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Peter Hadden

Build the fight against sectarianism

(July 2002)

From, 16 July 2002.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist World Website.
Marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

FIGHTING BROKE out at last weekend’s annual Orange Order parade at Drumcree. Demonstrators threw missiles at police, resulting in 24 injured as well as two civilians. However, Drumcree is not the issue it was. The Portadown Orangemen have been forced into a sullen acceptance that they cannot force their way through the metal barriers, razor wire and trenches. Nevertheless, a relative easing of the situation in Portadown does not mean that there is likely to be a peaceful summer.

IN PLACE of Drumcree there is more widespread and sustained conflict than ever: disputes over other parade routes, sectarian attacks and fighting at ‘interface’ areas.

What happened in May and June in East Belfast, where at one point there was hand-to-hand fighting involving up to 1,000 people from the Short Strand and the surrounding Protestant districts, is a warning that, left unchecked, the situation could spiral out of anyone’s control.

It is not in the interests of either Protestant or Catholic workers that the situation continues.

The only people who stand to benefit are those hard-line sectarian intransigents who use violence to corral people behind their point of view and in this way maintain effective control over working-class communities.

The real roots of what is happening lie in the social and economic problems endured by those living in working-class areas and in the failure of the ‘peace process’ to do anything to overcome the sectarian divisions on the ground.

In fact the peace process has been a process of increasing division. The sectarian parties, while they have entered into a fragile agreement at the top, have constantly whipped up their own sectarian agendas to keep "their" communities on side.

Unable to see any alternative, the uncertainty felt in working-class communities has translated into growing sectarian tension fuelled over the years by issues like parades. The Troubles have continued in the form of a long drawn-out war of attrition over territory.

For working-class people there has been no peace dividend. The pro-business agenda of all the major parties in the Assembly has meant that in the working-class areas it has been at best more of the same: low pay, services sold off to profiteers and the ever-worsening housing problem. The shortage of housing intensifies conflict with communities fighting for every inch of space.

Working-class communities face a quite stark choice. A sectarian conflict can continue inch by inch over territory leading to a slow and painful repartition. Or workers can stand together to stop the attacks and in a class movement for jobs, homes, decent services and proper facilities for all.

This means a campaign on the streets. It also means a political campaign to challenge the right-wing and sectarian parties and to build an alternative; a mass Socialist Party based on the unions and genuine community organisations to challenge their influence at the polls.

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Last updated: 14.7.2012