Friday, 31 August 2012

Sectarian Ritual Shuts Down Newry

Stephen Murney
The three days of sectarian coat-trailing experienced in Newry over the weekend of 24-26th August brought nothing but frustration, disruption and inconvenience to the people of the area.

The bank holiday weekend began on Friday evening with a show of strength hosted by the South Down Defenders flute band, with over a score of other unionist bands along with three thousand of their supporters taking over the streets of Newry.

Coupled with an accompanying and domineering major PSNI operation, many local people were simply unable to venture into the city centre. Those local people who had no choice but to travel around Newry, either by car or on foot, found themselves delayed or intimidated not only by unionist bands but also by the menacing behaviour of heavily armed members of the Six-County police force.

Saturday and Sunday proved to be no different with several more sectarian marches taking place alongside the accompanying clamp-down of nationalist residents of Newry by the PSNI.

Voicing the socialist republican party’s opposition to such sectarian shows of strength, éirígí’s Stephen Murney said, “After being contacted by local residents and several shop-owners in the town, our party activists and supporters were present for each of these marches. Local nationalists found themselves targeted by the PSNI’s Tactical Support Group for simply observing the march.

“éirígí party members were verbally abused and threatened with arrest by PSNI personnel in full view of members of the public.

“At the same time, a constitutional nationalist MLA, also observing the marches and performing the same role just a few feet away from éirígí party members, was allowed to do so unhindered by the same PSNI personnel.”

Murney added, “We are often told by the main unionist parties’ PR machines that these marches bring an economic benefit to the towns in which they are held.

“Perhaps, shop-owners in Newry should tell those unionist apologists just how little these marches actually added to the economy of Newry over the last weekend of August.

“It is obvious to all citizens in Newry that the presence of these sectarian marches actually kills off trade rather than enhancing it.”

Murney continued, “It’s also obvious that unionists will use any excuse to indulge in sectarian coat trailing exercises in Newry. They march to catch buses to another town, then they march after getting off buses from other towns; they march going to a church and then march coming back from a church. They also march for no reason at all other than sheer sectarianism.

“Newry has had enough of these sectarian displays. These marches only cause, rather than heal, division.

“In July of this year, the convenor of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council described the Orange Order and its off-shoots as being ‘out of time and out of place’ in modern society.

“Perhaps, it’s time that others within the nationalist community and, indeed, the protestant community in Newry also stood up just as courageously to send out the same message. Such marches are, indeed, out of time and out of place in Newry.”

Monday, 27 August 2012

‘Know Your Rights’ Campaign Launched in Newry

The latest from éirígí

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Several dozen people attended the public launch of éirígí’s “Know your rights” campaign in Newry Arts Centre on Thursday [August 23].

The event was introduced by the party’s Newry representative Stephen Murney and was chaired by Councillor Davy Hyland. A legal professional provided an in depth view of the various legislation used and abused by Britain’s police force and provided a presentation on the statistics available.

éirígí’s Rúnaí Ginearálta Breandán Mac Cionnaith gave a historical and present day analysis of British policing in Ireland and made comparisons between repressive legislation used as far back as the RIC, RUC and the present day PSNI.

Mac Cionnaith explained, “The historical use of special powers to address opposition to British rule in Ireland created a sort of sham internal legitimacy within the Six Counties that has supported the continued use of similar coercive measures from partition right through to the situation we find ourselves in today where two political parties who once opposed such repressive laws now acquiesce to their use.

“Repressive laws have become so much part of the fabric of life in the North that the mindset of constitutional nationalists has veered away from viewing repressive legislation as anything other than normal – little surprise given that they have fully brought into Britain’s normalisation policy. Perhaps, those parties have forgotten that one of the demands of the civil rights movement, which they both claim descent from, was the repeal of the Special Powers Act – not its replacement with more repressive legislation.”

Pointing out that the repressive legislation in use today is intended to prevent anyone from expressing or organising political, social or economic opposition to the status quo in the Six Counties, Breandán continued, “That was the intent behind the introduction of the Special Powers Act in the Twenties, and that is the intent behind such legislation today. The new stop and search powers under the Terrorism Act will likely be used in a similar way – those powers will be used for ‘dragnet’ low level intelligence gathering exercises and general intimidation and harassment.

