Jamboree Politics

Workers Party President Cllr Ted Tynan has re-iterated his earlier warnings about the ‘Ireland’s Future’ group and its rally in Dublin at the weekend.

“Nothing I have seen, heard or read has cast the ‘Ireland’s Future’ rally in a positive light”, he said.

“The mood music and the rhetoric of ‘historic destinies’ and a ‘new Ireland’ belie the character, track record and intentions of the key players.

This was the worst of Irish politics, not the best”, Cllr Tynan added.

“Dress it up with celebrity and add bells and whistles and the conclusion remains the same. Saturday’s event, and the motivation behind it, was little more than jamboree politics deliberately devoid of detail, heavy on nationalist rhetoric and meaningless for the lives of working people”.

“When the circus packs up its tent and reality returns, the unity of the working class and the fundamental transformation of our social, political and economic system must remain the absolute and non-negotiable prelude to the creation of a single unitary state”. Cllr Tynan concluded.

Focusing on the Causes

The weekend saw yet more protests against the cost of living crisis, the cost of fuel,gas and electric price hikes and the obscene and unjustifiable profits being extorted by the major energy companies.

The Workers Party was, once more, on the streets, demanding change and focussing attention on the causes of financial hardship, poverty in our society. This time at Belfast City Hall.

The major political parties at Stormont , Westminster and Dublin, supported by many mainstream media platforms, deliberately misrepresent the source of the crisis, which is anything but current.

Long before the war in Ukraine, long before the current wave of inflation and long before Brexit, families were going hungry, homes were going unheated and queues were lengthening at food banks. People with jobs were relying on top up benefits to help them make ends meet and the ‘working poor’ had become an accepted part of everyday life.

We are witnessing, and living with the consequences of, a capitalist economic system yet again in crisis.

Over a third of the population of Northern Ireland are living on or below the breadline. Child poverty tops 40% in several areas and fuel poverty is a reality for thousands of local families. Low pay, precarious employment and zero hours contracts contribute to mental and physical ill health. That has been the situation for many years.

Poverty is not inevitable and it is not a recent phenomenon. It is the direct result of an economic system that values profit more than people. 

Only a socialist society will consign poverty, deprivation and despair to history. That is a message the Workers Party will continue to send.

Socialists Must Stand Up

Workers Party President, Cllr Ted Tynan has called for ‘socialists, trade unionists and anti-sectarian forces’ to challenge and oppose what he described as the “on going and ill-conceived clamour for a Border Poll”.

His remarks come ahead of this weekend’s ‘Ireland’s Future’ conference in Dublin.

“It is important” he said, “that the nature and intent of this campaign is exposed for the shallow, sectarian scam that it is, and that Ireland’s progressive forces continue to build the basis of working-class unity as the only secure foundation for the people of this island and beyond”

Mood music and rhetoric

Cllr Tynan said, “the mood music and the rhetoric about ‘historic destinies’ and a ‘new Ireland’ belie the character, track record and intentions of the key players. History repeats itself.  We’ve been here before and so have many other countries. We’re not as special as some would have us believe. The nationalist middle classes, north and south, are wrapped confidently in the green flag and have their sights sets on a bespoke future, that holds little for working people and their families”.

“Calls for a Border Poll are divisive and unnecessary. Increasingly, almost every issue in this country is viewed myopically through sectarian glasses with orange and green lenses.

Manufactured urgency

“So it is with the growing clamour for a Border Poll, driven largely by Sinn Fein, and now supported by a number of new organisations, some academics, a variety of media commentators and other nationalist parties, north and south, desperate not to be left behind this wave of manufactured urgency.

“The Ireland’s Future’ camp is no place for socialists or for those claiming to be on the left. Some, however, attempt to justify their involvement. Whatever the political contortions required to clear their consciences some basic and distasteful realities remain. 

Cultural identity politics

The campaign for a Border Poll is premised on little more than a religious headcount with the implicit assumption that ‘catholic equals united Ireland’ and ‘protestant equals union with Britain’.

