Cross-Community Labour calls for an end to intimidation and violent attacks. 

Cross-Community Labour Candidate for Fermanagh and South Tyrone Donal O’Cofaigh has condemned recent attacks on the right to politically campaign. 

“The 2022 Assembly Election campaign has been marred by attacks on the democratic right to campaign and seek the support of the voters. There have been dozens of reports of posters being torn down, across every constituency and affecting every party. Candidates have been intimidated on-line and on the streets. Candidates have faced state interference in their campaigns. On more than one occasion candidates and their campaign teams have suffered violent attacks. 

“We all know that elections are a reflection of society at large. The sectarianism, repression and intimidation that mar everyday life in many working-class communities remains a massive problem during elections.

“The right to free speech, the right to political organisation and the right to vote were hard won, with the labour and trade union movement leading the way. We will continue to defend the right to democratic expression now and in future elections”.

O’Cofaigh calls for other candidates to back a public inquiry into closure of Valley Nursing home in Clogher

Cross-community Labour Alternative candidate for the upcoming Assembly election Donal O’Cofaigh has supported the call of the Cullen family in Dungannon, whose brother was a resident of the Valley nursing home, for a public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the closure of the facility and its consequences. In the aftermath of the closure 14 home residents died after being transferred and more than fifty local workers in the Clogher valley area lost their jobs.

On Tuesday 12 April, Councillor O’Cofaigh wrote to the other candidates standing for election in Fermanagh South Tyrone to ask they add their voices demanding the incoming Health Minister initiate a public inquiry into the closure and its consequences. To date, only Emma De Sousa (Independent) and Denise Mullan (Aontu) have added their support.

Councillor O’Cofaigh explained the need for the public inquiry.

“It is inexplicable how this nursing home was allowed to close with such devastating effect. Rather than intervening or bringing the facility into public ownership and management, or even allowing another private sector entity to take it over, the authorities saw fit to allow the closure of what was an exceptionally important facility. The Valley nursing home was one of the largest facilities in either the Southern or Western Health Trust areas and accommodated residents with complex needs. While many of those who lost their jobs as a result of the closure were based in South Tyrone, many of the residents were from Fermanagh.

“The Cullen family of Dungannon have been fighting for more than two years to get the truth of what happened and why. I am entirely supportive of that demand and I am asking for the other candidates to support that call – to the benefit of all families.

“The closure of the Valley nursing home and its devastating consequences demonstrates yet again how Stormont’s reliance on private-for-profit operators and a failed regulatory oversight regime is impacting those in need of support.

“Those in our nursing homes today were content to make a lifetime of contributions to the national insurance in the belief that they would receive ‘cradle to grave’ health and social care. But that is the opposite of what is being delivered. What is needed is for the state to live up to that promise is to nationalise the nursing homes and put them under democratic control of independent committees including residents and families and their representatives, the trade unions and local communities.

“Care should not never be about the profit of the few but for the benefit of those needing support.”

Stormont must deliver domestic violence refuges and emergency accommodation

Cross-Community Labour Councillor Donal O’Cofaigh today pledged that as a MLA for Fermanagh-South Tyrone in May he would demand Stormont provide proper resourcing of refuges for victims and survivors of domestic violence.

He explained his experience on this issue to date:

“As a councillor I was able to attend a presentation by Women’s Aid on the current problems they were facing. I was both shocked and dismayed to find out that due to Stormont cuts, there were no longer any dedicated domestic violence refuge units anywhere in Fermanagh.
“Subsequently I raised this issue publicly and repeatedly at council meetings and succeeded in getting the council to write to the Communities Minister demanding action. In response, a commitment was made to provide three domestic violence accommodation units in Enniskillen – which was a success.

“That said, even this provision is completely inadequate. It’s widely known that the number of reported incidents of domestic violence has skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic but there is literally nowhere for those living in fear to go. This can be a life or death situation. Three or four emergency units are just not enough.”

Continue reading “Stormont must deliver domestic violence refuges and emergency accommodation”

Fermanagh and Omagh Council – an undemocratic farce!

Fermanagh and Omagh District Council has again descended into farce. At the latest meeting, the DUP Chair has muted left-wing councillors. First Donal O’Cofaigh, Cross-Community Labour Councillor was muted. Then it was anti-goldmining councillor Emmet McAleer. Independent Eamonn Keenan indicated he wished to speak, but wasn’t even called in.

This was at a meeting where Sinn Féin and the DUP rammed through a 2.72% increase in the rates.The SDLP enthusiastically supported. The DUP Chair only called councillors from the mainstream parties during the discussion.

Donal and Emmet were not called until after Council voted through the increase. Calling in Donal, DUP Chair Errol Thompson told him “and I’ll just remind you that the vote has been taken overwhelmingly.” He reminded Donal he only had three minutes.

Donal said he wanted to protest that “we were completely excluded there from having any input into probably the most important…” At that point, the Chair interrupted: “Can I just stop you there. You weren’t excluded.” As Donal resumed, the Chair spoke over him. “Our voices weren’t heard,” Donal protested. “There’s no public debate on it,” the Chair interrupted. Continue reading “Fermanagh and Omagh Council – an undemocratic farce!”