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Cllr Davy Hyland & Breandán Mac Cionnaith

“The lack of knowledge which prevails about extent of repressive legislation amongst our communities, and even amongst many political activists, demonstrates how well the British state has succeeded in isolating and demonising Republicans and radicals in the Six Counties. It also demonstrates how well the British state has succeeded in its normalisation policy.”

Breandán concluded, “It is vital that we familiarise with those remnants of our individual rights and civil liberties, especially today when new anti-‘terrorist’ legislation is casting the net of repression ever wider. It is important that we educate others what the British State in the Six Counties is capable of and how it operates. The launch of this “Know Your Rights” card is part of that process of education. It will be updated regularly to take account of changes in legislation.”

Following the panel discussion there was a very informative question and answer session during which those in attendance raised their concerns and gave their accounts of the harassment they have received. Some valuable and helpful advice was provided by the legal professional.

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Speaking after the launch éirígí’s Newry spokesperson Stephen Murney said, “We are delighted to have launched this ongoing campaign in the Newry area. The turnout tonight is testament to the fact that the PSNI have been waging an unrelenting campaign of harassment and intimidation in Newry through the use of stop and searches and various other means.

“I have no doubt that the people who attended this launch have left here tonight with a better understanding of their rights when confronted by the state forces. This is just one example of how we need to educate, organise and agitate within our communities and éirígí will not be found wanting when it comes to that.”

Murdering Miners

From the Pensive Quill

While ANC leader and South African president Joseph Zuma has called for a commission of inquiry and declared a national week of mourning.  Cyril Ramaphosa, once a militant workers’ leader and now a multi-millionaire with shares in the Lonmin mine, has offered to pay for the funerals.  Zuma and Ramaphosa are total hypocrites.  The massacre of these workers is the perfectly logical outcome of the entire course of the ANC since it won the country’s first democratic elections in 1994 - Shan Van Vocht

Earlier this month at the Marikana platinum mine near Johannesburg armed South African police massacred striking miners who attacked their lines. 34 lives were lost. That's 20 more than the Irish experienced in a similar massacre in Derry just over 40 years ago and which continues to shape Irish perceptions of the British state's security trumps rights agenda.

To think that only two years ago the global sporting fraternity was watching soccer’s World Cup finals being played out in South Africa. Its very location suggested a monumental amount of progress having been made since the murderous days of Sharpville in 1960 or Soweto in 1976. In that bygone era a headline that armed South African police massacred children or workers was the stuff that could send reverberations pulsating throughout the world. That was under the apartheid system and that type of headline was supposed to have died with white minority rule. Had the ANC not brought the curtain down on police massacres of black civilians?

What is there to be said about working men being gunned down in a clash that has its origins in demands for better wages? Whatever it is it must surely be more than the words of the country's president Jacob Zuma, 'I do feel your pain.' Not that much however, choosing to speak publicly about the matter from a private lodge owned by the mine company. Only after he was bounced into it by political opponents did he venture onto "miners' territory."

Such vacuous gestures cannot fill the vacuum created by mass murder nor should it it be allowed to function as a balm designed to take the sting out of the injury as a prelude to things carrying on much as they always did. Why has he not said that he feels the rage and molten anger of the striking  miners towards the barbarism that was inflicted on them by the country's murderous police carrying on in the brutal tradition of their apartheid era precursors?

For those who thought the burden the multitude of South African blacks laboured under was transient white power there will be a lack of comprehension. Those who thought that permanent greed played a part will be less stumped for an explanation.

Even the Thatcher government in its long running dispute with the Scargill-led NUM did not gun striking miners down in the streets, political savvy curbing the murderous Tory instinct that was on public display on the streets of Derry a decade earlier.

