Housing Executive endangered by neo-liberal ‘therapy’ and ‘shared future’

Political

 

housing_executive_logoThe decision of Minister Nelson McCausland’s to move against the Housing Executive is rooted in neo-liberalism and institutionalised sectarianism. Deriving from the extremist economic theories of Milton Friedman, ‘disaster capitalism’ developed from the New-Right revolution launched by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Within this approach, a state crisis or natural disaster is utilised in order to force through economic reform under the noses of the people in the form unbridled privatisation.

Margaret Thatcher used the Falklands War not only to privatise British Telecom and Rail services but also to give sufficient cover for her declaration of war on the Miners Union. Similarly, when Hurricane Katrina happened in 2005, George W Bush’s regime seized the opportunity to sell off local schools to the highest bidder. Closer to home, we’ve recently witnessed Minister McCausland latching onto the flags crisis as a veil for the privatisation by stealth agenda announced in his aim to scrap the Housing Executive. Ironically, working-class loyalists were protesting about a flag as their middle-class political representative declared his own taste of economic ‘shock therapy’ that will remove their basic right to a home.

The Housing Executive was founded in 1971 to overcome the sectarian allocation of houses under the Orange State, which was a key motivating factor behind the Civil Rights campaign at the end of the sixties. As a regional authority, the executive provided social housing

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throughout the six counties, with over 200,000 households being administered at its peak. Within the context of the merciless attack on the Welfare State, McCausland is following the trend set in a few UK regions that have already separated responsibility for social housing away from central government.

The Department for Social Development propose to bestow the duties of the executive on local housing associations throughout the six counties in order to allow for the possibility to draw finances for refurbishments and regeneration from the private sector. Not only will this remove democratic accountability from housing provision but also raises the dangerous prospect of undermining best practice in terms of rental rates and disability resources.

Although the nationalist political parties have so far taken a strong public stance against the proposals, the question must be asked of how sincere this opposition is when McCausland’s efforts have already came this far. His ‘fundamental review’ was passed at Executive level on December 13. In reality, there’s nothing new in the proposals that weren’t in the DSD Strategy, Facing the Future: Housing Strategy for Northern Ireland 2012-17, which was also published in December and officially laid bare the Ministers’ discriminatory and sectarian agenda. The strategy proposed to dilute the fundamental principle of housing allocation being premised on ‘objective need’ in favour of a focus on other priorities like ‘social mobility and creating a shared future.’

With this, McCausland continued in the same vein that has characterised his entire reign with DSD as was evident seven months ago when he announced plans to regenerate the Girdwood Barracks site in North Belfast, while completely ignoring the chronic shortage of social houses amongst nationalists in this area. This dreadful decision was given cross-party support and followed a notorious line of discriminatory decisions taken by DSD and the NI Housing Executive.

These decisions entrenched religious inequality for Catholics in North Belfast who currently reside in inhumane living conditions. Such victims of inequality will undoubtedly be fearful that state policy could be made of this housing discrimination if the Housing Executive is abolished and the right to a house based on ‘objective need’ disappears under the deceitful guise of a ‘shared future’.

The founding principle of housing allocation on the basis of ‘objective need’ stemmed from the influence of the Civil Rights Campaign and is also rooted in the legal obligation that requires ‘equality of opportunity’ to challenge ‘inequality’ as stated in Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act. This basic right cannot be held to ransom by political bargaining and sectarian ‘carve-ups’. If nationalist politicians believe that this right is worth fighting to retain then it is high time they remain true to their word.

housing_executive_logoIs sa seicteachas institiúidithe agus sa nua-liobrálachas a fréamhaíodh cinneadh an Aire Nelson McCausland bogadh in aghaidh an bhardais thithíochta sna sé chontae. Síolraithe ó theoiricí eacnamúla aintoisceacha an fhealsúnaí Milton Friedman, d’fhorbair an ‘caipitleachas tubaisteach’ ó réabhlóid na heite deise úire a d’fhógair Margaret Thatcher agus Ronald Reagan. Faoin chur chuige seo, úsáidfear géarchéim nó tubaiste stáit chun athruithe eacnamaíochta mórchúiseacha a bhrú i bhfeidhm faoi shrón an phobail i bhfoim príobháidiú gan srian.

D’úsáid Margaret Thatcher an cogadh Fháclainne chun teileachumarsáid agus iarnróid na Breataine a phríobháidiú agus cath a fhógairt ar na ceardchumainn mianadóireachta. Nuair a tharla Hairicín Katrina in New Orleans in 2005, thapaigh réimeas George W Bush an deis chun na scoileanna a dhíol chuig comhlachtaí príobháideacha. Níos cóngaraí don bhaile, chonaic muid an tAire McCausland ag úsáid géarchéim na mbratacha mar chlúdach don phríobháidiú faoi choim a d’fhógair sé leis an mholadh chun an bardas tithíochta a scor. B’íorónta go raibh an chosmhuintir dhílseach i mbun agóidíochta mar gheall ar bhrat agus ionadaí polaitiúil meánaicmeach s’acu ag fógairt ‘shock therapy’ eacnamaíochta a bhaineas bunchearta daonna s’acu ar shiúl maidir le tithíocht.

