By Paddy Meehan, South Belfast Socialist Party
In the early hours of 25th September a hatchet was thrown through the window of a house in Sandy Row, South Belfast. A Nigerian woman and her young children were in the house at the time. Luckily nobody was in the room when the attack happened but it is obvious someone could have been seriously hurt.
The attack comes over four years after sustained attacks on Roma families homes in South Belfast. Since then the issues the Socialist Party highlighted as root causes such as the lack of decent affordable homes and the dwindling availability of well paid jobs have gotten worse. This has provided a fertile breeding ground for thugs and the far right to scapegoat and target minority groups.
In the past four years the approach of the politicians in Northern Ireland has been to try and create an image of tolerance with their “Hope Not Hate” campaign. But they continue to implement cuts that only increase tensions in local communities. It is these policies that are laying the ground for racist bigots to exploit.
The failure of the Stormont Executive to provide jobs and housing is providing opportunities for racists to try and blame immigrants and ethnic minorities as very often they are the worst paid and most exploited workers. As unemployment rises, bosses have exploited the desperation of many people both to lower wages and offer only precarious work. This has meant between 2009 and 2012 wages in Northern Ireland dropped by 9.9%!
While the crisis in construction meant much property has been left vacant; sat on by property developer and banks desperately hoping for the house prices to inflate again. It is estimated there are 23,000 empty homes empty in Northern Ireland however this figure is likely to be much higher. This could put a huge dent in huge waiting list of 42,000 people. There is massive demand for social housing but the politicians plan to privatise the housing stock.
It is the alliance of property developers, bankers and politicians in Stormont and Westminster that we should be directing our anger at. It is no coincidence that the Tories and UKIP are attempting to foment racial hatred as they fear a united movement of workers and young people regardless of the race, religion or nationality.
Where the far right and racist thugs threaten and carry out attacks it requires a response from working class communities and the labour movement as a whole to confront and sideline them. The response from across the local community in 2009 in South Belfast was exactly what was needed. Today, a united movement of the working class is needed to fight Stormont’s austerity agenda which is destroying jobs and the economy. A political alternative based on uniting working class people from both communities and across racial backgrounds which fights for a socialist future is also needed to cut across the danger of racist and far-right groups growing in the future.