For both sides in the mine dispute wages is the life or death struggle. The sheer callous audacity with which the mine owners seek to press home their right to keep pay down was evident in its post-massacre demeanour. Since the slayings the British listed Lonmin company, which has 28 000 workers on its payroll, has persisted in its refusal to pay higher wages and at one point threatened to sack those continuing to take strike action in pursuit of better pay and conditions:
The final ultimatum provides RDOs (rock drill operators) with a last opportunity to return to work or face possible dismissal ... Employees could therefore be dismissed if they fail to heed the final ultimatum.

For the workers poor pay has given rise to widespread resentment. One miner saidafter the massacre, ‘it's better to die than to work for that shit.’ Another said ‘you work so very hard for very little pay. It is almost like death.’

Colleague Kaizer Madiba added his voice:

People have died already so we have nothing more to lose ... we are going to continue fighting for what we believe is a legitimate fight for living wages. We would rather die like our comrades than back down.

It is not as if the mining companies cannot afford to pay them, somethingacknowledged by the country’s president when he threatened to cancel licences to companies that refused to improve living accommodation for mine workers. He added,  'in fact it should not be such an industry that has the lowest paid worker, given the wealth they have.'

Lonmin's adherence to the profit before people concept was summed up by the resident of a village near the mine who while airing no sympathy for the strikers’ actions nevertheless claimed:

We are so angry. They (Lonmin) don't treat us like people. Lonmin has done nothing for the local community. They take our platinum and enrich themselves but where is our royalty money going? We don'thave tar roads and our youth are unemployed.

A political opponent of Zuma, Julius Malema - a former ANC Youth League president expelled from the party for his strident flaunting of leadership authority - tapped into this sentiment and called for nationalistion of the mines, alleging that the ANC government 'has turned into a pig. It eats its own people.'

The South African 'corruption-riddled, scandal-plagued police service' hardly comes with a record that inspires confidence. It is gripped by an apartheid mindset. National Education, Health, and Allied Workers' Union spokesman Sizwe Pamlafirmly pointed this out in saying 'our police service has adopted and perfected the apartheid tactics and the militarisation of the service, and encouraged the use of force to resolve disputes and conflicts.' Nor is it a mindset restricted to dealing with the mining industry. According to a recent report sex workers have been gang raped by police. 

Is this what an ANC government in a supposedly post-apartheid age has brought to the black workers of South Africa - a state of affairs where the country's police 'are there not to protect the lives of people, but the property of the mine'? Is Jimmy Kruger still Minister for Justice and Police?

Sunday, 19 August 2012

éirígí Newry meets with human rights group CAJ

CAJ logo
éirígí representatives and victims of state harassment recently held a meeting in Newry with human rights group, the Committee on the Administration of Justice [CAJ].

CAJ is an internationally-recognised independent human rights organisation, which lobbies and campaigns on human rights issues both in the Six Counties and abroad. The organisation is currently monitoring stop and search incidents and are recording and logging the details.

The meeting was convened after members of the socialist republican party contacted CAJ with details of an unremitting campaign of state force harassment being waged against people in Newry.

The CAJ representatives heard first-hand accounts of numerous incidents that have taken place in the area. These incidents include countless stop and searches, assaults, house raids, arrests, intimidation, provocation, the targeting of children and people being targeted while at work.

Speaking after the meeting éirígí’s Newry spokesperson Stephen Murney said, “This was a very worthwhile and positive meeting with a leading human rights organisation. CAJ have provided us with stop and search/police harassment monitoring forms, which they ask victims of PSNI harassment to fill in each time they are targeted.

“We are asking people when filling in these forms to note the legislation used, details of the incident including the location and time, and if possible to note the rank and numbers of the PSNI members involved.

“As well as launching éirígí’s own “Know Your Rights” campaign in the area next Thursday [August 23] we will also be advising people to contact their legal representatives and CAJ to have the incidents logged and recorded.”

Murney added, “We are delighted with the proactive approach CAJ are taking and we in éirígí have pledged to work closely with them and we look forward to future meetings with the organisation.”

The Newry launch of éirígí’s “Know Your Rights” campaign will take place on Thursday 23rd August at 7.30pm in the Newry Arts Centre, Bank Parade, beside the Town Hall.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

PSNI accused of covering-up unionist attack on Armagh church

An explosion which wrecked a phone box in the townland of Ballyargan in County Armagh last Sunday [August 12] occurred only yards away from a catholic church. A spokesperson for the socialist republican party éirígí has accused the PSNI of covering up the location of the blast and of failing to attribute any sectarian or other ominous motivation to the explosion despite obvious evidence.

