Teachers in the trenches: The privitisation of the English Education System


 For some teachers the effects of the ConDem robbery is already very real. With the rise in inflation, increased pension contributions, and two years’ worth of wage freezes teachers have been hit hard. 

For every £20,000 earned in 2010 teachers will earn, relatively speaking, £3,140 less by the end of 2014.  At the risk of pointing out the obvious, comparatively speaking, £20,000 in 2010 will be worth, around, £16,860 by the end of 2014.

This robbery has been facilitated by a wider change in the context of education. 

David Cameron was asked in an early-morning, BBC Radio 4, interview at the beginning of January 2013 what he was most proud of ‘his Government’ having achieved since they came into power. His response was unequivocal; the one thing the Prime Minister is most proud of having achieved is “cracking the state monopoly on education”. 

For this Government; this coalition of toffs, bankers and business gangsters, education is not a responsibility of the state. Education isn’t something that the state should serve to protect for the benefit of all those in it. Education, for this government, is a multi-billion pound industry, and one that should be distinct from the state in order to continue the self-preservation of the most affluent classes. 

Michael Gove, Cameron’s commander of operations, has engaged in an agenda of rapid privitisation. That agenda is reliant on driving down cost and increasing ‘productivity’. That agenda has a number of key elements, for teachers. 

Gove’s agenda is broad and it’s tantamount to stealing the chalk from the chalk-face. 


 Let’s start by making one thing very clear pensions are and were affordable. The teachers’ pension scheme, unlike some others in the public sector, is not based on the model of a ‘pension-pot’ where money is paid in, stays in and is subsidised if it runs out – where it’s effectively ring-fenced and shared between all the members. Instead, teachers’ pension contributions are directly paid into the treasury and their pensions are paid ‘directly’ from the treasury.

Teachers’ unions argue that over the life-time of every teacher, the scheme is self-sufficient. In other words, the bottom line might dip and peak but, over-time it’s a balanced and affordable plan. But, the government say the scheme is unaffordable, that teachers need to pay more, get less and work longer in order to make the scheme sustainable. They claim that the treasury have to subsidise the scheme when it is running a deficit; and strictly speaking this is true. But, it’s a one dimensional argument; a contextual fallacy.

Excuse the coarse analogy, but imagine the teachers’ pension scheme as a stretch of a river: when less goes in at one point, and the ‘same or more’ still flows out at the other the middle will begin to dry.

However, when more is going in at one end than is able to come out at the other (i.e. the scheme is in surplus) the middle of the river will begin to swell. Crucially, abetting Gove’s agenda, (forgive the pun) the ‘banks’/the treasury (or future private sector institutions) absorb that swell.

 In efforts to increase the swell, and in-turn the amount of money that the treasury will absorb, the government changed the unit used to measure the rate of interest, which calculates how much teachers are paid on receipt of their pension, from RPI to CPI. Without going into detail about the calculations: CPI is lower. 

CPI means teachers get less and the treasury can absorb more of the swell. In fact, since the change, just over a year ago, the treasury has amassed savings of over £22 Billion.

The teachers’ unions know that an independent evaluation of the pension scheme has been commissioned by, and returned to, the government. It’s no big secret but, the government have refused, point-blank, to release it. Effectively, the government have hidden the document from the sight of teachers and unions; but still retort, ‘it says the same as we say… we promise…’

In one of the most effective swindles in recent history, the government’s agenda is clear: hood-wink teachers into paying for the banks whilst at the same time they are undressing the robes of the public sector; watering the eyes of the serpents in the ‘private’.

 One could be excused for thinking that the swell might eventually begin to dry again as the RPI/CPI change begins to settle. It stands to reason that this ‘settlement’ is inevitable. But, in a move towards unquestionable supremacy Gove has usurped the power for the Secretary of State for Education to make even more, future, changes to the teachers’ pension scheme without even going back to Parliament.

 It’s clear how this will manifest itself. The Secretary of State has the sole power to drag the conditions of teachers’ pensions even closer to the ground. Any future minister can wreck any development in terms of working people’s pensions without even going through the democratic, due process of Parliament.

