Cllr Donal O'Cafaigh (third from left) and canvassers in Dungannon town, Co Tyrone Photo Militant Left
Cllr Donal O'Cafaigh (third from left) and canvassers in Dungannon town, Co Tyrone Photo Militant Left

Militant Left (CWI Ireland) supporter, councillor Donal O’Cofaigh, is contesting the Fermanagh-South Tyrone constituency in the 5 May elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Donal is running as a Cross Community Labour Alternative (CCLA) candidate. In an election that is likely to be highly polarised and divisive, CCLA aims to offer a path out of this through workers’ unity and by laying the basis for a new mass party of the working class.

Donal’s election to Fermanagh and Omagh Council in 2019, and his record of opposition to the main parties, is a powerful demonstration that an alternative can be built. The Assembly election is the next step in the journey to build the type of new mass party we need.

All genuine left, and anti-sectarian, community and trade union activists should come behind Donal’s campaign, but also look to the future and consider what can and must be done in their area at the next local elections in 2024.

Sectarian politics

Workers and young people are facing a future of falling living standards, cuts to services, and tension and conflict on the streets. They are angry but see no credible alternative to the sectarian parties. There are very few independent voices who speak up on class issues whilst maintaining a firm anti-sectarian position.

The majority of elected Assembly members win their seats by appealing to one community only and are proud of the fact. They cement division every day through their words and their actions.

The fifth party of government, Alliance, does organise across both communities but stands on the right-wing of the Executive on economic issues. A party which comes back again and again to the anti-working-class policy of bringing in water charges will never provide a real alternative.

It often seems that there is no way out of the morass of sectarian politics, and as a result many workers and young people give up on voting. The turnout in elections has fallen over recent years as a result, and the decades-old trend for those who reject sectarianism and sectarian politics to leave Northern Ireland, never to return, continues.

Working-class unity

In fact, there is an alternative: the third tradition of working-class unity, solidarity and socialism. At times, this tradition has threatened the dominance of the unionist and nationalist parties, especially in the 1960s when the Northern Ireland Labour Party and other left parties grew quickly.

CCLA is seeking to rebuild this third tradition and re-establish its credibility as a real alternative both at the ballot box and in day-to-day politics.

The unity of campaigners and activists must be based around a basic level of agreement on anti-austerity, pro-working class and anti-sectarian politics.

Ultimately, it is only through the struggle for socialist change that we can solve our problems, including the divisions between communities. In a democratic socialist society, the needs of all will be met, and the democratic rights of all communities will be guaranteed.

A left version of either nationalist or unionist politics is a dead end. We need a militantly anti-sectarian, independent party which actively seeks to build in both Catholic and Protestant areas.

This article can be read in full on