Monday, 20 April 2015

Community Style Closed Proceedings.

After seeing my sons to school this morning I opened my laptop to read the local news. The first item I read was an article on how there is to be a meeting of 'Community Leaders' today to discuss the recent upsurge in anti-social activity in the Leafair area of the Galliagh estate. As a life time resident of the Galliagh area my first question was who are these community leaders? With this issue destined to effect the entire area then we must question why this meeting has being restricted to include a few 'community leaders' as opposed to the wider community. Whilst I personally welcome any intervention unless the community is directly involved then this will probably be a funding led response and not community based.

Late last week my husband and I were faced with a gang of youths who attempted to set fire to furniture at the front of our house. We challenged them, however before we could have the furniture removed they set fire to it a short distance away. A local teenager who was not involved in the incident has since told us that the youths had intended on burning more furniture on the road, this didn't happen due to our intervention.

Oh Lord Jesus it's a fire!

Questions that need to be asked!

Who are these Community Leaders?

What role do they play in the community, paid or unpaid?

Who appointed these community leaders?

What communication do they have with the local community?

Do they all live in the community?

Who are these leaders answerable and accountable to?

What mechanisms exist to ensure they are accountable to the community?

Were any of these leaders involved in the dismantling of the recent Community Safety Forum?
It must be noted; this forum was hailed a model of best practice by Derry City Council.

When and where will these 'community leaders' publish the minutes of today's closed proceedings?

Were/Are local Councillors involved in today's meeting?

If so did/will they question the dismantling of the Community Safety Forum cited above?

Will they publish a response?

If not, why not?

In line with the principles of Lord Nolan, will these Councillors publish the minutes of today's closed proceedings?

Where are the Northside millions?

Unless the community is empowered then any response will be piece meal and temporary. These issues require a bottom up community led approach, not a closed shop.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

You Don't Know What You've Got Till It's Gone.

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot.

These prophetic words from Joni Mitchell's 'Big Yellow Taxi' were in my head as I left the Guildhall Square today after an anti-austerity event in Derry organised by People Before Profit.

And yes this is the same People Before Profit that I have difficulties with, however!!!

One thing I can say about People Before Profit is that as a political party they are not supportive of cuts to services or forcing people on the dole to work for their benefits unlike the Stormont parties who between them all have supported cuts to services and Workfare schemes.

I stood today in the Guildhall Square with a broad range of people who whilst we might not agree on everything, we agree that the Stormont cuts to services will impact on the most vulnerable and poorest in society. The crowd wasn't massive, but it has to start somewhere and I believe the size of the crowd reflects that this was an event organised by a political party. However in fairness to People Before Profit they didn't hog the stage which was mostly made up of community and trade union representatives.

So the question now is how can we harness the the feelings of the people? My personal preference would be a series of politically neutral community based events bringing together community groups, trade unions and like minded individuals to start to show the 'powers that be' that people are fed up with their rubbish. The politicians with their superglued smiles tell us the response on the doorsteps has been fantastic, the word is they are getting hit with reality, long may it last.

We stood today with a banner highlighting civil rights, this garnered a lot of interest from people there and passers by, many of whom stopped, asking if we were a political grouping. Later having the banner name checked from the speakers platform hinted at its relevancy.

With the Westminster election looming a crucial element to keep in mind is that irrespective of the outcome the North of Ireland will remain an afterthought, unless you believe the DUP who are confident that they will make a difference in the event of a hung parliament.

Next year is the clincher, 2016 sees the next Stormont election and it is there we must either challenge the balance of power or face more years of inept mismanagement masquerading as a Government, but to do this we must start now.

What's needed now is something to galvanise support, something to provide an alternative to the Stormont play acting and sham fights. More cuts are coming and people need someone in Stormont who will do what's right, not what the party tells them, someone who will truly stand up for Derry.

In the last local government election we had 3 independent Councillors elected from the wards in Derry, and if that doesn't show there is the potential for at least one independent MLA in this area alone, or maybe more, nothing will !

Veteran Civil Rights Leader Ivan Cooper who was too ill to attend the protest.

Thousands of people came onto the Streets of Derry during the original civil rights era to face down the Stormont demigogs, the people spoke and the halls of power shook with so much fear that it's response was murder on the Streets of Derry on Bloody Sunday.

Now is the time for the people to speak again because if we don't future conversations will you remember when you could get your child into a nursery... do you remember when your child got educated in class smaller than 40 pupils, do you remember classroom assistants and when you didn't have to work full time hours for the dole???

Like Joni Mitchell so aptly put it, you don't know what you've got till it's gone.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Christy Walsh Ends Hunger Strike.

Statement from Christy Walsh.....

Having met with Martin McGuinness from the OFMDFM and Raymond McCartney of the Assembly Justice Committee yesterday afternoon I, last night, terminated my protest action.

For the past thirty two days I had been on hunger strike in a bid to have David Ford's smearing of my character expunged from the record. The news and print media in general seemed indifferent to the injustice I was confronting. The Andersonstown News alone paid it any serious attention.