A spokesperson for éirígí in the Newry area, Stephen Murney, said, “The PSNI, in a classic piece of media management which went unchallenged by the main news media outlets, issued a terse statement on Monday 13th August about a blast on the Lisraw Road. That PSNI statement said that detectives based at Ardmore in Newry were investigating reports of an explosion at a phone box and that the extent of the damage was too great to have been caused by a firework.”

Murney added, “At no time since last Sunday has the PSNI mentioned that the seat of the explosion was less than twenty yards away from the entrance to St Patrick’s catholic church at Ballyargan. Many people will no doubt find it remarkable that the PSNI did not deem the actual location of this blast and its close proximity to a catholic church to be of any factual relevance or to be indicative of a sectarian motive from those responsible for causing the explosion.

“This is even more remarkable given that St Patrick’s Church has previously been subjected to other sectarian attacks in the past. St Patrick’s is situated in a fairly isolated location and is located in the middle of a triangle bounded by Markethill, Tandragee and Scarva. A decade ago, unionist slogans were daubed on the church and gravestones in the adjoining cemetery were broken on several occasions, and in the mid-90s it was also fire-bombed.”

Murney also questioned why no representatives from the SDLP or SF appear to have publicly questioned the PSNI version of events.

He said, “Furthermore, one must also ask why those constitutional national politicians who constantly claim to hold the PSNI to account have failed to publicly challenge the PSNI’s reporting of last Sunday’s explosion. Why have SDLP and SF members of the Policing Board and the so-called Police and Community Safety Partnerships failed to publicly take the PSNI to task for the deliberate cover-up of what, to all intents and purposes, was an attack with obvious sectarian motivation? How can such media management, misreporting and cover-up by the PSNI be considered to be compatible with the safety of any community.”

In conclusion, Murney said, “Although Sunday Masses are not held there, the explosion beside St Patrick’s church clearly suggests there is a small unionist grouping within the Markethill, Tandragee and Scarva area intent on stirring up sectarian strife. That the PSNI is seeking to downplay that reality is a matter which should be of major concern to all.”

Friday, 10 August 2012

éirígí to Launch ‘Know Your Rights’ Campaign in Newry

éirígí have announced the details of the public launch of our much anticipated ‘Know Your Rights’ campaign in Newry.

The PSNI, like the RUC before them, habitually abuse the rights of Irish citizens as a core component of its activities. Confronted by these forces, many people unknowingly waive a number of their basic rights. Regrettably, due to the sheer number of repressive laws available to the British state forces, a great number of people are simply unaware as to what their rights are.

For others, these forces are imposing and even intimidating figures of power and as a result they simply do as their told. Whatever the case, we know that the PSNI act in opposition to the interests of the working class and, therefore, it falls to us to defend our own rights.

Speaking ahead of the launch, éirígí’s Newry representative Stephen Murney explained, “Only too often we hear of incidents were people are on the receiving end of harassment, particularly in the Newry area. It can be a very intimidating experience when a person is surrounded by several aggressive heavily armed PSNI members barking questions and making demands. This campaign will enable people to know their rights and defend them.

“By launching this campaign in the Newry area, we aim to dispel some of the myths around a number of these ‘Stop and Search’ provisions and powers, which will empower people to be more assertive in the face of them.”

Stephen concluded “This event will include a panel discussion which will be chaired by independent republican councillor Davy Hyland and will feature éirígí’s Rúnaí Ginearálta Breandán Mac Cionnaith and a legal professional.”

Venue: Newry Arts Centre (Beside Town hall)
Date: Thursday 23rd August
Time: 7.30pm

Thursday, 9 August 2012


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Internment, or more accurately, internment without trial, is the practice of imprisoning citizens of a state, indefinitely, without a judicial process; instead of any form of ‘due process’ a citizens’ liberty can be taken of him or her on the say-so of an administrator of the state.

