Defend the Right to Protest
Sinn Fein and the DUP have launched a major attack on democratic rights by drafting legislation which will make public protest a criminal offence. The Draft Public Assemblies Bill, proposed by the ‘Working group on parades’ will place major restrictions on the right to protest.
It will mean all protests of 50 or more people will be illegal, unless protest organisers have applied for permission from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) 37 days beforehand or 22 days if organising a counter-demonstration.
There is a sense of crisis across the Health Service in Northern Ireland. In the last few weeks the Belfast Trust has announced plans to close 152 beds at the City Hospital and Royal Group of Hospitals from November. The Northern Trust has halted more complex surgery at the Mid-Ulster Hospital in Magherafelt and Whiteabbey Hospital in Newtownabbey. All such surgery will now be concentrated at the Antrim and Causeway Hospitals. Parking charges are to be introduced at the Antrim and Causeway sites. There is a clear threat to the future of Accident and Emergency services at the Mid-Ulster and Whiteabbey.
By Ciaran Mulholland, AMICUS (Unite) Health Services Branch (personal capacity)