A Cross Community Labour Alternative comes to Dungannon

Donal O’Cofaigh the Cross Community Labour assembly candidate for Fermanagh South Tyrone in the upcoming Stormont election met with Gerry Cullen in Dungannon to formulate a cross-community labour alliance.

The Enniskillen-based councillor and full-time Unite the union official Donal O’Cofaigh was endorsed by the well-known and highly respected socialist politician and ex-councillor Gerry Cullen from Dungannon Town. Gerry Cullen welcomed Donal to Dungannon on Saturday last to agree and endorse his election campaign. Donal will be standing for election to Stormont as the candidate for Cross Community Labour. Gerry Cullen commented that “there is a strong and historic cross community vote in the Dungannon region. Looking back through the history of the Dungannon region there has always been a strong labour vote, it is now more important than ever that a candidate can put forward a political agenda based on cross community values and solid policies that will appeal to an electorate long starved of political representation based on traditional labour values.”

Donal O’Cofaigh stated that now more than ever a cross community labour candidate is needed at Stormont “to offer effective representation on critical issues facing the electorate, the cost of living crisis, the crisis in health and social welfare, the destruction and exploitation of the environment by multinational financiers and the denigration of a once strong and well resourced social and community based infrastructure”.

Both Gerry Cullen and Donal O’Cofaigh agreed that there is a mood among the electorate of Fermanagh and South Tyrone to move away from the old worn out politics of the past. “It is important that we as a community look to the future with a different perspective. We must take on board the need for community based political values that incorporate a wish for social and community based initiatives which will benefit all of the community of Fermanagh and South Tyrone, not just a fortunate or privileged few. The political system at present has failed this constituency. It is time to offer the electorate an effective and forward thinking socialist and labour based alternative.”

Rural health services under attack

The Bengoa reform is only the latest attempts to dismantle, rationalise and therefore privatise the NHS in Northern Ireland. The report – which has the agreement of all parties in the Executive – provides a blueprint for services to be withdrawn from rural areas and opens the path for ever greater encroachment by private operators in every aspect of health and social care.

The outworkings of this are to be seen in the growing role of the private agencies who are being paid hundreds of millions every year to deliver staffing – money that could easily fund a fair pay deal for NHS workers sufficient to bring back workers and end the staffing crisis.

But the staffing crisis that results undermines the delivery of services – most especially in rural areas where staffing retention and recruitment are most challenging – and this provides the grounds for Stormont decisions to cut services claiming that staffing levels are unsafe. Of course, those dependent on these fast-disappearing services find themselves forced to pay for alternative treatments – normalising the concept of paid medicine and undermining the ethos of the ‘free at the point of delivery’ NHS.

In recent weeks announcements threatening the acute status at South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen and Daisy Hill hospital in Newry have been made by the respective trusts. Continue reading “Rural health services under attack”

Bus and rail services once again under attack from Stormont austerity

Chris Conway, Translink

Chris Conway, the Chief Executive of Translink, Northern Ireland’s bus and rail provider, today testified on the state of public transport here. His evidence confirmed the criminal neglect of public transport by Stormont over many years.

Mr Conway exposed the fact that per capita funding for bus and rail services in NI is only 27% of the UK average. That is Stormont spends just a little bit more than a quarter of what Westminster, Holyrood and Cardiff spend on bus and rail services – for every man, woman and child.

Uncertain future

This situation is compounded by the fact that Northern Ireland is a rural region and the cost of operating public transport here is far higher due to our sparse population densities.

Mr Conway warned that the very future of Translink itself was uncertain and said that underfunding of public transport left it facing question marks over its financial viability.

1,000 bus and rail services under threat!

In a comment which highlights just how bad things are. The Translink Chief Executive warned that one thousand bus and rail services would be lost if the budget remained 10 percent below where it was. He further said that these would be primarily in rural areas.

This would mean Stormont presiding over the greatest calamity in public transport here since the railways were closed and the tracks lifted up in the late 1950s.

Continue reading “Bus and rail services once again under attack from Stormont austerity”

Is all-Ireland rail consultation designed to play off competing communities?

The need for a rail connection down these parts is something myself and the independents on council have raised consistently – despite the naysayers.
Indeed it’s been an issue I’ve pushed for many years now. Before the last Assembly election – thanks to encouragement from the likes of local rail enthusiast Selwyn Johnston (who has been fighting  this cause for this for decades) I published estimates of how much a rail extension to Enniskillen would cost – calculations supplied to me by Unite shop stewards working in NI Rail.
Indeed as a result of my pushing the issue consistently, Unite in Northern Ireland raised a rail connection to Fermanagh as an example of the sort of public investment project that could be taken forward by a Labour government when they met with former party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

His team were looking for capital infrastructural projects that would be transformative – and they certainly grasped its significance for the south west. Sadly that wasn’t to be!

Transformative Rail

A rail connection would be transformative for tourism and connectivity in the Southwest. If coupled to a broad process of electrification it would reduce the environmental pollution associated with privatised transport and encourage remote working and a renaissance of rural communities here.

Continue reading “Is all-Ireland rail consultation designed to play off competing communities?”