Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls

Workers Party representative Lily Kerr has told an all party workshop at Stormont that legislating against on-line abuse and holding social media companies to account is important, but that, on its own, it will not eradicate the problem of threats and attacks on women and girls.

“Misogyny is a societal problem and not confined to council chambers and seats of government”, Lily said .

“Of course we must condemn and counter abuse and attacks on public representatives but not at the expense of the thousands of women in society who are also daily subjected to abuse, discrimination, marginalisation, physical, financial and sexual abuse and murder”, she said.

“For many that could be an uncomfortable conversation but if we are serious about the abuse of women then it is one we need to have”, Lily added.

“The ruthlessness of zero hours contracts, the exploitative nature of much part time employment, the so called ‘glass ceiling’ and the continued marginalisation of women and girls and their exclusion from many aspects of political, social, economic and cultural life – is just as threatening, and should be met with the same outrage resolve, as online abuse and threats”, Lily added.

The #Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls workshop was organised by the Police Service of Northern Ireland in recognition of the growing levels of online abuse directed at female politicians and ahead of next May’s Local Government Elections .

Picture: Workers Party representatives Joanne Lowry (left) and Lily Kerr with Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton and Inspector Jane Brown.

Any New Assembly Will Still Need Major Reform

Health, education, transport, jobs, social policy, social care and the cost of living were all in turmoil before the Assembly was collapsed  – and they will remain in crisis if, pending a resolution of the Protocol problems, a new Executive is formed.

Sinn Fein and the DUP have failed to deliver on the expectations evident at the time of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement – not by mis-management, but by design.

Between them they have carved out and consolidated two sectarian power blocs.

There are many, including the supporters of both parties, who will not want to hear that. However, the evidence continues to stack up.

How else can the deliberate side-lining of integrated education and integrated housing be explained? Why is it that we have more walls dividing the community today than we had twenty five years ago? Why are the election strategies of both parties based on tribal confrontation? Why have cultural identity, tribal symbols and community background been given precedence over jobs, health and social progress?

The answer to all those questions is ‘because that’s how you build and maintain a sectarian power base’, and that is the strategy that Sinn Fein and the DUP continue to pursue.

The Good Friday Agreement was the only show in town at the time, but it was, and remains, fundamentally flawed because of the manner in which it structured the Assembly, and institutionalised sectarianism. Sinn Fein and the DUP have been exploiting that ever since.

If issues around the Protocol are resolved and the Assembly and the Executive restart, only major reform of the way it works will offer any chance of progress and the opportunity to pursue class politics.

The Assembly’s structures are no longer fit for purpose. Sinn Fein and the DUP have made sure of that. The starting point for effective devolved government 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.

A move from mandatory to voluntary coalition,

Abolition of the Community Designation requirements

Reform of the Petition of Concern to ensure that it can never again be used to veto social or equality legislation.

Then, and perhaps only then, can the sectarian power blocs be exposed and challenged and the Sinn Fein / DUP stranglehold begin to be loosened.

Of course, refusing to vote for them would work too!

Take Ferry Service Into Public Ownership

The collapse of the firm running the Rathlin Ferry Service proves, once again, that this, and other local ferry routes, should be  classed as public utilities and taken into public ownership.

To leave an essential service like this to the vagaries of the private sector is an outrage and today we have seen the consequences – islanders left isolated, supplies disrupted and travel to and from the island suspended.

The Rathlin Ferry service can and should be provided directly by the Department of Infrastructure in association with the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council. Then and only then will a service be guaranteed for islanders, tourists and traders.

An Emergency, but No Accident

Our health and social care systems are under severe pressure.

We see the evidence for this in the overcrowded A&E departments, patients lying on trollies in hospital corridors, ambulances unable to respond to emergencies and an acute shortage of community care packages to support people in their own homes.

We can see it in the overworked and underpaid staff trying desperately to provide quality and lifesaving services. We see it in the ever-lengthening waiting lists, in the targets that are missed month after month, in the chronic shortages of GPs and in the underfunded, but high demand, and outrageously neglected, services like mental health.

Everyone seems agreed that the NHS and its staff are on the brink, but there is far less agreement about why this is the case.

Underfunding

For the past two decades, at least, NHS staff and services have been severely and deliberately underfunded. This is not an economic issue, it’s a political decision.

