Eradicating Sectarianism: a long, long way to go

Party members (l:r)Tom Gillen, Joanne Lowry and Hugh Scullion at the launch of ‘Sectarianism: the Key Facts’ report at Parliament Buildings, Stormont

Sectarianism remains the single biggest obstacle to working class unity, but its eradication remains a long, long way off.

A research report, commissioned by the Equality Coalition, addressing the institutional aspects of sectarianism was launched at Parliament buildings Stormont, today.

The report makes the welcome move away from a focus on personal behaviours and ‘cross- community’ initiatives as a way of addressing sectarianism and focuses instead on some of its institutional and organisational aspects.

Difficulties and dangers

Welcome as that approach is it is not without its difficulties and dangers. Workforce imbalances in large organisations and big companies can result from a variety of often complex factors which cannot be over looked or simply dismissed.

Reducing an analysis of sectarian practice to a numbers game sheds no light and serves little purpose. So too with equating every adverse decision to a sectarian motive or using the accusation of sectarianism to address every ill .

Immediate steps

There are a number of immediate steps which could and should be taken to starts to process of eradicating sectarianism from our society. An integrated and secular education system, a Bill of Rights , an integrated housing programme and the criminalisation of sectarianism would be a good start.

However, for as long as institutionalised sectarianism forms the basis of government structures and practices, there will be no political leadership from Stormont and no pressure to address either sectarianism or the vested interests which help perpetuate it. There is still a very long way to go.

Death of John Jefferies

John Jefferies

The Northern Ireland Region of the Party is shocked and saddened at the untimely death of our esteemed comrade and friend, Comrade John Jefferies. John will be a serious loss to our Party at every level. He will be sadly missed by his comrades.

John was a good comrade, a committed Party member, someone who understood the fundamental importance of political ideas and the necessity for a radical transformation of the political, social and economic system in which we live. He understood well the nature of class and the class system and that capital confers political power which its ruling class uses to legitimise and protect its interests at the expense of the working class.

John had long service on the CEC and was a tireless member of the Party’s International Section and he had travelled frequently to meet with his international comrades in the Communist and Workers’ parties.
Comrade John Jefferies was a dedicated political activist, a committed Marxist-Leninist, a life-long fighter for the working class.

In acknowledgment of his long service to the Workers Party, the
Party in Northern Ireland recently made a presentation to John to mark his unstinting and loyal service to the Party.

Party members in Northern Ireland mourn the passing of a truecomrade. He will be deeply missed by us all.

Making Mental Health Matter

Party members at the launch of the new Mental Health Matters mural

A new wall mural highlighting mental health issues and providing information on support services has been unveiled in Belfast.

It takes the space previously occupied by the Workers Party anti-sectarian message on the Northumberland Street wall in a temporary arrangement between the Party and a group of local artists concerned about mental health.


The Party’s collaboration with  the local artists seeks to highlight mental health issues and signpost some of the services and help available to individuals, families and friends.

Regrettably it comes at an opportune time. The number of people taking their own lives  in Northern Ireland is the highest on these islands. The rate is almost twice that of England and deaths in the Belfast area remain the highest in Northern Ireland.

More people have now taken their own lives since the paramilitary ceasefires of 1994 than died during the period of ‘The Troubles’


The factors involved for each person can often be complicated, but research is consistently identifying the need for increased mental health service provision, rising drug and alcohol misuse, changes in family life and  expectations and the legacy of the ‘Troubles’ but austerity, high levels of poverty, social exclusion and disadvantage must be central to our understanding of this crisis.

Mental health matters and that needs to be demonstrated by the Northern Ireland Assembly. Funding, resources, service developments, long term strategies and new initiatives are all priorities but so too must be a commitment to address and tackle the root causes of much of our mental ill health.

Suicide statistics

  • Three times as many people die by suicide in Northern Ireland each year than are killed in road traffic collisions
  • A total of 219,000 people have been directly affected by suicide since 2005
  • More than 70% of people who die by suicide are not known to mental health services
  • 10% of 15-16 year olds have self-harmed at some stage
  • In 1970, 73 people took their own lives in Northern Ireland, according to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency
  • In 2013, there were more than 300 deaths – and that figure has remained largely the same since then

Source: BBC

‘We are deluding ourselves’

“Do we even listen to ourselves anymore”? Workers Party representative Chris Bailie has asked after this week’s announcement of work on the wall dividing the New Lodge and Tiger’s Bay areas.

“Media coverage, and some local commentators, have announced thatone of the oldest peace walls in Belfast has been demolished”. No it hasn’t, and there are no signs that it is going to be”, Chris says.

Grim reality

“Whatever the arguments that this somehow represents ‘progress’, the grim reality is that this dividing wall is being rebuilt, given a cosmetic make over and handed a new lease of life”. he said.

“We are deluding ourselves about what progress looks like, then we try to convince the rest of the world that this society is moving forward” added Chris.

“There are over 100 dividing walls and barriers in Northern Ireland. Over one third of them erected since the paramilitary ceasefires in 1994.

“North Belfast is scarred by them as they snake their way across and around the local community. We even have a dividing wall running through the middle of Alexandra Park”.

‘Progress’ ?

“Ten years ago, the Northern Ireland Assembly committed itself to the removal of all ‘peace walls’ by 2023.  Yet in 2020 the Alliance party’s Naomi Long in her role as Minster for Justice publicly welcomes the rebuilding of one of the oldest dividing walls in the city and calls it ‘progress’.

“We are told that one of the features of the new, modern, dividing wall in Duncairn will be an increase in natural light. Maybe those who see building barriers as progress would also like to shed some light on the continued educational segregation of school children and the extreme poverty, ill health, urban dereliction and low levels of educational achievement and employment which blight North Belfast and other areas.

That would be progress indeed”, concluded Chris.