Largely the task of highlighting my stance was left to the democratic sphere
known as social media where activists and supporters were relentless as
advocates in raising awareness.

Martin McGuinness gave me a number of private assurances in the presence of a lawyer who accompanied me on yesterday's visit. Amongst them was an undertaking to pursue my concerns regarding the real matter at the heart of this case – prosecutorial misconduct. Of equal significance was his unqualified support for my case, expressed via the Sinn Fein website immediately after our meeting. It was a clear sign of good intent.

My supporters have urged me to reciprocate this action by Mr McGuinness. I do so gladly. The rigour of almost five weeks without food brings its own desire to see movement that not only ends the physical discomfort but also substantively enhances the prospects of a successful outcome to my long running fight for justice which I have been waging since 1991.

I wish to thank Martin McGuinness and Raymond McCartney for the dignified manner in which they treated me. I also wish to thank all my online supporters and friends, as well as all those people who were by my side in Belfast yesterday. Most of all I would like to thank my family who were a rock of support and comfort throughout.

I am relieved that this immediate ordeal is at an end. My campaign to secure justice is not at an end but has, yesterday, taken a significant step forward.  

I would again like to express my gratitude to all those who contributed to ensuring that progress was made. At the end of this I will be fully cleared, fully vindicated, my reputation cleared of any residual taint left by David Ford's malicious allegations and refusal to behave as a Justice Minister befitting the title.

Best Regards 

Christy Walsh

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Hunger-striker Christy Walsh requests a meeting with Martin McGuinness in Derry.

Dear Mr McGuinness

As you are aware the past thirty days of being on hunger-strike are starting to take their effect on my health. Perhaps the most serious effect at the moment is the my body's core temperature has dropped to fifteen degrees thus bringing me closer to going into hypothermia.

I would like to make a public request to meet with you in person. To minimise any inconvenience to you I will travel to Derry on Thursday to facilitate our meeting.

On your part you need only give me the time and location and I will be there.

Yours sincerely

Christy Walsh

Monday, 13 April 2015

Forget Your Process We Need Progress.

A browse on social media can all too often be a rude awakening sometimes heart breaking. A few days ago I came across a photo of a young woman signing a letter in support of detoxification facilities for the north-west. The woman stopped to sign the letter whilst searching the Foyle river bank for the remains of her brother Gary Campbell. Gary Campbell recently completed suicide just hours after he had been rescued from an earlier attempt. When looking at the photo I could see a young woman in turmoil another family member searching for closure. Sadly over the last few years these searches have become a common occurrence in Derry.

In spite of what you read in the local press and in election literature Derry remains in social and economic decline. The UK City of Culture was to bring great things to the city yet it came and went offering no long-term economic
benefits, just memories. Derry has the highest rate of unemployment in the north of Ireland and not surprisingly it has the highest rate of suicide. The suicide rate in Derry is 38% higher than in other areas of Ireland. These figures corroborate the direct link between unemployment and suicide.

Last year I covered the issue of Hurt and Foyle Search and Rescue who at that point had been refused £220,000 of funding from the Social Investment Fund. This funding was to create a counseling facility for people found in distress around the River Foyle. When you consider the many young lives that have been taken by the Foyle, over one year on this refusal beggars belief.

A friend has recently referred to our young as the “lost generation” which is quite apt. They are lost in that more focus remains on the period referred to as the 'troubles' than on the new troubles our young people continually battle. This is supported by how more people have lost their lives to suicide from the signing of the GFA than those lost during the course of the NI conflict.

Too many young people continue to slip through the net in terms of opportunity and services which is a poor reflection on our society and proof that our young have benefited little from the so called peace dividend. Now verging on crisis point we in the north-west need a united front if we are to achieve the services that are urgently needed as well as more education, training and employment opportunities. In unity we must demand that our politicians put forward a tangible economic strategy which to be successful also involves upgrading our poor infrastructure .

The following facts form a strong argument for the above needs:

The District Super Council of Derry and Strabane has the highest rate of unemployment in the North of Ireland. In August last year it was found that 7816 people claimed Job Seeker’s Allowance, which represents 8.1 per cent of the working age population. These figures do not include the high numbers of people in workfare type schemes. These schemes also assist with providing free labour to corporate companies and manipulating the unemployment figures.

In a report published in 2013 it was found that the suicide rate in Derry was 38per cent higher than anywhere else in the Western area. The report by the Men’s Health Forum Ireland (MHFI) found suicide to be a principal cause of death in Ireland amongst men aged between 15-34.

In a recent report from the Prince's Trust research showed that unemployed young people risk becoming "socially isolated" and that half of unemployed young people "always" or "often" feel down or depressed. 36% of the young people surveyed said anxiety had stopped them from looking after their health, and 38% said it prevented them eating properly.

In a report into an increase in the number of people using anti-depressants doctors advised of the growing number of young people being prescribed anti-depressants. The findings of the report suggest that many people still suffer the effects of the troubles but equally that we now have growing numbers of young people with their own new set of troubles.

