Lights, camera, inaction: Poverty policy is required

By Máirtín Ó Muilleoir

15 minutes of fame beckons for Belfast City Fathers and Mothers tonight (Thursday) when the screening of our monthly meetings goes live – I believe they’ve already branded the show ‘YouTubes’.

Whether this means more pontificating by councillors or not will become clear to readers who tune in on the internet.

Given the quality of the fare on TV, you never know, the Dome Show could be a hit.

At any rate, it will give those Irish speakers in the chamber an opportunity to address a wider audience and it certainly throws up issues for the Council around translating the contributions of the Gaeilgeoirí councillors.

If streaming is a step too far, I will of course be tweeting from the meeting as well on www.twitter.com/newbelfast

 

AND what will be the subject of our televised deliberations? Well, the new framework for tackling poverty and reducing social inequalities for one thing.

Amazingly, until now Belfast City Council hasn’t had a policy on fighting poverty, and while there have been some murmurings of discontent from the Shankill about this initiative, I’m confident it will get the nod at the Council meeting and become policy.

That should unleash a raft of initiatives around combatting poverty – in particular by getting our people (all our people) jobs.

In Lawrence, Massachusetts, earlier this month, I met a Latino community organiser, Milagro Grullón, who was working with young people on the edge in a city which is itself on the periphery – it has the worst unemployment levels in the state. She told me her goal was to “change the economy” of the young people she engages. That’s the first time I’ve heard the use of the term economy to describe an individual’s reality, but of course it makes sense.

If we really want to eradicate poverty, then what we must do is change the individual, personalised economy of those who are in financial dire straits.

And the number one way to do that is by getting jobs into areas which have been jobs blackspots for two generations or  more.

Can that be done? For me that’s not the question. It has to be done.

 

HERE’S how Martin Luther King, in his last book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, put it: “The economic highway to power has few entry lanes for Negroes.”

For us, the language may be different but the reality is the same: we need to bring opportunity to those who have been cut off from Belfast’s bounty.

And that, on a day when we are seeing the biggest strike in Belfast in yonks, isn’t a bad sentiment to be given an airing at the first ‘live’ meeting of Belfast City Council tonight.

 

You can follow Máirtín Ó Muilleoir on www.twitter.com/newbelfast

 

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