This is the worst form of cultural identity politics and ultimately it is built on foundations of sand. Worse still, the dangers of pressing a divisive nationalist agenda in a community which is already deeply divided risks being characterised as a sectarian crusade.”, said Cllr Tynan

“Ireland is not Scotland”, Cllr. Tynan said. “In the absence of working-class unity there is a real risk and potential for sectarian violence in the lead up to and in the aftermath of a Border Poll – irrespective of the outcome”.

Working class unity

“The Workers Party has always pursued and remains committed to the objective of a unitary socialist state on this island. We have long recognised that is a long term and onerous project and it can only be built on working class unity rather than the territorial unity of a united capitalist Ireland which offers no solution to the urgent problems facing working people, north and south.

 “It is a project constantly frustrated by those who see their privileged positions threatened by that outcome, but it is also thwarted by those who happily and arrogantly dismiss and disregard the million people on this island who don’t want to be forced into a “united” Ireland against their wishes”, Cllr. Tynan said.

Absolute and non-negotiable

The unity of the working class and a fundamental transformation of our social, political and economic system remain an absolute and non-negotiable prelude to the creation of a single unitary state. Simply, hoisting the green flag will not end the misery, exploitation and oppression of workers and their families in Dublin or in Belfast”, Cllr Tynan concluded.

Enough is Enough

Workers Party members, headed by Party President Cllr. Ted Tynan joined the protest organised by the ‘Cost of Living Coalition’ in Dublin at the weekend.

Several thousand people took part in the protest in support of controlling energy costs, affordable housing and investment in public services

Cllr Ted Tynan condemned the “…shameful government inaction which allows continued obscene profiteering by energy companies on the back of the young and old alike – all of whom are facing the eat or heat dilemma this winter”.

“Nationalisation of energy companies is urgently needed”, he said, “in order to restore control of these essential assets and secure the welfare of households”.

Another demonstration against rising prices, soaring energy bills and the escalating cost of living will be held in Belfast next Saturday,1st October.

Organised by the Cost of Living Coalition campaign the protest will take the form of a rally at Belfast City Hall at 1pm

Bankers’ Bonuses, Tax Breaks for the Wealthy and Token Gestures for the Rest of Us

The undisguised arrogance towards working people and the difficulties they are facing is the main feature of today’s Tory mini-budget.

Tax breaks for businesses and the wealthy, bonuses for bankers, a harsher benefit regime and derisory token gestures for working class people already struggling to heat and eat, signal the clear intent of this government – not that it was ever in any doubt.

The refusal to increase taxes on the big energy companies, and the derisory sums being offered to households to mitigate extortionate and rising bills, make this a budget for business but not for working people.

Public utilities are not luxuries – they are essential services. Gas, electric, water, fuel and broadband services must be taken into public ownership. This will help address avaricious energy prices, alleviate fuel poverty and assist in the battle against climate change. Public ownership would also ensure protection for the jobs of thousands of workers in the energy sector.

That is not a demand that we’ll hear from either the Government or the Opposition benches at Westminster – and it won’t be made by any of the Executive parties at Stormont either.

Announcements like today’s mini-budget make us think that all the Tories live in London, but we have our own home-grown free marketeers at Stormont. Beyond their rhetoric, they are all economic blood brothers. Their record tells the story: low wage economy, zero hours contracts and run-down public services.

Only a socialist economy can deliver for working people and their families.

Media Census Shame

The manner in which Census details have been reported by the mainstream media here has been described as ‘shameful, irresponsible and unprofessional’ by the Workers Party.

All the main media outlets have focussed, almost exclusively, on the reported religious breakdown of the community, variously describing the figures as ‘hugely significant‘, ‘historic‘ and ‘seismic‘. One went as far as to say that, of the 60 questions on the Census form, ‘…only one was going to grab the headlines’.

Headlines, of course, don’t make themselves, they are selected and written by journalists. In this case, without exception, those journalists, many of them building up the ‘story’ from the day before, chose to reinforce and underline the sectarian, orange and green, narrative that infests Northern Ireland politics by using religious backgrounds as surrogates for voting intentions and dismissing the real political determinants in society.

In their shameful, irresponsible and unprofessional frenzy to headline ‘headcount politics’, the local media have, very successfully, delivered and reinforced the tribal agendas of the major parties and the local sectarian cheerleaders. This has not been their finest hour.

