The Irish Peace Process and the Working Class


The progress of the Irish Peace process has been both a long and turbulent one. It had seen the development in recent times of the once unimaginable, with Ian Paisley the leader of the DUP and Sinn Fein's Martin McGuiness sharing Power within the local administration. Since then, Paisley has stood down and Peter Robinson has taken over such leadership roles. No doubt in the years ahead many will attempt to pull the threads together of how such in it’s entirety had been moved to happen. Yet with now seeing such an administration up and running, has it delivered beneficial change for working class communities, and more importantly what change, if any, has there been for working class communities since the ending of the ‘war’.In reality while the recent war affected most in society, it was the working class communities, which witnessed most of the day and daily out working’s of it. These where also the communities in which most of the support, from all ages, was offered and provided. And without such support, the war could not have been carried out to the extent and for the duration that it had been.

In the beginning the very real issues of poverty, discrimination, injustice, and more, had seen democratic protests, marches and non violent dis -obedience, brutality repressed and attacked by the state and its supporters.

With selective internment of the Nationalist community and with the increased brutality and murder of innocent civilians on the streets, many young people in those ghettoes where then driven to react against the states intensifying brutality. In doing so it had seen many join the groups that could provide defence then the means to hit back, with the overwhelming majority joining the various Republican organisations, such as the IRA.

On the other hand in the Unionist – Loyalist ‘community’ many felt that it was their State and their people that was under attack with the increasing offensive from the IRA. And so with that, and with the Help of the Biblical and Political rants at the time, of Ian Paisley, many again joined Unionist – Loyalist Paramilitary’s, in belief that this was to Protect ‘God and Ulster’.

Yet it was not a matter of the state trying to keep two warring factions apart, as many would attempt to portray. The problem stemmed from the very nature of the state, and throughout the war through to the Peace Process, the state and its agencies where an integral part of all of that. From collusion through to the direction of many involved, there is much evidence and facts that support those claims.

Yet we have got to today, and have seen thousands of deaths and murders, with tens of thousands of others injured and maimed. We also have those hidden scars that see many finding it hard to deal with the memories of before, or indeed, for some, just finding it impossible to cope with those changed times. Due to this many suffer mental illness and this sees many turning to drink and drugs to attempt to quash such pain and illness. Then there is the early deaths through such sufferings or indeed by the taking of ones own life. Many of these issues during this ‘New era’ remain, and in many cases remain ‘hidden’.

The reality is, that what we have now we could have had many years ago. But given the ideology within some organisations coupled with the International politics of militancy and struggle of the time, and the reality of continued repression and brutality on our streets, the war continued.

There is no doubt that where we where then and where we are now is a better place, to an extent. As in years gone by and on the streets within many such working class communities of the time it was a different world as to what we have now. This in terms of the open war, and the witnessing of the daily killings, maiming, repression and brutality. Daily life on many occasions was for many literally dodging bullets and walking past the burnt out vehicles, shells of once homes and the debris of struggle that littered the streets. Childhood in such working class communities was to day and daily witness such and for many more it was to actively get involved at various levels.

Then we had the real poverty that had seen many receiving European aid in the form of food and clothing, and of course discrimination was rife for the Nationalist community in many areas of employment, through to housing and welfare. And while the Unionist working class communities had the benefit of the traditional industries and in many cases such being centred on those areas where father then son could be guaranteed jobs etc, in many cases their situation in terms of housing, etc was as bad.

For the unionist- loyalist working class it was portrayed, to many, as your situation may be bad but not as bad as the ‘others’. This has long been a situation used by Colonial, Party and Capitalist interests to create and maintain division on many lines. In our case it was the wrapping of a flag over the kitchen table to attempt to take away from the poor surroundings and of what little was placed on the table to feed many such families, more especially as traditional industries declined.

And so with that decline rhetoric intensified to then attempt to staple that flag to many such tables to try and cloak the increasing miserable surroundings of such working class communities.

Eventually working class communities began to tire and in many occasions actively opposed the war as many wanted also a different future for their children. And so within such communities and workers movement’s calls and mobilisations where initiated to attempt to effect change while in the back ground the beginnings of a Peace strategy was being initiated by those at the forefront of the recent Irish war.

