Socialist Worker

Sectarianism hasn’t gone away in Northern Ireland

Issue No. 2210

Police fired 70 baton rounds and used water cannon this week in Northern Ireland against people protesting at sectarian marches by the Orange Order.

The rioting was condemned from all political parties including Sinn Fein.

The Orange Order in Ireland was deliberately established by the British state around the slogan of Protestant supremacy to help smash the Irish national movement in the late 1790s.

Despite attempts to rebrand Orange marches as “orangefest” and as a surreal tourist attraction they are still ugly displays of brutal sectarian triumphalism.

Sectarian bigotry is not inherent to life in Northern Ireland. It is fostered from outside.

While those at the top herald peace, the peace process they promote has deepened sectarian division and poverty.

The way that politics in Northern Ireland is organised makes it seem like “common sense” to blame the “other side”—which helps stop anyone questioning the growing inequality within their “own” community.

Peace in Northern Ireland is based on policing ordinary Protestants and Catholics apart. While Northern Ireland has seen the systematic oppression of Catholics, the divide in the working class also holds down Protestant workers.

The Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein cannot address the question of sectarianism because they each need the competition between communities to continue if they are to stay in power.

Dissident Republicans offer little but a return to an armed struggle that failed.

With looming cuts politicians will fight “resource wars” for “their” rival communities and turn every political debate into a sectarian one.

Standing up to sectarianism means opposing Orange marches in Catholic areas and in Protestant ones.

But it also means uniting both communities, through strikes and campaigns to oppose those cuts.

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What We Think
Tue 13 Jul 2010, 17:56 BST
Issue No. 2210
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