Bunaíodh an bardas tithíochta in 1971 chun dul i ngleic le dáileadh seichteach na dtithe fán stát Oráisteach a bhí mar chuid lárnach den spreagadh taobh thiar den fheachtas Cearta Sibhialta ag deireadh na seascaidí. Mar áisíneacht réigiúnda, sholáthraigh an bardas tithíocht shóisialta ar fud na sé chontae le níos mó ná 200,000 teach ina sheilbh ag a bhuaicphointe le linn na coimhlinte. Fréamhaithe san ionsaí neamhthrócaireach ar an stát leasa Shóisialaigh, tá McCausland ag leanúint

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an chleachtais a tosaíodh i gcúpla réigiún de chuid na Ríochta Aontaithe inar scaradh freagrachtaí tithe sóisialta ar shiúl ón Rialtas Láir.

Molann an Roinn Forbartha Sóisialta (DSD) go mbronnfar dualgaisí an Bhardais ar chomhlachais áitiúla ar fud na sé chontae, rud a osclóidh an fhéidearthacht go maoineofar athfhorbairtí ón earnáil phríobháideach. Ní amháin go gcinnteoidh sé go mbainfear aon chuntasaíocht dhaonlathach ón soláthar tithíochta, agus tá contúirtí suntasacha ann go sarófar dea-chleachtas maidir le costaisí cíosa agus soláthar acmhainní míchumais.

Bíodh is go bhfuil na páirtithe náisiúnacha ag glacadh seasaimh láidir phoiblí in aghaidh na moltaí go dtí seo, caithfear an cheist a chur faoi cé chomh hiontaofa agus atá an fhreasúracht seo nuair nár cuireadh bac ar iarrachtaí McCausland fáil chomh fada leis an phointe seo. Aontaíodh le ‘fundamental review’ s’aige ag leibheál an fheidhmeannais ar an 13ú Nollag. Níl rud ar bith úr sna moltaí nach raibh sa straitéis a foilsíodh i Mí na Nollag, Facing the Future: Housing Strategy for Northern Ireland 2012-17 inár fógraíodh clár oibre, idirdhealaitheach agus seicteach an Aire. Molann an straitéis go n-athrófar an bunphrionsabal i ndáileadh tithíochta ón ‘riachtanas oibiachtúil’ agus go ndíreofar ar phríorachtaí eile ar nós ‘social mobility and creating a shared future.’

Leis seo, lean McCausland an patrún aitheanta ó tháinig ann do Réimeas s’aige le DSD mar a chonaic muid seacht mí ó shin nuair a d’fhógair sé pleananna chun Beairicí Girdwood a athghiniúint i dtuaisceart Bheál Feirste a rinne neamhaird ar an ghanntanas tithe sóisialta i gceantar ina bhfuil géarghá millteanach tithíochta sa phobal náisiúnach. Ar amharaí an tsaoil, tugadh tacaíocht traspháirtí don chinneadh uafásach seo, a tháinig sa mhullach ar scuaine fada de chinntí idirdhealaitheacha a ghlac DSD agus an bardas tithíochta.

Cinntí a bhuanaigh an éagothroime reiligiúnach a fhulaingíonn Caitlicigh i mBéal Feirste Thiar atá ag maireachtáil i gcoinníollacha conaithe mídhaonna. Is cinnte go mbeidh íobartaigh na héagothroime seo iontach buartha go ndéanfar polasaí stáit den idirdhealú tithíochta seo má dhéantar an bardas tithíochta a scor agus go n-imíonn an

ceart tithíochta ar bhonn ‘riachtanas oibiachtúil’ faoi scáth slíocánta an ‘todhchaí roinnte’.

Bunaíodh an bunphrionsabal tithíochta ar riachtanas oibiachtúil mar gheall ar thionchar an fheachtais chearta sibhialta agus fréamhaíodh é sa dualgas dlíthiúil go rachadh comhionnanas deise i ngleic le héagothroime mar atá luaite i Mír 75 d’Acht um Thuaisceart Éireann. Ní féidir ligint don cheart seo bheith faoi smacht ag babhtáil pholaitiúil agus ‘carve-ups’ seicteacha. Má aontaíonn polaiteoirí náisiúnacha gur fiú troid láidir a dhéanamh chun an ceart seo a chosaint, tá sé in am acu beart a dhéanamh de réir a mbriathair.

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