The Blanket

Peace Rather Than Pipedreams

Sean Smyth

For the last thirty plus years the local and international press has been full of articles and letters about sectarianism in Ireland. Many of them have been written by members of the various socialist parties (for those socialists who are paranoid about anything which is written the 'capitalist press' I mean all socialist party's) who have been very keen to tell us the only way to tackle sectarianism is their way and that the trade unions are letting down the working class.

For many years the trade union movement has had to deal with its own problems with sectarianism but it has always been working quietly behind the screams of the victims of sectarianism to try and stop not only its members but any citizen of any community being murdered by sectarian, paramilitary, or state violence.

The last few months people like Peter Bunting deputy, gen, sec, ICTU have being meeting both loyalist and republican politicians and paramilitary leaders, British and Irish government officials to try and stop the blood letting on the streets of NI.

Peter received much criticism for calling on the Mayor of Belfast to organise a anti-sectarianism rally at the city hall on Friday August 2nd (I personally questioned Peter's judgment). But we are starting to see the benefits of the involvement of the politicians and councillors who are beginning to realise that the people they represent have more in common with each other that they have separating them.

The SF Mayor of Belfast has called for the flags to be removed from interface areas. This should be encouraged and SF could lead the way by taking down nationalist flags in all nationalist areas or at least the worn-out ones. And the PUP's Billy Hutchinson is calling for a comprehensive, integrated coeducation of all schools in NI.

This is just months after the heartbreaking scenes we witnessed in Ardoyne Road when pupils from Holly Cross had faced mobs of hate driven demonstrators while going too and from school. The protesters only succeeded in acting like demented demons and denigrated their cause in front of the worlds media. Just imagine if the PUP pushed through their education plans the Wheatfield and Holy Cross primary schools could become the spark to a new beginning for North Belfast.

Both the flags and education were subjects that were talked about many months ago by the trade unionist after they were approached from local community activists. This and other signs are encouraging. The trade unionist campaign under the stewardship of Peter Bunting and the ICTU, the trade unions, trade groups and community activists is beginning to see the first ray of light at the end of a very long and dark sectarian tunnel.

The definition of sectarianism as printed in Collins English Dictionary is
1/ of belonging or relating to, or characteristic of sects or sectaries.
2/ Adhering to a particular sect, faction, or doctrine.
3/ Narrow-minded, esp. as a result of rigid adherence to a particular sect.
4/ a member of a sect or faction, esp. one who is bigoted in his adherence to its doctrines or in his intolerance towards other sects, etc.

What it does not tell you is that Ireland North and South have been built on inveterate sectarianism. We in the North live in a society which separates its citizens into two camps - either you are Protestant or Catholic, where the children are prevented from learning and playing together, (example: the churches control of education) where each community has its own culture and identity one British the other Irish - each feeling threatened by the other.

Sectarianism can and will be changed in NI but it will take time; time for the communities to build trust and understanding of each other, time for parties like SF and the PUP to gain enough courage to lead people away from the hatred of the past and to look to the future free of fear and intimidation where we can build a society. Hopefully it is a socialist society based on respect for each tradition no matter how painful that maybe. The trade union movement and activists have an important role to play in the building of a new society, one that is built on compromise. Our problems are not insurmountable but it takes great courage to bring about the revolutionary change which is needed to tackle the phobias and prejudice which affect all the citizens of Ireland North and South and bring us to the mindset where we can coexist.

The Paisley's and the fascists will call us traitors; we will be accused of treachery and heresy. and if they could some of them would burn us at the stake. But we must stand firm for the reward is great

We are all guilty of having been sectarian. The problem with all the socialist partyies is that their understanding of sectarianism is flawed and discredited by their own sectarianism towards other socialist parties. This clearly shows that the socialist parties in Belfast if not all of Great Britain and Ireland, are hypocrits. The problem as I see it is that there are too many socialist parties and not enough socialism. They should put their own house in order before shoving their brand of sectarianism on to the working class. The working class I've talked to want very little - a democracy built by the people for the people, decent homes and jobs which pay a living wage so they don't have to depend on welfare. They want proper free education up too and including third level for their children and a health service which provides the best service there is for all citizens not just the wealthy.

The revolutionary socialists, communists and Christians who are waiting for the second coming of Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin or Jesus are living on cloud nine and hoping for a pipedream which will never happen.

Only a society built on peace, justice, and democracy will bring an end of sectarianism. This will only happen when people look to the future and leave
the past behind where it belongs in museums and in history books to serve as a warning to future generations not to make the same mistakes as we did.

It's time for all people to support the flawed peace process. It's all we have. If we don't take this opportunity to build a new society our children will never forgive us. Enough pain and sorrow has been caused its time to look forward.

The author is an independent socialist





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The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen.
- Tommy Smothers

Index: Current Articles

19 September 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


Belfast's "Poor White Trash" and the Dead Dogmas of the Past
Brian Kelly


Top Cat

Anthony McIntyre


Lower Than The Lowest of the Low
Liam O Ruairc


Civil Rights Vets Launch Status Campaign
Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh


Peace Rather than Pipedreams
Sean Smyth


Bush War
Anthony McIntyre


15 September 2002


Suppression of Dissent: What it is and what to do about it
Brian Martin


Chief Constable Orde
Terry O'Neill


Yes, Yes, RUC, It's The Force to Set Us Free

Anthony McIntyre


2 Quit Human Rights Commission
October Fifth Association


What's Good For the Goose
Anthony McIntyre


A Burning Issue
Davy Carlin




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