Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/238/25043

From The Socialist newspaper, 25 January 2002

Northern Ireland: Huge Strike And Rally Against Sectarian Attacks

DESPITE THE wind and rain 80,000 turned out in Belfast for the trade union demonstration against sectarian attacks. This was bigger than any previous anti sectarian trade union rallies held during the Troubles.

Report by Belfast Socialist Party members

There were other packed rallies, especially in Derry where over 10,000 thronged the Guildhall Square. Thousands also turned out in Omagh, Newry, Enniskillen, Cookstown and Strabane.

This was a colossal demonstration of the power of the working class with perhaps 100,000 participating in total.

The turnout reflected the anger of workers, Catholic and Protestant at the murder of Daniel McColgan, a young postal worker shot dead by the UFF as he turned up for work, and at the threats issued to all Catholic postal workers and to all Catholic staff working in schools.


"POSTAL WORKERS are very, very angry. We're up at five in the morning delivering to every door and are easy targets. We are not prepared to tolerate these threats from anyone.

"The initial stoppage for 24 hours after the murder of Daniel McColgan was extended until the threat was lifted. This was the unanimous decision of a thousand strong meeting of postal workers held after the funeral.

"We don't view this action as the end but the start of an ongoing campaign against all paramilitaries and all threats no matter where they come from."

Gerry Robinson Branch Official CWU

This, on top of the nightly sectarian fighting, the constant attacks on ambulance personnel, firefighters, bus drivers and on school children, Catholic and Protestant, travelling to and from school, were a step too far for most people.

A week before the demonstration the teachers' unions, under intense pressure from the members, decided to take action. Then when Daniel McColgan was murdered, postal workers gave a lead by immediately walking out.

The pressure built on the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) leadership to act. They issued a call for a twelve-hour strike starting at midday on 18 January. There was an immediate and overwhelming response from workers.

Teachers, in supporting the call, wanted to know why their union leaders were not going further, why they were expected to work under threat, why the strike was for a half day and not a full day.

Thousands of postal workers turned out on 15 January for their murdered colleague's funeral. Later that day 1,000 turned up for a mass meeting which decided to maintain the strike until the death threat was lifted. Not a single voice was raised against this at the meeting.

Within hours there was the absurd comedy of the UFF - who issued the threat using the cover name of the Red Hand Defenders (RHD) - instructing the RHD to disband. The following morning a statement from the RHD said they had disbanded! It may have been farcical but it showed that determined and united action by the working class can isolate the bigots.

Organised from below

FRIDAY'S RALLIES would have been even bigger had the unions not started to back off from the call they had made for a strike. Most unions failed to issue clear instructions to their members.

Rather than organise for a complete shut down some negotiated a two-hour break. In some workplaces officials reached agreement with management that production would continue while a token delegation attended the rallies.

But the confusion sown by the leadership did not deter the rank and file. Having heard the initial call from the top, workers went ahead and organised the strike from below. The backbone of all the rallies was the postal workers who turned out in force with other organised contingents of teachers, firefighters, hospital workers, shop workers and many more.

The mood on the rallies was determined. There is an understanding that the sectarian polarisation is greater than ever and that what is happening across North Belfast could spread to other areas.


School Students Join Protest

SOCIALIST YOUTH responded to the attacks on school students by launching a new campaign - School Students UNITED Against Sectarianism. In the days leading up to the rally SSUAS leafleted about a dozen schools in Belfast calling on students to come out.

On the day about 70 school students from a number of schools marched with the teachers and the postal workers to the rally. SSUAS is now discussing further protest action if the attacks on school buses and protests at schools start again.


There is also a realisation that the sectarian politicians who sit around the table in the Stormont Executive have no answer, that the army and police can't stop what's going on and that it's down to ordinary people to act before it's too late.

Workers at the rallies were looking for answers as to how to take the campaign forward. The Socialist Party intervened in force, especially in Belfast, and our leaflets and papers were snapped up, despite the miserable weather reducing papers to mush.

Queues formed in front of our leafleters who distributed 7,000 leaflets. We sold 400 papers on the day - this on top of another 400 sold the day before and the day after.

We spelt out a clear message that the campaign should now be taken to the local areas with meetings between local trade union representatives and local community organisations. This could be followed by mass meetings and protests to mobilise people in the communities to stop the attacks and defend those providing services.

Working-class power

UNFORTUNATELY NO clear message came from the main rally's platform. In fact with no proper PA system 90% of those who turned up in Belfast heard nothing.

