A Political Process That Reaps What It Sows

Guest writer Sean Matthews with a piece on sectarianism and inequality

Recent Loyalist rioting in North Belfast is a reminder that beneath the shiny new ‘normalised’ Northern Ireland is a political process that reaps what it sows. While our local politicians continue to promote and sell the North to greedy developers, investors and tourism the reality is the majority of us, the working class have been left behind by a so-called settlement in which we are left to rot to be discarded and disposed when necessary.

As increasing poverty, sectarianism, lower wages, mass unemployment, lack of affordable and social housing - including the introduction of water charges back on the agenda - being as raw as ever the need to build a political alternative to the politics of green and orange is as urgent and relevant as ever.

For some, the three days of rioting was reminiscent of loyalist rioting across the North in 2005 and a re-wind to the Drumcree standoff in the 1990s, while for other media commentators this was an attempt by sections of the loyal orders and loyalist paramilitaries to give a signal that all is not well in loyalist working class heartlands.

The reality is the recent disturbances is never isolated in the context of Northern Ireland and is firmly located within a political process which has merely cemented and embedded sectarianism and segregation, rather than seeking to overcome and transcend differences and divisions.

Instead of seeking building freedom and social equality for all in terms of class politics and revolutionary transformation(which it never intended to do), we have ‘equality of the two traditions’ and a change in the name and badge of the police. As Jason Walsh Stephen Rainey highlighted in the Irish Examiner this week earlier this month:

Things have improved since the 1990s — the absence of bombs and relative absence of bullets is not nothing — but the expansion of inequality, including the cultivation of fraudulent "cultural difference" among sections of society is the price of Northern society’s persistence. In fact, to speak of "Northern Irish society" is to speak of nothing. All talk of respect, the "two communities", and "new dispensations" pushes all debate into the background….The institutions are dysfunctional and factional. "Justice", for instance, is a republican-unionist issue, so it is not really about justice, it’s about balance. On this and every other issue the balance must be struck between the "two communities".

Secondly, the volatile issue of parades and Parades Commission rulings remains a significant obstacle to overcome and will in the foreseeable future ignite and fuel existing antagonism and disillusionment with the status-quo. Unfortunately, in the short-term this dissatisfaction and resentment will express itself in a sectarian dimension as we witnessed this week. This was apparent listening to Radio Ulster Steven Nolan show this week when North and West Belfast Parades Forum spokesman and loyalist Winston Irvine constantly blamed the rioting on ‘erosion of protestant culture and identity’ while republicans and nationalists are getting everything. This is despite the fact that repeated statistics and figures highlight that Catholics remain more than twice as likely to be unemployed than their Protestant counterparts and in consecutive tables ‘nationalist’ communities top the most deprived and disadvantaged wards in the UK.

This is not to minimise or trivialise social/economic deprivation and grievances especially in terms lack of access to third level education in protestant working class communities but to frame this in terms of us v them in terms of religion is not only dangerous, but is misplaced and suits those in power. Indeed the product of a settlement built on two sectarian ethno blocs competing for resources and power from the crumbs of Westminster.

In contrast, as anarchists, we believe that the fight against sectarianism is also struggle against capitalism and can only be uprooted by building a united working class movement based on self-management, direct democracy and direct action which will wipe away all forms of inequality and discrimination by building a society for all not just the greedy few.

The reality is we are quite far away from this situation especially in a deeply divided society but small steps and bricks must be built if we are to have any chance of breaking the confines. Continuing speculation on who organised the recent rioting, to blaming the Parades Commission and a small republican parade which abided to Parade commission guidelines and was relatively confined to the 'nationalist' New Lodge is a smokescreen which misses the wider picture. 

Parading is a physical manifestation past and present of this lethal mix of rivalry, tension and sectarianism which will only benefit the various shades of unionism, paramilitary godfathers and elements of disaffected republicanism. Attempts by right wing opportunist unionist politicians, and loyalism to deflect attention away from existing tension and division within their own ranks in a sectarian tit for tat needs to be actively opposed.

While loyalism and unionism is sectarian and supremacist ideology it is far from monolithic and will unite in times of perceived threat and danger, which is why we need to expose these existing fractures and tensions providing a space for any progressive element that might emerge. The relative absence and weakness of a strong progressive left and trade unions on the ground will mean the forthcoming celebration of the 1932 Outdoor relief riots( in which the falls and Shankill briefly united) will continue to be a romanticised event for the converted few.  However, it is important that we continue to build and promote what unites us more than divides us at the coalface of conflict and struggle in our communities and workplaces as part of a non-sectarian revolutionary alternative.

