This summer has seen a massive bloom of blue-green algae in waters all across the north. This has included Lough Neagh and the River Bann, North Coast bathing waters and lakes in Fermanagh. If you live in an area that has been affected by the blooms and you haven’t seen it you’re bound to have smelled it– a gassy smell which fills the air for days on end.
The 2023/24 budget does not make for cheerful reading. Further cuts on top of cuts will be detrimental to our public services and working-class people who rely upon them. If you are looking for a silver lining, you may be tempted to say “Well, at least we have our health!” And indeed, it is true - on the surface level alone - that the Department of Health is one of two departments to receive a slight increase in funding, at 0.5%. However, such numbers are incredibly misleading.
The Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris shamelessly unveiled the Northern Ireland budget for 2023-24 indicating that overall spending would be slashed by 3.3%, representing a cut of approximately £800 million.
The elections were a continuation of what we have seen before: Sinn Féin and the DUP strengthening their positions and support increasing for Alliance. These elections took place in the midst of the cost of living crisis, and threatened cutbacks in the Stormont budget. While the main parties in the elections offered no way forward for working-class people, the strike action and campaigns to save services that have taken place over the past few weeks give a glimpse of the potential of real change.
Time and time again, capitalism ensures that young people’s futures are eroded and that working-class people are made to pay the price for the actions of politicians and bosses. The actions of those workers and young people show us that such attacks can be challenged.
The prospect of consigning paramilitary violence and coercion to the history books was a key unifying hope which motivated the majority of people in Northern Ireland to back the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. A quarter of a century on, this goal is far from realised.
The local elections on 18 May are happening in the context of ongoing political crisis at Stormont and continuing strikes in both public and private sector workplaces. Two young trade union activists and Socialist Party members will be offering a socialist alternative: Amy Ferguson (Omagh) and Neil Moore (Botanic, South Belfast). Both are campaigners against gender violence and transphobia and activists involved in environmental struggles.
Last Saturday (25th March 2023), 1000 people gathered in Omagh following a call from Omagh Trade Union Council. The call by trade unionists was made because earlier that week dissident republican paramilitaries had shot and critically injured an off-duty police officer outside a sports complex which at the time was attended by many young people. The vast majority of those in attendance were working-class people of all backgrounds, from Omagh and the surrounding areas. A "solidarity march" was also held by a local sports club, attracting several hundred people of all ages.
Translink have worsened the blow from February’s announcement of a 7% increase in bus & rail fares with yesterday’s announcement of the ending of “early-bird” commuter fares. This fare hike, which could see transport costs for some commuters increase by up to 75%, is truly staggering in the midst of both cost of living and climate crises.
No going back: Working-class and young people can unite to defeat paramilitary violence and sectarianism!
News broke on Wednesday night of the attempted killing of a police officer in Omagh. He was shot multiple times by masked gunmen after a youth football coaching session. Early reports suggest this was likely an attack carried out by the dissident republican “New IRA”.