Highlighting Poverty and Social Deprivation  

     
The Workers Party has held a protest outside the gates of Stormont to highlight the appalling levels of poverty, social deprivation and the effects the rising cost of living is having on families and children.  

Party spokesperson and veteran trade unionist Lily Kerr said,
” We hope this will send a strong message to all those who think that flags, border polls and sectarian headcounts will pay the bills or put food on the table”.  

Politics and the media are dominated daily by petty disputes over ‘who-said-what’, what flag to fly, what title to give someone and who’s going to be the First Minister”, she said  

Meanwhile, in the real world, families are going hungry, children are going without heat and workers, as well as those people on benefits, are forced to use food banks to try and make ends meet”

Northern Ireland has higher levels of multiple deprivation than the rest of the UK with over a third of the population living on or below the breadline.

Low pay and inadequate benefits lead to poverty and of heat and food lead to mental and physical ill health

Computers and internet access are unaffordable for many families.
People are struggling with rent and mortgage payments
Some people are losing their homes.25% of children live in poverty
Fuel poverty is a reality for thousands of local families                                                                                                   
Poverty is not inevitable”, Lily said. “It is a direct result of an economic system that values profit more than people”.Only a socialist society will consign poverty, deprivation and despair to history, but we must make immediate demands and see immediate changes to improve people’s lives, health and futures” she said  

Our immediate response to the current crisis is a call for:  
better jobs with better wages
a more flexible working environment
higher pay for low-income families
strengthen and simplify the benefits system
invest in public services
an immediate universal fuel allowance
more public affordable housing   .

People the priority – Socialism the answer

“We need to re-order our priorities and we need to do it now”, says Lily Kerr, Workers Party representative in North Belfast

“Politics and the media are dominated daily by petty disputes over ‘who-said-what’, what flag to fly, what title to give someone and who’s going to be the First Minister”, she said

“Meanwhile, in the real world, families are going hungry, children are going without heat and workers, as well as those people on benefits, are forced to use food banks to try and make ends meet”.

For as long as politics here is reduced versions of Orange and Green then ordinary working people will continue to be used as no more than sectarian cannon fodder.

“Rethinking our priorities means putting people first in a socialist society”, Lily said

It’s Food Poverty, Minister!

The Workers Party has written to the Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey , rebuking her and her department for the use of the phrase ‘food insecurity’

The Party’s South Belfast spokesperson, Patrick Lynn, said “…it is obscene, highly insulting and extremely derisory to attempt to disguise one of our greatest social problems with a meaningless verbal smoke-screen”.

“What the Minister should have said, but tried instead to camouflage, was that there is a food poverty crisis in Northern Ireland, that it is directly effecting the lives of thousands of children and that it’s happening on her watch”. Patrick said

“It’s Food Poverty. No one should be attempting to run away from that or to cover it up with corporate-speak”, he said

“The reality is”, said Patrick, “that more than 79,000 emergency food parcels were distributed to people facing crisis in Northern Ireland between April 2020 and March 2021, including 31,000 for children”. 

“That Minister, is Food Poverty. At least have the decency to call it as it is”, Patrick concluded.

Food Banks: part of the’ ‘new normal’

Food Banks: no sign of political outrage or indignation at the Assembly

It is only a few years ago that the concept of Food Banks as we currently know them, was almost unheard of.

Now there are estimated to be more than 30 foodbanks in Northern Ireland. Last year the Trussel Trust alone prepared and distributed around more than 78,000 emergency food parcels; in excess of one and a half thousand every week.

Many other foodbanks run by local charities and churches also provide support and help. Demand for foodbanks rose by 80% last year alone.

They have become so much part of routine life that donating items to them is seen as an act of good citizenship, and of course it is. However, the better citizenship is to make a donation but also to challenge why Food Banks are needed and why well over 30,000children a year depend on them for their meals.

Food banks exist, and demand for them grows, because people and their families are hungry, because they have no other way of feeding themselves, but as with many pressing social issues there is no sign of political outrage or indignation at the Assembly.

There are no imaginative plans to end food poverty, no political commitment to ending the indignity of Food Bank queues and no guarantees that all children can look forward to a healthy and consistent diet.

There is an absence of all of these. It is almost as if the silence amongst Assembly members suggests something distasteful about addressing these problems.

Perhaps the German poet and playwright, Bertlot Brecht, had the measure of the five main parties at Stormont when he said:

Amongst the highly placed
It is considered low to talk about food.
The fact is: they have already eaten’