Republican Contradictions

Guest writer Sean Matthews asking questions of a new republican publication

The new republican newssheet The Proclamation produced by the Sean MacDiarmada Ardoyne branch of the republican umbrella group '1916 societies' exposes much of the contradictions implicit in the politics of the republican movement today. In the front page article it asks the question: 'Where is Our Leisure Centre?'  The article goes on to contrast facilities in the working class catholic & protestant areas of Belfast. The key section reads:

after more than thirty years of constitutional politics and representation, the nationalist people of North Belfast have very few benefits to show, particularly in the way of leisure or sports facilities. It is now time for the politicians who claim to represent the interest of people from Ardoyne, Marrowbone, Mountain View, Ligoniel, New Lodge, Carrick Hill, Newington, Little America, Glandore and Bawnmore to deliver on the promises they make every election time and finally get a leisure centre and other sports facilities built. While there are Leisure centres in Ballysillan, the Grove on York road, the Shankill leisure centre and the Valley leisure centre, all Unionist areas of North Belfast the people of Tiger’s bay, Rathcoole, the Shankill, Woodvale and Ballysillan are well taken care of by their public representatives!

While as anarchists we clearly agree that politicians promise the earth at election time and have delivered very little to working class communities apart from betrayals and disempowerment this is true across the sectarian divide.  To frame this common class issue as one of Orange and Green or even ‘nationalist v loyalist parties’ is sectarian and reactionary playing to a populist agenda based on fear and scapegoating of the 'other side'. This ignores the reality of living in this rotten capitalist society which fosters exploitation, inequality, deprivation and state repression.

Articles such as this are a reflection of the contradictions within Irish republicanism which here amounts to little more than a form of ‘catholic nationalism’  - in some quarters with a strong sectarian communal dynamic. Such a strategy with its ridiculous assumptions that ‘all unionist areas of North Belfast are well taken care of by their public representatives offers no attraction to those who do not share the romanticised myth of Ireland gaelic and free. Not only is such an assumption false and incorrect it also completely misunderstands underlying divisions in protestant working class areas. 

In this article the publication exposes the reality of a republican movement and ideology that remains confined to one section of the working class communities. Mass unemployment, decimation of the manufacturing sector, increasing poverty, slashing of public services and rising cost of living has not respected one creed over another. Educational under-achievement amongst protestant working class boys from the Shankill for instance is one the highest in the North.

The article claims ‘The difference in leisure and sports facilities between Catholic and Protestant areas is stark; it is to such an extent that it is blatantly sectarian for all to see...’ Nothing about capitalism or the recent recession ii be found here! What is much more stark than the difference between the working class communities is the difference between us, the working class majority and the small wealthy minority who have most of the wealth and power.

For more on this divide.

A common thread running through this publication is the concept of the Orange State. But the Orange state based on sectarian privilege has long been smashed by the struggles of the last 40 years and resurrected as an alternative sectarian carve-up based on contesting ethnic/sectarian blocs administering rule from Britain.  This is not to overlook the reality that sectarian harassment and discrimination is alive and well but now largely confined to the private sector and some party political dominated local councils. We need to get beyond the smoke and mirrors of various forms of nationalism and unionism.  These only serve to sow further division, suiting opportunist politicians and bosses. 

While segments of Irish republicanism have chosen to campaign and expose issues affecting ‘their’ community alone, anarchists organise and campaign for unity and solidarity across the sectarian divide.  This is because we recognise that it is only by building a united working class movement in these islands and beyond that will we finally put a nail in the coffin of the root cause of all our problems - capitalism!


  1. Mark
    Would that be the glorious revolutionary 'Workers Party' that I'm familiar with. You know, the one with more splits than you could throw a banana at. The one who paid wages as a percentage of robberies and extortion rackets. The same one that gave us such luminaries as Eoghan Harris and Proinsas De Rossa.
    You know Mark, maybe their principles were noble. Is'nt it just a pity their hands were always in the till and their eyes on the next rung of the career ladder. And is'nt it funny that these so called socialist idealists never wanted to live 'working class' lives.
    It sort of reminds me of another bunch of Neo-Stick gangsters, that pay themselves an 'industrial working mans' wage',having corralled us all into this unionist/ brit run six county dystopia.
    I'm all for 'stepping outside sectarian ultra nationalism'. I'm just not prepared to piss away the past suffering of the true republican community,to fill the pockets of liars and hypocrites.

