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1998 Northern Ireland Assembly Election - Workers Party Manifesto

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Text: Workers Party ... Page Compiled: Fionnuala McKenna

The Workers Party

Assembly Elections
June 1998

Sectarianism Must Go!
New Assembly Must Not replicate Sectarian Divisions
A Bill of Rights
Workers Party Priorities in the New Assembly
Concern for the Aged
Cross Border Bodies
Economic Development


The overwhelming endorsement of the Agreement by the people of Northern Ireland on May 22nd is a clear demand for a new beginning, a rejection of the past and a desire that future generations must be afforded a decent quality of life in a society cleansed of sectarian division, bitterness and the sterile politics of the last century.

The people have spoken and their demand is for a new Northern Ireland, at ease with itself and its neighbours, self-confident, founded on democratic principles and rights, economically prosperous and participating fully in the wider modern world as we approach the new millennium.

It is a time of justifiable optimism, of high expectations, of far reaching and fundamental change leading to the creation of a new society to which all our citizens can lend their support and allegiance. The democratic process through the Agreement has delivered the constitutional and political framework in which this can happen. We welcome that.

The task now is to translate the principles underpinning the Agreement into reality, to give practical expression to the sentiments widely held amongst the citizens of Northern Ireland for a new beginning and a leaving behind of the attitudes and values of divisive nationalism and unionism which nurtured and sustained the old order.

Workers Party candidates seeking election to the new Assembly are committed to making this happen. We offer and experienced team and a political programme steeped in years of struggle for democracy and civil rights, opposition to terror, strong anti-sectarianism and social and economic progress. Only the election of candidates who share this vision of a new future can insure that the hopes and demands of those who voted "Yes" in the referendum can be realised. There is no Party better suited than the Workers Party to lead this break with the past, to chart the way ahead and to face head on the challenges which still lie ahead.

A new beginning cannot be created without dismantling the old. That means seriously tackling the myths and prejudices, the stereotypes, the romantic notions of empire and nation which have sustained and fuelled sectarian division, filling our graveyards and our prisons, falling all our people.

We remain a bitterly divided people, sectarianism is still a blight on our lives. Poverty and social deprivation, unemployment, lack of concern for the elderly and much more must become urgent political priorities. Unless we make progress on all these issues it will be a shallow peace indeed for many of our citizens.

That is the agenda which ought to the concern of the new Assembly. That agenda cannot be trusted to anyone other than the Workers Party.

We are asking voters in this election to give their No 1 Vote to Workers Party candidates to ensure this happens and then transfer to other progressive, democratic, anti- sectarian candidates.

Sectarianism Must Go!

Any new arrangements for Northern Ireland must seriously address the question of sectarian division. For many years now we have pointed to a growing polarisation of the community and the implications of this. We have demanded that Government take action to bring about greater integration and to halt the trend towards physical separation which has now become almost absolute.

The new assembly must urgently address the increasing separation of the Protestant and Catholic communities in public and private life. Failure to do so and failure to actively pursue a policy of integration would represent a fundamental retreat from and undermining of the hopes and aspirations of the hundreds of thousands of citizens who supported it in the Referendum.

It is time to assert the commonality of our citizenship not to reinforce what are often artificial divisions. To this end we welcome the recent publication by Queen's University School of Law "Equal but not Separate" which addresses this matter.

In the Assembly we will:

  • seek a sea change in the thinking which conceptualises everything in terms of two communities;

  • establish an anti-sectarian forum to combat sectarianism and devise proposals for its eradication;

  • seek greater integration in housing developments including financial incentives for those wishing to live in an integrated area;

  • seek greater support for integrated education

New Assembly Must Not Replicate Sectarian Divisions

The Workers Party welcomes the establishment of both the new Assembly and the Civic Forum as filling the long standing democratic deficit and bringing power and decision making closer to the people. It also provides the opportunity for local people to have a real say In policy formation and decision making, and to bring an end to years of government by non - elected, non -accountable and unrepresentative quangos.

However, The Workers Party are concerned that in the proposed structures and voting procedures for the new Assembly we will simply entrench the old politics of sectarian nationalist and unionist division. Upon election to the Assembly, Workers Party candidates will not register as either unionist or nationalist. Rather we will seek a Voluntary Coalition of democratic and progressive forces united around a common approach of ending sectarian division and practice and the adoption of a common platform on policies in education, health care, economic development and so on.

The Civic Forum provides the opportunity for many groups, individuals and organisations outside of the political parties to participate fully in the shaping of a new Northern Ireland. Exactly because of the democratic deficit and the stifling of public life over the years, many such people have made an enormous contribution in preventing the slide towards the total collapse of our society. The Trade Union Movement and the community and voluntary sectors in particular have much to offer and it is imperative that they are afforded an opportunity to participate in the new order.

