There is an urgent need for a genuinely cross-community, left-wing labour force in Northern Ireland. The surge in membership of the British Labour Party locally in response to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership shows the potential such a party could have if the trade union movement swung its weight behind the project. However, to break through the sectarian morass, a labour alternative here will need to be both anti-sectarian and also adopt left and anti-austerity policies, rather than the failed politics of Blairism or the Irish Labour Party.
On 23rd November, the decriminalisation bill will have its second reading. We must mobilise to ensure that the government allots the bill time and allows it to progress to the next stage where it can become law. We must make it clear that a majority in Northern Ireland, across the community divide, support decriminalisation. The trade unions must also stand in solidarity and bring the collective power of workers to bear in this fight, and in the struggle for marriage equality.
The trade union movement, representing both Protestant and Catholic workers, is the key force that can challenge the far right here. Mobilisations of workers from both backgrounds, linked to demands for investment in housing and job creation, will be key to knocking them back. Ultimately, building an anti-sectarian political alternative and struggling for a socialist future is the only way to bury the far right for good.
Jolene Bunting has been suspended from her position on Belfast City Council for 4 months while an investigation is carried out into a number of complaints against her. A statement from the Commissioner for Standards said there was evidence that Bunting had failed to comply with the council’s code of conduct and that her conduct was likely to have brought the council into disrepute.
Allegations are flying about who was responsible and who knew what in regards to the Renewable Heating Incentive scheme (RHI), which saw businesses like the Ferrari showroom in Belfast being kept cosy at a profit using public funds. A brother and two cousins of former DUP special advisor Andrew Crawford acquired 11 boilers under RHI. Crawford admitted sending a confidential document on the scheme to a cousin. This has rightfully provoked a huge outpouring of anger, aimed at the DUP in particular, who looked to be tied to the schemes implementation.
After a landslide vote of just under 67% to repeal the constitutional abortion ban on 25th May, on 18th September, the eighth amendment was formally repealed in the South, after all appeals made seeking to the challenge the referendum result were dismissed.
In the quest for truth, however, we believe it is necessary to look to the forces which in the course of the Troubles can genuinely lay claim to standing against sectarian division and violence – that is the labour and trade union movement, particularly its rank-and-file activists. It is this force today, alongside a new generation of young people who want to fight for equality, that can provide the basis for a different future. Part of their task will be to bring to light the reality of the Troubles and seek to provide justice for its victims.
For someone who did not grow up with Marx in the household, the road to joining a socialist party is not straight and easy like a motorway. Instead it is a meandering and confusing country path, involving many twists and turns.