In the early stages of the Covid crisis, we were told the Stormont Executive would rise above politics and present a united front against the virus. This came after a period when cracks were already showing over what advice to follow in relation to closing schools and other measures needed to combat the virus.
The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the reality of years of chronic underfunding of the NHS. The reality of cutbacks has been evident in the scramble to obtain appropriate PPE, the lack of available ventilators, as well as staff shortages. The pandemic has led to a substantial increase in those on waiting lists, reflective of a longer-term crisis within the NHS. This raises the question of NHS management and illustrates the impact of privatisation.
The recent announcement by Peter Weir, the NI Education Minister, that all pupils are set to return to school in September full-time will bring mixed feelings for parents and teachers alike, who no doubt will have serious concerns over safety. In order to facilitate this, Weir also announced that previously planned social distancing guidelines would be relaxed.
This week marks 100 years since the outbreak of the Belfast pogroms, when the city saw significant sectarian violence and the expulsion of an estimated 10,000 men and 1,000 women from their workplaces, starting in the shipyards and spreading to other workplaces. The violence also spread to the Belfast slums with 22 killed and hundreds wounded. It was the start of a period known as the first ‘Troubles.’ Between June 1920 and June 1922, 428 people were killed and tens of thousands kicked out of their homes, similar to the early phase of the later ‘Troubles.’