Due to the fact that internment is seen as a major breech of a persons human rights and civil liberties, this form of ‘administrative detention’ is considered to be so punitive and draconian that states who wish to be viewed as ‘democratic’, use it on a temporary basis and in response to an ‘emergency’ situation.

In an Irish context this temporary, emergency situation has existed in every decade for almost a century, that is, from the inception of the ‘six county statelet’. And right up to the present day Irishmen and Irishwomen are being interned without trial by an English political administrator! 

For those who believe that England’s war on the Irish has ended, this may come as a surprise, however, internment 21st century style is not only still in use, its use is now much more draconian than at any time in the past or in any other country in the world.

The present day English administrator, Owen Patterson, not only deprives Irish citizens of their liberty without recourse to a judicial process. In the cases of Marian Price and Martin Corey this administrator has also over-ruled the decision of two high court judges who decreed that they had no charges to answer and should be released immediately.

Such injustices can only exist when ‘good men and women’ do nothing, do not allow this vile practice to be carried out in your name, help put an end to internment without trial, join with other republicans today on the Black mountain to show your support for justice.

End Internment, End British Misrule In Ireland, Release The Internees!!!!

Another initiative by the James Connolly Rpublican Society Belfast

Tuesday, 7 August 2012


The following is the text of a letter sent to the North Belfast News today regarding their reports of "threats" against community worlers last week. Please copy and share

7th August 2012
To the Editor,

We, the undersigned, would like to respond to last weeks edition of the North Belfast News and a number of articles detailing alleged “threats” to community workers employed in the Ardoyne area.

As individuals and Republicans from the area we would like to point out that we speak for no particular group from the area, nor are we aligned to any political party within the area, nor do we speak for them. Political parties can speak for themselves in our opinion. We are Independent Republican Activists.

With regards to the letter handed in to the Ardoyne Community Centre, we think it is important to point out that the majority of staff within the Centre have contacted or made representation to individual Republicans, including a number of former POWs, expressing their opposition to the presence of the PSNI within the Centre, and the heavy military presence that accompanies PSNI attendees, for Interagency Meetings. It is a fact that, following advice from Republicans, staff informed their line managers and trade unions to highlight the negative impact on the running of the Centre and the restrictions that the accompanying “security” operation places on accessibility to the Centre and playground. In fact staff and volunteers from almost all the community groups in Ardoyne currently engaging with the PSNI have approached local Republicans stating their opposition to having to work with the PSNI in any way other than compulsory matters, e.g. Child Protection issues.

Inside the Centre, Naiscoil Ard Eoin (now Nai-Ionad Ard-Eoin) operates, not beside the Centre as last weeks NBN stated. For around the last year, both Alan Lundy and Dee Fennell have had to remove their four year old children from the Naiscoil within the Centre on each occasion that the Interagency meetings have taken place. This is due to the traumatic effects that the PSNI presence has had on their children. This includes nightmares, begging not to go to school and associated evidence of emotional trauma that we do not wish to disclose. It is important to point out that these children have been present during stop and searches that are designed to humiliate and demonise their fathers, stop and searches carried out by heavily armed men that obviously causes distress to young children. In Alan’s case his children have also been present for numerous house raids, during which his partner and two youngest children have been trailed from their beds and had property and toys seized. In addition both Dee and Alan have had warnings that they will be “put away, “stiffed”, or “snuffed out” in the presence of their children, not a threat to be taken lightly when you consider the RUC involvement in the murder of Alan’s father and Alan Jr’s internment, again on the word of one of the three officers who attend these Interagency meetings. These threats have been issued by the very same personnel that attend Interagency meetings, meaning that while children are supposed to be in a safe and secure learning environment, they are in fact feeling under threat. These issues were raised, to their credit, by the Naiscoil committee and forwarded on to meeting organisers. One of these, Sean Mag Uidhir of CRJI, a fellow Naiscoil committee member, was also confronted directly by Dee Fennell and asked to ensure meetings would no longer be held where children are present. Other parents also find the presence of the PSNI, who are on the premises up to two hours before the 1pm start time of meetings on occasion, totally unacceptable, yet are fearful of speaking out lest they be labelled as “dissidents.” We find the insistence of the organisers of Interagency meetings to continue, over a twelve month period, to contribute to the trauma of children an absolute disgrace. Especially considering that many of the same people attending these meetings took the correct stance of opposing the Holy Cross blockade by loyalists, based on the effect it had on the pupils there, including other relatives of ours who attended that school. This is one of the reasons why Ardoyne Community Centre received a letter asking them to desist from hosting the PSNI. No other armed men or women would be tolerated in any community facility or Church grounds, and rightly so. Why should the PSNI be any different? And why should our children be any less entitled to a safe, neutral learning environment than other children?

