The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

At One With The West Belfast MP

And on the key questions of the moment - equality, demilitarisation, fair policing, economic justice - the majority of northern nationalists find themselves at one with the west Belfast MP. - Editorial, Andersonstown News

Kathleen O Halloran • 10 August 2004

A lot of comments have been made about the exploitation of men who worked on building sites in west Belfast and who were paid on average two pound per hour. Working in all weathers on building sites for less than minimum wage, and being paid in bars, with the bar making sure you bought some drink out of it first is no laughing matter. Exploitation is no laughing matter. Last week in Fort St the child of a young single mother died after being taken from his burning home. A tragic experience. But young single women are raising families alone and their exploitation is no laughing matter either. For young mothers in that position life is not easy. Abandoned by men for what ever reason these young mothers are preyed upon by unscrupulous landlords. In the community classifieds section of the Andersonstown News there is another advert for a house in Forfar St the next street to Fort St. It reads:

3 bedroomed house Forfar St. OFCH
Available immediately. £450. pm

On average a let in west Belfast will cost from £450 -£500. Much of these properties are rented by newly arrived immigrants but the majority are still rented out by young single families with no home of their own. The housing shortage in west Belfast is chronic with at least three hostels for the homeless providing temporary accommodation. This shortage provides an opportunity for landlords to move in and charge what they like while doing minimum repairs.

Job Centre adverts in the Andersonstown News reflects and advertises this exploitation.

PSV drivers wanted. Depot £50.

The private and public taxi market in west Belfast is flooded, with private depots having sprung up all over the place. The average depot rent is £50. You don't pay your rent, you don't work. To make any money in these depots the average driver hangs around possibly for over an hour on a job, for the average fare of £2.50. Discrimination is rife. You keep the desk man sweet, you get the odd extra job. Who can blame the desk man, he is getting £20 for the average 10 hour shift. The depot owner collects the rent once a week and pays a manager for the day and night shifts. The manager is paid by being allowed to work while paying no depot rent. Desk men can actually be men, but in the majority of cases it is a job favoured by women. There is one particular depot in West Belfast where the owner owns the depot, the filling station at Poleglass and lets out the shops in the filling station, as well as newly built flats in Andersonstown.

The taxi market here whether black taxis or private is usually an area dominated by men although there are the odd women working within these depots, mainly during the day or early evening. The areas of cleaning, ironing and child minding is exclusively female. For a large black bag of ironing to be done for you it will cost £12. A large bag of ironing can take up to two hours, mind numbing and draining work. For cleaning the average house to child minding the rates will vary between £3 - £5 per hour. The average length of hours is two, and there is no provision for transport; you want the job how you get there is down to you. Taxi and bus fare can be subtracted from the wage you are given. Still if you don't fancy leaving home, you could have a brilliant opportunity with Ann Summers. Have a girlie night in. Provide refreshments and have a party in your home to sell these goods and for that you will receive a gift for the hostess, and anything up to 10% off the night's takings. If you sell £200 worth of goods that qualifies you to £20 and your gift. The £20 would only cover for the refreshments but at least you break even with your gift, which is usually a nightie.

Going down the Falls Road early in the morning is an eye-opening experience. You will see queues of women outside bars and chip shops waiting to be let in to clean them. Most of these women operate in groups and work on time and motion. A certain amount of work needs to be done within a certain amount of time and for this you will receive around £2.50 an hour, no questions asked. Cleaning a bar the next morning is dirty work, this will include male and female toilets floors and tables, and the only perk of the job might be a drink before you go.

Going out for a drink in west Belfast is a matter of choice. For example you can go to the Celtic or the Red Devil or to Caffreys or maybe try the Fiddlers Inn, what difference does it make — your pound is going to the same family. On your way out for your drink if you look a little closely at the shop doorways along the road, you may spot the odd ex-prisoner or two doing security. For this ball freezing work, done in all weathers, they will receive a paltry sum to help contribute toward feeding families. Men who have been away from families and who are anxious to now provide for them are turning to taxi-ing and shop doorway security. They have been well looked after for their sacrifice. Oh, I know there are jobs for the boys — but then, not all the boys are equal.

Being at one with my MP is difficult for me. The Sinn Fein terms of equality and economic justice, are just that: abstract terms. Not too long ago outside the Sinn Fein HQ's at Sevastapol St. hung a huge poster saying Stop The Water Rates. How long will it be before water rates are introduced by a Stormont Assembly containing Sinn Fein? For me to be at one with my MP I need to ask him a question posed by Tommy Kearney in Fourthwrite.

Where do you stand for instance on the issue of absolute and uncompromising democracy? Are we content to confine democracy to electoral participation or are we capable of expanding it and clearly defining it to include practical economic, social and intellectual democracy? Are we able to create a social order that provides for the poor, young old and weak?

My MP might contemplate this while going on a bus tour around his native west Belfast. It will only cost him a fiver. The driver on the bus will receive £5p/h, but only for hours worked. Maybe being at one with our west Belfast MP is not the way to look at things. Perhaps it is time he was at one with us.






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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

14 August 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

At One with the West Belfast MP
Kathleen O Halloran

Disbanding the Provos
Tommy McKearney

Lessons from the Ceasefire
Mick Hall

Jobs for the Boys
George Young

Working Withing British 'Law' With A Vow NOT to Use Force Against the British
Sharon O'Sullibhan

Conditions for Irish POWs Today
Deirdre Fennessy

The Faithful...
Liam O Comain

Globalised Indifference
Anthony McIntyre

No Human Being is Illegal!
Sean Matthews

8 August 2004

An Ireland of Equals!
Kathleen O Halloran

A Socialist in West Belfast
Anthony McIntyre

A Living Tapestry of Tongues
Sean Fleming

Paranoia is Healthy: Michael O'Connell's Right Wing Ireland?
Seaghán Ó Murchú

'The Labor of Reading'
Liam O Ruairc

Seamus Costello, Joe McCann and myself. . .
Liam O Comain

Anti-Semitism at the World Social Forum?
Cecilie Surasky



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