From Socialist Voice, No. 43, January 2002
Transcribed and marked up by Ciaran Crossey.
Friday January 18th will go down in history as the day working class people in Northern Ireland stood together and showed that they have the power to isolate and defeat the bigots. The massive support for the half day strike called by the ICTU can leave no one in any doubt that the vast majority of workers have had enough of the sectarian intimidation, threats and attacks.
Bus drivers, ambulance personnel, fire-fighters, postal workers and all who deliver essential services to the communities are working under intolerable pressure. Anger has been building for months at the daily attacks and the inability of management, the police or any of the main parties to do anything about it.
The violence that broke out in North Belfast with attacks on school students and then the murder of Daniel McColgan and the threat to postal workers and education staff were the final straw.
Now that the power of the working class to overcome sectarianism has been shown the real question is where does the movement go from here.
The half day strike needs to be the beginning, not the end of this campaign. In the past the trade unions have linked up with the employers and with politicians in calling rallies. This time the unions have acted alone – and the support has been all the greater as a result.
This is the basis on which the movement should continue. Trade unions need to link up with community organisations in all the areas to work out ways in which they can jointly ensure that those providing services to the communities can do so safely. And if there are further threats or attacks we need the same decisive action as led to the half day strike.
As for the politicians they are part of the problem – not part of the solution. The idea – put forward in the past – that we should now leave it up to them to sort it out should be dropped. During the peace process they had their chance and they only made things worse.
Tens of thousands of workers have shown that they are prepared to stand together on the streets. But when it comes to elections these workers only have the same old sectarian choice.
If we can unite through our unions and community organisations why can we not unite politically? This movement could be the launching pad for a new party to represent the common interests of working class people.
A mass movement on the streets to challenge the paramilitaries linked to a political party of the working class to challenge the sectarian politicians could lay the basis for a real and lasting solution.
Last updated: 23.11.2013