 The government can’t lose. As long as the scheme remains in public hands they can continue to absorb the swell and if it’s made private the companies can gamble with the liabilities: teachers’ end pensions; workers’ lives after work.

 There’s been no discussion with unions, representing 90% of employees, and the evaluation of the teachers’ pension scheme remains illusive; buried deep in some dark corner of Whitehall.


 Michael Gove said ‘good teachers should be paid more’; but it’s a thin veil. It stands to reason that amidst his agenda for privitisation, driving down the cost of labour will be a priority.

 Under Gove schools already have the freedom to employ, less expensive, unqualified teachers as professionals and experiment with socially and educationally divisive interpretations of the curriculum. To be frank, this isn’t about paying good teachers more; the changes to teachers’ pay are about paying more teachers less.

 Teachers’ pay in England was designed to pay teachers over a consistent period and was always based on successful performance management reviews. If those reviews were unsuccessful, head teachers always had the ability to decline a teacher’s ‘automatic’ progression.

 Gove peddled the myth that these ‘new freedoms’ were needed to pay ‘good teachers’ more we should recognise this for what it is; an effort free-up employers to ‘hold workers back’. Judgements will be based, not on success and experience, but appropriations from the school budget.

 In effect this is a move towards the application of the ‘corporatisation theory’.

 The corporatisation theory, in general, is difficult to apply pay to education. There are a number of different reasons; but two of the most prevalent relate to a ‘market value element’ and a ‘production for reward element’.

 The latter, the ‘produce for reward element’, can be applied fairly simply to industries like production or sales. Take a sales-person who is paid a modest salary and given an incentive to meet targets for sales through bonuses and so forth; the model might work quite well in the favour of the employee and the employer. It is widely accepted to be an incentive to ‘produce more’. However, children develop in relation to their wider context and their context ‘beyond the school gate’.

 Their ‘actual, natural ability to succeed’ and their circumstances beyond the school gate vary. For example their family support is very important, as is their eating, sleeping and exercise habits etc.

It’s a fallacy to assume that a teacher’s salary could be fairly and robustly determined on the merits of a child’s achievement in school when so many external factors are at influence.

 Children don’t learn on a production line, isolated from the outside world, and the motivational argument for ‘produce more success, get more pay’ will, inevitably, be completely counter-productive when teachers are aware that their influence might be little more than negligible on certain children. Gove knows this; Gove is unconcerned with education, he is driven by reducing cost and this mechanism will ultimately drive that cost down.

 Production for reward, in the context of education, is completely incompatible with the complexities of learning.

 The second element, ‘the market value element’, is shrouded in social injustice; a social injustice that is completely incompatible with the existence of the trade union movement and socially-divisive in terms of education.

 Once we begin to apply a market value, or a worth, to a child’s education we are effectively decentralising the worth of the child as a person and focusing the worth on a child’s potential to succeed. In that sense the market value element will provide employers with the tools to ‘invest less’ in areas where there are lower chances of success. This might manifest itself in lower ‘investment’ and lower ‘pay’ for teachers and education in ‘naturally’ less affluent areas. Beyond regional disadvantage, the contrast between the North West and South East for example, this will result in huge disparity between funding for schools and teachers’ pay within, relatively near-by, localities. Small pockets of Peckham (London) would be disproportionately affected compared to, for example, Notting Hill.

 As a general rule, the very children who need more investment to improve their life chances are the very ones who will get less.

 Compound these two elements of the corporatisation model with a third strand that says that teachers no-longer have a statutory entitlement to take their pay with them from one school to another and we can foresee stagnation in the profession. Teachers beginning their career in less affluent areas will have less chance to progress in their career than their colleagues from more advantaged starting points.

 The changes mean that there are professionals who will be paid a salary in September 2013 and never receive another increase for the remainder of their career, no matter how ‘successful’ they are. Gove has created the conditions for merchants of the private market to create a glass ceiling for salaries; where only very few high-earners will ever see real career progress in terms of pay and where children with the greatest needs are condemned to futures of uncertainty.

For the vast majority of the workers, for the first time in a long time, a decent standard of living will be out of reach. Cars in the car parks, mortgages, food on a Friday and so many basic and affordable ‘comforts’ will be unaffordable.

