Sunday, 19 April 2015


Disabled and elderly to suffer as community transport budget slashed by a third in £60m DRD cuts

Community transport is to have its budget slashed with Danny Kennedy told to make £60m savings

Funding for community transport schemes across Northern Ireland is being slashed because of cutbacks, it has been revealed.


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Up to a third could be wiped from budgets as a result of financial pressures, groups have been told.

Transport Minister Danny Kennedy needs to make savings of £60m this year, leading to reductions in spending across the board.

The move is likely to affect the most vulnerable in society, including the disabled and the elderly.

One community transport scheme based in Co Down said it had seen its funding sliced from £428,303 to £323,542 - a drop of 25%.

Another group in the Causeway area said funding for schemes there could be reduced by a third.

Ukip MLA David McNarry, a member of Stormont's regional development committee, has vowed to fight the cutbacks. "This is striking right at the heart of very vulnerable people in their communities," he said.

Community transport partnerships provide accessible door-to-door and group travel services to older people and people with disabilities.

The services are run by a wide range of community operators.

However, the Department for Regional Development (DRD), which helps to finance community transport, is cutting back on funding. Among the groups affected is Compass Advocacy Network, which helps people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health issues throughout the Causeway area.

Its director Janet Schofield said the group had been told that a third of all provision has been cut across the board. "We recognise that the current financial situation means sacrifices have to be made," she said.

"However, this is another example of the most vulnerable in our society being hit and the lack of respect for the services provided by the voluntary and community sector." One of the group's users attends a 'Base' project three times a week.

She said: "I live in a tiny village outside Ballymena. I can't drive, there are no buses where I live and my mum works from home so it's impossible for her to take me in to the Base in the morning.

"Community transport is a lifeline as it means I can get to my work and to the Base."

The cutbacks are due to be discussed when DRD officials appear before the regional development committee next week.

Mr Kennedy said that since becoming minister in 2011, he had protected the baseline budget for community transport year on year and, where possible, supplemented it with in-year funding.

He added: "My department will be working closely with the service providers to explore ways of delivering the service in a more cost-efficient manner and will seek to minimise the impact on the end user."

DRD said the grant to rural community transport had been cut from £2.75m to £2.4m.

Additional money made available last year, raising the grant to £3.6m, is unlikely to be available this time.

My View: Most vulnerable in society are hit again

By Janet Schofield

Our group works with people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health issues throughout the Causeway area.

In the last two days we have had a steady stream of service users, parents and carers concerned about the cuts to community transport.

Community transport is provided for some of the most vulnerable people in our society including people with learning disabilities and physical disabilities. The vast majority of our service users are unable to drive and, as a rural area, many public transport links are inaccessible or individuals are not able to travel on public transport independently.

If the people who depend on community transport could use public transport, they would.

More often than not, the community transport provision makes the difference between someone being at home and someone being at their job, at college, at one of the projects we run or training for work.

The knock-on effect of these cuts will be devastating to individuals, parents and carers at a time when welfare reform is already causing significant worry.

This isn't a free service - our members contribute towards their fare but it is subsidised, making it an affordable alternative to private taxis.

We have been told that a third of all provision has been cut across the board.

Further cuts to community transport will mean that many of our service users will be unable to avail of services, education, work placements, training placements, jobs, and social and leisure opportunities.

We recognise that the current financial situation means sacrifices have to be made.

However, this is another example of the most vulnerable in our society being hit and the lack of respect for the services provided by the voluntary and community sector.
Janet Schofield is director of Compass Advocacy Network (CAN), a charitable user-led organisation that provides services to more than 250 people

Chomsky Says US, Irish Blog says UK is World’s Biggest Terrorist

By Euro News

April 18, 2015 "ICH" - "Euronews" - Isabelle Kumar: “The world in 2015 seems a very unsettled place but if we take a big picture view do you feel optimistic or pessimistic about the general state of play?”

Noam Chomsky: “In the global scene we are racing towards a precipice which we are determined to fall over which will sharply reduce the prospects for decent survival.”