A Bill of Rights

Fundamental to the success of new institutions of government in Northern Ireland is the introduction of a Bill of Rights.

A Bill of Rights will form the cornerstone of democracy as the guarantor of the civil liberties of all citizens and of the political groups, parties and Individuals prepared to work within the democratic process.

It must provide a positive statement of the rights and of the justice which each citizen can demand of the state and it must provide the means whereby those rights will be enforced if they are Infringed.

A Bill of Rights would establish, consolidate and protect basic civil rights and fundamental freedoms.

Workers Party Priorities in the New Assembly

The work of the new Assembly will directly affect the lives of everyone. If it rises to the challenges of our times and addresses the well being of our citizens then we have much to look forward to. Workers Party members of the Assembly will vigorously pursue a radical programme on social and economic matters which we believe will lead to real tangible improvements in the lives of all our citizens.


Agriculture is central to the Northern Ireland Economy. It is an industry in crisis with many farmers on the brink of ruin, and their plight is much of the cause of rural poverty. We will seek a fundamental review of agricultural policy with the aim of producing a cheap food supply for the local market, and a re - examination of existing European Union subsidies whereby 80% of all monies goes to 20% of farmers, thus consolidating agriculture in the hands of a small number of large farmers, resulting in the closure of small family farms and a vigorous marketing of beef exports in the wake of the BSE ban on exports.

Concern for the Aged

There are an estimated 280,000 pensioners in Northern Ireland. Of these a staggering one in four is on income support. Many are lonely and unsupported. Instead of the decent comfort and freedom from worry their final years are too often times of want and neglect.

The Workers Party rejects the prevalent view thatthe elderly are a burden on society. We will work in the Assembly to ensure that:

  • there will be adequate State pensions and that no present pensioner is deprived of the help they need and deserve;

  • affordable and accessible transport is available and that no elderly citizen Is forced to live in total isolation from friends, relatives and necessary social services;

  • all possible support is provided to enable the elderly to stay at home;

  • additional support be provided for elderly people who in many cases are caring for other elderly relatives.

Cross Border Bodies

Cross border bodies are part of the democratic jigsaw that must be constructed in Northern Ireland. Like every other aspect of the democratic framework they will need time, effort and resources to make them effective. The Workers Party has long believed that effective cross border bodies based on the democratic decision of the people will be of massive economic and social benefit. With goodwill, imagination and a determination to make them work, cross border bodies can deliver much in terms of job creation, improvement of services and the avoiding of competition between North an South particularly in dealings with the European Union.

Agriculture, Tourism, Inward investment, Health and Education and the implementation of European Support programmes are all sectors which have the potential to benefit from dynamic joint action and planning.

Economic Development

The securing of peace and political stability will undoubtedly greatly enhance the opportunities for economic growth and prosperity. A great responsibility will now rest with the new Assembly as the body charges with the task of promoting growth and well-being. To enable the Assembly to discharge this responsibility fully and to enable it to develop an economic strategy which specifically has at its core the circumstances and needs of Northern Ireland as a region in Its own right, then the Assembly must have control over fiscal policy. If its simply to administer the subvention from Whitehall then it will be seriously curtailed In its ability to formulate an imaginative and bold economic strategy for Northern Ireland which will be capable of creating the thousands of jobs needed.

The Assembly must have tax varying powers if it is to be capable of delivering the sort of social and economic progress needed to underpin the Peace Agreement The Workers Party has made the point before that it will be a shallow Peace for many unless there is tangible for the better In their daily lives. Grinding poverty, unemployment, low pay, the plight of the part-time, mainly female work force, with poor conditions of employment and associated social decline in many working class areas of Northern Ireland, demand that the fruits of the new economic opportunities available are shared equally.

The failure to date of the PAFT and TSN initiatives demand that a close scrutiny is maintained In the new Assembly to protect the interests of the marginalised and underprivileged who suffer from social exclusion. Only the Workers Party can guarantee this.


The development of the of the education system must be an urgent priority for the new Assembly. The Workers Party in the Assembly will immediately focus on two aspects of education which demand immediate attention, integrated education and equality of opportunity in education.

We have long advocated the merits of integrated education as a vital and central part of the construction of a new Northern Ireland and the eradication of sectarian division. We will continue to do so in the Assembly. Separation in schooling has contributed to the lack of understanding and respect fore difference that has so polarised our society.

The Workers Party pay tribute to those parents, governors, pupils and teachers who have already taken their leap of faith and subscribed to integrated schools. These schools have done much to break down sectarianism and promote understanding. They are a model to be built upon.