Despite a token 'apology' as a PR stunt by the Royal Black Institution over their recent behaviour outside the Catholic Church in North Street, it remains unclear whether our local ruling class and their forces of repression will be able to keep a lid on a serious eruption of violence at the end of the month in commemoration of signing of the Ulster Covenant in 1912, but what is clear as that as long as we have a process that failures to address the root cause of conflict in our society, lasting peace and justice will forever in the short-term remain a suburban middle-class dream.


  1. Thanks, Mr. Matthews. We're seeing a "not-so-striking" striking similarity between the ways that elite politicians and developers are simultaneously selling off chunks of stolen Ireland and Palestine, at the same time, to different sets of settlers.

    Over here in America, the native tribes have already been crushed and, largely, bought out/assimilated. Get ready for the lords to start bringing in casinos for low-wage, unreliable work for the occupied populaces.

  2. The 1912 aniversary will be a time for the Unionists to really rub it up SF and make the taigs squirm. Well done SF.

  3. Larry.

    I hope you know how right you are.

    That is their exact intention, to show, who rules and who obeys the rulers, Pity PSF didn't take their blinkers of when negotiating all this shite.
    We are now going backwards in time.
    The Lambegs will be getting a real good banging and all the old party songs will be rolling out of the LOL mouths, and they wont be Hymns.

    I presume top echelon of PSF will be in the 26 counties at the end of the month, and theres me thinking , the days have gone for Catholics to flee to the 26 counties during the marching season. I remember when it was just women and children, and, us men stayed behind.

    September 29th from Free Marian.com

    At this point Marian has another lung infection so the doctors have
    had stop some of the treatment for her arthritis. She has been
    receiving highly toxic medication and her immune system is so
    suppressed that one infection is just following the other. They are
    looking at alternative treatments to deal with the arthritis which is
    steadily getting worse. She has been having steroid injections but is
    only allowed a limited number of these. Marian is in a lot of pain,
    nurses are applying gel to her knees and legs to give her some relief.

    The lack of exercise is just making a very bad situation more acute.
    Marian has also been given additional medication for anaemia. The
    doctors are concerned that her overall medical condition is

    Marian was also recently diagnosed with a heart condition which she
    certainly did not have before her arrest in May 2011.The pointers
    clearly move in one direction and show that this serious deterioration
    in the health of an already vulnerable woman is a direct consequence
    of serious neglect and isolation over such a lengthy period in
    Maghaberry and Hydebank.

    In addition to the physical medical aspects of Marian's case doctors
    are also trying to treat psychological problems which they have agreed
    can only be resolved by a home-care package. It is obvious to all
    concerned that the situation cannot be improved in an environment
    which is not conducive to recovery. A 24 hour guard on a chronically
    ill woman who has been bailed by the courts is an absolute violation
    of her basic human rights. This nightmare has to be ended before
    things move beyond resolution. At this stage we are talking about a
    salvage operation as it is doubtful Marian will ever fully recover
    from this vicious and vindictive ordeal. www.freemarian.co.nr Justice
    for Marian Campaignhttp://www.freemarian.co/

    Sandy Boyer

  5. Anthony.

    I have stated this before, and I will say it again, The Unionist and the British have won over the nationinalist / Republicans, PSF have made sure of that, The British will let any Nationinalist/republican Rot in prison and they are not bothered about anyones health, Especially Poor Marians, Now Doloris has made another statement about Adams, ie ,

    Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams to face questions in Irish parliament about his IRA past

    Read more: http://www.irishcentral.com/news/Sinn-Fein-leader-Adams-to-face-questions-in-Irish-parliament-about-his-IRA-past-170958061.html#ixzz27PsO20Kl

    Irish politicians are to demand that Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams resigns as a member of the Dublin parliament in the wake of the latest claims by IRA member Dolours Price.

    Convicted bomber Price claimed again at the weekend that Adams was an IRA leader and that he authorised the Old Bailey bombing in London.

    She also told the Sunday Telegraph that Adams ordered him to bring captives across the border to the Republic where they were shot.

    Now parties in the Irish parliament are to demand that Adams steps down as a TD and fight the allegations according to a report in the Irish Independent newspaper.

    It says that Adams is set to come under major pressure in the Dail (parliament) after former close ally Price made the shocking claims about his involvement in IRA executions.

    The paper says: “Many deputies now believe the Sinn Fein president must come clean on his IRA past amid fresh allegations by Price, again linking him to the murder of Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville.

    “The McConville family have already demanded, in an interview with the Irish Independent earlier this month, that gardai (police) arrest the Sinn Fein leader over these allegations.”

    Who will be Next?.