As CRJ book the room for these Interagency meetings, as well as inviting the PSNI into our area on a daily basis, they also received the same letter. Nowhere within either letter is there anything that could possibly be construed as a threat, in fact when the letter to CRJ was delivered it was made abundantly clear at the time that any future action in opposition to these meetings would be “peaceful and radical” in direct response to a question asked by a male CRJI member of staff. With the abundance of recording and CCTV equipment at the entrance of the CRJI Ardoyne office, we are sure this would have been picked up easily. Within six separate articles in last weeks NBN around this story there are no mentions of any specific threat, despite the sensationalist headlines. As well as this we had a photograph of a number of people who the North Belfast News described as “Political, religious and community leaders”, and it would be wrong to pretend that those in the photograph are not involved in community work within the area. None of those pictured have attended any protests opposing political internment of Alan Lundy and others, while at least Gerry Kelly was honest when he said he and his party would do nothing to support the Lundy family, when he met his brother Daniel, sister Clare and partner Danielle. Some have tried to justify non attendance of these protests to Alan’s mother by stating that they “would not feel comfortable standing with” some of those protesting, yet the very same people recently featured in a UTV Tonight report where they attended a residential in Bangor with senior members of the North Belfast UDA, including it’s self styled Brigadier. It is also noteworthy that of the 25 pictured, at least 15 are members of Sinn Fein while the majority of the remaining 10 work for SF at election time, a political party that is fully in support of the PSNI and to the fore of pushing forward a normalisation agenda regarding policing. At least 17 are paid community workers who work for organisations that again support the PSNI normalisation agenda. However only 6-8 of those pictured actually live in Ardoyne.

The peaceful handing in of letters of opposition, or for that matter delivering of newssheets or leaflets in order to highlight injustices and denial of rights by the state militia that is the PSNI, is a totally legitimate form of peaceful political expression. From talking to staff and voluntary workers from a number of the organisations engaging with the PSNI, it is apparent that their main concern is the highlighting of these links as opposed to any alleged misinformation. As individuals, our opinion would be that it is vitally important that the community is fully aware of the nature of relationships and information sharing between community facilities and the PSNI. However what we find unacceptable are leaflets that personalise the issue by naming people that work in the community and makes allegations against them. It is counter productive and only serves to take away from the main issue which is the normalisation agenda in regards to the PSNI. What are even more unacceptable are attacks on the homes and property of local people, such as local Councillor Gerard McCabe and others. These people have families, and to attack anyone’s home for their political opinions is unjustifiable and we condemn it outright. Each of us has had our homes attacked in the past, either by anti-social elements, loyalists, or indeed the PSNI themselves. It is wrong and those doing it should stop. We cannot emphasise this enough.

In the last week one hundred or so Residents again protested at the presence of the PSNI within our community, this time at an Interagency Meeting in Ardoyne Hall. Several also entered the meeting, and read a statement asking those in attendance to cease their involvement in a campaign to make the PSNI acceptable within our community. What was particularly disheartening, especially for the Lundy family, was seeing supposed friends and neighbours walking into this meeting with PSNI officers, including the officer who has falsely identified Alan Lundy and led to his internment in Maghaberry Gaol where he is currently on dirty protest and smearing his excrement on the wall as a Republican Political Prisoner. Also present were officers who were in attendance when Ta McWilliams was arrested with no evidence against him and his partner and children held and harassed for a number of hours. This protest is an example of the peaceful action that people within Ardoyne, fed up with harassment, house raids, passing of details to loyalists, death threats, plastic bullets, facilitation of Loyal Order parades, etc will be taking to oppose their presence within our community.

