Friday, 24 June 2011

Sectarian violence on the streets of East Belfast

The cracks beneath the surface in the peace process were once again exposed on the streets of East Belfast last night in the second night of serious sectarian rioting. A UVF led mob numbering in the 100's has been engaged in attacks on catholic homes at the edge of the Short Strand.  This is the reality of a peace dividend which has failed to deliver to working-class communities and stands in stark contrast to suburbia only 5 miles away which produced golf champion Rory McElroy.


Is there any surprise that we still continue to have serious outbreaks of sectarian rioting, with communities living in fear, when we have a sectarian carve up in the Stormont assembly?  This from the same regime that is imposing a vicious wave of attacks on workers rights and conditions in the form of cut-backs and privatisation.  Until we begin to collectively tackle the causes of division at a grassroots level, and the psychological and physical scars which continue to haunt working people, last nights violence will only recreate it.

All the avaliable evidence suggests that last nights violence did not occur in a vacuum.  While there have been ongoing anti-social sectarian attacks from elements within both communities, yesterday was the result of tensions within loyalism, leading to an organised and vicious assault by the Loyalist UVF on the ‘nationalist’ enclave of Short Strand. This invasion was rightly resisted by the youth of the area who where defending their homes and families as the PSNI stepped aside. Everyone should be allowed to live free from sectarian harrassment and intimidation. We must also reject the cul-da-sac of armed republicanism who seeks to capitalise and replace the vaccuum of policing as the new defenders of the catholic working-class.
In recent week’s, the true colours of loyalism have re-emerged with the re-painting of murals with loyalist gunmen in response to an alleged cut in funding. This is reflecting a wider frustration and a feeling of alienation within the protestant working class that is not new.  It is the nature of the peace-process and Good Friday Agreement which entrenches and thrives on legitimising sectarianism for its very survival which is the problem.
We see this in the concept of a providing a 'parity of esteem' where organisations such as the Orange Order which entrench sectaranism and division are awarded funding for cosmetic exercises such as the Orangefest festival.  This agenda at the heart of the peace process does nothing to address the causes of the conflict but rather provides a smokescreen where class antagonisms and grievances are mediated and replaced by either a Irish or British identity.

The future is bleak in the North until we begin to seriously tackle the forces of sectarianism and the dead end politics of nationalism and unionism which pervades every section of northern society. We need to channel our anger not against each other but against the rich and powerful within our society who benefit from our division.
The left and wider workers movement needs to step up to the mark, instead of sitting on the fence afraid of offending one side of the other. Anarchists need to be on the forefront of opposing sectarianism and state oppression by providing a strategy which mobilises workers to defend their interests and work towards a libertarian communist society.  The choice is clear!

WORDS: Sean Matthews