The Workers Party’s annual Northern Ireland conference
was held on Saturday 23th November 2013 in the Crescent Arts Centre in South Belfast.
The conference started with a clinical assessment of the reality –
as opposed to the manufactured myth – of political, economic and social life in Northern Ireland, the conference also
heard the arguments for the introduction of a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland and the re-constitution of the Civic Forum.
Both of which are specifically committed to in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
The Workers Party’s submission to the Haass talks was also presented, with the failure to move beyond the
tribalism of unionism and nationalism clearly pointed out: ‘…ultimately, the continuing difficulties surrounding
parades and flags are about the failed politics of the past’.
The conference debated The Workers’
Party’s ‘Left Response’ to the political stalemate in Northern Ireland which sets out the political alternative
to the neo-liberal economic agenda slavishly followed by the major parties here. It specifically called for an urgent and
planned program to address poverty and the working poor, the utilization of state and public assets to deliver economic change
and the introduction by the Assembly of a Living Wage guarantee of at least £7.65 per hour.
The conference also welcomed a number
of guest speakers including John O’Farrell of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Kevin Hanratty
of the NI Human Rights Consortium, Lynn Carvill a member of the original Civic Forum and Peter Heathwood
a commentator on victims and the past. This was in addition to contributions from various WP speakers including Workers Party
General secretary John Lowry and NI Regional secreatary Gerry Grainger.
The conference was successful in creating
and maintaining political discourse on the left in NI. There were calls to create unity amongst Trade Unions and on the political
‘Our conference comes at an important time’, says Party General Secretary John Lowry. ‘ At a time when we are scrutinising our past as well as our present
we have the opportunity to pose the really important question: ‘What type of society do we want to live in’?
We can take bold and progressive steps now or we can condemn ourselves and our society
to an on-going sectarian stalemate.