 Evidence from around the world has put beyond any doubt the notion that pay is inextricably linked to standards of education. With the implementation of Gove’s vision, teachers’ pay will be hammered. The private sector can make millions through cracking the monopoly and dragging down the cost of labour; teachers will have serious difficulty in maintaining the standard of living to which they have become accustomed.

 The result is predetermined: unlike the high educational standards of Finland, where teachers are amongst the highest paid profession in the country and their vocation amongst the most revered, standards in the classroom will plummet.  Teachers will become more demoralised and children will be condemned.

 Linking pay of teachers to the performance of children shifts the focus away from the quality provision of education for ‘the whole class’; a bleak future for the next generation.

 Cutting cost is slashing standards: as well as a whole profession, whole communities will be left behind; equal and free access for all will be no-more.


More than half of all teachers have considered leaving the profession completely in the past year and two thirds have considered leaving their job. In a poll of over fifteen thousand teachers from all over England, 98% reported that they don’t believe this government are doing what’s best for education. 

OFSTED is a statutory body supposed to champion high standards and inspect schools against criteria that will ultimately improve our education system. In the past, OFSTED has generally been acknowledged as a ‘necessary evil’ by teachers – unpleasant, but ultimately serving a beneficial purpose. But now, 41% of teachers rank school inspection in their top four concerns about work. To put that into some context, teachers are as worried about OFSTED as they are about their pay, pensions and their workload. 

It beggars belief that a body geared towards improvement would inspire such fear within the profession. However, if truth be told, OFSTED is Gove’s military wing of privitisation. Under the direction of Michael Wilshaw (Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector), OFSTED send in storm troopers of privitisation to target our ‘failing schools’; most commonly in our most deprived areas. With few exceptions, teachers report horrific accounts of ‘political OFSTED inspections’. These are inspections with a predetermined result serving a political agenda; these inspections are alive and well in England. Even accounts of OFSTED commenting that certain schools will be forced to become an academy; threatening teachers’ jobs and children’s schools. OFSTED have absolutely no jurisdiction to make such claims.

OFSTED, essentially, serves a dual purpose in Gove’s agenda for rapid privitisation. Firstly, the ‘stubborn’ schools who don’t (or won’t) share Gove’s vision for a highly autonomous, low cost model for education can be targeted and ‘forced’ to see the light when they have been exposed as ‘failing’ their children. Secondly, it serves to develop the illusion that England’s schools are sub-standard by highlighting, in the media, the number of schools that ‘aren’t doing well’. That too many schools are ‘failing the nation’s brightest children’. These claims are all made against the fact that the most recent round of PISA (the body that assesses international standards of education) ranked England at 6th in the world for the quality of education and 2nd, only to Finland, in Europe.

OFSTED, Gove’s advance guard, are responsible for war crimes. They are unjust, undemocratic and effectively unaccountable. They force the shift in control from the accountable-mechanisms of the local authority (council) to unaccountable private boards. They load stress on teachers at every grade and force so many of our best out of the profession.

Gove and Wilshaw agree that this is all positive. In fact, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector commented, “If teachers are suffering from stress you know you’re doing your job”. This is the mentality of two of the most powerful Generals in Education.


 Pensions, pay, OFSTED and teachers are working twelve hour days and 70 hour weeks. Focus has been driven from the kids to the bursars. They’re focusing on spreadsheets and collecting dinner money rather than education. Families are being split-up by the pressure; and times are tough.


This isn’t a period of transition for education. It’s total destruction. It’s about breaking, beyond immediate repair, the state’s relationship with provision.


It’s all based on myth and whilst so many people are rushing to save the NHS, education is being pushed out the door. It’s all ideological; and whilst it’s not Thatcher, it’s worse. This is Gove.


This is a war on the state; a war on teachers. This is a war on education and schools. This is a war on the working class and on the most vulnerable. This is a war on those with the greatest need in our society.


 They’re already being tortured by OFSTED, they’re already being robbed of their pensions and come September 2013 teachers might be losing out in terms of pay; but we have to realise that this is a symptom and not a cause. This is a symptom of corruption; a symptom of privitisation; and a symptom of condemnation of the future of our children.

