the campaign trail this week have been addressing a range of issues from cuts to children’s services, health and care developments, poverty, the manipulation of young people, economic opportunities, public housing and industrial action.

Lily Kerr: Castle

Professor Taught a Lesson:The Ulster University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Paul Bartholomew, has been taken to task by Lily Kerr of the Workers Party for comments he made last week ahead of the visit by US President Joe Biden.


Patrick Crossan: Collin

‘Pat on the Back’ politics: Claims by Sinn Fein that their ‘council team has delivered’ for the Collin area, have been dismissed by the Workers Party’s Patrick Crossan in a stinging criticism of that party’s local record.


Tony Walls Court

Manipulating and Exploiting Young People:Efforts by community workers to disperse groups of young at Lanark Way and defuse recent tensions, have been welcomed by Tony Walls of the Workers Party.


Fiona McCarthy Oldpark

Short-sighted Cuts: Fiona McCarthy of the Workers Party has condemned yet further cuts to services for young children.


Ursula Meighan BlackMountain

Euros Opportunity:Ursula Meighan of the Workers Party has welcomed the news that Casement Park has been included in the joint bid to host the Euros in 2028.


Patrick Lynn Botanic

Markets Victory Welcomed: Patrick Lynn of the Workers Party has congratulated the Market Development Association on its hard won, long fought for victory in securing the Stewart Street site for public housing


Nicola Grant Newry

Progress on New Centre – a major step forward: Progress on the Newry Community Treatment and Care Centre has been welcomed by Nicola Grant of the Workers Party.

Move Over … it’s time for real change!

We have all lived through difficult and challenging times in recent years.

The cost of living, rising energy prices and political turmoil: a lot has been changing, but not everything.

Our commitment to a better, fairer life for all has remained constant over the years. That is a view shared by many.

That is why the Workers Party is standing candidates in these council elections.

Now, more than ever, socialists like us need to take a stand on behalf of working people in defence of our health, education and other public services and to fight for jobs, fair wages, housing, a healthier environment and a much, much better quality of life.

If, together, we don’t make that stand then who will? 

Not Sinn Fein, Not the DUP nor indeed any of the major parties.                                            Only a party for working  people, a Workers Party, can deliver on those goals.

The Workers Party is standing seven candidates:

Belfast Collin: (Patrick Crossan ) Newry: (Nicola Grant) Belfast Castle: (Lily Kerr) Belfast Botanic: (Patrick Lynn) Belfast Oldpark: (Fiona McCarthy) Belfast Black Mountain (Ursula Meighan) Belfast Court (Tony Walls)

Q: Got a Question or Need Advice?Email:

Biden Not Welcome Here

This week’s viist to Northern Ireland by US President Joe Biden is neither as significant nor as important as some people would have us believe – at least not for anyone here .

In fact, he will spend very little time in Northern Ireland – just one brief engagement.
The real purpose of his visit is to secure an Irish-American vote in US Presidential
elections and to glad hand a sycophantic Irish government and a fawning Irish media
in an attempt to draw the Irish state closer to US foreign policy and NATO.

The US, which Biden represents, is guilty of warmongering, exploitation and terror. It has at least three times as many overseas bases as all other countries combined and it has used these bases to launch wars and other combat operations against sovereign states. It also uses Shannon airport to further foreign intervention and war.

The US blockade against Cuba is the most enduring blockade in history and has cost the Cuban economy many billions of dollars. Every year the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly passes a resolution condemning the blockade, all ignored by the US. 

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.  Biden continues to tighten this cruel and criminal blockade and has outrageously refused to remove Cuba from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Biden continues support for the apartheid Israeli regime despite the fact that millions of people across the world are shocked and outraged at the brutal terror bombings, ethnic cleansing and communal violence being carried out by Israel against the Palestinian people. These crimes are committed using American armaments and funding.

The Biden administration approved the sale of $735 million worth of ‘smart’ bombs to Israel – the munitions which rained down on the population of Gaza. The United States has used its veto power many times to protect Israel from resolutions censuring its conduct in the United Nations Security Council.

For those, and a host of other reasons, BIden should not be made welcome here, or anywhere else.

Full statement here: