Our protests in Ireland are about Margaretta and more
Margaretta D’Arcy is serving a three-month sentence in Limerick prison. She was imprisoned after trying to stop US military warplanes using Ireland’s Shannon airport.
Margaretta is a long-time campaigner against the use of Shannon by the US and in particular against the use of Shannon in rendition flights. She has refused to sign a bond not to go to unauthorised parts of Shannon airport.
In messages she has sent from prison, she has stated that she does not want the campaign to become about her. Instead she wants people to continue to highlight the use of Shannon airport by US warplanes.
Margaretta’s imprisonment is utterly despicable and vindictive treatment of an elderly and sick woman who acted courageously out of conscience.
The current Irish government seems very proactive in developing trade and relationships with regimes that have appalling human rights records.
The Taoiseach’s (prime minister) recent visits to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates highlight this. And the longstanding relationship with the US helps facilitate its war and rendition regime.
It is telling that Ukraine’s regime faces mass protests for doing exactly what the Irish government is doing to Margaretta. It has tried to ban protests at public buildings and has stirred up a storm of protest.
This follows protests against Putin’s regime in Russia where rulers have imprisoned women’s rights activists and gay rights activists.
It is alarming that the Irish government is acting in a similar fashion to repressive and corrupt regimes such as Ukraine and Russia against peaceful protesters.
I raised the disgraceful imprisonment of Margaretta in the dáil (Irish parliament) last week. I will be supporting the protests every Wednesday at 1pm at the dáil until she is released.
Richard Boyd Barrett, People Before Profit TD, Dublin
Jobcentre staff know that Benefits Street is a fantasy
The Channel 4 series Benefits Street is a disgusting portrayal of life on the dole.
As a job centre adviser I meet people who have been declared fit for work, despite significant disabilities. New claims can take weeks to process and people have nothing to live on.
Advisors are under pressure to sanction claimants. Those who don’t face disciplinary action.
Some 800,000 claimants have been sanctioned since the Tories introduced their “harsher regime”. They are left with little or no money for four weeks and for two of these their rent is not paid.
Every week new initiatives are announced to make life harder for claimants and staff alike.
The phones that claimants use to contact vital services are being phased out. They are left with little money to call charge lines to sort out their claims.
Help with the costs of clothing for interviews has all but disappeared.
Claimants hate coming to the job centre, feeling humiliated by a system that blames them for being unemployed.
Many of my colleagues treat Benefits Street with contempt. We know that the reason people are unemployed is not because they are scroungers.
It’s thanks to a government that is lining the pockets of the rich while the rest of us suffer.
Name withheld, Birmingham
Use this historic academy ruling against Michael Gove
A High Court injunction to stop Michael Gove forcing academy status on Warren Comprehensive School will be welcomed by people in Barking, east London.
The judge making the decision said Gove “thinks academies are the cat’s whiskers—but we know some of them are not”.
Teachers and our unions have been arguing this for years. But it’s unprecedented to have it recognised by a member of the establishment that has greeted academies so uncritically.
Unfortunately the decision is effectively just a stay of execution. It requires Gove to allow a full consultation before handing the school over to a corporate sponsor.
But teachers, parents and students can use the time to redouble their efforts to campaign against his plan.
Andy Stone, East London
How I organised against hate in my school
I work in a Manchester primary school. My head teacher recently told me to apply for police funding to host a hate crime awareness event at the school.
I convinced the head teacher that I could get an excellent speaker for an event on the far right and hate crime.
Using the money from the police we sent letters to every parent translated into Somali. Posters were put up in local shops and community centres.
We provided a creche, tea, coffee and food for all who attended.
Between 30 to 40 local Somali women attended along with African Caribbean people, people from Eastern Europe and other white, working class people.
Most would never have been to a political event in their lives.
The speaker explained the nature and roots of hate crime and finished with a call of, “Griffin must go”.
Many women queued to talk with our speaker, building networks of resistance to racism. Collecting for the Griffin Must Go campaign in school couldn’t be easier.
Chris Ayton, Manchester
The Tories should be sanctioned
My partner works long night shifts, but we rely on benefits to make do.
I am unemployed and have signed on with various job agencies. I search for jobs on my computer every day.
I cannot claim benefits because of my partner’s work, but I sign on to get my insurance stamp paid.
This week I got a letter threatening me with being sanctioned for not trying hard enough to find work.
I wish David Cameron had to search as hard as I do to get as little reward as I do. We need to get rid of the Tories.
Julie Ingram, Barnsley
Better off? What a joke!
The Tories have forced me to have below-inflation pay rises since they came to office.
I have less money to spend because my wage isn’t keeping pace with price rises. Hundreds of thousands of other public sector workers are in the same boat.
But now George Osborne claims we’re better off!
Lorna Berg, Middlesex
Austerity is a health hazard
David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu have shown that governments that embraced austerity more fully damaged people’s health, and pushed up suicide rates.
Their book The Body Economic shows how nasty austerity is.
Graeme Kemp, Shropshire
Labour tries to out-Tory the Tories
One can only gasp in admiration at Ed Miliband’s decision to appoint a former public schoolboy, Tristram Hunt, as shadow education secretary.
On top of that Rachel Reeves, a former banker, is shadow work and pensions secretary.
No matter how bad the Labour Party gets, it always manages to find a way to do worse.
John Newsinger, Brighton