4 November 1999 Edition
Jobs at any cost
So did you hear, there's plans to set up an American arms factory in Derry. After 30 years of the `Troubles' we are now being given carte blanche by the Americans to participate in the world's war machine. Not only will we be paid to manufacture weaponry, we will have the blessing of the American and the British governments to do it. How much does it pay, you may ask. A better question is, how much will we pay? What's the trade off?
I can remember John Hume on television recently extolling the virtues of Raytheon Incorporated, which uses software development as a smokescreen to cover its real purpose - death. Raytheon produces warheads and missile guidance systems which are sold around the world.
150 jobs, Hume said - a welcome addition to Derry's economy.
I wonder if the North is asleep? It is about time we woke up to the reality that big corporations, particularly government-driven ones like Raytheon, see `Northern Ireland' as a golden opportunity. We have a huge unemployed but skilled workforce and our location, next to Europe, is strategic in terms of military planning.
One would think that after 30 years of warfare our politicians would be more adept at dealing with the American military machine. I had hoped they would realise the dangerous precedent they are creating should they allow companies which produce armaments, like Raytheon, into our country. Are we so caught up in ourselves that we can't see what is happening? What next, nuclear dumpsites? Will we do anything for a few jobs?
Perhaps our politicians think we owe something to the Americans because of our `special' relationship. Companies like Raytheon do not exist on their own, they are a part of the American military corporate body and they are big business. Are our politicians paying back the `favour' to the American government in allowing companies like Raytheon to set up here. Do they think they can do business with the American military machine? For those 150 jobs Raytheon is offering, we, the people of the North, will get paid for participating in a war machine.
Just imagine, for 30 years many of us were jailed and murdered for doing that. Now the Raytheon company is willing to pay us for it and is giving us the opportunity to inflict war on others, better yet, on people just like us, with complete impunity. What is it worth to us? The real question to ask is what is it worth to its investors? (One of whom is the IDB).
The one lesson we can't help but learn in this is that politics is fickle.
Welcome for Cuban relations
On Wednesday 27 October 1999, I was privileged to be one of a group of solidarity activists in Ireland who met with the Cuban Foreign Minister, Felipe Pérez Roque, to celebrate the establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and Ireland. This was an historic event. Not only was it the first visit to Ireland of a Cuban Minister since Che Guevara in the 1960s, but, prior to this, Ireland was the only country in the EU without an official link with Cuba. We can now look forward to the intensification of political, economic and cultural ties between the two countries, with the Irish government placing increased pressure on the US to abandon its immoral, illegal and damaging economic blockade of Cuba.
Cuba Support Group - Ireland
5 Rockmount Street
Nurses striked in vain
I am a full time nurse.
The offer, which unions on our behalf accepted as a basis for a return to work, is an insult.
The only difference the terms proposed will make to me, a nurse of four years' standing, is an extra one sixth of my wage for any hours I do over my eight-hour shift. It's a matter of pence, after tax.
The proposal will do nothing to halt the drift of nurses from this country, or out of the profession altogether. The crisis in the health service, the queues for treatment, patients on trolleys, ward closures, the scandalous nurse-patient ratios, the 40-hour week, junior doctors on 72-hour shifts - all these remain unchanged.
I will still be caring for 55 geriatric patients on a 12-hour night shift, with two assistants to help me, for £80 before tax. Where did our slogan `every patient deserves a nurse' go?
At the end of the day, we worked nine days unpaid, except for a slap for daring to challenge `Partnership', which for us means co-operating with the destruction of the health service.
A few pence off the income tax is no good to people who can't get urgent treatment for their sickness. Only those on decent incomes can afford health insurance. Are they alone to get nursing care or treatment?
A good public health service is not a dispensable commodity, and we the nurses are not disposable items.
I, for one, am through with `partnership' if it means proper nursing care and treatment for some who can afford to pay, but not for the others who can't.
Overstepping the mark
I am concerned about the role extension of the Chief Constable in the North.
Over the last several weeks, and frequently before that, Ronnie Flanagan has been in the media, either speaking to it or having it repeat on the many public meetings he has been invited to address.
Those public meetings, in recent times, warn about security problems.
There is a minister for security, a secretary of state, a prime minister, a first-minister designate all being paid out of public money. I believe policing and security issues are proper to their duty-domain. I expect related public statements should come from them and not from the chief constable.
The task of the police force is the maintenance of law and order within the community. Security is way beyond its remit as are political statements in public fora.
The Garda Commissioner speaks much more rarely in the media. That is the task of his employers