  6. itsjustmacker

    I heard a rumour Martin McGuinness was invited by the Chief Constable to be Grand Master at this weekends Ulster Covenant parade. He said he would accept if he could wear a limeygreen sash.

  7. Larry.

    PMSL. Wouldn't put it past him, he is a true Brit now, like the rest of them. But on a serious note.
    I have noticed that in all her interviews , "DOLORIS" she has not mentioned "MARIAN" once. I was wondering if she was being used by MI5, knowing their dirty tricks , But I thought to myself if she was, She would demand the release of Marion, but, then again, she couldn't be under MI5, BUT, she has admitted driving Jean Mc Conville down into the 26 counties Knowing she was to be executed?, I find that curious, and , the reason is, WHY IS SHE NOT WITH MARIAN! who is inside for less, HET are showing a blind eye to Doloris, trying to catch bigger fish, So maybe my conclusion could be correct and she is under MI5!!.
    But I hope Im wrong, Marian would be less than pleased if it were true.

  8. itsjustmacker

    Better for the vision and mindset not to contemplate too much. The dirty war was like trying to make sense of a kelidascope at hight speed ffs. I read the article earlier and found it interesting. What I find even more interesting is Gerry Adams found if easier slander his dead dad as a serial monster paedophile and publicly drag his entire family into that evil, than admit to any involvement in the IRA. I mean which is worse? He mustn't have thought much of the boys and girls he carried to the grave. Would be nice if his dad could defend himself wouldn't it.

    Marty Mi6 was told he couldn't wear a limeygreen sash this weekend, coz he's the dishwasher in the big house now. He doesn't work in the fields anymore and he must act like a civilised "nigger" when his chain is yanked on national tv.

  9. itsjustmacker, are we to stoop to the levels of the shinners by trying to brand Dolours Price a tout because she spoke to the press when she should have said nothing?

    Unlike the many Adamsite touts - outed and cast aside or outed but kept in SF and the whole thing ignored in the hope it'll go away - Dolours isn't well and hasn't been for a long time. I know of many who suffer like her because of what they have done and the drink is slowly killing them.

    What proof other than she spoke out of turn have you that she works for MI5? None I expect.

    Did the press approach her and ask for an interview? Did those who interviewed her hope to use what she said against Mackers and Ed?

    And in turn did Dolours, partly due to her illness, give the interview out of hatred for Adams...And maybe in the mistaken hope it could assist Mackers and Ed?

    Was she ambushed while she believed she was on the attack?

  10. Larry Hughes, The OO wouldn't let Marty within grovelling distance of any of their parades - idiotic as they are - because Marty's nothing more than a guard dog, something bought by the Brits to protect their wee statelet.

    Marty barks when told to bark and the the rest of the time his leg is cocked and pissing on we the working class.

    Watch Marty's arse the next time he is in the company of his masters, you might notice a slight wiggling.
    That's his tail wagging and not as you might think as the DUP and Brits had him neutered before they let him off the lead.

  11. Dixie

    i can't see what Delores has done wrong personally, other than to once more highlight a well proven liar. At this stage it's doubtful to make any difference. Adams and McGuinness have only one real fear, a new effective campaign and the brits dumping them. That is their nightmare scenario and the only thing that makes them dangerous. Dangerous to their former friends, no-one else.

  12. Dixie.

    If you read my comment correctly, I was Not Accussing dolores of anything , I KNOW how much Dolores is ill, Thats why I posted what was written in the Paper , if we can't debate scenarios to the extreme , what can we debate?, Yes, and she is not the only one who proved Adams and Co liars.
    I would say without a doubt that those interviews were given with extreme hate against adams and, others , like most of us who knew adams that he is a two faced habitual liar, does not the smirky smile say it all?, He kept himself clear of weapons, he was afraid to be caught in any car carrying them, he made it a rule, That anyone carrying weapons whilst driving him about would face the consequences, He has well covered his tracks, but, putting all that aside, The Brits know he was in the P.I.R.A., and, so do I.

    Dolores has done nothing wrong.
    As for a new effective campaign , I honestly believe that is in the distant future , again it boils down to, "Too many Brit and Eire agents within", and, PSF still has them to this very day, and, santions and aids them. We all know by now, Weapons must be at the forefront, but, getting them in has now become a task in itself, how do we get around this, New unknown blood, thats the only way.

  13. Itsjustmacker,

    and even were it to be shipped in by the ton, what would it achieve other than to see the new unknown blood spilled along with a lot of other blood? And all because old known blood still prattles on about the right of some tradition to kill in its own name.

    Experience should be a good teacher not an exhortation to go down the same old failed paths. Most people see war as a last resort, something to be deferred and deflected if at all possible. With republicans it seems to be the preferred option.