Isabelle Kumar: “What precipice is that?”

Noam Chomsky: “There are actually two, one is environmental catastrophe which is imminent and we don’t have a lot of time to deal with it and we are going the wrong way, and the other has been around for 70 years, the threat of nuclear war, which is in fact increasing. If you look at the record it is a miracle we have survived.”

Isabelle Kumar: “Let’s look at the environmental issues, we have asked our social media audience to send in questions and we have hordes of questions. We received this question from Enoa Agoli who asks, when you look at this issue of the environment and you look at it through a philosopher’s lens, what do you think about climate change?”

Noam Chomsky: “The human species has been around for maybe a 100,000 years and it is now facing a unique moment in its history. This species is now in a position where it will decide very soon, in the next few generations, whether the experiment in so-called intelligent life will proceed or are we determined to destroy it? I mean scientists overwhelmingly recognise that most of the fossil fuels have to be left in the ground if our grandchildren are going to have decent prospects. But the institutional structures of our society are pressuring to try to extract every drop. The effects, the human consequences, of the predicted effects of climate change in the not very distant future, are catastrophic and we are racing toward that precipice.”

Isabelle Kumar: “In terms of nuclear war we see the prospect of this Iran deal has reached a preliminary agreement. Does that provide you with a glimmer of hope that the world could potentially be a safer place?”

Noam Chomsky: “I’m in favour of the Iran negotiations but they are profoundly flawed. There are two states that rampage in the middle east carrying out aggressions, violence, terrorist acts, illegal acts, constantly. They’re both huge nuclear weapon states and their nuclear armorments. And their nuclear weapons are not being considered.”

Isabelle Kumar: “And who exactly are you referring to?”

Noam Chomsky: “The United States and Israel. The two major nuclear states in the world. I mean there’s a reason why, in international polls, run by US polling agencies, the United States is regarded as the greatest threat to world peace by an overwhelming margin. No other country is even close. It’s kind of interesting that the US media refused to publish this. But it doesn’t go away.”

Isabelle Kumar: “You don’t hold US President Obama in very high esteem. But does this deal make you think of him in slightly better terms? The fact that he is trying to reduce the threat of nuclear war?”

Noam Chomsky: “ Well, actually he isn’t. He’s just initiated a trillion dollar programme of modernisation of the US nuclear weapon system, which means expanding the nuclear weapon system. That’s one the reasons why the famous doomsday clock, established by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has, just a couple of weeks ago, been pushed two minutes closer to midnight. Midnight is the end. It’s now three minutes from midnight. That’s the closest it’s been in thirty years. Since the early Regan years when there was a major war scare.”

Isabelle Kumar: “You mentioned the US and Israel in terms of Iran. Now, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu obviously doesn’t want the Iran nuclear deal to work, and he says…”

Noam Chomsky: “That’s interesting. We should ask why.”

Isabelle Kumar: “Why?

Noam Chomsky: “We know why. Iran has very low military expenditures, even by the standards of the region, let alone the United States. Iran’s strategic doctrine is defensive, it’s designed to hold off an attack long enough for diplomacy to start, and the United States and Israel, the two rogue states, do not want to tolerate a deterrent. No strategic analyst with a brain function thinks that Iran would ever use a nuclear weapon. Even if it were prepared to do so the country would simply be vaporised and there’s no indication that the ruling clerics, whatever you think about the, want to see everything they have destroyed.”

Isabelle Kumar: “Just one more question on this issue and it’s via social media, from Morten A. Andersen. He asks, “Do you believe that the US would ever strike a deal that would be dangerous to Israel in the first place?”

Noam Chomsky: “The United States is carrying out constant actions which are dangerous to Israel, very seriously. Namely supporting Israeli policy. For the last 40 years the greatest threat to Israel has been its own policies. If you look back 40 years, say to 1970, Israel was one of the most respected and admired countries in the world. There were lots of favorable attitudes to it. Now, it’s one of the most disliked and feared countries in the world. In the early 70s Israel made a decision. They had a choice and they made a decision to prefer expansion to security and that carries with it dangerous consequences. Consequences which were obvious at the time – I wrote about them and other people did – if you prefer expansion to security it is going to lead to internal degeneration, anger, opposition, isolation and possibly ultimate destruction. And by supporting those policies, the United States is contributing to the threats that Israel faces.”