  2. truthrevisionist

    Totally agree with you. As for none sectarianism, preaching that to loyalism is akin to askin a dog to stop chasing cats. Stuffed before you start. Defeat loyalism and then and only then, treat them as we wish ALL Irish men and women to be treated. Anyone devoting their time to grovelling to loyalism is pathetic and deluded.

  3. The people of north belfast who have struggled fo 40 years and still do are being sectarian by highlighting sectarianism is confusing to say the least, this article has more that likely been written by someone who has or will never experince the reality of having to explain to there childern why they dont have proper leisure facilities,why the ORANGE ORDER march over them every summer or why when there adults an ORANGE MINISTER will not grant time social housing(girdwood etc)because there a catholic.
    the author would do better to come out of one of them city centre bars and get involved with working class people either it be in ardoyne on the issues they have or with the people of tigers bay and stop snipeing from the sidelines at people who are trying to get there community of there knees.

  4. Treehugger have you ever thought that it may now suit quisling $inn £ein to have the people on their knees,after all when peoples daily lives are given up to worrying about eat or heat issues,then they will surely not have their eyes firmly fixed on the lack of proper representation,when we witnessed the debacle over Girdwood barracks site I think then the message to the people of north Belfast was loud and clear i.e, vote for monkeys,get tree climbers!

  5. Good on the authors of The Proclamation for bringing this issue to the forefront - for the lack of leisure services is a massive issue for people in north Belfast who have to travel to the west for a swim or risk getting the head blattered off them in the shankill, ballysillan or the valley.

    I'm all for working class unity but the reality is that sectarian inequality in areas such as housing & leisure in north Belfast means that working class unity will have to take a back seat while nationalists fight for their very basic rights.

    Yes, educational attainment in working class boys on the shankill is appallingly low - despite millions being poured into the shankill early years project over the last two decades & even more in neighbourhood renewal money.. Much more than has been given to their nationalist neighbours in ardoyne, new lodge and carrick hill. The legacy of the feuds, lack of positive role models & of course the downsizing of the ship yard & factories etc are all contributory factors adding to the 'run of the mill' social issues faced by working class communities the world over.

    The truth of the matter is protestant working class communities in the north have had a far fairer crack of the whip, a far greater hand up the ladder, than their nationalist counterparts. So it's all very well talking about unity when nationalists within working class districts continue to be even more deprived & discriminated
    against than loyalists.

    PS: I retract my earlier comments about the Carrick Hill residents group. It seems they were eventually led by the nose.

  6. Reply to treehugger,

    You see that's the problem with making silly assumptions in your response. I actually come from a republican background with one half of my family born and bred in Ardoyne.

    I was actually in two minds whether to write something in response to this publication and was actually waiting from other sections of republicanism to challenge its sectarian narrative. Needless to say nothing was forthcoming so I felt it was important to do so.

    They completely miss the mark given that BCC's current considerations are around closing leisure centres in favour of private provision, never mind opening new ones!

    In relation to the 'Orange State', even the likes of republican writer Tommy McKearney has recognised the Orange state is dead and buried. I understand it is easy to buy into this sectarian cycle that one side is getting more than the other and on this basis and logical alone therefore Im sure the nearby Shankill have alot to be angry about than considering they have the lowest level of third level attainment in the North? The result of discrimination? Or as I have pointed out the result of a right wing tory administration at Stormont that has little to overturn decades of neglect and underinvestment in our communities.

    Yep Mark is right about the Sticks willingness the challenge sectarianism but Im sure he agrees that the approach they eventually was the wrong one as they ended up endorsing the rotten sectarian state, RUC as stalin's henchmen..

