every piece of commentary on the recent suicides of
young men in Ardoyne mentioned the area being left
behind by the peace process. But few ventured to suggest
what it was about the process which had brought this
Sinn Fein and SDLP leaders claimed that, compared
with Protestant areas, Ardoyne had been starved of
facilities. All four leisure centres in north Belfast
are in areas Catholics wouldn't be safe travelling
into, for example. The message was that the process
is tilted against Catholics and that this has helped
create conditions in which young men have despaired.
This is curiously reminiscent of the explanations
offered some time back for the attacks on Ardoyne
children walking to school past Glenbryn.
had been left behind, it was said. Local residents
couldn't visit the post-office in safety. Abandonment
and alienation had generated resentment, directed
against Catholic children making their way to Holy
£9 million refurbishment programme was put in
place for Glenbryn. Now it's reported that, "special
efforts will be made to tackle the lack of facilities
for (Ardoyne) teenagers."
might wonder how the same situation can have sparked
despair on "both sides." If the Catholics
are left behind, surely the Protestants must be forging
ahead? Or vice-versa. But, not only is it possible,
it's inevitable that "both sides" will feel
short-changed as the process is played out.
Agreement corrals Catholics and Protestants into separate
camps, assuring each of fair play as they compete
for diminishing resources. This is a sure-fire recipe
for generating grievance on both sides.
does have relevance to the spate of suicides in Ardoyne.
Urged by all in authority to find your sense of validation
in the advance of your community vis-a-vis "the
other side," the realisation that, actually,
you are regarded by society as worthless, and that
there's no communal remedy, can devastate the spirit.
it would be grotesque to advance this as a full explanation.
Every suicide is a specific and personal individual
act which cannot be rationalised by reference to general
truths. The specific factors in Ardoyne include "punishment"
attacks by the "Irish National Liberation Army."
Although this, too, cannot be offered as a full explanation,
neither can it be coincidence that Anthony O'Neill
and Barney Cairns, both 18, whose suicides prompted
widespread comment, had been victims of INLA assaults.
spokesman for INLA's political wing, the IRSP, explained
the assaults: "The INLA, against their will (were)
acting under pressure from the community."
to his family, young O'Neill had been left trembling
naked down a manhole for hours before being dragged
out and subjected to a prolonged vicious beating by
an INLA gang. The notion that the INLA had done this
"against their will...acting under pressure from
the community," is an insult to the people of
Ardoyne and to working class people generally. It's
hard to imagine anything more calculated to reduce
a youngster's sense of self-worth to nil.
socialist approach is from the opposite direction.
It begins from an observation of two simple facts---one,
that the main cause of "anti-social behaviour"
is poverty; and, two, that the overwhelming majority
of young people want to play a positive role in society.
Or, to put it another way, that tackling the problem
is only possible in the context of fighting against
poverty, and that young people have to feel that they
have a valued role in this fight.
might even---excuse the phrase--put it a third way:
that it's in the fight against poverty and the sources
of poverty that the exclusions and divisions enshrined
in the Agreement can be overcome.
the pro-Agreement commentariat nor the INLA gangs
have anything to contribute to this project. Youngsters
from Ardoyne, as from any working class area, need
politics which invite them to take control of their
own lives as part of a movement of the working class
and the marginalised to take control of society.
means resolutely opposing both the pro-police elements
who want a crack-down on unruly areas, and guttersnipes
with guns who think they've done a great day's work
for Ireland if they've managed to maim another working-class
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