Brick Walls, Sectarianism and Citizenship

Political, social and economic life here has come to an almost complete stop.

Twenty-five years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and its overwhelming endorsement by the vast majority of people on this island we are left facing a brick wall with little, if any, prospect of progress.

The Agreement offered new hope and optimism, but the vicious and deadly battles between British and Irish nationalism, played out on our streets for thirty years, is now being replicated in Stormont and the Assembly, characterised by the all too familiar debasements of negativity, tribal confrontation and, sectarianism.

Perhaps now is the time to review our relationships and seek a way out of the political cul-de-sac we have been forced down by Sinn Fein and the DUP.

More than fifty years ago thousands of people in Northern Ireland took to the streets campaigning for a better, more equitable, society. Their demands were not devalued by issues of cultural identity, community background or tribal loyalties.

Relationships

Perhaps now is the time to review our relationships and seek a way out of the political cul-de-sac we have been forced down by Sinn Fein and the DUP.

If there is no way through the wall then we must go around it. Not as Catholics, or Protestants, not as unionists or nationalists. Not as British, Irish, Northern Irish or any other origin. Those of us who believe that better is possible and who refuse to sit and wallow in the sectarian status quo need a basis, a platform, on which to progress and to move society forward.

The concept of socialist citizenship, based on class politics, working class unity and solidarity, would help to re-define our relationships and responsibilities to each other and to the institutions of government through clear and guaranteed relationships underpinned by a Bill of Rights.

Tribal positions

Of course, there will be those who will not want to avail of such an opportunity. There will be those who will actively oppose it in an attempt to tie the rest of us into their tribal positions. But the choice is there for those of us who want to explore the possibilities offered on the other side of the political brick wall that we have been facing for the last twenty-five years. Citizenship offers a way forward.

Unless we re-calibrate our relationships and understanding of each other we, and our children, will be facing this same brick wall in twenty-five and fifty-years time.

The Sinn Fein / DUP strategy has been to manipulate and manage sectarianism, rather than seeking to eradicate it. The failure to tackle sectarianism therefore has nullified much of the good intent contained within the God Friday Agreement.

Tackling sectarianism

We cannot afford to do nothing and hope that time alone will resolve this issue. Unless, and until, the issue of sectarianism is comprehensively tackled, we will never realise the vision of a new society which leaves behind the out-dated attitudes and prejudices which have been the cause of so much misery and despair.

Those of us who oppose sectarianism must organise as strongly and as stubbornly as those who promote and profit from it. The concept of socialist citizenship gives us that commonality and base camp from which to progress

Socialist citizenship is not a silver bullet. It is not a quick fix panacea.

However, it could form the basis for a constructive, respectful and forward looking society, as an alternative to backward, parochial ethnocentricity. Neither Sinn Fein nor the DUP can hold out that hope

Irresponsible and immature

The Workers Party has criticised what it terms the “irresponsible and politically immature” decision by Billy Hutchinson and the PUP to withdraw support for the GFA as a form of protest against the NI Protocol.

The WP claims that the decision risks political instability, shifts the focus away from resolving Protocol issues and will be seen to lend support to the inexcusable and inflammatory remarks of the European Union threatening ‘war’ in the event of the triggering of Article 16.