Time to Reclaim Our Resources – Crossan

As the dependency on foodbanks, even for people with jobs, continues to rise, as child poverty rates exceed 25% and three people die on the streets of Belfast, homeless without hope, heat or shelter, the Shell oil and gas company recorded annual profits of £32 billion – the highest in its 115-year history”, Patrick Crossan of the Workers Party has said.

“Shell will not be paying any tax in the UK this year courtesy of a loop hole that allows them to offset the costs incurred by investment and development. But they will be paying out more to their shareholders than they will be investing in renewable energies: oil and gas becomes smoke and mirrors”, Patrick said

A merry dance

“In media circles, this obscene, unjustified and unjustifiable profiteering at the expense of working people was a one-day-wonder: in some cases, not even that.

“It’s been said that the job of the media is to distract working people from reality. It fulfils that role well but it also protects multi-national corporations and their operations from public inquiry. The results of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ get more media scrutiny than corporate robbery and grand larceny”, Patrick commented.

“Energy and other utility providers don’t operate as a public service. They exist to make and maximise profits”, he said.

“The solution to the cost of utilities crisis is not in vote catching gestures like ‘windfall taxes’ but in bringing utilities like gas, electricity, broadband services and fuel into public ownership and control.


“The increased poverty, deprivation and mounting mental health pressures caused by the current cost of living crisis is being fuelled by the astronomical price hikes in gas, electricity, oil and petrol. At the root of the problems lie the private ownership of the natural resources and their distribution and delivery chains” stated Patrick

“We work for our public services. We use them. We pay for them. We must own them” he concluded

A Food Bank Free Future

Applauding the services provided by local foodbanks, Workers Party representative Nicola Grant said,

“There can be absolutely no doubt that emergency food parcels, provided by volunteer organisations in the Newry and Armagh area, continue to serve as a lifeline for many local families and children”.

“Figures provided by one of the largest local networks continue to show a significantly increasing need year after year: a 25% increase last year and an increase of almost 200% since 2018. There is also a marked increase in the number of families in rural areas depending on food bank support and as many as one in five people in employment having to rely on food banks to help feed their families”, Nicola said.

“No-one, regardless of their circumstances, should be forced to go hungry.” Nicola said. “Twenty six percent of children in the Newry and Mourne area are believed to be growing up in poverty – many from working families. We have also seen how many NHS staff are now relying on local foodbanks because they simply cannot make ends meet”.

“Food banks are a life line for many”, Nicola said, “but we must build a society where they are no longer needed, a society in which working people and their families are valued, rewarded and supported”

Thousands of working people have been forced into taking industrial action in recent months in defence of jobs, services, safe levels of provision and decent pay. While they stood on the streets, energy companies and transnational conglomerates raked up obscene levels of profits and paid out billions  of pounds to their executives and to their shareholders.”, said Nicola

“Food banks could be made unnecessary, almost overnight, with a major reform of the benefits system and if working people received the wages they needed to support themselves and their families.”

The money is there. Currently, it is just in the wrong hands”, concluded Nicola

Poverty: early years and life-long legacies

Poverty is most often described as having low or no income, a lack of food, shelter or heat. However, looking at poverty and its effects through childcare provision and early years education is less common.

The availability and cost of childcare are key factors in the struggle against poverty. High quality and accessible early education and early years support can play a significant role in combatting the effects of poverty for children and families. Research and practice have shown that by supporting children’s development can significantly improve their educational outcomes.

Affordable, accessible and flexible childcare provision is vital if parents are to be supported in securing employment or in accessing education and training.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where parents are not offered 30 hours of free childcare. Yet another failure by a Stormont Executive more concerned with pursuing their self-interests than addressing poverty.

The first five years of any child’s life are amongst the most formative. During this period a child’s brain develops more rapidly, than at any other time in their life. The quality of a child’s experiences in the first few years of life – positive or negative – helps shape how their brain develops. These experiences have a lasting impact on their health and ability to learn and succeed in school and in life.

Children born into and living in poverty are at an immediate and lasting disadvantage; one that will stay with them and affect them for the rest of their lives.

Germany, France, Finland and Sweden all provide varying forms of free early years / pre-school education. In Northern Ireland parents can access two-and-a-half hours of free pre-school education a day, well short of the rest of the UK and nothing like the availability of some other European countries. To make matters worse, the scheme only operates in term time.

It is totally inadequate for the pre-school needs of the children and woefully insufficient for the needs of working parents, even those in part time employment.

The creation of a comprehensive social system for pre-school age children, preparing children for school and life, was one of the major achievements of the socialist countries. 

Poverty blights the lives and denies the opportunities for thousands of local children, parents and families. Failure to address the importance of children’s early years and provide all the necessary support condemns generation after generation of working-class families to a life time of misery, underachievement, mental illness and lack of self-worth.