From its inception in the late 1940’s the NHS has been targeted and undermined by those who wish to profit from a private medical insurance model. They have played a long game, but must now feel that they are perilously close to their objective. Not only are services and staff overstretched and under resourced, but the private healthcare lobby is in the process of securing its greatest victory yet.

It has convinced large numbers of people, many of them young people, that the days of publicly funded, free at the point of delivery health and social care are over and that the NHS, a great thing while it lasted, is now in terminal decline. 

It is now the received wisdom, and a repetitious media message, that the NHS has had its day and that a new, and profitable, model of care is required.  

Two Tier

We are very, very, close to a two-tier health and care system. Private, profitable, care for those who can afford it and an underfunded, under resourced second-class system for everyone else.

The deliberate erosion of our health and care system is part of a larger agenda which seeks to abolish concepts of community, solidarity, citizenship and collective responsibility.

Private healthcare, private insurance companies, investors and profiteers are waiting in the wings, emboldened by the crisis and the culture that they have been cultivating for years.

‘No Society’

The underfunding, under resourcing and privatisation of the NHS is an example of the right-wing agenda which says that everyone is an individual and should only look after themselves – a mantra articulated by Margaret Thatcher in 1987 when she claimed “…there is no such thing as society”. The out-workings of this doctrine are also clearly on view in calls for an end to welfare benefits and the withdrawal of the right to strike.  

The deliberate erosion of our health and care system is part of a larger agenda which seeks to abolish concepts of community, solidarity, citizenship and collective responsibility.

Principle

Can we afford a fully funded, fully resourced NHS? Of course we can. Is the principle of a national health and social care service worth defending? Of course it is.

The NHS’s founding father, Nye Bevan, was well aware of the intentions of the private profiteers and the lengths to which they would go when he said “…there will always be a cradle to the grave Health Service free at the point of use, as long as people are willing to fight for it”

We owe it to the generations of front-line workers and support staff who have developed and delivered one of the best healthcare services in the world to defend it against those who would sell it off to the highest bidder.

For now, a concerted effort will keep the NHS afloat, but only in a socialist society can it be guaranteed to achieve its full potential.

New Year Message: ‘Working People Desire a Society Free from Misery, Exploitation and Oppression’

In his New Year’s Statement Workers Party President, Cllr, Ted Tynan has highlighted exploitation, inequality and injustice, environmental degradation and imperialist war as the key global issues of the past year and the cost-of-living crisis the lack of secure affordable housing, timely access to appropriate healthcare, childcare and support for children with additional educational needs as the standout issues at home.

In both States we are plagued by poverty, a housing crisis and economies based on precarious, part-time employment, low wages, zero hours contracts and eroded workers’ rights, the Party President said.

On international issues, Cllr. Tynan re-iterated the Workers Party assertion that the working class of Ukraine and Russia are paying the price for the competition between imperialist blocs, and once again called for an end to the war.

He also spelt out our continuing opposition to the Israeli dispossession and disempowerment of the Palestinian people and to the brutality of the Iranian government.

He further pledged the Party’s continuing support for the immediate and unconditional lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States.

“Today, across the world, working people desire a society free from misery, exploitation and oppression – a society where the means of production is owned by the workers and the wealth of society is the common property of society as a whole”. he said.

Our socialist principles, our internationalism and our vision for the future, will guide and determine all of our positions in our daily struggles. We look to the future with confidence! Cllr Tynan concluded.

Striking Workers not to Blame

With Prime Minister Rishi Sunak refusing point blank to even discuss nurses’ pay claims and the Department of Health’s Permanent Secretary claiming ‘catastrophic consequences’ if there are more days of industrial action there are concerted efforts to blame nurses and other workers for the rise in inflation the cost of living crisis and the difficulties faced by the NHS.

Nurses aren’t responsible for unsafe staffing levels, nor are workers’ wages responsible for inflation. The absence of an Executive is Stormont isn’t helping but the NHS has been in serious trouble for years from decades of underfunding, cut backs, privatisation and, quite frankly, poor workforce planning and mis management at Departmental level.

As well as nursing staff, ambulance workers, customs and immigration staff, bus drivers and postal workers are all taking industrial action this month. They have been forced to take to the picket lines in defence of jobs, public services and pay and conditions.

Working people cannot and must not be demonised and scapegoated for the failings of a capitalist system which rewards the wealthy by exploiting and penalising those who produce the wealth, deliver the services and keep our society functioning.