In recent days we have also witnessed a well respected 57 year old Republican former Blanketman, who has served over 16 years in jail and on Life Licence, trailed off to Antrim Serious Crime Suite in front of his partner, children and infant grandchild. He has suffered from a life threatening brain tumour and recently underwent life saving triple heart bypass surgery. This again highlights the need for local opposition to a unionist militia that, despite the words of others, has failed to have manners put upon them. They remain the armed protectors of the state and as such should be opposed by all Irish Republicans, while PSNI human rights abuses should lead to all those with an interest in this field to speak up and have their voices heard.

Dee Fennell
Alan Lundy (Roe House, Maghaberry Gaol)
Aidan Ferguson
Daniel Lundy

British Court Upholds Workfare Programme – Stormont Votes for Unpaid Labour

Tory secretary for work and pensions Iain Duncan Smith
In a mixed judgment, the High Court in Britain on Monday [August 6] ruled that regulations through which the British government has created many of its ‘Workfare’ schemes are lawful but that the decision of the Department of Work and Pensions [DWP] to strip clients of benefits for six months for refusing to undertake compulsory work was unlawful.

These highly controversial schemes expect unemployed people to work for no pay beyond their jobseeker’s allowance.

The case was brought by 23-year-old Cait Reilly who participated in the “sector based work academy” scheme against her wishes and 40-year-old Jamie Wilson who refused to participate in the “Community Action Programme” when he was told that he had to work, cleaning furniture, without pay for 30 hours per week for six months. Mr Wilson objected to carrying out compulsory unpaid labour. In May 2012 Mr Wilson was informed that as a result of his failure to participate in the scheme he was to be stripped of his jobseeker’s allowance of £70 a week for six months.

The judge held that the withdrawal of Wilson’s dole was unlawful though merely because the DWP had failed to inform him of the consequences of not participating in the scheme.

Solicitors from Public Interest Lawyers, who took up the case on behalf of Reilly and Wilson, argue that tens of thousands of people were stripped of their benefits in this way and could have cause to demand rebates.

Tessa Gregory of Public Interest Lawyers said about the case, “The Government’s mismanagement of these flagship reforms has resulted in a complete shambles where nobody understands the plethora of schemes that have been created and where the only ones benefiting are the companies getting free labour. Nothing has been done to improve the employment prospects of those like my clients.”

Gregory added, “We continue to maintain that the Regulations themselves are unlawful and ought to be quashed. We are seeking permission to appeal the Court’s findings in this regard.”

A spokesperson for the DWP has said that they will also appeal the judge’s decision in favour of Wilson. In response to the judgement, Tory MP and secretary for work and pensions Iain Duncan Smith said, “Those who oppose this process are actually opposed to hard work and they are harming the life chances of unemployed young people who are trying to get on.”

This recent current court case attempting to have workfare ruled illegal is unlikely to be the last legal challenge to unpaid labour. If workfare is ruled to be unlawful at any point then companies who participate in the scheme may find themselves with a huge wages bill.

It is interesting to note in this context that the Stormont administration voted on July 2nd, just before the start of its summer recess, to introduce the British Tories’ workfare programme through the work experience scheme.

The scheme will initially focus on 18-24 year olds in the Six Counties, 26,000 of whom have never had a job since leaving school or college, but will be expanded to include all working-age people. It will require jobseekers to work up to twelve weeks in order to obtain their dole, which at its most amounts to £56.25 per week for under-25s. The scheme also includes the power to sanction jobseekers, including stripping them totally of their jobseeker’s allowance.

Unemployment lines continue to grow across Ireland

Stormont social development minister Nelson McCausland said that the scheme will boost participants’ employability and prospects. At a first glance, this would seem welcome with the unemployment rate standing at 12.2 percent in the Six Counties and with under-25s making up almost 30 percent of those on the dole.

However, one need only look at the ‘achievements’ of the Steps to Work programme to see Stormont’s powerlessness to deal with youth unemployment.