  7. Was the protest at girdwood during the olympics torch tour sectarian sean?? as the people who organised it where demanding houses for catholics and i couldve swore you where you were in attendence at that protest.
    So im still confused to say the least.

  8. Yes, I was present at that protest and no it is not a sectarian issue. However, I do think that it was unhelpful and counter-productive to organise the protest at a 'flashpoint' which was an attempt by some quarters to green the issue. There were other sections along the route where it could of been organised and some other people present felt this too. How about actually building links with working class people on the Shankill who also face similar housing issues and lack of youth and leisure facilities? Until we start even thinking about this question and looking outside the box we forever be held to ransom by property developers, sectarian politicians an co.

  9. Ardoyne community activist and republican Alan lundy has been released on bail.

  10. Sean
    'how about building links with working class people on the shankill who also face similar housing and lack of youth and leisure facilities'

    Firstly, THEY have all the youth and leisure facilities as has already been pointed out. As for housing, there is no housing shortage in any of these loyalist areas. Go to Denmark st. and start working your way up the shankill and see how many new- builds are either boarded up or are occupied by single men having rave parties at the weekend. Go to Tigers Bay. Its a new -build fucking ghost town as is lower Oldpark and upper Ardoyne. These people don't need new houses, they need new brains, because they're in a mindlock that is being fed by bigots like McCausland who want to give 'not an inch' to 'taig' families in need.
    I get so sick of sentimental nationalists wanting to 'build links' with these people. The only 'links' they want, are the 'links' of their chains, that keep us in submission.
    Do you really think those fucking animals that defiled catholic churches at the weekend want to be your 'working class ' friend?


    Planning meeting for the event for Marian Price, Martin Corey and
    Gerry McGeough Thursday October 4th 6 pm O'Lunney's 45 Street between
    6th and 7th Avenue.

    We need your input to make this event a success.

    The prisoners desperately need our help:

    This week Marian Price was too ill to appear in court even by video conference.

    Martin Corey had his bail hearing postponed indefinitely.

    Gerry McGeough will be released in January but he, like Marian and
    Martin, could be put back in prison on the basis of secret evidence.

    We hope to see you there.

    Sandy Boyer and Michael Patrick MacDonald - Free Marian Price Campaign, US
    Joe Flaherty and Pat Williams - Release Martin Corey Campaign, US
    Martin Galvin and Helen MClafferty - Free Gerry McGeoough Campaign, USA

    Sandy Boyer

  12. Sorry to butt in with a Question-but does anyone know about medals-

    There is a photo in todays Irish news [ page 8-9 ] of the east belfast UVF band and two of its members are wearing medals- both look to be in their eary 20s so they could have got their medals in Afganistan or Iraq- the pair of them are probley still in the brit army- cant be their fathers or grandfathers medals because the bandsmen have them on their left side-

  13. belfast bookworm

    'I retract my earlier comments about the Carrick Hill residents group. It seems they were eventually led by the nose'.

    Was i on the money re SF and community groups? Just curious, you are there i'm in the south, so i'm wondering.

  14. Mickybroy I cant make them out a cara but look at the eyes of the geek at the front def ex dummy tit,

  15. Larry: You were always on the money about SF & community groups - their policy of infiltration to control hasn't changed since the days of the tenants associations etc.

    Regarding this latest incident of Carrick Hill residents V the OO, it had genuinely started off as a resident-led campaign. However, slowly but surely it seemed that the SF/Stoops/Irsp line of 'let's respect difference, diversity & all that shite' seeped through and all of a sudden the residents thought it was a great idea to be dignified in their protest - if protest is what it was.

    The parades commission breathed a huge sigh of relief because the residents made their decision for them when they said they had no problem with a march & as a result sf breathed out because their nice wee process of peace hasn't been rattled & they've one less flashpoint to worry about.

    Funding & community jobs is what some people in CH will say was the reason behind the move. Sure you wouldn't believe that for a second!

  16. belfast bookworm

    It has long since dawned upon me that the removal of the backbone has replaced the green book where the republican movement are concerned. Don't mind in the least the discarding of the wee green book, but i for one am retaining me backbone!