  14. An article that repeats a lot of what has been said and tried before and all failed – 1932 failed due to the playing of the Orange card. And today all similar attempts to achieve some form of unity between Catholic and Protestant working classes will fail also not solely because of the Orange card but because if it is to succeed, it is inevitable that the British will have to go first, and working class Unionists would rather starve than see that.

  15. Anthony and as always it turns out to be nothing more than "politicians with bombs"

  16. Anthony.

    The Brits have got what they intended to get, PSF on Board , I can't see any Rebelion taking place within the next 50 years, But, if these economic downturns continue and the oridinary working class people and unemployed are to continue to suffer, then it will be the working class who will rebel against the Dail and British Governments and europe for their failures and making the working class pay for it all. War is a last resort, painful as it sounds , You, I and thousands of others know what that war was like, But it was not for what we have today, and Ironically this comming Covenant parade by loyalist at the end of this month is nothing but a farse and it shows how ignorant those supporting it are, so here are the facts for all Those parading ;

    Have we not learned anything from our history at all?

    Maybe the problem is that too many unionists think and behave as though they are living in the past; as if 1912 and the political concerns of that time are as real, urgent and meaningful to them as the world of 2012 is to the rest of us.

    Ironically, what the pro-Covenant supporters were being offered a hundred years ago, which they vowed to resist with every last breath in their bodies, was devolved rule within the Empire — which is essentially what their latter-day inheritors have now settled for at Stormont.

    So, what are they actually celebrating.?

    But, hey, why let the facts get in the way of a gloriously drunken triumphant celebration for the same stormont?...

  17. Anthony.

    Sorry, I forgot to include the link of the last part of my post RE- Covenant March, It was a piece by , By Fionola Meredith In the belfast Telegraph Online, The comments on it are to say the least, unbelievable.


    It seems the True Blue Loyalist Bigots are not happy with there own Newspaper.

  18. itsjustmacker,

    for all of that there still seems no merit in armed campaigning. More dead, more lives blighted only for the same problems to reemerge.

    It is clear the Provisional IRA campaign failed but is another one any more likely to succeed?

  19. Anthony.

    "It is clear the Provisional IRA campaign failed"

    The P.I.R.A. failed because Adams Planned it.

    "but is another one any more likely to succeed?"

    If I knew the answer to that question, I would be considered a ; "Prophet" , But in reality, The answer would be, "Not in this century"

  20. mackers

    'Experience should be a good teacher not an exhortation to go down the same old failed paths. Most people see war as a last resort, something to be deferred and deflected if at all possible. With republicans it seems to be the preferred option.'

    Cathal Goulding said after the dismal failure of the border campaign that Republicans never thought about actually winning a war, they only seemed to think about starting one.

    Never say never regarding a renewed conflict, Goulding was angry at the lack of support in the north for the border campaign. A few years later 1969 exploded. The Covenant Parades etc will have the loyalists flaunting their latest victory all through Catholic areas. I just watched a 20Protestant young lad on BBC tell Gerry Kelly how walking past Catholic churches was his culture. Kelly couldn't even ask why did he have to practice his culture where it wasnt wanted, fuck off to a big field and beat a drum. Christ SF have sunk so far they can't even see it themselves! The tv is off and staying off.

  21. Larry,

    never say never is a prudent view. But conflicts that arise out of oppressive circumstances felt and experienced by a sizeable section of the population and where no pressure release valve exists, is one thing. Conflict arising because a tradition says it is its right to tell the rest of us to get lost and that it shall kill to free us while denying us any right to be free from it, is not something I rest easy with. I doubt you do either. Don't see that in your temperament!!

    SF's problem is that being interested only in power it has lost the plot. The DUP regard it as a pushover. A forner unionist politician asked me would the grassroots of SF put up with its leadership being humiliated by Robinson.

  22. mackers

    i was merely alluding to the fact just when you think things aresettled here, something crazy can happen. I think Marian and a few are acting in the traditional 'gesture' politics hoping to generate political reaction. Like the old fenians. The only ones i think capable of screwing up are the unionists and brits as i said before, many times they turn a victory into a disaster area.

  23. Itsjustmacker,

    The PIRA failed because Adams planned it.

    I don’t share this. I think he managed its defeat to his own personal advantage rather than planned it. I don’t see how any different leader could have won the war for the IRA.


    Goulding was right on that much if nothing else. It is funny to watch the Shinners following in his footsteps. He was supporting the supergrass system back in the 80s.

    Never say never regarding a renewed conflict

    That’s true but it seems highly unlikely. Yes, the peace could be damaged at various junctures but I don’t see a campaign similar to that waged by the Provos being repeated.