Sectarian developments

By Gary Mulcahy, Socialist Voice November 2001

THE RISE of sectarianism and polarization is taking place right throughout Northern Ireland. Even though, at this stage, the sharpest conflicts have been contained in areas like North Belfast, it is a warning of where the rest of the North is heading.

Over recent months, sectarian killings have increased around the country. Recently, there were the tit for tat killings of Colin Foy in Fivemiletown and Charles Folliard in Strabane. Sectarian killings are now becoming more frequent. The disgusting murders of Gavin Brett, Ciaran Cummings and Martin O'Hagan should have been met with mass opposition from the trade union movement.

A call for mass action from the trade union movement and from community organisations against sectarian killings and attacks would find a big echo amongst the majority of workers, and could temporarily isolate the paramilitaries. It would also demonstrate the potential strength of a united workers movement to provide an alternative to the sectarian parties.

Trade union and community activists should be on stand by to call protests if there are further killings. We need a campaign mobilising that can bring Protestant and Catholic workers together to force the paramilitaries to halt all sectarian attacks.

However, the current rise of paramilitary attacks and killings is a symptom of the rise in sectarianism generally. Sectarianism has increased on both sides.

To fully succeed, this campaign would have to go further and challenge the role of the sectarian politicians. The politicians on the ground have played a key role in this process. While they unite at the top, on the ground they whip up sectarian hatred.

While they whip up divisions they are completely united themselves - in their enthusiastic endorsement of the free market. On the social and economic questions, there are hardly any differences between them.

A movement to stop the paramilitary attacks would only go half way if it did not challenge the right wing and sectarian politicians who have a vested interest in keeping the conflict going. A new campaign against sectarianism needs to become political. There will always be conflict until the working class has its own political party that can challenge the main parties, not just for their sectarianism, but for their right wing anti-working class policies.

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