This is a struggle working people cannot afford to lose.

‘Tis the Season: domestic abuse at Christmas and New Year

Incidents of domestic abuse increase sharply at this time of year. Between Christmas Day and Boxing Day last year the PSNI received 245 domestic abuse calls. Between New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day a further 275 incidents were recorded.

Year on year, there are around 30,000 recorded incidents of domestic abuse and on average a woman in an abusive relationship is murdered here every other month.

Yet Northern Ireland remains the only part of the UK without a specific strategy to protect women and girls from violence. While several pieces of uncoordinated legislation have been introduced in recent years and initiatives such as ‘Ask for Angela’have been adopted, there is still no overall strategy to protect women and girls from violence.

Recent arrests operations of suspects wanted on bench warrants in connection with
domestic abuse and for breaches of protective orders, are not enough. The
system is failing women.

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.

Nor will it be overcome for as long as we are subject to an economic and social system which has an intrinsic self interest in sustaining and perpetuating gender discrimination in its pursuit of profits, lower wages and working-class division.

Violence against women and girls takes many forms, including domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment, child, early and forced marriage, trafficking, and increasingly online through cyber bullying.

There is never a time of year when domestic abuse should ever be tolerated. If you or someone you know is suffering abuse or violence, help and support is available.

Follow the link for Contact Numbers, Help and Advice

‘Invest in Young People’

Youth Services across Belfast are facing budget cuts so severe that many projects, schemes and life changing initiatives will no longer be available. #youthwork

The Education Authority which provides financial help for youth clubs is planning cuts in excess of 30% to its funding of local youth clubs and schemes which support young people across the city.y representative Patrick Crossan has condemned the proposed cuts as “damaging, detrimental and dangerous.”

He has also criticised the Education Authority and the Department of Education for their lack of consultation and discussion on the matter and for the way in which youth clubs and other services were informed of their intentions.

Patrick Crossan

“I am aware that in the case of one youth club in the Lower Falls area, they expect to see their funding from the Education Authority slashed by over 30% next year,” Patrick said.

“The harsh reality is that jobs will be lost, staff to young people ratios will be reduced meaning that many services will no longer be available”.

“Many people will be unaware of the tremendous and life changing work provided by local youth clubs. Youth workers, and the services they provide, help to reduce crime in local areas, engage young people in training and educational opportunities, help steer young people away from drugs and other addictions, provide a safe and nurturing environment and even assist in increasing the number of young people from socially disadvantaged areas going on to university and other third level courses”, Patrick said.

“These are vital, community based, support services for our young people – and, given the counselling and support role of local youth services, in many cases they can also be literally lifesaving”. Patrick added.

Senior Youth Worker, Stephen Hughes, discussing the proposed cuts with the Workers Party’s Joanne Lowry

“Vital programmes delivered between local youth clubs which have been successful in reducing violence at interface areas will now also be at risk”. Patrick pointed out.

On behalf of the Workers Party, I have contacted the Chief Executive of the Education Authority asking that her Board meets in emergency session to re-appraise the funding proposals, engage with local youth services and to urgently impress upon the Department of Education the need for the full funding of youth services”.

“At a time of crisis in the cost of living, increasing social deprivation, growing alienation amongst young people and a serious escalation in the incidence of teenage mental health problems, we need to invest, and invest significantly in young people, the services and support that they need and the organisations and groups that help to provide it,” Patrick concluded.

Fighting for Pay, Pensions, Jobs, Conditions & Public Services

Workers Party members, joined by Susan Fitzgerald of UNITE the Union (centre), on the picket lines today in support of University and College staff and later with postal workers outside the Tomb Street depot.

Day in and day out, week in and week out thousands of workers across the public and the private sectors are forced to form picket lines at their places of work in the fight for above inflation wage increases. pension rights, job security, conditions of employment and in defence of public services.

No one wants to be on strike, but have been left with no option other than to engage in industrial action. There is too much at stake to passively accept the erosion of our public services, the privatisation of health, education and possibly water. The implications for the quality of life for thousands of families, and of future generations, are too far reaching not to exert all the pressure possible in support of working people.

Food banks, breakfast clubs for hungry children and government energy payment hand outs are now being presented as the norm. Just as obscene profits and huge shareholders dividends are being presented as the natural order of things.

