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

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’