Forty-five million people have been infected by Covid-19 globally, with over one million tragically losing their lives. The UK has now surpassed 1.37 million cases, with around 52,000 deaths. In Northern Ireland, we have reached 46,359 cases and 846 deaths. While there are promising signs that effective vaccines may be available in the near future, there is evidence that new strains of the virus are rapidly emerging. There are also serious questions about how rapidly, efficiently and equally vaccination programmes will be rolled out.
The Living Wage Foundation says that an hourly rate of £9.50 is the minimum required to have a basic standard of living (based on stable, full-time hours). Meanwhile, millions of workers on the so-called ‘National Living Wage’ of £8.72/hour increasingly live in poverty.
Earlier this month, Sinn Féin Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín announced that the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) would begin building new social housing for the first time in about 20 years. In and of itself, that is a welcome development. However, it will be connected to sweeping changes which will see the de facto part-privatisation of the NIHE.
On 3rd August, John Hume – former leader of the nationalist SDLP – passed away at the age of 83. He was eulogised by establishment figures in the North – including Unionists – as well as in the South, Britain and internationally. His passing was also met with genuine expressions of respect from the mass of ordinary people in Northern Ireland, among Catholics but also in the Protestant community.