 We are at war with this government; our teachers are in the trenches.

For more information and a short video, visit: http://www.goveversusreality.com


Tolerating the intolerable


‘Don’t tolerate intolerance’. This post was written after reading Dr Dave Magee’s opinions on a potential ‘shared future’ for the 12th of July ‘celebrations’.

As the violence and hate of the 12th of July ‘celebration’ begins to subside in the North; so begins the choral rise of “it’s not all bad… it’s not how it looks”.

Excuses and exceptions promote tolerance and acceptance in respect to Orange-fest. But the fact of the matter is this: Orange-fest is intolerable, it’s destructive, and it’s divisive. We should refuse to tolerate it and refuse to accept it.

I wasn’t particularly surprised to read Dr Dave Magee’s account of a pleasant ‘beacon’ event on the eleventh night. Beacon events are a more eco-friendly version of the bonfires that pollute the 11th night air.

Dr Magee (University of Aberdeen) had attended a beacon event that was, evidently, an exception to many bonfires; an eco-friendly, largely anti-sectarian, community celebration.

Now, being from North Derry I am well aware that many of my friends in the PUL community don’t set out to rub my face in the dirt of the Boyne. For many, the eleventh night is just as natural as Christmas and the twelfth is just the same; they know no different. But I refuse to accept that the beacon event was anymore socially wholesome than sister events and bonfires. Dr Magee’s account smacks of a dangerous, sycophantic ignorance.

At face value it might be genuinely refreshing to read such an account of the eleventh night. However, we must draw up short of accepting it as the status quo. Just because it isn’t doused in the same hatred that burns effigies of Catholics and Republicans, religious icons and politicians, and the flags of the free-state, doesn’t mean it’s okay. It might be an exception to the rule; an exception to, what is generally, a bitter and divisive celebration but fact remains that it’s fundamentally wrong.

Dr Magee’s article, entitled “Ross Kemp won’t tell you this”, presents the message that many of the supporters of Orange-fest want to get across. The image that: media-bias like Ross Kemp’s BBC documentary and the Stephen Nolan coverage present an unfair and ill-measured picture of the celebrations. That they are somehow ‘one-sided’ in an anti-Protestant media surge. But think for a minute of the people of Belfast: I don’t think the residents of the Short Strand and the Ardoyne would agree, in fact, I dare to say that even the centrist population of the city and the North would take exception.

In that sense, it’s important to counter Dr Magee’s claim. I would suggest to Dave, and the others who lead the case in defence of Orange-fest, that the reason the media coverage is presented in its current light is because that’s exactly how it is; dominated by hate-filled, drunken and sectarian yobs. You see, it’s an unfortunate truth but the evidence of the ‘Orange-fest effect’ is more prevalent in broken bones and windows than his, sepia toned, visions of ‘a shared night’.

Unionist leaders claim that “we need to be very clear” about the fact that these outbreaks are the fault of the parades’ commission and the police. They labour their point, that ‘yet again’, they are being targeted whilst their ‘culture is being eroded’. But their culture is this: it denounces non-Protestant existence; it’s incapable of real tolerance; it celebrates, not just an ‘ancient battle’, but the persecution of Catholicism and ideals of an anti-monarchical movement… It hates ‘its neighbours’ and loves itself. They celebrate fascist, social and moral superiority. Their culture was born out of intimidation and that’s how ‘the order’ wants it to continue.

It’s important to provide some context aswell. The ‘loyalist’ working class are disenfranchised. They’ve been abandoned by Blair and left to rot ever since. Unemployed and deprived they are being exploited by the leadership of an organisation (the Loyal Orange Lodge) that has no intention of making compromise. “I’d rather be a Paki than a Teague…” they sing. If only they knew; the dole’s worth the same no matter who you are. They’re just another product of underinvestment and they’re only loyalist by accident of birth.

Whilst Gerry Kelly was standing on the bonnet of a PSNI land-rover appealing for calm in the Republican streets, where were the leaders of the PUL community who called ‘their people’ to protest in the first place? Yet again, notable by their absence the DUP, UUP and LOL left their people to whip up mayhem in Belfast.

