WP Youth address growing poverty

Belfast WPY activists discuss growing level of inequality in NI society

Workers Party Youth
Workers Party Youth

Speaking to a meeting of Workers’ Party Youth activists in Belfast, WPY spokesperson, Jim Quinn, commented on growing inequalities in Northern Irish society. 


“Poverty is a social crime that no-one pays for except the poor themselves. It springs from the same structural criminality that has brought us the banking meltdown. Who pays? Certainly not the rich. According to research published last year by the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action, the rich in Northern Ireland are getting richer and the poor are staying the same. While the gap between top and bottom earners is soaring in cash terms, the rich are getting higher percentage increases than the low paid. Between 2003 and 2006, the wages of top earners rose by £3.34 per hour compared with only 46 pence for the lowest paid. Wages at the top soared by 20% but those at the bottom have increased by less than 10%. This means that while weekly pay for those in the bottom 10% has risen by £1.40, the top 10% of earners have received an extra £32 per week.


“In the past year, as the world economy has gone into crisis and we have felt the results in Northern Ireland. For example, 1,200 extra people began claiming unemployment benefit during September, the biggest rise for 22 years with 60% of the increase came from the construction industry. The official jobless total here stands at 28,900 but given that the figures are massively massaged to hide the true unemployment figures, we can assume it is much higher than that. So with the growth in unemployment added to steep hikes in the prices of food and fuel, an already inequitable situation is becoming worse.


“A recent report by Save the Children has shown that 13% of our children -that’s 44,000 kids– are living in severe and persistent poverty here. This compares with 5% in GB. According to the most recent government statistics from Households Below Average Income (HBAI), child poverty levels in Northern Ireland are not dropping – if anything they have increased over the past four years  - from 100,000 children to 122,000  (29%) children living in poverty, And while child poverty is most visible in particular disadvantaged wards in Belfast, children living in small towns and rural areas west of the River Bann are more likely to be experiencing poverty – for example, Dungannon Local Government District has the highest level at 45%, followed by Derry Local Government District at 44%.


“As researcher Paul McGill has noted in NIPSA News:

‘It is essential that we avoid the mistakes of previous economic downturns – policies demanding that ordinary people should ‘tighten their belts’ without recognising that some belts are already far too tight on bodies that are now too thin.


Instead we must recognise that a credit crunch for may means one less weekend break a broad or fewer visits to the luxury spa or spending slightly less on the New York Christmas shopping spree. But for many more it will mean malnutrition or hypothermia this winter.’


“In 2007 the Northern Ireland Young Life And Times survey of 16 year olds from all over the North indicated that, while 60% of young people here have no interest in traditional party politics and only 5% had actually been involved in any political activities, all the young people have opinions about the kind of society they would like to see here. The words “fair”, “safe” and “happy” came up again and again.  One sixteen-year-old  said that she would like to see a Northern Ireland "Where everybody can live comfortably and have all their basic needs catered for"   Worker’s Party Youth believes that this is a laudable aim and we will fight for fairer conditions in the immediate term while recognising that only a socialist society will make that wish a realty. In conclusion, I think it’s worth noting that with all the ills facing our society the big Autumn campaign being undertaken by Ógra Shinn Féin in the North is to paint the letterboxes green.”


Issued 16th October 2008

Peace, Work, Democracy & Class Politics