Saturday, 2 August 2014

With reckless abandon

“ Violence is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all.” Martin Luther King Jnr

Three days ago the local news featured a piece about a gun attack on a PSNI patrol in the Bogside area of Derry.  I appreciate that republicans argue that the use of armed action is a legitimate right as enshrined in the Irish proclamation, but as someone who has never supported violence I would question not only the use of violence but the effectiveness of such actions at this time. I would further ask those who engage in armed actions, what armed conflict to date has achieved outside of filling the cemeteries, the prisons and leaving many of the foot soldiers who listened to armchair generals with a range of physical and mental health conditions. Foot soldiers now unable to get employment as they  have 'criminal' convictions for their political actions. 

Ageing and social exclusion among former politically motivated prisoners in Northern Ireland and the border region of Ireland P.12

That said there are those who might regard having self-serving narcissists in positions of power as an achievement. The same self-serving narcissists who now invest their pensions in the tobacco industry, the nuclear weapons industry and in companies accused of human rights abuses. These same self-serving narcissists who now administer the very oppressive rule they themselves once took an active stance against, and who are now more interested in their party ideologies, their power and maintaining the status quo.

We continue to experience a democracy deficit here in the North of Ireland with the continued erosion of civil and human rights despite constant references in the press hailing the democratic peace process, a new dispensation and a new beginning. 

There are numerous issues that continue to cause concern, issues such as the power the British Government and their unaccountable security services continue to hold despite claims of power sharing and devolution. The use of secret justice or the lack of justice, internment by remand, poverty, suicide, lack of faith in the PSNI, lack of employment opportunity and homelessness are all issues that need to be addressed. No amount of pot shots at a PSNI patrol in the Bogside will contribute to having these issues addressed, the only thing that will change this is when people stand together and demand that those who claim to represent us address these issues and fulfil the promises they continue to make.

These are many of the same issues that led to the formation of the anti-sectarian civil rights movement over 40 years ago. The ethos of the civil rights movement is as relevant today as it was when the British Government tried to murder it when it's paratroopers attacked the people of Derry in 1972. Their actions on Bloody Sunday were not an attempt to maintain law and order but to instil terror into civil rights supporters and remove support for the civil rights movement as the message of the Civil Rights Movement could not be disputed. The iconic civil rights mural in Derry today is a reminder of those who fought against injustice and a message to our youth that non-violent action achieved more than the barrel of a gun ever did or will.

The people in the North of Ireland are often portrayed in the British press as a nation of sectarian idiots with the British Government's role as one of peacekeepers, this being despite their central role in the 'Troubles', their notorious history of human rights abuses here, and indeed their current human and civil rights abuses now administered by those in Little Britain, or as its more commonly known, the Northern Ireland Assembly.

In a televised interview after the gun attack in the Bogside a PSNI Superintendent described the attack on the police officers in Derry as "totally reckless" continuing to say "those who organised and carried out the attack “showed total disregard for the lives of people in that community.” SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood commented that 'The people who carried out this attack have no regard for their community, or for the future we are trying to build', Whilst Sinn Fein's Raymond McCartney said 'Those behind this attack have nothing to offer society and are not representative of the people of Derry.'

As I said earlier, I have never supported violence, and would echo some of the sentiments of Colum & Raymond. However I would go a step further when it involves the inactions of our politicians with regard to their reckless decision making.

When they facilitate civil and human rights abuses and when they invest more money in football pitches than in employment schemes,when they refuse to fund detoxification and life saving services then that to me is totally reckless, and shows a total disregard for the community. This is not representative  of the will of the people.

If we look at a couple of facts, it is a fact that more people have died through suicide since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement than through the troubles, it is a fact is that there is an identified link between the unemployment rate and the suicide rate. And it is a simple truth that  politicians here are failing the people they claim to represent by penalising them for the failings of Government.

It has been estimated there have been 10,000 deaths as a result of the current recession, Dr Aaron Reeves, of the University of Oxford, told the BBC: "There's a lot of good evidence showing recessions lead to rising suicides, but what is surprising is this hasn't happened everywhere - Austria, Sweden and Finland. "It shows policy potentially matters. One of the features of these countries is they invest in schemes that help people return to work, such as training, advice and even subsidised wages."

Never forget that all the main Stormont parties voted for people to work for their benefits through the agreed workfare scheme. In one case a tradesman was sent to building site for a number of weeks, to work, he didn't get any extra money, he didn't get any additional training and he didn't get a job out of it. But what he did do by being forced onto the scheme was enable the government to mark one less person down as being unemployed.

Maybe our politicians should take heed of the policies of the governments of Austria, Sweden and Finland?

For my part, I just wonder will the PSNI ever arrest some of the politicians here for the "totally reckless" decisions they continue to make, decisions which show disregard for the lives of people in our communities. 

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