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Peter Hadden

Shankill Peace March

(August 1976)

Press statement by the Labour and Trade Union Co-ordinating Group, 26 August 1976.
Transcribed by Ciaran Crossey.
Marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Labour and Trade Union Co-ordinating Group have decided to give their full backing to the peace march being organised to Woodvale Park [Belfast] on Saturday. They particularly welcome the fact that the Trade Union movement are to march in this demonstration behind the banner of the Better Life For All Campaign.

However the “offer” of the Ulster Defence Association to “protect” this march is to be spurned. The trade unions and the women of Belfast have the right to march when and wherever they wish, and if anyone should attempt to deny them that right the unions in particular are strong enough to avoid being intimidated of the streets. They have no need to look to the paramilitaries or anyone else for assistance.

The women’s peace movement demonstrates the urgent need for an intensification of the trade union Better Life For All Campaign. Saturday’s march should be only the beginning of a full scale mobilisation of all the resources of the trade union movement. Left on its own, the amorphous peace movement of the women will not succeed in resolving the problem. The strength of this movement has been its ability to unite the people of the Catholic and Protestant troubled areas. But its weakness is its lack of an organisation and clear objectives. It can only be fully effective if its power is harnessed behind the efforts of the unions and the Better Life For All Campaign. Unless this is done the tremendous momentum which has been achieved will not be maintained.

Nor is it sufficient only to demand peace. “Peace” on its own will mean little to the 60,000 people forced to endure the violence of unemployment, to the thousands who live under the tyranny of slum housing, or to those who sweat each week to earn a pittance. A campaign against sectarian violence and the harassment of the security forces must also be a struggle against the violence of poverty.

That the “Peace Women” have turned their backs on the political parties is understandable given the role of politicians in Northern Ireland. However, their aims and those of the Better Life For All Campaign are political. If present day politicians cannot be relied upon to pursue these aims the people need new politicians and new political organisations. At the moment, ordinary people have nothing and no one to represent them in the political arena. This can only be changed by the building of a political party of the works based on their organisations, i.e. the trade unions, a party of Labour committed to socialist policies.

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