On behalf of the Workers’ Party, the Ard Comhairle and Uachtarán Michael McCorry would like to extend New Year’s greetings to all Party members, their families and to our friends and supporters both at home and abroad.
We would also like to take this opportunity to offer our condolences and sympathies to the families and friends of Comrades who died this year as well as to all our Comrades and friends who lost loved ones.
As always, this is a time both to reflect on events and occurrences of the year gone by and to plan for the year that lies ahead.
The past two years have been unprecedented, the pandemic has brought with it many difficulties and hardships for workers and their families not only in terms of health but also economically.
Our members have responded to the Covid-19 crisis in their communities by providing vital protective equipment to frontline staff, showing solidarity with workers on strike, and donating to food banks and local charities with both food and money.
Housing, energy bills, poverty, low wages, health care all continue to be issues that seriously affect workers. The leading parties continue to turn a blind eye to slum landlordism, austerity and benefits cuts. Our essential services head towards privatisation as they endure continued cuts at the hands of the governments. Our health and social care services, education services and workers continue to be ground down.
The gap between rich and poor has widened during the pandemic. Poverty and inequality are deeply embedded in our society both north and south.
The number of workers and families reliant on food banks has increased, homelessness has increased, families struggling to pay excessively high rents has increased, these are all the direct consequence of the deep structural factors that are part and parcel of a system that privileges private capital over the public good.
The recent increases in energy prices, north and south, have had a detrimental effect on many households, with large numbers of people forced to choose between heating their homes or feeding their families this winter. We continue to see growing numbers of workers in food poverty, dependent on charity and food banks. The desperate need for public housing continues to be a major issue with so many struggling to afford extortionate rent, living in temporary accommodation or on the brink of homelessness while both governments, north and south, show no real desire to tackle these issues other than give hollow gestures or mealy-mouthed half promises and excuses.
The lines of people waiting outside food banks and/or charities for support with the very basic need of food brings shame on the governments of both jurisdictions.
Our healthcare workers are overworked and burned out and our healthcare systems are on the brink of collapse from underfunding. The pandemic has exposed how the partition of our nation has hindered attempts to effectively combat the virus and instead of using it as an opportunity to work together in the interests of all the people on this island some have instead used it as an opportunity to put lives at risk in order to further their sectarian agenda.
In the north the NHS is under attack from the Tory government and there are no sincere attempts by Stormont to address this or to fight for this hallowed institution, which despite its faults, provides workers and their families with free healthcare treatment whatever their background or salary. In fact they seem content to allow our NHS to be beaten down through continued underfunding and a lack of any real workforce strategy for the future. We are haemorrhaging staff due to poor pay, poor conditions and extreme over work. Yet the NI Executive continues to ignore the problems, always content with deflecting from the real issues to disguise the fact they simply do the Tory governments bidding. Sinn Féin talk a big game but they lack any real substance when it comes to doing what is needed.
In the south the two tiered system of healthcare continues to be a shameful indictment on our society. It is clear at this stage that Sláintecare has failed and that there is no real desire from the government to implement a fair and free healthcare system for all citizens. The Workers’ Party are committed to campaigning and working towards an all Ireland NHS in the coming year.
This year we were finally able to hold our Ard Fheis in person. It was incredibly encouraging to see so many young people in attendance and to listen to lively, healthy and respectful debate between members on a variety of issues and we look forward to future events throughout the coming year, guidelines and restrictions allowing.
There remains a huge amount of work needed and the year that lies ahead will bring with it even greater challenges to the Party as it seeks to give guidance and clear leadership to the everyday working people, the people who have suffered the most hardship under the reign of the current Fine Gael-Fianna Fail-Green coalition government in the Republic and the complete failure of both Sinn Fein and the DUP to offer anything in the way of either credible government or credible policies in the north. The sectarian politics of Stormont have been laid bare during the pandemic for all to see and as a result all workers have suffered.
As calls for a border poll increase the Workers’ Party remain committed to the establishment of a citizens assembly which will enable free and honest dialogue. We also remain committed to ensuring that workers rights, a free healthcare system, public housing and free and integrated education, among other issues, are at the forefront of the debate on a United Ireland.
This year, despite the difficulties of the pandemic we have continued to develop and recruit new members, both North and South. We have organised activity delivering leaflets, canvassing, organising events, protests and commemorations, issuing statements to the media, having a strong presence on social media, launching a new podcast and engaging with our communities on local issues. In the north members have been at the forefront of tackling the rise in sectarian disturbances at interfaces and also been vocal in their support of workers who have been subjected to sectarian attacks. Our longstanding strategy of fighting for the unity of our class across ethnic and religious lines remains a critical focus of our political orientation.
Internationally we continue to work with and engage fully with our comrades abroad. Our International Secretary has attended meetings of the Communist Initiative and the International Meeting of Communist and Workers Parties, and met with several socialist and communist parties worldwide in efforts to strengthen fraternal relationships. We have continued to show our support to the Cuban people as well as showing our continued support for Nicaragua, Venezuela and Palestine. We also take this opportunity to send our continued support and solidarity to Julian Assange in his fight for freedom. We must in this coming year redouble our efforts to end the decade long persecution of Julian Assange at the hands of United States imperialism and ensure that he becomes a free man in 2022, once again able to restart the important work he began many years ago.
We have the policies, the vision, and the ideology. But we are seriously constrained by our very limited resources. We must direct those energies and those resources in a singular, concentrated and disciplined collective fashion to maximise our impact. It will only be through united and disciplined collective actions that we will be successful. This will take a sincere commitment from all members to play their part in building the Party over the next year and we ask all members to fully participate and commit to this task.
The year that lies ahead then will, undoubtedly, be an important one both for the Party and for the people we represent. We must redouble our efforts to present a real alternative to workers both north and south.
Our central and historically defined task remains as it always was – to lead a unified Irish working class to victory in the class struggle.