Isabelle Kumar: “That’s brings me to the subject of terrorism then. Because that is really a global blight and some people, I think including yourself, will say that this is blowback for US terrorist policy around the world. How far is the US and its allies responsible for what we’re seeing now in terms of the terrorist attacks around the world?”

Noam Chomsky: “Remember the worst terrorist campaign in the world by far is the one that’s being orchestrated in Washington. That’s the global assassination campaign. There’s never been a terrorist campaign of that scale.”

Isabelle Kumar: “When you say global assassination campaign…?”

Noam Chomsky: “The drone campaign – that’s exactly what it is. Over large parts of the world, the United States is systematically, publically, openly – there’s nothing secret about what I’m saying, we all know it – it’s carrying out regular campaigns to assassinated people who the US government suspects of intending to harm it someday. And indeed it is, as you mentioned, a terror generated campaign, and when you bomb a village in Yemen, say, and you kill somebody – maybe the person you were aiming at maybe not – and other people who happened to be in the neighbourhood – how do you think they are going to react? They’re going to take revenge.”

Isabelle Kumar: “You describe the US as the leading terrorist state. Where does Europe fit into that picture then?”

Noam Chomsky: “Well, that’s an interesting question. So for example there was recently a study. I think it was done by the Open Society Foundation… the worst form of torture is rendition. Rendition means you take somebody you suspect of something, and you send them off to your favourite dictator, maybe Assad or Gadaffi or Mubarak, to be tortured, hoping that maybe something will come out of it. That’s extraordinary rendition. The study reviewed the countries that participated in this, well obviously the Middle East dictatorships because that’s where they were sent to be tortured, and Europe. Most of Europe participated; England, Sweden, other countries. In fact, there’s only one region in the world where nobody participated: Latin America. Which is pretty dramatic. And first of all Latin America has now become pretty much out of US control. When it was controlled by the United States, not very long ago, it was the world’s centre of torture. Now, it didn’t participate in the worst form of torture, which is rendition. Europe participated. If the master roars, the servants cower.”

Isabelle Kumar: “So Europe is the servant of the United States?”

Noam Chomsky: “ Definitely. They are too cowardly to take an independent position.”

Isabelle Kumar: “Where does Vladimir Putin fit into this picture? He’s painted as one of the greatest threats to security. Is he?”

Noam Chomsky: “Like most leaders, he’s a threat to his own population. He’s taken illegal actions, obviously. But to depict him as a crazed monster who is suffering from brain disease and has Alzheimer’s, and is a rat-faced evil creature, that’s standard Orwellian fanaticism. I mean, whatever you think about his policies, they are understandable. The idea that Ukraine might join a Western military alliance would be quite unacceptable to any Russian leader. This goes back to 1990 when the Soviet Union collapsed. There was a question about what would happen with NATO. Now Gorbachov agreed to allow Germany to be unified and to join NATO. It was a pretty remarkable concession with a quid pro quo: that NATO would not expand one inch to the east. That was the phrase that was used.”

Isabelle Kumar: “So Russia has been provoked?”

Noam Chomsky: “Well, what happened? NATO instantly moved into East Germany and then Clinton came along and expanded NATO right to the borders of Russia. Now, the new Ukrainian government, the government established after the overthrow of the preceding one, now the parliament voted 300 to 8 or something like that, to move to join NATO.”

Isabelle Kumar: “But you can understand why they would want to join NATO, you can see why Petro Porochenko’s government would probably see it as protecting their country?”

Noam Chomsky: “No, no, no, no. That’s not protecting. Crimea was taken away after the overthrow of the government, right. And this is not protecting Ukraine, it is threatening Ukraine with major war. Now that’s not protection. The point is, this is a serious strategic threat to Russia, which any Russian leader would have to react to. That’s well understood.”

