Friday, 25 April 2014

With the same old lines we've heard before...

Here until May 23rd
People including myself often remark that you never hear from the political parties until election times well here is a party who disappear from election to the next.

On Wednesday evening it was confirmed via their Facebook page that the elusive People Before Profit Party is to stand a single candidate in the new Foyleside ward of the city in the forthcoming council election. Having an insight into the workings of this organisation I am aware that the People Before Profit project originated from the ashes of the failed Socialist Environmental Alliance (S.E.A.) with both parties being Socialist Workers Party projects. This was obvious last election time when three out of their four candidates in Derry were members of the Socialist Workers Party.

The pervious incarnation the SEA led by the SWP
The statement released on Wednesday from People Before Profit three years after their last statement described their candidate as “Super-activist Shá Gillespie” and listed a number of things that Sha Gillespie has either been associated with, been supportive of or been an active supporter of.

Sha would seem to appear to be active on a number of issues but more so as an individual involved in various campaigns rather than a representative of a political party, in a similar way when Eamonn McCann appears on current affairs programmes on TV he does so as a political commentator and not a member of People Before Profit. I have no wish to be dismissive of Sha or anyone, and this is not my intention, for I would argue politics needs more women like Sha, who will stand up, but I would argue that independence would be a better stance. However the question being asked by many is what the Derry branch of People Before Profit as part of an all Ireland Organisation have done here in Derry since the last election? A quick glance at the People Before Profit website shows that the Derry page hasn't been updated since May 7th 2011.

Now before someone comes back saying something ludicrous such as they have been active but not together, please remember that they are registered as a political party and the electoral promises made last time were made under the People Before Profit banner and not any of the other acronyms they are involved with in one capacity or another.

I should make it clear that I respect the right of anyone to stand in a democratic election. I would however hope that the candidate going forward is honest about his or her stance and the platform they stand on. I also believe that when there is a chance for change those who want change should look strategically at the best way of achieving this change, even if this means putting an outside candidate before their party.

In the ward where Sha Gillespie will stand there already is an independent candidate,  one endorsed by the local community, a candidate who has been on the ground consistently engaging with the community, a candidate who I feel has been more than competently highlighting and addressing the issues faced by people in our communities on a regular basis, not just at election time.

When I cast my vote this election time I will be looking at the track record of the candidate and asking myself what they have done to warrant giving them my vote. Too many people gave too much just to flutter a vote away on people who are merely around for elections and offer nothing outside of election time. And what I see from some of the independent candidates standing this time is that their standing for election is a natural progression of the work they have been doing within the communities they are standing in. Their stance will bolster their grass roots work, putting people before parties and agendas.

Here in the north we have a voting system known as proportional representation, a system described by comedian Jake O'Kane as a “a complex mathematical formula designed to ensure the largest number of undesirables possible get elected.”

This complex formula makes it the more difficult for alternative candidates to get elected as the mainstream party supporters generally award transfer votes to other party members. I became aware of this having stood as an independent candidate in the last election. From what I learned at that time I believe the logical way forward in terms of electoral success and positive change is for one candidate to stand in each ward as an alternative to the political parties, parties who have done so little for this city, but claim so much.

So young & foolish!
Having had experience of People Before Profit I am aware that outside of election times and occasional random stand alone events in Derry they are defunct. If I am honest I at one stage thought People Before Profit was a viable alternative, so much so I spoke on the platform at their 2010 Westminster Election Launch. At that event I encouraged people to join what I believed to be a vehicle for change as opposed to an SWP election vehicle. Those in the audience with an inkling of what was actually going on must have thought what an absolute prat! 
 People Before Profit have continued the tradition they established in their former incarnation as the S.E.A. by vanishing after election time, something that Liam Friel a Derry Sinn Fein candidate made reference to when he stood for council in 2011 “I first got into politics in November 2004 when I was involved in the S.E.A. campaign against water charges. I stood in the election to oppose water charges but after the election the S.E.A. disappeared.

In the new People Before Profit statement it states - Derry needs new thinking, not a repeat of the past. 

  Personally I prefer independent candidates as no matter how honest, decent and genuine a person is a party candidate will have to toe the party line even if this line is disconnected from one election to the next!

I do remember a song I heard at one time, and the lyrics would be very relevant at election time

Liars, Liars at your door,
Chalking up the votes, keeping score,
With the same old lines we've heard before...

So put people before parties and their agendas!!!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

All aboard the Stormont Express!!!

Choo Choo Choose Wisely!
Just browsing through the BBC News page when I came across a story involving the destruction of banners at the loyalist protest camp at Twaddell Avenue in north Belfast. Apparently police are treating the incident as a hate crime as opposed to an act of criminal damage or attention seeking.

