Socialist Party leaflet (10 August 2013)





The same Stormont politicians who hold themselves up as statesmen and peace builders are whipping up dangerous sectarian tensions on our streets. On a daily basis, these unionist and nationalist politicians happily work together to slash jobs and services and put the boot into working class communities. They also co-operated to award themselves a £5,000 pay rise! Yet around every contentious flashpoint – whether it’s at Woodvale, Clifton Street or Castlederg – we hear so-called ‘respectable’ politicians making statements which serve to fan the flames of conflict. Of course, having encouraged clashes, they then wash their hands of any responsibility for the violence which ensues. It is working class people in communities like Suffolk and Short Strand who pay the price in the form of sectarian attacks.

Sinister forces determined to drag us back to the bloodshed of the past are feeding off these tensions. So-called ‘dissident’ republicans and their counterparts in loyalism are preying upon alienated young people in the working class communities left behind by the peace process and hit hardest by the Assembly’s cuts, which have left us with almost 25% youth unemployment. These groups can achieve nothing but to lead another generation of young people into the dead-end of paramilitarism and sectarian violence.

Despite their propaganda, the Stormont parties have failed utterly to overcome sectarianism in our society. Instead, the divisions have actually become sharper and deeper. Indeed, these parties rely on sectarian division to maintain their political power. The number of peace walls has doubled since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. If an alternative to on-going division is not posed, the nightmare of a return to all-out sectarian conflict cannot be ruled out in the future. But the slide towards conflict can be and must be resisted by ordinary people.

In 2001, a series of tit-for-tat sectarian attacks ratcheted up tensions in Northern Ireland. After the sectarian killing of Catholic postal worker Danny McColgan, members of the CWU union in Royal Mail spontaneously walked off site in protest. This acted as a beacon for working class opposition to sectarianism and provoked mass protests which isolated sectarian forces and turned the tide away from conflict. The trade unions could play the same role today. Socialist Party members recently put motions of the conferences of NIPSA and Unite which committed those unions to support action against sectarianism. If the current situation begins to spiral out of control, these unions could give leadership to ordinary people who want to prevent an upturn in sectarian violence.

Time for a united working class alternative

We cannot let the sectarian politicians continue to play their games of ‘divide and rule’ unchallenged. We need to build a political alternative to their agenda – a new, mass party based on trade unionists, genuine community activists, young people and social campaigns which strives to unite working class communities around their common interests. Such a party should fight to abolish the rotten capitalist system which breeds poverty, inequality and division and, instead, fight for a socialist future where society’s wealth is used in a planned and democratic way to provide a decent life for all. Only then can sectarianism be consigned to the history books. If you agree, join the Socialist Party today!

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