Northern Ireland

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How to Deliver Social Change through Racial Equality in Northern Ireland

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The following is a submission by The Workers Party to: “A Sense of Belonging: Delivering Social Change through a Racial Equality Strategy for Northern Ireland 2014-2024″.

The Workers Party is an anti-sectarian, anti-racist, secular socialist party. We are anti-racist in the sense that we accept the scientific consensus that ‘race’ as an objective descriptor of human diversity does not exist. More importantly, we are also anti-racist in the sense that we oppose violence and discrimination against people perceived to be ‘different’ for whatever reasons. Races do not objectively exist but hate-crimes and other abuses against ethnic minorities are very real and the Stormont government and other bodies in our society must work to end them.

Added to well established ethnic minority communities in Northern Ireland ( the Chinese, Indian, Jewish and Traveller communities), there has recently been an increasingly visible rise in migrant workers from very diverse backgrounds. It is fair to say that large numbers of people in NI embrace this rise in immigration as a positive development: the 2012 Northern Ireland Life and Times survey found that 43 per cent of respondents believed immigration to be ‘good’ or ‘very good’ for the economy, while half viewed Northern Ireland’s new diversity as having a ‘good’ or ‘very good’ cultural impact. The figures suggest that immigrants have indeed delivered for the local economy.According to recent research from Oxford Economics, far from constituting ‘a drain on the public purse’, between 2004-2008 migrant workers contributed over £1.2 trillion Gross Valued Added to the NI economy. However, this rise in the numbers of migrant workers has also been accompanied by a significant increase in racially motivated attacks and intimidation of ethnic minority people. PSNI figures for 2013/14 show that there were 982 racist incidents in NI, an increase of 232 (30.9%) over the previous year. Moreover, according to 2014 Peace Monitoring Report from the Community Relations Council, many more crimes go unreported, a failure which is exacerbated by the presence of paramilitaries in some of the affected areas.

It is our view that since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement the Stormont Government has been remiss in its duty to protect people from hate crimes. This is a part of the overall unwillingness of the chief parties in Stormont Coalition to to tackle sectarianism at its roots in terms of education, housing, ‘peace-walls’ and flags and emblems. The continued existence of segregated communities in an environment of low-paid work and chronic unemployment and of poverty conditions sow the seeds for much of the racist scapegoating and violence that we have seen in working class areas. As journalist Peter Geoghegan notes:

The public administration of ‘Race Relations’ in Northern Ireland is undermined by a fundamental tension between a discourse of Good Relations and normalisation stressing equality and social diversity and a set of structures and practices which privilege sectarian identities. Although the Agreement includes a commitment to diversity beyond the ‘two traditions’ the text itself is a product of sectarian division and, in many important respects, continues to reproduce this bifurcation.

In relation to sectarian ‘bifurcation’ at government level, the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM) notes that, “the current Good Relations Policy: Together Building a United Community (TBUC) perpetuates the ‘two communities’ approach and omits consideration of race relations in any action plan.”

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The July Issue of Socialist Voice is Out Now

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The July issue of Socialist Voice is now available online.

Articles in this issue include: 

  1. Belfast says No to G8
  2. Haddington Road rebranded, or I’m all right, Jack [NOM]
  3. What’s “left” for Ireland? [EON]
  4. Ireland’s ruling class [NL]
  5. Government to abolish people’s right to cut their own turf [MH]
  6. Credit unions a target for carpetbaggers [MA]
  7. G8: A club of the rich to protect the interests of the rich
  8. An honest citizen criminalised [TMS]
  9. Getting a handle on events in Brazil [RCN]
  10. Repression and criminalisation in Colombia [JAG]
  11. Tax justice for the rich! [NL]
  12. Letter: The iron heel of capitalism

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Margaret Thatcher’s Death is No Loss to the Greater Part of Humanity

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Margaret Thatcher has left a deep legacy not only for the people of the neighbouring island but also for the Irish people and for the oppressed and suffering peoples of the world.

Thatcher epitomised the arrogance of the long imperialist traditions of the British ruling class. Her policy in regard to the H-block hunger strikes exposed her deep contempt and hatred for those who opposed British imperialist interests. Under her rule the British army gained greater freedom to develop and perpetrate its dirty war in the North of Ireland, when selective assassinations and the management of loyalist paramilitaries became more central to the British war machine.

Thatcher was one in a long line of British rulers who had a deep hatred of working people, such as her great hero, Churchill, another person who carried as a badge of honour his hatred of Ireland and the Irish people’s struggle for independence as well as for the British working class. Thatcher saw workers as mere cannon-fodder in imperialist wars, whether in Ireland or the Malvinas, or simply strategic pawns in her anti-communist crusades, as with “Solidarity” in Poland.

Her name has become a byword for aggression, selfishness, and rampant individualism. She has left a legacy of destroyed lives, shattered communities, rampant militarism and chauvinism and the destruction of what was left of British manufacturing and raised the adoration of the “market” beyond all previous levels.

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The Biggest Symptom of a Problem

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The Office of National Statistics (ONS) in the UK have today released regional economic indicators. By bringing together data from a variety of sources, they provide a partial but very useful snapshot of where the economy under the jurisdiction of the Northern Ireland Assembly sits in relation to the British economy. The entire dataset is here and is very useful.

Below is the ONS chart on employment.

Oddly, repeated attempts to copy the full chart failed because the last item on the legend (directly below Scotland) kept dropping off. It’s Northern Ireland. In the chart, it is the orange line. Clearly, someone at ONS has a sense of humour.

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Micheál Martin – Opportunism and Cynicism of the Very Worst Kind

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The award for opportunist of the week must surely go to Micheál Martin. His hastily written opinion piece in Wednesdays Irish News was a timely reminder of Fianna Fáil’s cynical approach to both the peace process and to politics.

For weeks Belfast city centre has been brought to a standstill by illegal loyalist blockades. Night after night the same protestors have returned to their own neighborhoods and engaged in running battles with the PSNI causing real disruption to their own communities.

In more recent nights these riots have turned into organised attacks on nationalist homes in the Short Strand.

The situation is very serious. If it continues, many fear that someone will be killed.

So what is Micheál Martin’s response to this escalating crisis? Does his article give the impression of a political leader trying to understand the causes of the problem in order to play a constructive role in helping resolve it? Unfortunately not.

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