The Workers Party has announced its candidates for May’s Local Government Elections.
The Party will be standing in seven constituencies across Northern Ireland under the campaign slogan ‘Putting Class Back Into Politics’.
In a joint statement the candidates were highly critical of the records of the major parties and what they described as their contempt for working people, their families and the everyday problems that they face.
“The only things that the major parties have offered to working people are Flags, Culture Wars, Unemployment and Poverty”, they said.
“It’s time for them to Move Over! It’s time for real change. It’s time to deliver on Health, Housing, Education, Childcare and all the other priorities in life. It‘s time we put Class back into politics”
“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,” they said.
The Pary’s candidates are: Ursula Meighan (Belfast Black Mountain), Patrick Lynn (Belfast Botanic), Lily Kerr (Belfast Castle), Tony Walls (Belfast Court), Fiona McCarthy (Belfast Oldpark), Patrick Crossan (Belfast Colin) and Nicola Grant (Newry)
Today’s 24 hour strike by healthcare workers from UNISION and NIPSA was avoidable: as have all the days of industrial action by workers across the public and private sectors over the past eighteen months.
Had Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris agreed to meet with trade union representatIves last week there would have been no strike today: but he didn’t and there was.
After today’s demonstrations, including a protest outside the Mr Heaton-Harris’s Erskine House office in Belfast city centre, comes news that he will meet with UNISON and NIPSA next week and that the industrial action planned for Monday has been put on hold. Keeping up the pressure pays dividends, eventually.
A constant struggle
The foundation of the NHS in 1948, and the securing of the principle that health care would be free at the point of use, and available to every citizen from the cradle to the grave, was amongst the most significant social developments of the 20th century in Britain and Northern Ireland. These changes were not given freely, they were won by the struggles of the organised working class.
Seven decades later neither that principle nor the institution itself are safe from private enterprise and greed, aided and abetted by free market parties at Stormont and Westminster.
That is why the pressure to defend and safeguard the NHS and its founding principles must be maintained. The Workers Party is committed to doing just that .
The withdrawal of the Easter holiday’s food grant has been condemned as ‘ outrageous, uncaring and an assault on the most vulnerable in our society”.
Workers Party representative Tony Walls has called on the Department of Education to reverse its earlier decision to withhold funding from the families of the 96,000 children in Northern Ireland who rely on the payments to provide nutrious food during holiday periods.
“This is an outrageous decison”, Tony said “and it will have a direct impact on childrens’ physical and mental development”.
‘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
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
One measure of a civilised society is how it treats and prioritises its elderly and people with disabilities. We are nowhere near the top of that league table.
The Assembly’s five-year Active Ageing Strategy concluded last year and has not been replaced or updated and the current Disability Strategy is falling far short of its objectives.
Both the elderly and people with living with disability have been sent a clear signal of their worth with the news that, from the end of April, the Department of Infrastructure will end its funding of schemes including Shop Mobility and Community Transport initiatives like the Dial A Lift service.
The services under threat provide a vital life line for some of the most vulnerable people in the community. They support social inclusion, help prevent isolation, loneliness and the mental health issues they can cause.
These services provide the reassurance and support for people who would not otherwise be able to keep GP or hospital appointments. They counter social isolation thorough access to supermarkets and other retail outlets. They enable elderly people and people with disability to continue to be an active part of society.
In the case of schemes like Shop Mobility they also support individual independence and dignity.
We have strategies which promise to ‘raise awareness and improve opportunities and services for disabled people by addressing the inequalities and to tackling the barriers they face in their daily lives’, but the lived reality is now very different.
Around 40% of people in Northern Ireland live in rural areas. Many rely on community transport to allow them to leave their homes. Withdrawal of funding will also directly affect the staff and volunteers who help deliver these transport schemes.
The funding for Community Transport and associated services must be extended to meet growing need and by ring fenced to protect it against future cuts. That is how we demonstrate that we value our vulnerable citizens, but only in a socialist society can that be delivered fully and guaranteed.
‘Childcare services are in crisis: parents are being forced a give up work and the benefits of children’s early years development are being wasted’. says Workers Party representative Ursula Meighan.
In a plain-speaking assessment of current childcare, child minding and early years education, Ursula said, ‘an immediate and comprehensive investment in childcare services is essential if the current crisis is to be addressed.’
‘The years from birth to the age of five or six are accepted as the most important years in a child’s early development. Yet, childcare remains a major issue, and a financial burden, for many parents and a serious obstacle to employment, particularly for women’ she explained.
Not getting the results
‘Parents in England Scotland and Wales can avail of 30 hours childcare, free of charge, each week in term time, but not so in Northern Ireland.
‘Other schemes which are available locally, including child tax credits, are just not producing the required results. Parents are being priced out of affording the childcare they need to allow them to work.
