Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 10 May 2003

Northern Ireland: Only Working Class Can End Sectarian Impasse

WITH ONLY days to go before the close of nominations and even though campaigning was already under way, Tony Blair has called off the Northern Ireland Assembly elections. Despite his assurance that they will go ahead in the autumn there is now a real question over whether they will take place at all.

Peter Hadden, Belfast

The stated reason for putting them off was the lack of clarification from the IRA as to whether their campaign is finally over. At one point it all came down to whether the republican leadership would amend a statement that IRA activities "should" end to a declaration that they "will" end.

Despite the reaction of the British and Irish governments and of all shades of unionism, the IRA have, in fact, shifted their ground considerably. Their recent statements spell out unambiguously what has been obvious for some time; that their war against the British state is over.

They can't go further and publicly disband the IRA at this stage without risking serious opposition in their own ranks. While there is no question of this IRA leadership going back to a war against Britain, the sectarian conflict within Northern Ireland is continuing. Many republicans still look to the IRA as necessary to "police" and "defend" Catholic areas.

Saving Trimble

THE REASON the elections are not going ahead has much more to do with what is happening in the Protestant communities. Protestants have a growing sense of insecurity. They increasingly see the Good Friday Agreement as having strengthened the nationalist position and have very little time for an Assembly that has delivered very little, except big salaries for a few politicians.

The fact that a majority of Protestants are now opposed to the Agreement was certain to be reflected in the election in an increase in support for Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and for anti-Agreement opponents of former First Minister David Trimble within his own Ulster Unionist Party (UUP).

Even if the UUP had emerged as the biggest unionist party, Trimble would either have been ousted or else he would have been a prisoner of its anti-Agreement wing. Under these circumstances the Assembly would not have been able to function.

Trimble's hope was that he would get a statement from republicans that would allow him to campaign as the unionist politician who brought about the "surrender" of the IRA. The actual statement fell short of this and so Blair has intervened to save Trimble. He has decided not to go ahead with the election because democracy, in this case, would not have produced the right result!

Sectarian polarisation

FIVE YEARS ago, when the Good Friday Agreement was signed, it was trumpeted world wide as an historic breakthrough that would lead to the solution. The Agreement was never a solution to the Northern Ireland conflict. It accepted that the sectarian division in Northern Ireland was permanent and that the best that could be hoped for was a complicated form of power sharing between unionist and nationalist politicians.

The sectarian polarisation is greater today than it was five years ago when the last Assembly elections took place. All the sectarian parties who have sat together in the old executive have contributed to this polarisation. Now they are finding that politics is catching up with the hardening of attitudes that have been taking place on the ground, especially in the working class areas.

The right-wing and sectarian parties can offer no way forward except further polarisation and conflict. However, there is another side to Northern Ireland. While the politicians have been splitting sectarian hairs over words, working-class people have been coming together in struggle.

Working-class struggles

THE FIREFIGHTERS' strikes have been 100% solid in Northern Ireland and have been massively supported in working-class communities, Catholic and Protestant. The battle by the sacked airport workers for reinstatement and for justice from their union, the T&GWU, has also received huge support. Social workers are now also involved in strike action over a regrading claim. A two day strike last month was completely solid and further strikes are planned for this month.

People in both Catholic and Protestant working class communities are now gearing up for what will be a united struggle against Blair's decision to impose water charges. Over 100 people turned up to disrupt a "consultation" meeting on the issue in Derry and an even bigger crowd is likely at a similar meeting in Belfast later this month.

A feature of all these struggles is the contempt people have for the sectarian politicians on both sides. Belfast City council has just decided to close the Maysfield leisure centre, the only centre in the city, which, because of its location, is accessible to both communities.

During the Belfast marathon, which finished at the centre, T&GWU members working in the centre held a protest. When Sinn Fein mayor Alex Maskey saw them he told them that the marathon was not the time or the place for protests!

The question of whether there can be an alternative to the main parties is being discussed. The Socialist Party is considering standing in the Assembly elections if they go ahead. Some FBU activists have also discussed putting up candidates. Campaigners against local hospital closures have already decided to stand. There would be a basis for candidates to stand in opposition to the water charges.

The sectarian parties have failed. But the basis for a new party of the working class which could bring together those involved in the various struggles that have opened up is now being laid.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 10 May 2003:

No To Foundation Hospitals

Fight Corus Job Massacre

Airport Workers Demand The Truth

Nursery Nurses Step Up The Fight Against Poverty Pay

Iraq watch

Northern Ireland: Only Working Class Can End Sectarian Impasse

Elections 1 May 2003: Build The Socialist Alternative

Bootle and Wales: New Labour's lies and dirty tricks

Blair's 'Baghdad Trounce'

Needed - new policies, not new voting methods

Spectacular gains for Scottish Socialist Party

Neo-Nazis blast a warning

Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta


Home   |   The Socialist 10 May 2003   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:

Northern Ireland:

triangleBoeing bust-up threatens thousands of skilled jobs

triangleWeakened Tories forced into Northern Ireland abortion u-turn

triangleCardiff East Socialist Party: The DUP, Northern Ireland, and socialism vs sectarianism

triangleWirral Socialist Party: The DUP, Northern Ireland, and socialism vs sectarianism

triangleNorthern Ireland: DUP propping up the Tories

Working class:

triangleNasty party out the Tories

triangleCardiff Socialist Students confront 'Parasite' Jacob Rees-Mogg

triangleChe Guevara 50 years on - revolutionary socialist and fighter

triangleStrike against Madrid's 'state of emergency'!


triangleLeeds Socialist Students marks 'International Safe Abortion Day'

triangleEyewitness: Irish socialist MP participates in events

triangleChesterfield Socialist Party: The continuing struggle for abortion rights


triangleMartin McGuinness: from IRA leader to Stormont minister





Catalonia: Workers can finish what Puigdemont won't



Solidarity with Catalonia - the people have the right to decide



Eyewitness: Irish socialist MP participates in events



Exemplary resistance by the people of Catalonia



Germany: Election results in political earthquake



Strike against Madrid's 'state of emergency'!



German elections: rise of the far right and right-wing government will provoke resistance



French Labour reform protests



Catalonia: Student strike called



Brutal repression of Rohingya people sparks massive humanitarian crisis



Solidarity with Catalonia in the Spanish state



Berlin hospital strike



Korean peninsula: is nuclear war likely?



Interview with leader of students' union in the Spanish state: "When we fight, we win!"



Hurricane Harvey: A tragedy made far worse by capitalism

triangleMore International articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party out the Tories

triangle11 Oct CWU fights court attempt to stop national strike

triangle11 Oct The fight against racial discrimination is tied to fighting against...

triangle11 Oct Catalonia: Workers can finish what Puigdemont won't

triangle6 Oct Boeing bust-up threatens thousands of skilled jobs

triangle4 Oct The nasty party turns on itself... but the Tories must be driven out

More ...

triangle16 Oct Teesside Socialist Party: After the party conferences

triangle17 Oct London: TUC lobby & rally; and London march

triangle18 Oct Warrington & St Helens Socialist Party: 1917-2017; the October Russian Revolution

triangle18 Oct Hackney Socialist Party: 100 years ago - the Bolshevik-led revolution

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017





















Platform setting: = No platform choice