  17. The OO is not about respecting difference. It is an institution with foundational sectarian qualities that thrives on superior notions vis-a-vis the 'other'. Residents groups should be wary of the wolf in sheep's clothing when considering meeting with the Orangemen to discuss contentious marches. For it is the very institution that is contentious.

  18. "yes, i was present at the protest and no it is not a sectarian issue " sean, im still confused can you explain to me how protesting for catholics to have equal and proper housing is not sectarian but protesting for catholics to have equal and proper sport,health and leisure facilities is.

  19. I was not there to protest for Catholics given I am not one. I was present to protest against sectarian allocation of housing and for housing based on needs.

    An article I wrote on the issue

  20. so why do you not have a problem with people highlighting the sectarian alloctation of leisure,sport and health facilities, when you are part of highlighting sectarian alloctation of houses.
    this is want i cant understand unless your telling me that ardoyne,the newlodge,the bone,ligoneil,bawnmore,carrickhill etc dont need sport,leisure and health facilities and im not stating this because there catholics,there human beings and i would me stating this injustice if it was happening to the protestants or the polish community or who ever.
    and im not a cathoilc either sean.

  21. Firstly, I don't believe their is a sectarian policy of discriminating on the basis of leisure centres today.

    The whole article flawed from start to finish based on a sectarian premise. Is devoid of any class analysis and blames the 'other' community rather than a right wing Tory policy imposed by Stormont.

    The same sectarian cycle of blaming them prods and 'orangies' rather than the root cause of the problem.

    I have also spoke to other republicans in relation to this article and they too believe a bit of 'house-keeping' is in order.

    To take this a step forward, the reason why I oppose Orange Order parades through contentious areas is not to defend the catholic community, but because it is a sectarian counter-revolutionary organisation that targets 'dis-loyal' prods as much as anyone else.

    Incidently, membership levels for the OO are at the lowest ever due to the rise of secularism more than anything else.

  22. Sean take a look at the locations of leisure facilities swimmimng pools etc in the Lisburn area and tell me its not sectarian,one small Brooke activity centre located in Twinbrook to serve Twinbrook,Poleglass,and Lagmor,ffs.

  23. it clearly blames caral cullen as culture/sports minister and the misrepersentaion from sf/sdlp at stormont and city council as well as unionist politicans.
    sean are you really saying that the nationalist community in north belfast are not being treated like second class citizens and are not victims of sectarianism with the allocation of sport,leisure and health facilities.For the whole of Ardoyne,New lodge,The bone,ligonel,carrickhill,bawnmore etc they have nothing not a football pitch,not a proper gaelic pitch,not 1 3g pitch,in ardoyne not even a pre creche facilitie,no leisure centre to use fucking nothing.
    While we have ballysillan leisure centre and football pitches,the valley(rathcoole) leisure centre and football and hockey pitches,the grove leisure(tigers bay) centre,
    loughshore(mount vernon) pitches and facilities,the shankill leisure centre and mutiple facilities and i could go on and on.
    so sean maybe you should take a walk around north belfast or try and rare and family in it and and then say that the allocation of facilities is not sectarian.

  24. sean

    'counter-revolutionary' ???

    zzzzzzzzzzz where are you exactly..Mindanao? Please tell me you're not in Stormont talking that antiquity..

  25. The last thing Belfast needs is another rates-sapping leisure centre.

    If someone from north Belfast, where I live, is too lazy to get to the nearby centres like the Falls, they probably wouldn't be darkening the door of a leisure centre anyway.

