Thoughts on the struggles in Northern Ireland

Sean O’Torrain is a long-time socialist originally from Northern Ireland. While there, he was an active participant in the struggle against the special oppression of the Irish  catholics. Here is a posting of his on recent developments there. It is directly relevant to similar struggles around the world, including in the United States.

This posting is originally from the web site:  http://weknowwhatsup.blogspot.com

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British troops occupy Northern Ireland, 1969

by Sean O’Torrain

I was back home in the North of Ireland a few months ago at a wedding. I was seated beside a middle class Catholic couple who has a relative who joined SF and has a local council position now. They played no role in the military campaign of the Provos. Only when it became a mass movement did they even get involved in the Civil Rights movement. They played no role in the 1969 Derry uprising. They made sure they kept their children well out of the firing line, the majority of whom got good educations and no longer live in the North. Middle class Catholics like these made some gains out of the last years .

These middle class people whispered to me in a soft voice that if it had not been for the Provos campaign they would have got nothing. This is the typical attitude of the middle class Catholic. They did get something out of the last 30 years war. They got access to more jobs and positions. For them the sacrifice made by a generation of Catholic working class youth was worth it. As an old man used to say to me back home they would fight to the last drop of another man’s blood.

These middle class Catholics whom the Provisionals now represent ignore a few facts. Look at these. “According to the Multiple Deprivation Measure 2010 – which collates data on categories such as health, income, employment and education across 582 wards in the North – 14 of the 20 most deprived wards overall are predominantly Catholic. Sixteen of the 20 most deprived wards assessed on household income and employment are also mostly Catholic. A similar picture emerges from the Peace Monitoring Report 2012, which found “the proportion of people who are in low-income households is much higher among Catholics (26 per cent) than among Protestants (16 per cent).” The Provisional campaign did not end discrimination against the Catholic working class in the North.

The organizers of this blog have always opposed the Provisionals campaign. We have said it would not drive British imperialism out of the North, that it would increase sectarian division and that the working class as a whole in Northern Ireland would be further divided. This is correct.

The increased gains of the Catholic middle class and the Sinn Fein politicians have enraged the Protestant working class whom are still under the hammer of the attacks of capitalism in this period of crisis. They feel that some of the marginal privileges they had have been reduced and will be further reduced. They feel that the peace process has been at their expense. So we have the worst of both worlds. The Catholic working class are still exploited and more so than the Protestant working class and the Protestant working class while still having some small marginal privileges feel that they are losing these and under threat. Inevitably sectarianism will not go away.

The North is more segregated than ever before. More separate schools, more so called peace gates separating streets and areas in Belfast. The coming economic crises will see Imperialism and capitalism once again turning up the screws on divide and rule. The crisis of the North is not over. There is a real danger in the years ahead of new sectarian military conflict with the possibility of civil war and the repartition of the country.

Categories: History, racism, rebellion

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