Is the north of Ireland still a sectarian state?

Birmingham Socialist Resistance public meeting2169770664_d4185cde43_b (2)

John McAnulty
Socialist Democracy — Ireland
7.30pm Tuesday 23rd August
Bennetts, Bennetts Hill,
Birmingham City Centre

During the recent “marching season” in the North of Ireland there was savage sectarian violence, the most dramatic being a full-blown paramilitary attack on the Catholic enclave of Short Strand in East Belfast by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).

The violence was dismissed as an anomaly. The real story, we were assured, was a gradual transition to a peaceful and non-sectarian future.

Yet the events surrounding the Short Strand attack give the lie to this view. Despite attempts by their late spokesperson David Irvine to present the organization as cuddly peacemakers, the UVF remains armed and involved in killings. The attack, over a decade into the peace process, should have led to an outcry.

Instead a process of conciliation and appeasement was launched. Sinn Fein met the gangsters secretly. Shortly afterwards they met First Minister Peter Robinson. Then Robinson and Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness met the Parades Commission, and following that the commission did a U-turn and supported an Orange demonstration in Ardoyne, a decision that involved a major police operation against the people living there.

Later police removed flags draped around a Catholic church in Ballyclare. Following a night of paramilitary violence they apologized for their action.

What is often ignored in analysis of Ireland is the fact that the unionists do not support the peace process. They see it as a transitional stage to “democracy” when they will rule alone. In the meantime there is a constant struggle to ensure the Lion’s share in a sectarian carve-up. The unionist parties enforce this policy, the Orange orders operate it on the streets and the Paramilitaries provide the muscle.

Behind the scenes stands the British government. It is they who constructed the whole edifice around “equality of the two traditions” – a charter for sectarian conflict.

The Sinn Fein/DUP coalition propose massive cuts over the next four years, and thus the possibility of inflamed sectarian rivalry. The UVF are recruiting teenagers who never saw the troubles as the next generation of sectarian warriors.

The need for a socialist movement to fight sectarianism and the sectarian state that fosters it has never been greater.

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