But their success has not just been in terms of bringing children together across the sectarian divide. Through a high level of parental involvement, high pupil esteem and motivation, these schools are a real community resources. With their comprehensive, all ability philosophy, they seek to develop the best in all our pupils.

Continuing selection at the age of 11 condemns the vast majority of our children to second rate educational opportunity. The Workers Party In the Assembly will demand the scrapping of selection, thus putting an end to the discrimination foisted upon working class children. All schools should be good schools and all schools must be afforded equal opportunity and necessary resources so that all pupils can develop to their full potential.

As a Party who will protect the interests of working people in the assembly, we will not only seek to end class discrimination in the primary and secondary sectors, but reverse the proposals to introduce tuition fees and end student grants at university level.


The Workers Party believe that the environment is as much about the physical quality of our lives as it is like the "major" green issues like the ozone layer etc. Therefore we are proposing the following measures which can be implemented immediately by a local Assembly.

  • Environmental Action Plans for major urban centres to prioritise clean streets, clean air etc.

  • a percentage of Peace Dividend Funds to be "ring-fenced" for environmental improvements

  • greater use of cycle lanes

  • Improvements to public transport

  • enforcement of the Green Belt

  • an Environmental Zone to be declared around the hills of Belfast

  • representation in the Civic Forum for Environmental Groups.


The Northern Ireland Health Service has been decimated by financial cuts, excessive bureaucracy and management domination In place of determining the health care needs of the people of Northern Ireland and devising a strategy to meet those needs.

The Workers Party will:

  • devise a Health Care plan to replace the present discredited Acute Services Review

  • seek provision of adequate maternity services which will give equal choice to women in all geographical areas of Northern Ireland

  • demand a properly funded Ambulance Service to be on a par with the other emergency services

  • put an end to competitive tendering in the Health Service

  • demand the scrapping of plans to introduce charges to the elderly for home help, day centres, transport etc.

  • make Trust Boards, Health Boards more democratic by the appointment of local councillors, trade unions and other user interests.


In Northern Ireland the question of policing has assumed a particular importance at this time when the future political life of the state is under discussion. We welcome the appointment of the Independent Commission on Policing and are confident that it can produce proposals which the vast majority of decent citizens will support.

We will submit detailed proposals to them but key principles and requirements are:

  • there must be a police service rather than a force which is

  • democratic and accountable

  • impartial and independent

  • professional, effective and responsive

  • unarmed and civilianised

  • representative and acceptable to all.


For over thirty years the young people of Northern Ireland have been failed. Failed by an economic system which fails to provide jobs and opportunities. Failed by sectarian politicians whose only interest in young people is to get them to vote along sectarian lines. Failed by an education system which divides them on religious lines, an education system which throws the majority of children on the scrapheap in favour of a talented few. Failed by training programmes which are merely surgical operations on unemployment figures as they contain no effective job opportunities at the end of the various programmes. The people of Northern Ireand have for the last thirty years been the victims of sectarianism and wasted opportunities, and none more so than our young people. The Workers Party is the only party with a programme which will provide a different brighter future for Youth, a future based on valuing our young people as our greatest asset and allowing them to develop to their fullest potential.

The Workers Party, working in the new Assembly, will seek to address the fundamental causes of the problems facing young people today and seek to remedy them by a bold programme of action aimed at providing quality comprehensive education, proper job training and job creation schemes, and initiatives aimed at tackling sectarianism.

The Workers Party will seek the inclusion of young people fully within the minimum wage and introduce a minimum wage to allow a greater number of young people to remain in secondary education. It will introduce proposals for and integrated programme of productive training and job creation. In Northern Ireland the only body capable of producing long term sustainable industrial growth and employment is the State. The Workers Party therefore will seek a commitment from the new Assembly to full employment.


The Workers Party acknowledges the efforts and sacrifices of women over the past twenty five years and the important role they played in securing peace.

Our commitment to the emancipation of women is a vital part of our struggle for the political, economic, social and cultural advancement of all our citizens. In Northern Ireland many women have been the victims violence- domestic , sectarian and of the crude economic doctrines which have left them controlled and trapped by poverty. Despite legislation outlawing discrimination many women are marginalised and denied effective say in decision making because of the economic and political structures which ensure their inequality. Since 1973 when we published "The Rights of Women Ireland" the Workers Party has had a full progressive women's programme .In the Assembly we will seek:

  • a Minister for Women's Affairs dealing not only with women's affairs but retraining, education, rights etc.

  • the creation of a Statutory Child Care Authority with widespread powers in the creation of nursery schools

  • the introduction of a Charter for Carers which will guarantee adequate financial support and services.

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