This crisis, like every other crisis that affects the lives and livelihoods of working people, is a crisis caused by the capitalism system and, like every other crisis it creates, working people will be expected to pay the price.

The cost of living, spiralling energy costs, cuts to public services and the struggles to secure a decent wage and working conditions have seen working people find their feet, their voices and their collective. We all have a role to play by supporting those taking industrial action for the benefit of all.

This is a fight we must win.

Death by a Thousand Cuts

The National Health Service is in crisis. Right wing think tanks and Tories, at home and at Westminster, suggest prescription charges and paying to see the doctor as ‘solutions’. But worse, the very existence of the NHS is under threat.

Emergency Surgery

While the ‘temporary’ withdrawals of emergency surgery at the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen and at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry earlier this year make the headlines and quite rightly attract public attention, even more profound issues are emerging.

The Western Trust, as well as the Department of Health, has a responsibility to set out very clearly its long-term plans for emergency surgery in the south-west and the implications for patients, services and staff. 

We need to see the overall plan for the future of health and care services and discuss it openly and in the round. Drip feeding information and making announcements by instalments is undermining public and staff confidence.

Local healthcare should always be safe, of the highest quality and be professionally delivered – but it must also be accessible. Patient journeys of over an hour to receive emergency treatment falls well outside of that – even on a ‘temporary’ basis.

General Practitioners

As long as GPs remain as private independent contractors there will continue to be the difficulties in recruitment and threats to services that we have been hearing about recently.

GPs becoming NHS employees, instead of private contractors, would improve the service, reduce waiting times and address many of the problems currently faced in primary care – including the closure of GP practices

It would be inconceivable that other health and care professionals like nurses, social workers and hospital doctors would sit outside the NHS rather than be its employees/. Why should GPs be any different?

Community Care

For the thousands of people who receive treatment, care and support in their own home comes the additional health benefits of familiar surroundings, family, dignity, reassurance and a level of control. Yet despite the fundamental nature of community care the service and its centrality to health, well-being, rehabilitation, recuperation and added years, it has always been, and remains, a Cinderella service.

The majority of community-based care is now provided by a plethora of private companies. It is delivered by some of the lowest paid workers in the health and care system and prioritises profit over people.

The community care system is criminally underfunded. Successive Health Ministers and the Department of Health have never accepted it as a valid and vital part of the health and care system and continue to see buildings and technology as the core of the health service

Why is it that twenty five years ago local community care services were receiving international acclaim for their innovation, flexibility, high standard of care and the contribution they were making to patient care, yet today medically fit patients are forced to remain in hospital because no care package is available to them?  .

Decades of Austerity

For decades, services have been cut, wards and departments have been closed, staff have been under-valued and underpaid and waiting lists spiral out of control while private clinics flourish and those with the money to pay go to the top of the queue.

The Scottish Health Department last week drafted a discussion paper which explored the introduction of what it unashamedly referred to as a two-tier NHS.

Of course, the reality is that the ground work for that very scenario has been laid over many years. The privatisation of the lucrative parts of the service is an ongoing process, plans to allow US and other companies to buy NHS services are always on the table and the erosion and underfunding of existing services conditions public opinion to accept anything that looks like a better alternative. grave Health Service free at the point of use, as long as people are willing to fight for it”.


“…there will always be a cradle to the grave Health Service free at the point of use, as long as people are willing to fight for it”

.NYE BEVAN, LABOUR MINSTER FOR HEALTH 1945 -51


We are not looking at isolated cases of the ‘temporary’ transfer of services. We are witnessing the potential death of the NHS by a thousand cuts. Since its inception in the 1940s there has been an active and relentless campaign by some to undermine the principle of publicly funded health and social care, free at the point of delivery, and replace it with private health insurance, private healthcare and priv

The Assembly

The Assembly should be in session, there should be a Health Minister and there should be plans, proposals and public discussions. But the current crisis has not been caused by the absence of an Executive. It has been building for years and it has been happening on the watch of successive administrations and successive ministers.  It is one of the outcomes of the policies of deregulation, privatisation and the breakup of public services.

World Best

The NHS is indeed in a crisis. It is being undermined, underfunded and cherrypicked for privatisation.

We owe it to the generations of front-line workers and support staff who have developed and delivered one of the best healthcare services in the world to defend it against those who would sell it off to the highest bidder.

For now, a concerted effort will keep the NHS afloat, but only in a socialist society can it be guaranteed to achieve its full potential.