Hardship a reality for many students

Chloe Ferguson, NUS-USI president has responded to Economy Minister Gordon Lyons announcement of an additional £2.8 million in support for higher education students studying in Northern Ireland. 

While we welcome this additional funding and the certainty that it provides to higher education institutions as the year begin, consistently students report financial troubles as being the biggest barrier to completing their studies, and one of the main contributors to poor mental health. Hardship funds help to keep students in education. 

“However, this funding is a drop in the ocean compared to the real support students need to get through the cost of living crisis. Student finance hasn’t risen with inflation for over a decade. How is a student today supposed to survive on the same amount when electricity and gas is sky rocketing, rents are going up and food bills are also increasing? 

“Hardship funds provide vital emergency support to students who need it. But the funds are notoriously difficult to access, and often leaves students waiting several weeks for an amount which might only cover a single month’s rent. By allowing student incomes to stagnate year after year our government is letting students reach crisis point unnecessarily. We need real action to help students this winter – and we need a government back up and running.”

Women and The Cost of Living Crisis

Women are being subjected to a disproportionate amount of economic, social and personal hardship as a result of the cost-of-living crisis. That’s not tub thumping,  coat trailing or left wing rhetoric. That’s what research report after research report is spelling out very clearly and very painfully.

Why is that? Well, it’s because women earn less than men on average, because they are more likely to have jobs that pay less than the living wage, because women are also more likely to bear responsibility for managing daily household costs, such as groceries and children’s items and because the majority of unpaid carers are women.

On top of all that, the problems for women in abusive relationships can be further compounded by the cost-of-living crisis and financial dependency on their abuser.

Lower pay, part time work and caring

Women in Northern Ireland earn 5.7% less than men

One fifth of women in work are paid below the real Living Wage,

Only 60% of employed women with dependent children work full time, compared to 94% of employed men with dependent children.

64% of full-time carers in Northern Ireland are women

Women face obstacles in returning to, and staying in work, after maternity leave

The cumulative effect of inflation, pay gaps, gendered roles and workplace barriers means that women are additionally disadvantaged on a number of levels.

Structural change

The collective problems can only be addressed through structural change and ultimately by the creation of a socialist economy. One-off initiatives and gesture politics are not enough.

  • Childcare remains a major obstacle for women returning to, and remaining in, work. For many parents it remains unavailable, or inflexible and unaffordable.
  • Part time employment and zero hours contracts compound the problems faced by women in the workforce. They do not resolve them.
  • The gender pay gap persists and leaves women at a further disadvantage.
  • The lack of a real living wage continues to impact disproportionately on women and young girls.

Same Old (S)Tories

The first major policy announcement of the new Truss government has, unsurprisingly, all the hallmarks of right-wing, conservative economics and a blatant disregard for the lives and difficulties being faced by working people.

Despite overwhelming support for the nationalisation of energy companies – recent polls suggest that over 70% of people are in favour – the response of the Truss administration is to bail out the companies already making billions of pounds profit through government borrowing, which tax payers will be repaying for years to come. It’s the same old Tories and the same old story.

When working people are looking for an answer to the current energy and cost of living crisis they need to look beyond the Conservatives and also beyond the Labour Party. Liz Truss won’t take energy companies into public ownership and neither will Labour’s Keir Starmer. He says he’s ‘not in favour’ of it – despite Labour’s election manifesto promises.

In the past year energy bills in the UK – where oil, gas and energy are all owned by multi-national companies- have increased by 215%. In the same period bills in France – where the government owns the gas companies and is the major shareholder in the main electricity provider – have risen by just 4%.

Taking our utilities into public ownership could, at a stroke, alleviate the human misery and suffering currently being experienced by young and old alike.

The cost of taking the ‘Big 5’ energy companies into public ownership is estimated to be around £2.8 billion. That’s a lot of money, until you realise that since June last year the government has spent £2.7billion bailing out 28 failing energy companies.

The solution to the cost of utilities crisis is not in vote catching gestures but in bringing gas, electricity, broadband services and fuel into public ownership and public control. Neither the Tories, nor Labour, are going to do that.