Derry is home to the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Nobel peace prize winner John Hume, President of the NI Assembly Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Mitchel McLaughlin, member of the European Parliament, Martina Anderson, Westminster MP Mark Durkan and six MLA's. With this level of representation we must question why Derry still faces the issues raised by the Civil Rights Movement over four decades ago. University courses are being redirected as are employment opportunities, we still have a lack of housing and in addition to this we remain in dire need of services to help vulnerable people. 

Forget your endless peace process where is the peace progress?

Our politicians have failed to stand up for Derry despite their claims, which is why we the ordinary people must make a stand similar to the that of the Civil Rights Movement, the intended target and 15th victim of the Bloody Sunday massacre.

In closing I would like to take this opportunity to offer my sincere condolences to the Campbell family, Creggan.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

More Positions than at a Contortionist's Convention.

People rarely fail to amaze me although I must say what some people still choose to believe does, particularly when it involves buying into the regurgitation of the empty election promises. You get so many people telling you of how they cast a vote so as not to waste it, however by doing this we buy into an electoral process that is so diminished in the eyes of the public that nearly as many people don't vote as those who do. The turn out during the last Westminster election in the north of Ireland was 56.6% which was down 7.8% on the previous election. This year I will use my ballot paper to write none of the above which I believe should be an option on the ballot paper. I had intended on voting SDLP on a tactical basis and in the absence of a credible alternative candidate however due to recent events I have since changed my mind.

A few weeks ago following a heavy handed police raid on the home of an older woman in Creggan I contacted the SDLP and asked Mark Durkan directly if he would be issuing a statement to condemn her treatment as is standard SDLP procedure with other forms of intimidation, sadly this did not happen. The other thing which has irritated a lot of people in Derry is the continued vilification of SDLP Councillor Sean Carr who it would seem has been cast aside by the party for supporting his son. In this election the SDLP have went as far as excluding Sean and his contact information from their election literature. If this is how this party treat their own members then how can they be trusted to fairly represent the views of the people, but then this is the same party that recently accepted the Stormont pay rise just two years after they opposed it.

The other option we have in Derry is to vote for either the DUP or Sinn Fein, the DUP operate in a very unequal manner whilst Sinn Fein claim to be all about their base and equality. So much so they recently revised the significance of the Easter Lily when Councillor Sandra Duffy announced; “Today, in 2015 it symbolises the possibility of unity, equality and prosperity for all the peoples of the island.” I was led to believe that the lily, a symbol of peace, is to be worn in remembrance of people who died fighting for their country, but there you go revisionism Sinn Fein style.

When reading Westminster Candidate Gerry O'hEara's contribution to Sinn Fein's annual Easter Commemoration the following sentiments sparked my interest; “For Sinn Fein, the Proclamation is not a piece of history, it is a living document, a guide to the type of Republic that we want. Adding “The Proclamation in its principles continue to guide this generation of republicans, a generation that can, and will, make good on the promise made in 1916.

With Gerry recently reintroduced to the fold as an alleged fifth choice candidate he may want to discuss the above statement with his party who for a long time have criminalised republicans who have used the “living document” as a “a guide to the type of Republic” they want. The question that needs to be asked in light of the above comments is are Sinn fein now supporting the right to use armed struggle or are they just cherry picking through the bits that suit them? Furthermore Gerry's comments seems to contradict MartinMcGuinness's assertion that the Free State army are Oglaigh na hEireann. Oglaigh na hEireann was the name used for Irish volunteers and the IRA in advance of the establishment of the Irish Free State.

Nearing the end of his oration Gerry went on to hail Sinn Fein's efforts in fighting cuts to front-line services and promised 'to cherish all children of the nation equally'. Oh Gerry how out of touch you are, I suggest you read the papers or failing that my blog!

Today our politicians seem to hold more positions than those at a contortionist's convention, they are so embarrassing that they were banned from the recent national leaders debate despite Nigel Farage being given a platform.

If you get a chance I recommend you read Bill Bryson's 'A short history of nearly everything' . The chapter 'life itself' gives a fascinating insight into some of the turbulent and seismic changes that have shaped the face of the earth, including the Permian extinction 245 million years ago that lead to the end of the reign of the dinosaurs.

In the course of the chapter it interestingly states;
'extinction is always bad news for the victims, of course, but it appears to be a good thing for a dynamic planet'. Ian Tattersal of the American Museum of Natural History is quoted as saying The 'alternative to extinction is stagnation' adding 'stagnation is seldom a good thing in any realm.'

I can't help but thinking of our politicians when thinking of fossils and stagnation, and it would seem that when writing this chapter the eminent Mr Bryson has summed up the Jurassic politics of Norn Iron, stagnant. Maybe for us to create a more dynamic place to live we need those dinosaurs in Stormont to take permanent gardening leave. With Stormont failing to put people above ideology or party politics it has become stagnant and the ordinary person an after thought in their endless deal or no deal games.