We need to find a way forward. Culture and tradition isn’t an excuse for Orange-fest.

Just because something is ‘culture’ or ‘tradition’ doesn’t mean we should tolerate it.

Don’t look for examples of where ‘it’s not too bad’. We should progressively denounce why it’s wrong, educate against it and rebuke it at every opportunity. The world is watching in dismay. Year after year Orange-fest has torn Belfast to shreds.

We must be brave and proclaim that it’s wrong, it’s socially divisive and it has no place in our shared future.

I don’t always agree with Martin McGuinness, but he spoke well at the weekend. We can’t blame the PUL working-class community for a lack of education, low-levels of employment and the disorder as a result. It’s both an accident of birth and a consequence of disadvantage. When the people need hope, they’ve been fed hate.

Responsibility for the hurt of this year’s ‘celebration’ lies squarely at the door of the Orange Order. “They are a disgrace”.

The movement and Thatcher

We can articulate theory from every corner of the left plateau as to why the trade union movement is pivotal to social progression for the generations of youngsters starting to ‘grow up’ England and free-state Ireland. In-fact, we’re actually very good at it. Even now on the death of Thatcher many on the ‘educated’ left are debating the finer details of her legacy rather than capitalising on her death. I’m not interested in commenting on the morality of celebrating her death; in one sense it’s irrelevant. It’s her as a hate-figure that is important.

The left has always been divided by differences in intellectual interpretation. We’ve always been quick to call for solidarity and slow to share a vision across the board; look at the semi-organised factions of the political left in England alone. The same point is evident now: many of my comrades in the movement are calling for calm and respect whilst many more are calling for the Cava and their copy of ‘Brassed off’. Many are calling for a debate on the finer points of her legacy; others are calling for a point from which we can move on. I’m not hearing many calls for education. I’m not hearing many calls for an effort to pursue organisation amidst a mass of agitation – this concerns me.

There have been street parties in Glasgow and Scotland, all across the North of England and the length and breadth of Ireland. There are young people who have no idea why they hate Thatcher outside of some sectarian birth-right. Likewise there are, I hasten to add, young people rushing to her defence out of the same inspiration.

The most prevalent voices from the left are resounding ideological superiority over these ‘idiots’ – as one senior trade union official described them in his blog.

This should be a massive recruitment and mobilisation opportunity for the left; an opportunity to share a long-awaited platform; an opportunity for us to stand strong in solidarity and build the bridge between the hate of this common figurehead and the contempt for the state of our nations. The death of Thatcher is an opportunity to launch a massive campaign of education – what Thatcherism means and what it does to the working class every day.

The left are in chorus when we sing about the survival of the Thatcher legacy but there is little alignment within our Church. The preachers are great from the height of their blogs and branch offices; but they are responsible for an utterly diabolical lack of vision when it comes to penetrating the working class. The pulpit has elevated many comrades beyond perspective.

The fact is that Thatcher represented an ideology that the working-class are born to hate. We are born oppressed and it’s natural hate the oppressor; Thatcher is one we can identify with. We need to identify Thatcher today and keep the flames of hate and agitation burning; it’s from these flames that we can smoke out the rats of the Tory party in 2015.

We need to point to Iain Duncan Smith and Boris Johnson and say: “This is Thatcher.”

We need to point to Jeremy Hunt and Theresa May and say: “This is Thatcher”.

We need to point to Michael Gove and Chris Grayling and say: “This is Thatcher”.

We need to point to Cameron, Osborne and the rest and say: “Look! This is Thatcher now alive and well!”

We need to reorganise our labour and mount a reinvigorated industrial battle. We must call for guerrilla strikes not a general strike: we are strong in pockets but across the board we are still too weak. We need to be frank about that. We need to educate from within our unions and union news. We need to penetrate the streets of hate and mobilise under the shared vision; the death of Thatcher can mark the start of a re-birth for us and for our families… if we’re organised.

James Connolly argued tirelessly that without organised labour and the trade union movement, socialism and social justice, would capitulate to capitalism in Ireland. The same can be said for England, Scotland, Wales, the Euro zone and so on. We must organise our labour through the hate and drive out the daemon.