The Steps to Work programme was introduced by Stormont in 2008. It is a mandatory scheme, in which young people under 25 are sent to work in a placement for up to a year. In exchange for this they receive their dole payment plus an extra £15.38, giving them a maximum weekly wage of £71.63. That programme was also brought in with the stated purpose of helping young people find work, but of the 85,000 youths who have taken part in the scheme since its inception, only 19,743 (just under a quarter) found work.

Those figures should not be surprising. In May of this year, there were only 2,669 ‘live’ vacancies available to people seeking work in the Six Counties.

The Workfare programme of the Tories and the Stormont administration has failed utterly to create serious employment for young people or to deal with an unemployment crisis that continues to worsen with each passing day.

Almost 11,000 jobs have been lost in the private sector in the Six Counties in the past two years and all economic predictions indicate that figure will continue to grow. That figure does not include the number of jobs lost within the public services sector as a result of Stormont’s implementation of widespread cuts.

Out of the thousands of private sector jobs that have disappeared between March 2010 and March 2012, the greatest losses were in the construction and retail sectors, which lost 5,710 and 5,820 jobs respectively.

One example of just how many people in the Six Counties are searching for work can be illustrated by the sheer mass of people who recently applied to work at a new 24-hour supermarket in Portadown, which is not due to open until November this year.

The initial recruitment process for the 450 jobs that will be available in the county Armagh town commenced last month on July 2nd. Three weeks later, over 11,000 applications had been received – a figure equal to the total number of job losses in the Six County private sector during the last two years.

Workfare has already succeeded, however, in creating an army of unpaid labour for the likes of McDonald’s, Asda, Tesco, Primark, Topshop, Argos, Poundland and more. There have also been many cases recorded in the Six Counties and in Britain of employed workers having their hours slashed and losing overtime as bosses bring in those on workfare instead.

The workfare programme is yet another example of corporate welfare, using the current crisis in capitalism to attack the conditions of the working class – both those in employment and those on jobseekers – for the benefit of companies that continue to rake in outrageous profits every year.

This programme must be resisted. While there have been several small victories already in the campaign against workfare, it still needs to be given the death blow quickly and decisively.

Friday, 3 August 2012

éirígí voices concerns of another upcoming sectarian siege of Newry

Stephen Murney
éirígí in Newry have expressed their opposition to yet another sectarian show of strength in the area after it emerged that the city will once again be placed under siege to allow three days of unionist triumphalism at the end of this month.

From Friday 24th August until Sunday 26th August, a total of five unionist parades will take place with over 3,000 participants and 50 bands taking over the streets of Newry, beginning with the sectarian South Down Defenders Flute Band who will be bussing in thousands of unionist bandsmen and supporters into the overwhelmingly nationalist city from across the Six Counties for a sectarian coat-trailing exercise.

Stephen Murney, the local spokesperson for the socialist republican party in the Newry area, said “Just last month we had thousands of unionists accompanied by dozens of bands descending on Newry leaving the area a virtual ghost town. Band members and participants shouted insults at local people observing and even rushed to attack a local photographer.

“A massive security operation sealed Newry off and most people couldn’t go about their daily business. I have no doubt that this upcoming sectarian ritual will mean the same for the nationalist people of Newry".

Murney continued “Before and after the 12th July our party were inundated with complains from local people who are sick and tired of this happening time and time again. The fact that this next disruptive demonstration will take place over a three day period will mean that many nationalist people in Newry will have to endure an entire weekend of sectarian intimidation and bigotry.

“The annual Friday night sectarian procession is well known for bringing Newry to a standstill for several hours with severe traffic disruption; unionists drinking openly in the street, actually outside Ardmore PSNI barracks; the playing of sectarian songs; bands displaying the emblems and flags of unionist paramilitary death squads and nationalists afraid to look out of their windows or venture onto their own streets.

Stephen concluded “Newry will once again be handed over to the bigots, we in éirígí deeply oppose such sectarian rituals and we call for an end to sectarian organisations being permitted to proceed through overwhelmingly nationalist towns such as Newry”.