‘Newry Foodbank an indictment of Stormont’s failed policies’, insists éirígí
Thursday, November 28th, 2013
The socialist republican party, éirígí, has said that the recent official launch of a food-bank in Newry is demonstrable proof of how the economic recession is impacting negatively upon many ordinary families.
Local spokesperson for éirígí in the Newry area, Shane Jones, said, “There can be no doubt that Stormont’s failed political, social and economic policies are having a detrimental impact on families right across the Six Counties.
“At present in the Newry and Mourne area, over 3,300 people are unemployed. It is estimated that there are at least another 3,000 people who are classed as ‘economically inactive’ but who also want to work. That equates to well over 6,000 people within this council area who want meaningful employment,” Jones insisted.
“There are also increasing numbers of working people being employed on ‘zero-hour’ contracts which give little income security to workers. Indeed, these ‘zero-hour’ contracts are being used by unscrupulous firms to cut workers’ hours and workers’ rates of pay.
“Those who are in employment are also being hit by reductions in the levels of working tax credits and other top-up benefits available to those on low-incomes. The working poor are a growing and harsh reality in today’s society of unequals.”
Additionally, said Jones, “Figures released by the Child Poverty Action Group earlier this year show that the Newry and Mourne council area has the third highest level of children living in poverty within the Six Counties. The number of children living in poverty-stricken households in the Newry area stands at over 6,500 and is only behind Belfast and Derry.
“That is shocking figure and one that is directly related to Stormont’s inability to deliver real change to the lives of ordinary families. Poverty is a real and increasing problem, but it is one that often remains hidden and unseen.”
Commenting on the recent launch of a local food bank by Newry’s Christian Centre, Shane Jones stated, “Food banks have emerged in several parts of the 6 Counties as community groups, faith organizations and charities attempt to assist the growing numbers of people unable to feed or heat themselves and their families as a result of rising living costs, reductions in pay, shrinking household incomes and welfare benefit cuts.
“The vast majority of these food/home-fuel distribution schemes do not receive state funding. They mainly operate on the basis of community solidarity and, without any doubt, giving assistance to those in need is a simple response that everyone supports. It is a basic act of human solidarity and as, such, it is to be welcomed and encouraged.”
The éirígí spokesperson highlighted the fact that one Stormont department has been promoting the establishment of food banks among community groups.
On this point, Jones said, “It will be a shock for many people to learn that even the health service in the 6 Counties is promoting the establishment of food-banks. That is an open acknowledgement from within the structures of this state that Stormont is incapable of addressing the growing issue of poverty within our communities.”
Jones said that there are also wider societal issues which have to be addressed. He continued, “Food banks and food/home-fuel distribution schemes will not solve the problems that cause poverty and hunger in the first place.
“Although they are addressing an urgent need, such projects are unable to hold the state accountable to its obligation of ensuring that all in our society have a standard of living necessary to ensure their health and well-being.”
“It means asking far-reaching questions about the type of society we live in”, he said, “and about the society we would like our children and grandchildren to live in.
“It means asking questions that go to the heart of the capitalist economic system and to the inequality caused by private ownership of food production and food distribution, and to the politics of the food industry itself.
“Sainsbury’s, Dunnes, Tesco’s, Asda and other companies make obscene amounts of profit every year on basic necessities such as food. These are the type of companies who will profit even further through Stormont’s proposals to cut corporation tax. Where is there any sense of social justice in that?
“Those are questions which Stormont politicians do not wish to hear,” continued the éirígí spokesperson, “The reason for that is simple and straightforward – it is because the Stormont parties have no solution as they have completely tied themselves into acceptance of economic policies dictated by Britain, the EU and US.”
Jones added, “Genuinely tackling poverty and income inequality means exploring alternative economic and political structures. It’s time for everyone to begin that political conversation and to start to ask those awkward questions. It is time to give this generation, and future generations, the chance of a more equal and just future.”
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