MORTON is a postal worker who works in the Mallusk
post office in North Belfast. He led a walkout of
postal workers in protest at the murder by Loyalists
of a young Catholic worker, Danny McColgan, earlier
VIOLENCE has never gone away, despite the peace process.
The politicians have never attempted to deal with
and challenge the Loyalist paramilitaries. The recent
violence in North Belfast and in the Short Strand
area have been orchestrated by the Loyalist paramilitaries
in the UDA and UVF.
The press have blamed the IRA for much of the recent
violence and rioting. But they ignore the fact that
the Loyalists have carried out a concentrated campaign
of pipe bombing and petrol bombing, and have even
shot at children over the last year. This terror goes
on, day in, day out.
the Short Strand area in East Belfast a group of Loyalist
women have recently been blockading a doctors' surgery
which has served both Catholic and Protestant communities
for years. Anyone who comes to the surgery from a
Catholic area or who has a Catholic sounding name
is turned away. The Loyalists want to drive the Catholic
a number of the doctors have signed petitions in protest.
There have been similar pickets outside further education
colleges and post offices in that area. Some of the
FE students were chased down the road by Loyalists
throwing bricks and stones.
Republicans have been fighting on the streets, but
only after Catholic homes have been hit by pipe bombs
or blast bombs. Even a funeral procession was attacked
by Loyalists. The areas where the Loyalists whip up
violence are marked by massive social deprivation.
The Loyalists are playing on people's feelings of
hopelessness to mark out new territory, and to try
are picking up some support in the poorest areas,
although generally people hate the sectarian violence.
There was general repulsion when the UDA moved into
the area near Holy Cross School and started attacking
the mainstream politicians are not interested in seriously
targeting sectarianism, and they do not challenge
the social and economic inequalities which sustain
it. The whole peace agreement is based on politicians
speaking for "their" community in competition
have to start defeating sectarianism in the workplace,
where Protestants and Catholics mix together and can
be collective. That means a fight for jobs-for everyone,
not just one community. It means fighting for pay
rises for everyone. Because workers in Northern Ireland
are divided by sectarianism they get on average 18
percent lower wages than in Britain.
it is because of sectarianism that we have longer
hospital waiting lists and more health cuts. At work
Protestant and Catholic workers get on together. The
problem is that then people go home to their particular
ghettos. That is why it is important to organise together
and to stand together. There have been two murders
near the Mallusk office over the last year. They were
two Protestant lads gunned down by the UDA, who mistakenly
thought they were Catholics.
were angry that our management didn't seem to care
about the effect on workers-the fact that some people
are scared to go out. After the murder by Loyalists
of our fellow postal worker Danny McColgan we walked
out for a week, and took part in the big rally against
sectarianism. That gave people confidence. The bigots
in my workplace were silenced for a while and put
on the back foot."
SMYTH is a bus worker who has just retired. He took
part in a series of strikes over pay at the end of
PROBLEM stems from the top of society. The reason
sectarianism is flourishing is because we still live
in a sectarian state where the British have divided
people and Catholics are oppressed. The sectarian
attacks and rioting are taking place in some of the
poorest working class areas, not in the affluent tree-lined
ideas are whipped up by Loyalist paramilitaries, who
are organising and orchestrating a campaign of pipe
bombing Catholic homes. Their bigoted sectarian ideas
take hold among poor Protestants because they have
no chance in education and no hope of a future. Youth
clubs have closed down, and funding for community
groups has been slashed. A recent report found that
homelessness in Northern Ireland is up by 23 percent
and is worse than anywhere else in Britain.
poor Protestants believe they have got nothing from
the peace process, and their Unionist and Loyalist
politicians blame the Republicans. The reality is
that workers on both sides have got nothing. The problem
stems from the fact that sectarianism was institutionalised
in the Belfast peace agreement.
creates divisions in the working class, and those
divisions give the politicians a free hand to push
ahead with privatisation. The Northern Ireland Assembly
is pushing through the privatisation of our health,
education and public transport under a massive extension
of PFI and PPP schemes.
the parties-the Ulster Unionists, the SDLP and Sinn
Fein-are in favour of PFI and PPP. Sinn Fein's Martin
McGuinness, the education minister, has rightly come
out against the 11-plus exam. But at the same time
he is pushing through PFI schemes in schools. Already
six new schools have been built or planned using PFI.
Sinn Fein's Bairbre de Brun is pushing through closures
and PFI in hospitals.
that makes it easier for Loyalists to point the finger
at Republicans. Every party is lobbying for lower
corporate taxes for business, and yet at the same
time they want to introduce water rates in Northern
Ireland for the first time."
McKINNEY is an assistant branch secretary in the civil
servants' NIPSA union in Belfast.
RECENT sectarianism is the last throes of Unionism.
The Unionists are in crisis and want to hold on to
power, so it suits them to whip up ideas of Protestant
sectarian rioting is taking place in economically
deprived areas like the Short Strand. There are very
few jobs, and even less now that the previously big
employers like Harland & Wolff and Shorts are
going down the drain. The working class in these poor
areas have not seen the benefit of the peace dividend.
the "peace walls" which divide communities
on the sectarian interfaces in North Belfast there
are 100 yards of empty houses. Unfortunately the political
system which has been set up in Northern Ireland,
far from getting rid of sectarianism, has just polarised
the divisions. In the assembly you have to declare
whether you are Protestant or Catholic.
politicians all blame the other side in the sectarian
divide. So the Unionists blame the Republicans and
the Republicans blame the Unionists. The only place
people really come together is in the workplace. Where
I work, in the Child Support Agency, there is a comparatively
low level of sectarianism.
even here the employers did a survey of the workforce,
and 10 percent of people said that sectarianism was
the biggest cause of stress and bullying. If the circumstances
and conditions which give rise to sectarianism are
not challenged, then it will keep coming back, and
the Loyalist paramilitaries will be able to whip up
helped organise an anti-sectarian rally in the Short
Strand area after an onslaught of sectarian attacks
against Catholic families there. The rally involved
trade unionists and local residents. It was viciously
attacked by a group of 200 Loyalists with iron bars,
bricks, bottles and blast bombs. Several people were
Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) should keep
up the pressure and call more rallies against sectarianism.
The rally and strikes that the ICTU called after the
murder of Danny McColgan in January were a huge success.
When I went into work that week everyone was talking,
debating and arguing about the way forward.
now they need to keep up the pressure. The trade unions
need to relate to what is happening and actively challenge
sectarianism. The example I point to is the struggle
of the security workers at Belfast International Airport,
which is uniting Catholic and Protestant workers.
It is a concrete example-albeit on a small scale-of
what can be done."
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