‘The long-overdue, and yet to be delivered, ‘Early Learning and Childcare Strategy’, has to be a day one priority for any restored Executive,’ Ursula said, ‘and must be accompanied by a programme of investment which supports parents to access the childcare they need and to providers to deliver it’.
Ursula went on to say that the current uncoordinated nature of childcare services significantly impacts on the development of many young people at an early age and that disadvantage can stay with them for life.
Guaranteed start in life
‘Working class families, and working-class children are particularly affected’ she said. ‘The right to a guaranteed start in life must be available to all. We must make that a legalentitlement.’
‘Only when children’s early education and development is served by a high quality, centrally planned, publicly funded, accessible and flexible childcare system can we say that we are investing in our future.
‘Only then will parents have the security to remain in work, training or education. Only then can our society and our economy fully realise the benefits of a skilled and confident workforce, secure in the knowledge that future generations are being given the best start in life’ Ursula concluded.
It was with a profound sense of loss and sadness that we learned of the passing of our comrade, friend, and former President of the Workers Party, Tom French – a loyal comrade, good friend and a true gentleman in the best sense of the word.
On behalf of our current Party President, Ted Tynan, and the Central Executive Committee of the Workers Party, I wish to express our sincere condolences to Tom’s family, to his wife Frances, his children and grandchildren and to the wider family circle.
Last Thursday evening BBC presenter Fiona Bruce trivialised and excused an assault by Stanley Johnstone on his wife. He broke her nose and as a result she had to be treated in hospital.
During her ‘Question Time’ programme Ms Bruce explained away the domestic violence by saying “It did happen… but it was one off”.
Trivial or Excusable?
In Northern Ireland last year the number of reported incidents of domestic abuse passed the 33,000 mark. Between 2017 and 2021 thirty four women and girls were murdered in Northern Ireland
One in four women in the Republic of Ireland have been the victims of domestic abuse. Last year almost 30,000 incidents were recorded. In the past twenty-five years, 249 women have died violently in the Republic of Ireland. at the hands of their current or former partner.
These are the brutal realities that Fiona Bruce chooses to trivialise and excuse.
If you are appalled or outraged by her comments, you should consider making a formal complaint to the BBC.
You can register your complaint by clicking on, or copying, the following link
Workers Party spokesperson Patrick Crossan has called for support for the stand taken by @GaryLineker in the latest row on immigration.
“Not only is Gary right to publicly criticise the government’s cruel and inhumane ‘Stop the Boats’ immigration policy”, Patrick said, “but he is doing what anyone with a social conscience should be doing and raising the kind of questions that the mainstream media spend all their time avoiding”.
“Last year the UK took in 137,000 refugees. That is fifteen thousand fewer than arrived sixty years ago in 1960. The UK takes in considerably less refugees and asylum seekers than almost every other European country’, Patrick said.
‘It is the fifth largest economy in the world. Not only can it absorb people from other countries, it needs them and the considerable economic benefits that come from their skills and labour.
‘We are not being ‘invaded’, and neither Britain nor Ireland is ‘full’ as the right-wing racists claim.’ he said
‘The best immigration policies are those that provide safe, humane and welcoming routes into the country.
‘Ultimately, immigration and refugee crisis will only be addressed when NATO, the United States and their allies stop their invasions, wars of aggression and proxy conflicts which are forcing thousands of people to be displaced in the first instance’, Patrick concluded.
As International Women’s Day (IWD) 2023 approaches we should proudly acknowledge and celebrate its socialist roots.
We should also brace ourselves for an onslaught of commercially driven Facebook posts, tweets, pop up ads and Instagram photos all proclaiming the ‘empowerment of women’ and, of course, the opportunity to buy the advertisers products.
The creeping commercialisation of IWD, a fate which has now largely overtaken events like Pride, has been in process for some time.
This Wednesday will see that commercial cancer ramped up even further with hypocritical, phoney and cringe worthy claims to support and empower women, many coming from companies with gender pay gaps, precarious employment practices and zero hours contract cultures.
Equality, rights and recognition have had to be fought for in every century, every decade and every day. Progress has been won, not conceded. That struggle continues, not just on International Women’s Day but on every day and across the world.
The issues defining woman’s position in society cannot, and must not, be defined in consumerist terms
Violence, murder, trafficking, exploitation misogyny, social barriers, uncertain employment contracts, access to the workplace, child care support, funding for women’s services, ensuring maternity rights, bodily autonomy, abortion services, access to period products: these are just some of the realities defining women’s lives.
Women are not commodities – commercial or otherwise. The socialist imperative in International Women’s Day needs to be re-stated and re-enforced. International Women’s Day needs to be reclaimed and its dignity and purpose re-established.
The Workers Party’s contribution to that cause will be evident in our on-line panel discussion this Wednesday evening addressing Childcare, Women in Employment and Human Trafficking and Exploitation.
ToJoin the Zoom Meeting; Click the link below
Begins at 7pm on Wednesday 8 March– log in from 6.45pm onwards