Gerry Carroll for Westminster

Following his successful campaign to win a seat in Belfast City Council last year, Gerry Carroll, the People Before Profit councillor for the Blackmountain area of West Belfast, is in campaign mode once again, having announced earlier this month that he is running in the upcoming Westminster Election. Fiona Nic Fhearghais spoke to Gerry about his campaign.

Gerry Carroll for Westminster

Gerry Carroll for Westminster | Fiona Nic Fhearghais | Socialist Worker 178

Following his successful campaign to win a seat in Belfast City Council last year, Gerry Carroll, the People Before Profit councillor for the Blackmountain area of West Belfast, is in campaign mode once again, having announced earlier this month that he is running in the upcoming Westminster Election. Fiona Nic Fhearghais spoke to Gerry about his campaign.

Gerry, why have you decided to run for election?

Frightening prospects lie ahead for the people of West Belfast and I have decided to stand in order to oppose this and to provide an alternative. Over the next 4 years we will see some of the harshest public sector cuts ever implemented in the North, We will see the Assembly borrow £700 million to make 20,000 public sector workers redundant. In addition to this thousands of teachers and classroom assistants could lose their jobs.

Our health service is already in a state of crises, with people dying in on hospital trolleys and waiting times of over 12 hours in A&E. Our core frontline services are set to be devastated by the incoming wave of cuts, more job losses are expected for admin staff in hospitals, and 40% of our community and voluntary services which often relieve the pressure on our Health Service are faced with imminent closure. I think it’s time we collectively said enough is enough.

West Belfast will be one of the areas hardest hit by the Public sector cuts. What do think of the proposal to cut Corporation Tax while implementing Welfare Reform?

Most of our politicians have bought into the idea that while the working class in society must tighten our belts and make sacrifices, corporations who already avoid paying billions in tax each year will see Corporation Tax lowered in their favour. All of the main parties accept that welfare for the vulnerable should be cut but welfare for the rich should be increased. Stormont has failed us.

What is the mood in working class areas, as a result of the incoming wave of cuts?

‘People are fed up. This anger was visible in the thousands of workers from West Belfast and beyond who took to the streets on March 13th in one of the biggest strikes we have witnessed in years. The city was brought to a standstill, with transport workers shutting down bus services and strong picket lines outside health centres, schools and other public sector buildings. The massive support for this from the community was evident in the reaction from passing traffic, messages of support on social media and the massive turnout at the city centre demo. I fully support the civil servants, Translink staff, nurses, teachers and all others who took action, as is their right and I think it is fantastic to see such a show of People Power.’

This isn’t your first time running for a seat in Westminster. How does this campaign compare with last time?

Last year’s election result was testament to the possibility for change in Belfast. People are sick of the “What can you do?” attitude from politicians and want answers and action to stave off the cutbacks. People Before Profit believe in doing politics differently: working on the ground and building a consensus for change through grassroots organisation and People Power.  I think my campaign will galvanise this anger with a positive message. I want to stand in this election to allow everyone the chance to speak up and send a clear message to the politicians that enough is enough.

As we have seen from the water charges movement in the South, the best way that we can achieve improvements in the lives of working people is to get organised and fight back. A redistribution of wealth towards the bottom of society does not come from ‘Inward Investment’, wining and dining business leaders or by lowering corporation tax: it comes through the mobilisation of working class people to fight in their own interests. This is the message that I have been pushing on the doors – we need to get organised and stick together.

You are running for election in an area which encompasses both ‘Nationalist’ and ‘Unionist’ communities, How do you plan to reach both sides of the divide?

We always hear about these community divides and no doubt sectarianism is rife within our community. We have both physical and political barriers between neighbours and too often these are exploited by politicians. We do not ignore this reality, but we do want to challenge it. We are the only the party in West Belfast who will actively campaign on both ‘sides’ of the community. PBP recognise that issues for working class people are the same whether you’re based on the Falls or on the Shankill and we want to break down barriers. We have recently opened an office on the Shankill/Falls interface, which I see as a concrete example of how we can do this. We will continue to reach out to beach ‘sides’ of the community and genuinely challenge sectarianism, and fight for a shared future from below.

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