The protest camp was set up in opposition to the refusal by the parades commission to allow a return Orange Parade to pass by the Ardoyne shops in July 2013. This was due to ongoing tensions in the area during the marching season and the anti-social behaviour that ensued after the return parade in previous years.

Just to remind people the protest camp at Twaddell avenue is at an interface and is so contentious it requires a nightly police presence costing £40,000- £50,000. And lets not forget that this camp is situated on Housing Executive Land, yet the Minister responsible for the Housing Executive, Nelson McCausland of the DUP, is for once mute.

What I fail to grasp is how the recent destruction of banners and flags whilst wrong can be described as a hate crime. In contrast the breaching of countless parades rulings which included sectarian tunes being played outside of a Catholic church were never branded the same. Bandsmen involved in breaching Parades Commission rulings had their charges dropped because they not only didn't see the big signs telling them about the ruling nor did they hear the PSNI with loud hailers  but they failed to see the protesters and the church!

Anyway I've gone off on a tangent here!

What frustrates me is the money that is being spent on this glorified huffing exercise given the money that is being denied to front-line services. Maybe these serial protesters should take to the streets and exercise their democratic right to protest over things that are actually impacting on the wider population. Things like the impending welfare reform, the hacking of front-line services and the ongoing attack on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.

Maybe they could stand in solidarity with the people of Belfast who have been forced out of their homes after racist attacks. Maybe they could protest against the failure of the Stormont Junta to implement the promises of the Good Friday Agreement which include the Bill of Rights and the Civic forum.

We are a multi-cultural and multi-faith society, the orange and green record is less than melodic and frankly was  played out a long time ago. This nonsense serves only deflect from the ineptitude of those pretending to run the North of this country. It helps portray us as a nation of religious muck savages who are too stupid to see when we are being played for fools and robbed of the basics. 

Looking for his old job back!
(See Ross Kemp for details) Many young people are being used as cannon fodder for the politicians preaching civil disobedience before they scuttle back to their middle class homes and all expenses paid jobs, whilst some poor wee fella ends up with a criminal record that will limit opportunities for him for the rest of his life, that is unless he takes up politics as a career.

Flags, camps and parades don't feed, house or clothe families nor do they help reverse the cruel decisions being made by those who benefit from the orange and green gravy train. The antics of those at Twaddell avenue not only provide great material for local wits like Jake O'kane but ultimately fuel the sectarian agenda that is being played out by those on the Northern Ireland Assembly.

All aboard the Stormont express, you don't need a ticket to ride this train, just a blinkered perspective.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Deja Moo!!

Call me cynical, or whatever you like, but I suspect the recent grand announcement from the Stormont Health Minister Edwin Poots regarding the state run residential care homes to be little more than a carefully choreographed charade in advance of the upcoming elections this May.

On April 17th it was announced that eighteen NHS care homes earmarked for closure are to remain open. In a letter from Mr Poots to the Chair of the Stormont Health Committee he said 'Existing residents will be allowed to remain in their home for as long as they wish and so long as their needs can continue to be met there" When questioned during a televised interview as to whether or not there would be further admissions Edwin Poots refused to give a straight answer.

It would seem that straight answers and actions have now been replaced with managed declines for political expediency, a more surreptitious way of removing front-line services. Considering that Peter Robinson & Martin McGuinness' OFMDFM office recently tried to appeal against having to provide information under – freedom of information of legislation as they might lose votes we don't know what depths these self preservationists will go to, to protect themselves.

In an interview with the BBC Stephanie Greenwood of the Unison (trade union group) said if homes were not taking on new residents, their long-term future was in doubt.

Ms Greenwood also told Good Morning Ulster: "I asked the minister if this wasn't an election tactic, why could he not lift the non-admission policy now? He said he had gone back to the board and asked them to do work in that area, and hopefully there would be a result around June."

So ask yourself why the Health Minister refused to give a straight answer to a direct question?

Here's the thing.

This scenario reminds me of the closure of the Foyleville care home here in Derry in 2010 when the five remaining elderly residents were subject to eviction or as was said at the time 'moved to alternative accommodation.'

In the run up to the closure of Foyleville the North West Health and Social Care Trust said they would reassess the viability of the home annually but that they would be taking no new admissions. This was described by campaigners  as a managed decline (deliberate run down) which is a more palatable way of justifying closure through the lack of numbers and the deteriorating condition of the facility in question. A similar tactic is currently being used in school closures with again the same reasons being used to justify closure.

When you look at a cross spectrum of research on 'successful ageing' you find similar threads of thought on the factors that have a positive impact on people in the later stages of their lives.

