Sunday, 12 January 2014

Shove this up your poll / pole.

This article of mine was originally published on The Pensive Quill.

As we approach the New Year it is prudent to reflect on the previous year.This year has been eventful politically and in countless cases the cracks and crackpots have become more evident, and I'm not even talking about landrover surfing!


The ongoing issue over the union flag at Belfast City Hall has been used to overshadow so many important issues this year. We have witnessed an upsurge in orange and green political tomfoolery manufactured here to deflect from the inability of the Stormont junta to deal with issues affecting many people.


The ongoing decorating of derelict buildings by painting curtains on the boards which now cover up windows is an attempt to make things more palatable but it does not belie the wreckage known to many as the economy. Countless commercial buildings and houses which were once family homes lie empty when homelessness and unemployment are on the increase. This practice is merely a physical manifestation of the attitude of those who hold the reigns of power, just paper over the cracks, they'll be none the wiser.


At the same time attempts are being made to abolish the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. The Housing Executive was set up in 1971 to address the housing equality issue, helped along by the efforts of the Civil Rights Movement. It is claimed by DUP Minister for Social Development Nelson McCausland that the NIHE model is unsustainable. The removal of the Housing Executive can be avoided if borrowing restrictions for public bodies are to be made more flexible. If this move goes ahead social housing will be placed into the hands of housing associations which to date has seen rents increases by up to 28%. We must also remember that the implementation of bedroom tax may still be on the agenda. And on the subject of taxation, just imagine if multi national companies were made by Government to pay the taxes they actually owed, yet the haves will continue to get away scot free and the have nots will continue to suffer.


But more than the destruction of the NIHE, public spending is being slashed across the board further affecting societies poorest and most vulnerable. The current practice of sending those people with serious illness to health assessments to decide if they are fit to work or not are immoral at best. This cost cutting measure at the hands of faceless bureaucrats is very unfair considering not only are these people ill but there are no jobs and the prospects of employment remain bleak. 


In 2012 Cecilia Burns, a 51 year old cancer sufferer, had her benefits cut by government officials who said she was fit to work. Cecilia from Strabane, County Tyrone, had started a campaign in February to have the decision overturned but sadly lost her battle against cancer in August of that year. I'm sure the Stormont Tory led bean counters didn't lose a night's sleep.The ongoing manipulation of unemployment figures to give the illusion things are getting better continues when the stark reality is, people on benefits are being sent out for long periods of time to work for their pittance benefit to facilitate the manipulation of (un)employment figures. This scheme is known as 'workfare.' Workfare involves major companies having people on benefits work for free and the unemployed threatened with loss of benefits if they don't do what they are told. This horrendous exploitation was passed unimpeded by the parties in Stormont, including so called 'Socialist' parties, whose representatives earn a minimum forty thousand quid a year – not including expenses. So take a big bow!


Not only are our representatives not acting in the best interests of the people as an Executive their party interests clearly comes before the people. And before anyone says Sinn Fein MLA's only take home an average industrial wage, that is a matter of choice for them, they get their +40k, what they choose to do with it after that is up to them.


In recent times we saw the arrival of former American Diplomat Richard Haass to deal with issues our elected representatives are incapable of dealing with. Issues such as ways of dealing with the past, contentious parades, and the issue of the union flag. It would appear a resolution is harder to achieve than initially predicted, with Mr Haass clearly involved in a process of circular reasoning with a group of people more focused on protecting themselves, votes and flags than dealing with issues involving the truth or justice. One thing you can be sure of is that no matter what is decided by the Haass talks the parties and British Government will ignore these outcomes when it suits.


On the subject of ignoring outcomes, 2013 saw the publication of a report into the RUC investigation of the 1988 Good Samaritan Bomb in Creggan, Derry. Three people were killed in a booby trap bomb as they went to check on a neighbour they were concerned about. Previous reports into the murders had been scuppered and changed without reason by the former Ombudsman's office, and these reports were rejected by the family of victim Sean Dalton who had lodged the complaint.


The Police Ombudsman's report concluded that the RUC at that time had prior knowledge of the bomb. It was also found that the RUC had advised their patrols to stay away from the area yet they put the lives of the civilian population in the surrounding area in danger. The report continued to outline the refusal of senior RUC personnel to assist with the enquiries. The Ombudsman found that there was no protection of an RUC informer, something since contested inadvertently by the RUC retired officers association, who also advised their members not to participate in any investigation.


What was noticeable was that when the report was released not one elected representative in the north welcomed the findings or condemned the inactions of the RUC. Even the elected representatives in Derry including those who represent the area where the bombing happened were mute. These politicians all speak about victims when it suits, but here was a case of three people murdered and yet not one word from the great and good. Why the silence from those who claim to be in support of victims? 


Looking to the future is important but this certainly does not mean ignoring the past, in fact we must reflect on and learn from the past, to paraphrase what we have been told in different circumstances 'it hasn't gone away you know'.


And on the subject of learning from the past, both Sinn Fein and the SDLP have on different occasions acknowledged that internment is still very much in use here. People are spending years in prison awaiting trial. In the current case of sixty three year old Lurgan man Martin Corey, he has been imprisoned for over three years without charge, trial or conviction on the strength of secret evidence. We need to question the main parties in Stormont asking, are you actively addressing this situation outside of reactionary lip-service? If yes then what are your party doing? If not then why not?


In closing I would like to remind all elected representatives that you are on fixed term contracts and if you are not up to the job then we the people will find people who are.


You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. Abraham Lincoln.


And remember: changes are not permanent but change is.



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