Sectarian intimidation & North Belfast

The horrifying ongoing scenes of sectarian intimidation outside Holy Cross Primary School in the Ardoyne area of North Belfast have shocked everyone. Television and newspaper pictures of grown men and women screaming abuse at four year old children have shone a light on the reality of Northern sectarianism.

That sectarianism is alive and well in this area of North Belfast and in other parts of the North is no news, with almost nightly confrontations across the 'peace line'. In attempting to put forward analysis, however, most of the mainstream media and political commentators have failed to point out that the 'Good Friday Agreement' itself is as much a cause of the worsening situation as anything else.

On the one hand the agreement has copperfastened the sectarian divide - by virtue of the fact that Assembly members must label themselves either nationalist or unionist in order for their votes to be counted. On the other hand, the 'peace process' has failed utterly in terms of delivering the much promised 'peace dividend' to working class communities from both sides of the sectarian divide.

The Glenbryn housing estate - some of whose residents are to the fore in the attempts to prevent Catholic children walking up 'their' road to school - is one of the most disadvantaged and deprived areas in the North. What we are witnessing as we see the scenes of hatred outside Holy Cross Primary School are the cries of desperation of people who see their supposed position of privilege disappear. The reward for their 'loyalism' has been an equality of poverty. The failure of the 'peace process' to result in economic improvement for the vast majority of working class people has exposed this as never before.

This does not by any means justify what is happening. It is necessary however - if the evil of sectarianism is to be challenged and defeated - to put forward a radical political alternative which will offer people a new vision to work towards. There has to be another way, working class people need to be convinced that they have more in common - whichever side of the sectarian divide they come from - than they have dividing them from one another. Working class communities need to be convinced that when they expound their energies on hating each other, it plays into the hands of those who are in power. The old adage of divide and conquer never rang truer. While working class people spit hatred and throw pipe bombs at each other, the bosses get on with the business of exploiting us all.

Gregor Kerr

A reply to this article, Belfast anarchist on Sectarian Intimidation and North Belfast

Workers Solidarity

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This edition is No67 published in Nov 2001

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