10 Years on from the Good Friday Agreement

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The war may be long over and our political rulers have finally decided to get it together but there has been no ceasefire in the class war against working-class people both locally and globally despite the promises of ‘prosperity’. With the onset of economic ‘recession’, continued decimation of our manufacturing industry and public services, increase in the cost of living (energy costs such as heating and electricity have risen by over 30% since 2006 never mind 1998), lack of affordable housing combined with the lowest wages in the UK and highest level of people on incapacity benefits in the UK, the wee ‘North’ isn’t a bed of roses that our rulers are keen to promote. Sectarian divisions institutionalised under the voting system at Stormont, and racist attacks are more evident and visible now more than ever as the ‘peace-walls’ have got higher and there are more of them.

The fact that sectarian divisions have been copper-fastened at Stormont, is more than just moaning from the ‘left’. Its affects have been detrimental - we have been left to pick up the pieces from their continued bickering for the crumbs from Westminster’s table, in which a victory for one community is seen as a ‘perceived’ defeat by the other. This was witnessed in the riots in protestant working-class areas in 2005 over a sense of powerlessness and alienation over ‘perceived’ triumphalised advances by nationalists.

This should all come to no surprise considering the folks on the hill are implementing neo-liberal policies such as the incoming water charges, continued privatisation of public assets and making the north more ‘business’ friendly for investors such as pushing for a cut in the corporation tax that are designed to rip us off and benefit the rich. According to latest research by the Department of Social Development, ‘one in three households are living in fuel poverty’ (Belfast Telegraph, 28/03/08) an increase of over 7% since 1998.

The recent brutal slaying of Frank ‘Bap’ McGreevy in Belfast and many others is endemic of the ‘peace process’ in which working-class communities have been ignored and failed to reap the rewards of the new era yet endured the most bereavement during the ‘conflict’. In the latest report produced by the Committee for the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister claimed that ‘over 100,000 of the north’s children are living in poverty’ (Irish News, 09/01/08). Anti-social behaviour has always been beneath the surface despite the actions and perceived control by paramilitaries in the past and today who continue to be a scourge in our communities.

The level of ‘scaremongering’ from the media demonising whole working-class communities and young people is also contributing to an atmosphere of fear and mistrust. Who’s agenda are they serving as it’s certainly not ours? Some people unfortunately did and still turn to the paramilitaries for help, they are all too often eager to maintain some level of ‘law and order’ in their interests and more importantly provide a bulwark against anyone who would question their authority over issues such as the murder of Robert McCartney(2005) and Paul Quinn in South Armagh last year.

However, we should not be under any illusions that ‘anti-social behaviour’ will be sorted out by the powers at be whether under the guise of local political parties and PSNI (who have all too often provided a ‘safe-haven’ or financial support to such thugs). Quick-fix calls for ‘zero-tolerance’ provide the green light for an intensification in police brutality and fails to address the underlying root causes of crime such as poverty, despair, poor housing etc. Only by standing together, organising and praticising solidarity where we live and work will we begin to empower ourselves and build confidence.

A stronger, more militant and confident working class will be able to and must, take on responsibility for tackling anti-social crime in its own communities, because the police won’t do it and neither will any future devolution of policing powers to Stormont. In the future we need a system that is not bound to capitalism or acts as the enforcer of the state but that can, and will, make use of investigatory skills, ‘forensics’ and a ‘closed environment’ for those repeating offenders, to tackle what anti-social crime will still remain after the crime that is capitalist exploitation has been eradicated. Policing will always be political under any Government, as it exists primarily to protect the wealth and power of the ruling-class, and its attitude in terms of call-outs and response to ‘crime’ etc will always be secondary to ‘national security’ in working-class communities. Only recently we witnessed the state exercising its armed forces and resources in ‘spectacular’ fashion against alleged threat to ‘national security’ from ‘dissident’ republican groups not witnessed in some time.

On the Offensive

For eight years we were offered much but given so little in return, but as recent struggles around housing and the victory of a sacked migrant worker in Delaney’s restaurant in Belfast and other workplace struggles is anything to go by, it’s never too late. It is only through forging links, identifying causes and developing our collective strength that we will ultimately achieve our goals and become masters of our own destiny, not in the useless corridors of Westminster or Stormont nor from Dublin which only offers us more attacks on our standard of living and more profits for the rich.

References
Jason Brannighan (Organise!), Anarchist Black Cross ‘Exposing prison abuse and torture in the north’

WORDS: Sean Matthews

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