Ireland North: Workers must reclaim the peace

PEOPLE HAD been expecting this suspension and now fear that it could be permanent. We will now likely face a long drawn out political crisis with little hope of any agreement at the end.

ON MONDAY 14 October the New Labour Northern Ireland secretary John Reid announced that the power-sharing assembly at Stormont would be suspended for a year. PETER HADDEN from Belfast Socialist Party comments:

Workers must reclaim the peace process

The hopes raised at the time of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement are now being dashed. Who’s to blame?

To the sectarian politicians all the blame is on ’the other side’. In truth they are all to blame. They spent the last few years whipping up sectarian divisions to ensure that working-class people did not come together and that sectarian voting patterns stayed intact. Now they’re paying the political price for that division.

They are also to blame because their right-wing policies have undermined support for the Assembly. Why should any working-class people come to the rescue of an institution that overpaid politicians have used to sell off and run down public services?

It is sectarian politics and sectarian politicians that have failed. But as always it is working-class people, Catholic and Protestant, who will have to pay the price.

The political impasse is likely to be filled by more threats, more attacks and greater polarisation. There’s even the danger of a massive escalation of violence leading to a situation like that in the Middle East.

To stop this happening, we need to build a real peace process, one based on working-class communities coming together rather than being pulled apart. We need to draw the lessons of the current stalled process.

It was the working class who created the real momentum for an end to the violence. The mass demonstrations of tens of thousands called by the unions demanding a halt to the killings were decisive in bringing about the cease-fires.

The working class created the peace process, the sectarian politicians hijacked it. Now the trade unions and community organisations must break with the politicians and reclaim the peace process.

What is the point of waiting for the politicians to negotiate, probably over years, when the end result is likely to be the same failure? It is time to begin to build an alternative.

We need independent action by the unions and community groups to stop the sectarian attacks and also to halt the attacks on working class living standards.

Political action is also needed. If elections continue to produce the same sectarian result, the future will be bleak. The only way to break the political deadlock is to build a working class political party that can unite working class people for a socialist solution.

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October 2002