Our local politicians have shown yet again that they care more about lining their own pockets than fighting for the working-class people they are meant to represent. They have just put through a package giving them an 11% pay rise – almost £5,000 a year ! – bringing their salary to £48,000. Chairs of committees will get £60,000, Ministers £86,000 and the First and Deputy First Ministers get £120,000!
In the recent period, there has been an escalation in state repression in Northern Ireland. For example, the use of “supergrass” evidence in the trial of loyalists. A particularly worrying development is the return of internment.Republican Marian Price is being held in solitary confinement in Hydebank Prison in Northern Ireland. She was arrested after she held up a sheet of paper so that a masked member of the Real IRA could read a statement at an Easter Rising commemoration in Derry. As she was previously released “under license”, the state retains the right to return her to prison at any time.
Recently, a number of reports into some of the worst atrocities of the Troubles have been published. The Historical Enquiry Team (HET) was behind the reports. The HET was set up in 2005 with a remit to re-examine 3,269 murders which were carried out between 1968 and 1998. Unofficially, the investigations of the HET are designed to draw a line under the past and allow us to “move on”. The reality is that each report only raises vexed issues, reopens wounds and satisfies no-one-especially not those who lost family members over the last 40 years.
The question of an independence referendum in Scotland has provoked rumblings on both sides of the sectarian divide here. Peter Robinson has said that Unionists must not “stand idly by”, but instead do what they can to convince the Scottish people to remain within the Union. On the other hand, Martin McGuinness has welcomed the SNP’s move and suggested that they would like to see a similar vote on a united Ireland take place in the near future – perhaps in 2016, the centenary of the Easter Rising.
Trying to fit in with the angry mood of ordinary people against bankers’ bonuses, bailouts and other windfalls of the rich, Tory chancellor George Osborne in his budget speech called tax evasion and avoidance by the wealthy “morally repugnant”.