Connolly pressed the point that we can fly the green flag from Dublin castle… but as long as we have our landlords and tenants, private enterprise and disorganised labour England (capitalism) will have her say in Ireland. Time and time again; Connolly is right: through the troubles, through trade, through the Euro zone and through the years to come: you can rest assured; he was right.

We can bury Thatcher next week, but as long as we argue over our intellectual interpretations of Marx and ideology and demand calm from our disorganised movement she will live on in the hearts of every treacherous and self-interested ‘democrat’ on our island and the UK.

The conditions are ripe to cultivate a new organised and mobilised working class; we need to call on our leadership in the trade-union movement to lead the way.

Embrace the hate and educate. The trade union movement is important to our future generations because without it the power of the oppressor will grow and the power of the worker will go.


Thatcher is dead. But she lives on.

Thatcher is dead.

Maggie was a war-monger. Her hand tore the limbs from British soldiers on a sod of turf thousands of miles from England. Her hand ripped the stomachs of men with a mandate in the maze. Her hand beat the backs of youngsters in the North of England through the batons of her state police; and her hand pulled the trigger that shot the back of the Belgrano as they ran from her fight.

Mandela was a terrorist and Pol Pot was a friend.

“There is no such thing as society…” She spouted. You can have your life… If you can afford it. There is no such thing as ‘us’ or a ‘future’ just a ‘me’ and a ‘now’. She had a callous contempt for equality and was brutish in exercising her political dogma.

All over Ireland today people are celebrating the hate. I would only counsel not to hate Thatcher out of some sectarian birth-right; there are far more important things to hate her for.

Is it not ironic that, on the day she died, her legacy started to dismantle our welfare state. Thousands more families are in poverty today than there were yesterday. Thousands more people have no relative quality of life.

The soap filled mouths of the left are gentle in their reprise today. Get a grip comrades: your stomach for the fight is reprehensible!

I’m sick and tired of the righteous left demanding ‘proper order’ and ‘calm’. ‘An old woman has died’, they pine. I say stop hiding behind the same old rhetoric and intellectual superiority that cuts our throats every time we try to organise the working class! Come out of your union offices and get your fucking act together.

Defend the hate; we must explain that these social conditions we are enduring today are a result of a Thatcherism. Thatcher is alive and well in the regressive policies of the DUP and UUP. Thatcherism is at the core of every mainstream UK political party including Labour. The hate we should celebrate!

If people are celebrating in the streets then at least we know they can see right from wrong. And to my Unionist friends who condemn the celebrations: it’s you who are sectarian and you who are cold of heart. Keep your taunts and moral high-ground for the 12th of July and educate yourself about the countries her politics have ruined.

Margaret Thatcher was a horrible little bastard but everything she did was based on comprehensible and linear ideology and politics. Thatcher was no different to Pinochet, Mussolini and Hitler; the woman was a politically motivated social-conservative, neo-liberal and free-marketeer. Her political thinking was robust.

The only difference between her and her aforementioned pals was the scale of murder; but she tried her hand at that too.

Everyone on the left has a responsibility to point out that yesterday’s dismantling of social-welfare is a direct result of this woman’s tyrannous reign and her influence on the politics of today. We need to pull our tongues out of the condemnation of hate and start organising in Britain and Ireland or we have no hope of surviving as post 2015.

Thatcher is in the heart of every free-market touting, self-interested elitist fuck-wit in the House of Commons. The fight is just beginning and ‘she hasn’t gone away you know…’

The left need to get into the streets today! We must educate through the hate. We have grounds for a serious agitation here amongst the working class and we need to take this catalyst as an opportunity to mobilise pre-2015 and take the fight to London!

Embrace the hate.

The fight before Christmas: ‘The flag’

“Ireland, distinct from her people means nothing to me.”