  26. belfast gonzo

    'If someone from north Belfast, where I live, is too lazy to get to the nearby centres like the Falls, they probably wouldn't be darkening the door of a leisure centre anyway.'

    priceless i doubt if anyone posting about the issue ever uses one haha

  27. Rather facetious to read that some people honestly believe life is so fab for the loyalist community. Having grown up in Rathcoole and Monkstown, during most of the conflict, it should be well noted that we had nothing in those areas. Even to this day, the DUP etc do not even bother to get help for the youth in our area. Rathfern youth club had zero funding. We had an old pool table, a foam ball and a few other little pieces that were donated to the club from locals. Poverty was just as much in loyalist areas as it was in republican areas. Though, come election time we have the DUP coming around the doors promising that everything will change and it never does. The majority of the positive changes within Monkstown, Rathcoole, Rathfern have all came about from the hard work of the local PUP and UPRG. They had to fight and fight to get anything out of the government to help the community.
    We need to come together as one and work for the benefit of all communities.

  28. No housing shortage in loyalist areas? well ok then, despite the 2 year waiting list for Rathcoole, Rathfern is 3 years, Monkstown is 2 years.

  29. The Ballysillan Leisure Centre is in a PUL area but is used by both sides of the community in equal numbers.

  30. Maitiu: I don't think anyone on here believes that life was/is 'fab' for loyalist communities. It has simply been pointed out that nationalists were and are the unequals among unequals.

    I think it was Roddy Doyle who said that the Irish were the blacks of Europe. Well nationalists are the blacks of the north and if you believe otherwise then you really should walk a mile in the shoes of one.

    Rathcoole and its surrounding areas are undoubtedly deprived, but if you consider statistics, rathcoole is far better off, sitting at around rank 30 in terms of multiple deprivation than say Ardoyne, a community of similar size, that sits at around rank 7. This means that in terms of employment, housing, education, health and access to services, rathcoole is better off.

    I agree with your point of us all needing to come together as one but until you recognise inequality then we'll get nowhere.

    Andy1690; you are a fool. Ballysillan LC is most definitely not used equally by the catholic community.

    Fear, Mobility and Living in the Ardoyne
    and Upper Ardoyne Communities, a research study carried out by Peter Shirlow through UU found that on 16% of Catholics from Ardoyne used ballysillan while 84% of Protestants from Glenbryn used it.

    Can you cite where you got your figures from?

  31. Belfast Bookworm.
    I Agree with Maitiu , but not with the figures he quoted, But i agree with him that we should all get together , but, that would be like Goliath beating David, or, was that just a myth, until those opposed to nationalists realise we are all fighting the same battle for equality and those in power living on the highest hill they can find , paid for by us morons who voted for them whilst we, when I say "we", I mean every working class person on this Island of which we all live, only, and, only when we all decide enough is enough , shall we win and we shall all be equals, No Upper , No Lower Classes, Just one class irespective of class or creed.

  32. Itsjustmacker, I agree with every single thing you say but until every working class man & woman recognises that their so called counterparts who kick with the other feet are actually far more likely to be discriminated against in jobs, education, housing blah blah blah, then working under the banner of equality is a non starter.

    Protestant working classes are treated like shite - sure you've only to look at the houses around the Donegall Road, many of which still have outside toilets or the vested land on the Shankill set aside for private developers, but that doesn't take away from the fact that nationalists get a much more unfair deal.

    That's not me spurting some nationalist conspiracy either
    - that's statistical fact. The DSD, the department responsible for addressing deprivation like this have even been known to bury reports showing how better of PUL communities are than nationalists so that they can justify pouring money into communities unequally. One such report was around 2001 & carried out by PriceWaterhouseCoopers - perhaps Matiu & Andy1690 would care to go digging for it & one they see the evidence they might even change their minds.

  33. Sean, just to let you know Davey Larmour(former British and irish boxing champion) from the Shankill Rd helped with the launch of the Wristband"we demand leisure facilities now" campaign in Ardoyne today.

  34. Sean.

    I just clicked on the link you gave above.

    Thats an exellent piece you wrote.
    Seems we are equal thinkers.

    And your connolly quote, "You Can't Eat Flags", just said it all.
    Credit were credit is due.

  35. Maitiu Skywalker

    Thanks for taking the time to make your comment. It is welcome here. While I agree that poverty seeks at all times to burrow its way into the already impoverished, Belfast Bookworm did present figures that would suggest the ‘poverty hits all equally’ perspective is not without flaws.