Isabelle Kumar: “If we look at the situation in Europe though, there’s also another interesting phenomenon that’s taking place. We’re seeing Greece moving towards the East, potentially, with the Syriza government. We’re also seeing Podemos, which is gaining power in Spain, also in Hungary. Do you see that there is a potential for Europe to start shirting and aligning itself more with Russian interests?”

Noam Chomsky: “Take a look at what’s happening. Hungary is a different situation entirely. Syriza came into office on the basis of a popular wave which said that Greece should no longer subject itself to policies from Brussels and the German banks which are destroying the country. The effect of these policies has been actually to increase Greece’s debt relative to its wealth production; probably a half of young people are unemployed, probably 40% of the population is living under the poverty line, Greece is being destroyed.”

Isabelle Kumar: “So should their debt be written off?”

Noam Chomsky: “Yes, just like Germany’s was. In 1953, when Europe wrote off most of Germany’s debt. Just like that, so that Germany would be able to reconstruct from wartime damage.”

Isabelle Kumar: “But then what about all the other European countries…?”

Noam Chomsky: “ Same story.”

Isabelle Kumar: “So Portugal should have its debt written off, Spain should have its debt written off…?”

Noam Chomsky: “Who incurred this debt? And who is the debt owed to? In part, the debt was incurred by dictators. So in Greece it was the fascist dictatorship, which the US supported, that incurred a large part of the debt. The debt I think was more brutal than the dictatorship, and that’s what’s called in international law, “odious debt” which need not be paid, and that’s a principal introduced into international law by the United States, when it was in their interest to do so. Much of the rest of the debt, what is called payments to Greece are in fact payments to banks, German and French banks, which had decided to make extremely risky loans with not very high interest and are now being faced with the fact that they can’t be paid back.”

Isabelle Kumar: “I’d like to ask this question now, from Gil Gribaudo, who asks, “How will Europe transform then, versus the existential challenges it’s facing?” Because yes there’s the economic crisis, and there’s also a rise in nationalism, and you’ve also described some cultural fault lines which have been created across Europe. How do you see Europe transforming itself?” ‏

Noam Chomsky: “ Europe has serious problems. Some of the problems are the result of economic policies designed by the bureaucrats in Brussels, the European Commission and so on, under the pressure of NATO and the big banks, mostly German ones. These policies make some sense from the point of view of the designers. For one thing they want to be paid back for their risky and hazardous loans and investments, and the other thing is that these policies are eroding the welfare state, which they’ve never liked. But the welfare state is one of Europe’s major contributions to modern society, but the rich and powerful have never liked it and the fact that these policies are eroding it is good from their point of view. There’s another problem in Europe, it’s extremely racist. I’ve always felt that Europe is probably more racist than the United States. It wasn’t as visible in Europe because the European populations in the past tended to be pretty homogeneous. So if everybody is blonde and blue-eyed, then you don’t seem racist, but as soon as the population begins to change racism comes out of the woodwork. Very fast. And that’s a serious cultural problem in Europe.”

Isabelle Kumar: “I’d like to end, because we’re very short of time, with a question from Robert Light on a more positive note. He asks, “What gives you hope?”

Noam Chomsky: “ What gives me hope is a couple of things we’ve talked about. Latin American independence for example. That’s of historic significance. We’re going to see it right now, in the Summit of Americas meeting in Panama. In the recent hemispheric meetings, the United States has been completely isolated. It’s a radical change from 10 or 20 years ago, when the United States ran [Latin American affairs]. In fact the reason why Obama made his gestures towards Cuba was to try to overcome American, US isolation. It’s the US that’s isolated, not Cuba. And probably it will fail. We will see. The signs for optimism in Europe are Syriza and Podemos. Hopefully there is finally a popular uprising against the the crushing, destructive economic and social policies that come from the bureaucracy and the banks, and that’s very hopeful. Should be.”

Isabelle Kumar: “Noam Chomsky, many thanks for being with us.”
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