The undeniable brutality of the British state has been exercised all over the world through extended periods of colonialism and capitalist warfare. In a small town in Derry in 1969 an innocent drunk met this brutality, head on, as he tried stumbling home through British lines during a riot. Francie McCloskey tried making his way up the Main Street of Dungiven, waving a white handkerchief above his head. He was savagely beaten by the RUC in the entry-way of Hasson’s family drapery and left to die . It was the first murder of the troubles. In July 1972, in the nearby village of Claudy, nine innocent people were killed as a result of an IRA attack, in what became known as ‘Black Monday’. There was brutality on both sides. There was Bloody Sunday and the Rising Sun and there were hundreds more stories that composed the bloodiest and most hate-filled period of Irish history; the troubles.

The backdrop to the troubles was social deprivation and political segregation. In many ways there was social and political apartheid and the totalitarian rule of a Unionist parliament oppressed Nationalist and Catholic communities where there was no hope of democratic representation.

The result of the troubles was democracy, fairer and more equitable systems of representation, and some decent, social, development.

Every now and then we hear impassioned claims that there was an alternative to the IRA campaign; but for the grass-roots Nationalist communities there wasn’t. If we want a lasting peace in the North we must grapple with the truth. There was no place for the democratic progression of Nationalists in a state born out of sectarian division and designed to oppress anti-Unionist and Loyalist ideology. Pre-troubles, the division was growing; either a process of ethnic cleansing would have to eliminate the Nationalist ‘threat’ or Nationalist civil rights would have to be incorporated into a system of governance. Both were radical truths and, in that sense, conflict was inevitable.

Today though, in the post-troubles’ climate, all the people of the North have something to be proud of. Out of all the division, inequality, conflicting ideology and bitter, sectarian, hatred the people work together – not always well and not always with socially progressive policies, but they work together – and most importantly, democracy rules the state.

The Union flag is a sense of identity and pride, and, the union flag is the butcher’s apron. The perception we have is a result of ‘truth’ and, in the North, there are two. When societies have two truths, two conflicting ideas, the leaders must choose division or choose democracy.

The DUP and UUP must, squarely, take the blame for the the extended period of violence that followed the Belfast city council decision to remove the Union flag from City Hall. Their refusal to condemn, outright, the violence of the past 21 days was an insult to the democracy they claim to be a part of. Where have they been whilst the streets have been ablaze? They doused petrol on the dying embers of sectarian hatred in, working class, East Belfast when they attacked the Alliance party for their role in progressive politics. They chose division over democracy and didn’t even hang around to fight.

In an attempt to align themselves with the disillusioned Loyalist and Unionist working classes, whom they have so badly represented, they led them to the trenches and left them at war.

In a post-conflict state, political leaders have a responsibility to lead their communities to peace. I remember, in stark contrast, the Republican working class on the streets of the Ard Eoin, protesting against Orange Order parades. I remember vividly, Gerry Kelly, Adams, Maskey and more, pleading with people to go home; standing directly in the line of violence delivering the message: “this is not the way we move forward”. The legacy of the troubles turned men of violence to men of peace. Say what you will about Sinn Fein, but I hasten to point out that the representatives of the DUP and UUP were most notable, in the past weeks, by their absence. This morning, in their Churches, they stand as hypocrites. This Christmas, they put division before democracy; they put war before peace.

There have been a lot of people hurt as a result of the DUP and UUP actions but they might not be the people who would first come to mind.

The real folks suffering from this latest surge of violence aren’t the Alliance party and Naomi Long; they’ve proven themselves to be peace makers and shown genuine courage in the face of hate. The great people of the North will, in time, stand side by side with the peace makers.

The real folks suffering aren’t the PSNI; as difficult as it is to accept, they will continue to be targets of hate and violence for both sides of the community until we can deliver a real and shared peace. The great people of the North will, in time, stand beside our brothers and sisters in the police service.

The real folks suffering aren’t the small, community businesses; because in peace the North will flourish and prosper with the whole of Ireland.

The real folks suffering today are the Loyalists and Unionists on the street. Their leaders led them to where they are and they have abandoned them like cowards. The youngsters and the older generations are being criminalised and arrested thinking they are fighting the Queen’s cause because that’s what they’ve been told to think. Sadly, they are only being distracted from inadequate education, low prospects of employment, fuel poverty, attacks on their welfare and general social deprivation.

