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!