“Seven Words” (Or The Crumbs From Your Table)

MaCallion O'Neill

One can only assume that Elisha McCallion did not expect to get both barrels when she went to a Derry Trades Union Council hustings panel, but then she wouldn’t expect what she doesn’t understand. And she wouldn’t understand what she is divorced from; the working class, the working nurses, the people whose bathrooms, unlike hers, are not bigger than hotel rooms.

Elisha, God love her, thought that people aren’t angry at Sinn Féin et al for not turning up to work for over 1000 days while still drawing down wages and expenses. As this nurse says herself, she is off sick and on half pay with no expenses. If only the elected reps were on half pay with no expenses, wouldn’t that be refreshing.

There is no doubt that the Irish language is a huge cultural, political, artistic, educational thing that needs to blossom and be nourished with funding, facilities and yes an Irish language act. But is it right that in order to achieve this, the politicians can decide to go on a three year strike, take their pay, and ignore the fact that working class people are dealing with debt, homelessness, suicide, ill health, stalled wages, food parcels and a Christmas that will make Tiny Tim’s family look positively affluent? There are priorities among the priorities, and Elisha has just discovered that the priority of the nurses on the ground might just be wage parity with England and Scotland. Not so that they can extend their bathrooms, but so that they can live.

Interestingly, as often happens, it has since turned out that Michelle O’Neill signed off on adhering to the UK government’s public sector pay policies, after Jim Wells before her, and no one after her because by that time of course they were all taking their paid holidays / strike. On Twitter of course, she said that Sinn Féin ‘supports the unprecedented decision of the nurses’, but its ok to do complete U-turns on Twitter because that is what such echo chambers are for; casting your latest soundbite out into the morass that is social media in the hope that the Twitteratti have such short memories they won’t remember that you are the reason for the problem in the first instance.

So it was tricky for Elisha, she couldn’t really say it wasn’t their fault, couldn’t really condemn it either because of course it was their baby (after it was Jim’s), and now with no one in Stormont and the cobwebs hanging there, it’s now an awkward orphan no one wants to own. I assume that is the reason health got the miserly seven words in their manifesto referred to in the video… they don’t want to own it.

The refreshing part of the whole exchange is seeing a woman, a worker, a normal person like the rest of us who is trying to make ends meet and just get by, fuelled by what can only be described as righteous anger. A rare thing these days. These days we witness endless worn out displays of being offended, everyone and their pets are offended, but this wasn’t that… this was anger. Eloquent, clued in anger from a lady with facts, figures and logic. Utterly refreshing. Though not for Elisha, obviously.

6 Comments

  1. Wasnt stormont collapsed due to the cash for ash scandal and the refusal to support the DUP in power sharing when they were pushing such illegal activities let alone enabling it.

    The irish language act is a very small piece of the falling out.
    Martin McGuinness pulled down stormont because of the financial impropriety perpetrated by DUP …or has everyone conveniently forgot this???

  2. Respect to the nurse who spoke for us all here and thanks for posting. Only one quibble: I know the media and DUP are fond of saying Stormont collapsed over the Irish language, but that is a false narrative and we shouldn’t buy into it. Language rights activists should not have to cave on their just demands in order to have Stormont back up and running. If that’s what you want. I’m not sure at alll there’s a solution for working class people in anything coming out of Stormont. But let’s not hang all this on the brilliant Dream Dearg, who have taught us all how to fight.

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