Protestant, working class, youngsters are amongst the most deprived in Britain. When they wake up on Boxing day, even if the flag flies, they’ll still have their chains- just like the rest of us.

In the midst of all this sadness, something remarkable has happened. The people of Belfast came to the streets last Sunday to look for peace.

We must follow the example of the people of peace in our pride for Northern Ireland and look past the troubles; look past the flags; look past the marches and the violence. The whole world, in conflict, looks to this tiny wee bit of earth and the people upon it for inspiration. Look how far we’ve come, from the depths of hell we are rising to the stars. We have friends in the homes where our enemies once where.

Some day we will have real, shared peace. Of that I am sure. On that day both ‘sides’ will walk past the city hall ignorant to the flight of flags, and see the homeless on the street. On that day we’ll all see the inadequate investment in our state, the lack of investment in health care, welfare and education and we’ll notice the working man in the dole queue. On that day we won’t see orange or green, we’ll see a reason to hold feckless leaders to account and be proud.

In times of disagreement we all have a choice to make: are we more proud of the people we call our friends or the wee sod of earth, that by accident of birth, we call home? The choice is democracy or division.

Ireland, distinct from her people, means nothing to me and without all her people, you’re welcome to the turf.

QUBSU -v- the corruption of Religious influence

Over the past few weeks I’ve kept a keen eye on Facebook posts from my “friends”. To be frank, I’ve been overwhelmed by the domination of Religiously fuelled intolerance and single-mindedness on behalf of a front of young, ‘Christian’, Unionists at Queen’s University in Belfast.

The context is that a group of members of the students’ union have been running a disaffiliation campaign from the National Union of Students (NUS-USI). From what I can gather they have a number of concerns relating to the nature of affiliation and without wishing to go into too much detail about the campaign, I think it’s important to highlight a couple of points in particular: the position of NUS in respect to the pro-life/pro-choice debate; and the position of the NUS in respect to Gay rights.

I’m not interested in the campaign as such. I want to discuss my ‘friends’ and their motivations.

One particular ‘Facebook friend’ is a young lady who claims to represent the views of the Unionist community through her association with a political party, UKIP, and writes passionately about her involvement in a Christian Church. This young lady has written much in recent weeks about the importance of her Religion being reflected in the democratic structures of QUB and the need for QUBSU to disaffiliate from NUS.

This friend has written, in great detail, about the importance of disaffiliation on the grounds of ‘pro-life’ campaigners being misrepresented by their association. Not interested in challenging the position of the NUS through politics or conference (the structures in place to define policies of the body) this young lady has done what many Northern, religiously motivated, Unionists do and tried to slam door on the collective democracy of the student movement and ram home her own Religiously, not Christian, driven ambitions down the throat of her compatriots. It is the effort to sustain a Religious presence in this debate that repulsed me so much.

You see, religion is interpreted, defined and ultimately exercised by man and based on a book assembled by the hands of men many hundreds of years ago. Religion, in Northern Ireland, is dominated by middle-aged, white men and is hardly representative of the student movement. Christianity is often described a personal relationship between a human being and The Lord, Jesus Christ. In my view, the student movement in Northern Ireland is being subjected to a campaign of corruption by a Church of share-holders interested in the mass organisation of an independent union of, mostly young, people to strengthen their interpretation of Biblical advancement at the cost of democracy.

This young lady even stooped as low as dragging our Gay brothers and sisters into the debate because it offends her Religion. I would like to remind my Facebook ‘friend’ that her ‘man-made’ religion offends my gay Christian, gay Islamic and gay Atheist friends and that she has no ‘God-given’ right to freedom from such ‘offence’.

Efforts to corrupt democracy with Religion is something that all people of social justice should oppose. Faith can enlighten your heart but Religion can shackle your hands.

I’m a pro-life advocate and a man of faith. I hope that both characteristics can make me a better political activist; but both give way to collective consensus and democracy.

As if Ireland and the people of the North don’t have enough to worry about without some Religious nutters running our students’ unions… and don’t even get me started on UKIP.

I could remove this friend from Facebook, as many might advise, but sure what would i have to blog about?