Socialist Worker

Row over cuts is behind Northern Ireland's crisis

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2469

Some 80,000 people protested in Dublin against water charges last Saturday

Some 80,000 people protested in Dublin against water charges last Saturday (Pic: Right2Water)


Official politics in Northern Ireland has been thrown into crisis.

Two masked gunmen killed Kevin McGuigan in Belfast last month. McGuigan had been accused of killing Gerard Davison, a former Belfast Irish Republican Army (IRA) commander.

His murder would probably have become another statistic. But the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) chose to intervene.

Chief constable George Hamilton announced that “some Provisional IRA organisational infrastructure continues to exist”.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams denied this.

The Ulster Unionist party (UUP) stated its intention to withdraw its single minister from Stormont, the devolved Northern Ireland assembly. That pushed the larger Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) into action.

Its leaders said it will move to have Sinn Fein excluded from the Northern Ireland assembly. 

Theresa Villiers, the Tory Northern Ireland minister, whined that the IRA “shouldn’t still exist”.

Some 17 years after the signing of the Belfast Agreement, the assembly at Stormont is locked in crisis.

It is paralysed by communal division and deadlock over Tory-imposed welfare cuts.

Elections loom next year in Northern and Southern Ireland.

Sectarian

The southern establishment, desperate to reverse Sinn Fein’s rise in the polls, has lined up with sectarian northern Unionists.

Labour leader Joan Burton said the IRA was “an insidious threat”. 

She wants to deflect attention from Labour’s rotten role in implementing austerity in coalition with the right wing Fine Gael party. 

Peace in Northern Ireland is based on policing ordinary Protestants and Catholics apart. 

While Catholics face systematic oppression, the divide also holds down Protestant workers.

The DUP and Sinn Fein can’t address the sectarianism because they need it to stay in office.

Politicians fight “resource wars” for “their” rival communities and make every political debate sectarian. So in the South Sinn Fein is against cuts, in the North it is for some of them.

If the Northern Irish assembly falls apart, direct rule could return and the British government will push through cuts.

Importantly tens of thousands of public sector workers across Northern Ireland took part in the biggest one-day strike there in years in March. It was against a proposed cuts package. 

Last weekend in the South the movement against water charges saw tens of thousands march.

Those strikes and demonstrations hold out the prospect of an alternative to sectarianism and austerity, North and South.

For more on the water protests see bit.ly/1JGEjg1

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