What featured prominently within the research I read was the need for 'increased soal contact/activity/support.' What I witnessed in Foyleville was the deliberate scaling back of services precipitating the closure of the home. 

 This increased social isolation had a dramatic impact on the residents and despite searching through a broad swathe of resources I cannot find one that states that increased social isolation positively contributes to successful ageing or quality of life.

The announcement to close Foyleville came just over two weeks after the 2010 Westminster election. I wonder if in June, just after the impending elections will we hear of a plan to close the care homes, or even confirmation that no new admissions will be allowed.

In the case of Foyleville it was also suggested that the decision to finally close the the care home followed a consultation with staff members, the residents and their families which was difficult to comprehend given the attendance of the family members at the nightly pickets that followed the announcement.

I was with the family who led the campaign when they were informed of the decision to close the care home, the news came as a shock to them. As we left the home that day one elderly gentleman called the couple to ask them if he was  still OK to stay in his home? The home he had known for over twenty years. I can still see that elderly man's face as that day I witnessed first hand the impact the savage cuts were having and will continue to have on the most vulnerable in our society.

I hope my analysis of this situation will be proved wrong and the care homes will remain open, but sadly, the removal of much needed services is becoming all too familiar with each blow as cruel as the last, each blow seemingly directed towards our most vulnerable.

Hubert Humphrey & Martin Luther King Jnr
American politician Hubert Humphrey once said 'the moral test of Government is how that Government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.' If you pardon his use of the term handicapped, we should be asking would our politicians pass the test in my opinion based upon their performance, I very much doubt it!

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Their words not mine!

I have a tendancy to sound off about things that concern me. However in this blog I am going to say very little, but provide a reminder of what was promised by the two main political parties in this city during the last election. Derry has the highest unemployment rate in the North and 35% of our children are living in poverty. In your opinion have these parties fulfilled their promises?


And here's some of Sinn Feins Literature, some of which is from a 2010 edition of Glor Dhoire


Sunday, 6 April 2014

Democracy or fallacy?

The word ‘democracy’ has its origin in ancient Greek . 'Demos' meaning whole citizen living within a particular city-state and 'Kratos' meaning power or rule.

There are considered to be four basic principles of Democracy:
What bill of rights?

  1. A political system for selecting and replacing the government through free and fair elections. 
  2. People actively participating as citizens, in politics and civic life.
  3. The protection of the human rights of all citizens.
  4. A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.

When you cast your vote you are entrusting the candidate/party with something people fought long and hard for. 

Ask Yourself:

Are the above principles of democracy being upheld? 

Were the promises made last election time kept ?

Have things improved socially and economically or are the same promises being regurgitated?

Democracy or fallacy?

Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese Human Rights Campaigner once said 'Sometimes I think that a parody of democracy could be more dangerous than a blatant dictatorship, because that gives people an opportunity to avoid doing anything about it.'

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Aunty Lizzy's Eating Emporium.

So it's been confirmed Martin McGuinness is to attend a state banquet hosted by the British Queen, as they say, very little shocks me!!!

Stuffed Quail anyone?
Gerry Adams in response to the news stated that 'While Martin McGuinness’s involvement in President Higgins’s state visit may 'not be welcome by opponents of change', it is yet another example of Sinn Féin’s commitment to an inclusive future based on tolerance and equality.'

Opponents of change who might they be? Would these be people with long memories? People who bear a cross, people who bear scars or just people who can look beyond state banquets and see the state we are in?

An opponent of change?
Just maybe people would object to a so called socialist lording it up with the toffs as the people from his home town suffer from the highest rate of unemployment in the north. A place were many during the harsh winter months are forced to choose between heating and eating?

Could it be that the very notion of a monarchy is anti democratic?

Murdered for seeking change!
Could it be that people are disgusted that this is the same woman
who decorated the paras after they murdered people on the streets of his home town in 1972?

Queen Elizabeth II is the world's primary feudal landowner is. She is Queen of 32 countries, head of a Commonwealth of 54 countries in which a quarter of the world's population lives, and legal owner of about 6.6 billion acres of land, one-sixth of the earth's land surface. With a net worth of hundreds of millions of pounds, yet her lavish lifestyle is funded by taxpayers. No minimum wage there Martin!

The British queen is the 'defender of the faith' – not representative of a multi cultural, multi faith society.

I personally couldn't care less who Martin McGuinness has dinner with however I would ask that he and his party president accept that people have different opinions for different reasons. There seems to be an inherent need within Sinn Fein to label people who have a different view point from their party machine, however I'm much too polite, but what I will say is some people are living in 'cloud cuckoo land.'