Instead of calling for an independent campaign the union leaders followed the rally with appeals to the "social partners" - churches, employers and government - to take things forward. But the working class's strength when it acts alone, under its own banners, has been shown. The trade union leadership may have drawn no lessons but big sections of the rank and file have.

The need for the campaign to continue was clear within hours of the rally. Despite this huge show of strength on the streets it was sectarian business as usual. Over the weekend petrol bomb attacks continued in Belfast and elsewhere. Catholic houses in North Belfast were attacked on the Saturday night. The following evening a 76-year-old Protestant man's home was firebombed.


"TEACHERS HAVE had no choice but to strike. No group of workers can be expected to work with a threat hanging over them. All the education unions need to act together to see that schools are safe for pupils and staff.

We have enough problems opposing performance related pay, trying to stop privatisation and fighting for adequate recourses for the classrooms without facing threats."

Mary Cahillane, teacher, INTO Northern Ireland Committee

That night firefighters were attacked in North Belfast and three injured. Buses bringing disabled children and those with severe learning difficulties to a tabernacle in North Belfast were also attacked and some of the kids left traumatised.

The town and city centre rallies show that the working class have the power to isolate and defeat the bigots. That power must now be used with the communities to call a halt to what is happening.


SEVENTY people turned up to a very successful Socialist Party meeting immediately after the Belfast demonstration. Union activists from the FBU and Irish National Teachers Organisation joined Socialist Youth and Peter Hadden and Joe Higgins of the Socialist Party on the platform.

Socialist Party members played a leading role in organising demonstrations outside Belfast, especially in Cookstown, Enniskillen and Omagh. Four members were platform speakers. Five members appeared on the ITV and BBC news, either interviewed or shown speaking from the rally platforms.

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


In The Socialist 25 January 2002:

New Labour is Bad for Your Health

Support The Strikers

Bush's Human Rights Hypocrisy

Northern Ireland: Huge Strike And Rally Against Sectarian Attacks

Bloody Sunday - 30 Years After The Massacre

India/Pakistan: War Clouds Hang Over The Masses

Big Business Destroys The Environment


 

Home   |   The Socialist 25 January 2002   |   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

Strike:

triangleArriva North West bus drivers strike over pay

triangleRoyal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

triangleUnite local government sector plans strike ballot

triangleStriking back against sackers' charter at Leeds Uni

Ireland:

triangleLeeds Socialist Students marks 'International Safe Abortion Day'

triangleEyewitness: Irish socialist MP participates in events

triangleChesterfield Socialist Party: The continuing struggle for abortion rights

Workers:

trianglePowerful picture of the Port Talbot steel workers' struggle

triangleCan you donate to the Socialism 2017 appeal?

School:

triangleNasty party imploding...drive out the Tories

Postal workers:

triangleCWU fights court attempt to stop national strike

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis

19/10/17

Refugees

Hundreds of torture victims wrongly detained

18/10/17

Brexit

Tories torn - bin them now

18/10/17

What we saw

What we saw

18/10/17

Food

Obesity epidemic: end food market anarchy

18/10/17

NHS

Tories scrap the NHS pay cap: now fight for real-terms pay rises!

18/10/17

Debt

Young people being strangled by debts

13/10/17

Labour

The end of the Tories?

11/10/17

Tories

Nasty party imploding...drive out the Tories

11/10/17

Black history

The fight against racial discrimination is tied to fighting against capitalist austerity

11/10/17

Housing

Housing crisis: Corbyn's positive measures blanked by Labour's right

11/10/17

Universal Credit

Major attacks 'Universal Credit', half a million more face poverty

11/10/17

Them & Us

Them & Us

11/10/17

NHS

NHS meltdown - fight the Tory cuts

11/10/17

IMF

IMF helps cause inequality it slams

4/10/17

NHS

Tories wreck our NHS

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...


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

triangle19 Oct Arriva North West bus drivers strike over pay

triangle18 Oct Russia, October 1917: When workers took power

triangle18 Oct Tories torn - bin them now

triangle18 Oct Royal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

triangle18 Oct Balloting members on the pay cap

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party imploding...drive out the Tories

More ...

triangle21 Oct Birmingham: NSSN Solidarity Forum

triangle23 Oct Chesterfield Socialist Party: The continuing struggle for abortion rights

triangle24 Oct Liverpool Socialist Party: The October Russian Revolution 100 years ago to the day

triangle25 Oct Salford Socialist Party: The October 1917 Russian revolution

More ...

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

Archive

Archives:

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2