Friday, 7 August 2015

Desperately Seeking Democracy.

For such a tiny little statelet the level of drama here never ceases to amaze me, honestly, the soap dramas have nothing on this place.

A few weeks ago in a street just minutes from where I live British military accompanied the PSNI during house searches in the area. Their overly heavy presence outside of their role in bomb and munitions disposal sent shock waves through the city, although why I have no idea.

On July 31st 2007 the British army's 'Operation Banner' in the North of Ireland came to an end after 38 years, only to be replaced by Operation 'Helvetic' the following day. This operation involves a garrison of up to 5,000 military personnel in ten locations in the north who are to be trained here and ready for deployment worldwide which would include our streets. In the words of a bearded one “They haven't gone away”.

What I found quite ludicrous about the whole thing was the reaction from the politicians who promised to demand answers from the district policing partnership boards. Why? Whilst day-to-day policing and justice matters are devolved to the Northern Ireland Executive, the British Government retains sole responsibility in matters of national security. The recent house searches would fall into this bracket therefore the questions from our politicians need to be asked of the Chief Constable and primarily the British Secretary of State.

When viewing the army presence that day I was reminded of the words of Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly who in 2007 described the British Army as a 'blunt instrument' who had been used by the British government "who made the decision to use them against republicans, nationalists and Catholics” And yet it would seem that this 'blunt instrument' he referred to is armed and ready to go if and when required.

Prior to this we've also seen the Nama scandal and ongoing investigation into the allegations made about millions of pounds allegedly earmarked for a Stormont politician. The outcome of this is quite easy to forecast as it will no doubt include a 'petition of concern' if it is found that it involves a politician or political party. The PSNI have as yet not launched any investigation into the NAMA shenanigans, but then again this is the same police force which lost the keys to a fleet of 69 new cars, so maybe that's not such a bad thing... 

With the above issues being quite topical, bread and butter issues appear to have fallen by the wayside with further deflection employed in Derry in the form of a proposal to change the City's name. Derry or Londonderry?

Either way the city will still have the highest rate of child poverty and highest unemployment rate in north and for these reasons I feel Skintville would be more appropriate. The Derry/ Londonderry conundrum will do nothing to change the above facts what it will do however is stir up sectarian tensions, but then what better way to take the focus of issues that really matter and impact on people whether from Derry or Londonderry. Issues such as cuts to the welfare budget and front-line services. Issues which know neither class, colour nor creed.

Just yesterday we saw the launch of a consultation into the proposed closure of two residential care homes in Derry. The consultation is based on a proposal put forward by the Western Healthcare Trust. If accepted the proposals will mean closure of both the William Street and Rectory Field care homes in Derry. This proposed eviction of our elderly should be of grave concern to all particularly when the ideas of transforming care for the elderly have amounted to very little as is evident through cuts to care services in the community. With this consultation we must register our disgust and refuse to accept these proposed evictions. 

What is deeply concerning is that each cut we face is aimed at the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. Just today it was revealed that funding via the Department of Education for schools in Derry is to be cut by over £1.5 million in the coming year.

In addition to this we await cuts to the welfare budget including cuts to tax credits. These cuts will no doubt mean a further increase in child and working poverty. Despite the sabre rattling from politicians here tax credits as the name suggests is a tax matter controlled by HMRC of which our politicians have no power over. 140,000 families in the north receive child tax credits. 89,000 of these families have someone working. With information at this point deliberately vague we are right to assume that over 140,000 families will be effected by these cuts as well as cuts to the working tax credit element. 

It defies all reasoning that any government would take from those at the bottom whilst allowing those at the top to wallow in their profits.  Tax dodging big businesses  are getting away with not paying their share. In 2010 who had a UK turnover of £3.3 billion paid £0 in corporation tax. In 2011 Starbucks who had a UK turnover of £398 million too paid £0 in tax. In the same year Google who had a turnover of £2.6 billion paid a mere 6 million. Yet still the Tories feel justified in filling the gaps by taking from society's poorest. Now on the subject of the Tories it would seem economics is not their strong point with them having sold publicly owned shares in RBS at a loss of over 1 Billion quid, still these people have the audacity to take from the poor...

Now on a separate note... I heard yesterday that a series of 'Stakeholders Workshops' re the Historical Investigations Unit and dealing with the past have taken place. The problem is the facilitators chose to engage only with a hand picked few. These workshops are said to have taken place in Fermanagh, in Derry as recently as Tuesday and in Belfast in Stormont yesterday. So much for no hierarchy of victims.

You don't have to be crazy to live here but it helps!

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