TODAY LOYALIST paramilitary groups are terrorising Catholics. They are also targeting people in mixed Catholic and Protestant families. Socialist Worker spoke to SEAN McVEIGH, a teacher in North Belfast, one of the worst affected areas.
'Over the last few weeks Loyalists have been subjecting people in North Belfast to nightly intimidation, including blast and petrol bomb attacks, and forcing people out of their homes. Loyalists recently murdered Gavin Brett, a Protestant lad out with his Catholic friends. Near where I live a Catholic and Protestant couple's house was attacked for four hours by Loyalists.
They threw bricks and other missiles. But the RUC did nothing, even though the couple phoned them several times. The two were forced to move. My partner works at a Catholic school in a Protestant area. There has been a Loyalist campaign to shut it down. The Loyalists openly call this 'ethnic cleansing'-they want to get Catholics out of the area.
They set fire to the gymnasium and a storeroom. There have been hoax bombs and break-ins. The place is covered in razor wire. It is more like a prison than a school. People say they haven't seen this much violence since the 1981 hunger strikes. The Loyalist paramilitary group the Ulster Defence Association is behind the violence.
For the last two years the Loyalists have not let up in their sectarian campaign of intimidation, but it has grown worse in the last few weeks around the Orange marching season. North Belfast is one of the most deprived areas in Northern Ireland. Recent figures have shown that out of a population of 70,000 people some 44,000 officially live in deprivation.
The long term unemployment rate is 55 percent. It's important to understand that only a minority cause the violence. Many people are desperate for an alternative. In the Whitewell area an independent candidate came second to Paisley's Democratic Unionists in recent council elections.
He stood on an Old Labour ticket of fighting for hospitals, schools and jobs. The votes came equally from Protestant and Catholic housing estates. The Loyalists are only able to get a hearing because none of the politicians are tackling the social issues that could make a difference to people's lives.'