It was these workers movements that brought Catholic and Protestants together which initially saw some working on the ground to attempt to ‘heal’ division. It was in these workers movements supported across the communities that then began to visibly mobilise against sectarian attacks, threats and murders and with that groundswell from below the peace strategy intensified. This eventually led to the largest such mobilisation against such sectarian murder after the murder of a young Catholic postal worker Daniel McColgan in 2002. Tens of thousands of citizens Catholic Protestant and Dissenter mobilised in Belfast, with thousands more in other towns and cities after rank and file activists in unions including the CWU {Postal workers union} and within wider society pressed for action. And so, with those postal workers walkouts and that ground swell from below, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions was moved into taking action.

It was almost 27 years after Ian Paisley with other’s, during the Loyalist Ulster workers strike that had brought down the power sharing agreement by ‘Closing down Northern Ireland, that all around communities, within trade unions and on the front pages of some of the North’s main media at the time of Daniels murder had carried the Slogan as advertised on a poster ‘Close down Northern Ireland’. This time though it was a unity of citizens across the communities that echoed that call against sectarianism, and not of that on division for it.

Then over the next few years from 2002 onwards in tandem with the continuing Peace process thousands and indeed tens of thousands of Catholics and Protestants again started to stand together on issues International and local. From opposition to the War in Iraq and International Poverty through to standing against Racism and for Gay Rights they mobilised in their thousands. Yet within this there had been those who had attempted to wrap the flag around various issues but now, it was a differing era, ‘a New era’, and those essential issues where to ascend above the flag for many working class citizens.

Saying that does not mean that the flag is not, cannot, and will not be used to divide the working class. Indeed as I said from the onset it is a tool used for Colonial and Capitalist interest amongst others. Nevertheless such unity should be worked for as it is not only on that basis of class and unity that we should stand together on issues of concern, but fundamentally it is only through the working class that we can bring a complete change to the status quo, and therefore seizing our real political and economic freedom.

Yet what does this ‘New era’ entail.

Well presently we are seeing the development of a process from ‘War to ‘Peace. Those at the forefront of those times, and brutality was lashed out by all sides, have in many cases seen those same people seeking a way forward for Peace. Even with Ian Paisley despite his past it had seen him move to voicing for such a holistic future for all citizens in the North. Indeed such a situation of seeing the new administration could not have happened without him.

So while we all have that past, it is what one does in the present as to move forward for a better future that many may be judged on. Indeed without that ‘Change of mind, and understanding we would remain still in the status quo.

Yet that change away from the brutality of war sees still many struggles within working class communities. The struggle for amenities such as the renewal of parks and environmental resources, of new educational and community services have and continue to be a battle, not only to establish such but in many cases simply to keep them open and functioning. Poverty is still all around such communities as is the situations raised through the implementing of the neo liberalist agenda. Privatisation of services, the impending water charges, the huge housing and hospital waiting lists, there are indeed many issues or working class concern and for such working class struggles. And for many families the struggle continues still for truth and justice of all that had went before

Then we have the aspiration of various politic parties who seek to fulfil their goals, now though within the dynamics of such a Peace process

Yet for many more, moving to where we are now has though provided many more working class citizens with opportunities they have not before had. And in reality, for many it was that very opportunity for the material benefits and opportunities of life for their children that many struggled for, albeit within the politic of class and the realistic ambition afforded within that. As the Peace Process continues the issue of concern for most within such working class communities will differ little may it be Ballymurphy to Ballymun, Ballybeen to Bradford, and it is on that basis and understanding of class that Anarchist struggle continues. Coupled with that, we now have the credit crunch and economic downturn, the housing situation and the soaring prices of essentials, and so pressure mounts on working and vulnerable families.

With that though we see the stalemate at Stormont where wider issues and the politic within, ascend above the day and daily lives of such families in need. And so for many families who look to such governance for such help at the time of need, they see but the table tennis politics of grandeur as opposed to the politic of day and daily need. For Anarchists though, our understanding lays not within such Governance but on organising and mobilising within our class and in doing so raising the consciousness and self activity to win such gains.

As the administration reaches a crucial juncture in the short month ahead, we will see if the ‘politics for the people or if the politics for the party’ wins out. Whatever the case, for - Unionists in Party - such continual Governance lays in their hands. As for Nationalists who in the past had sat at the back of the bus of such Governance, and who now sit at the front and hold one part of the wheel with one hand. They are prepared to work with the other hand at the wheel in equal partnership if ‘embraced’ – and indeed whatever the case, there will be no going back to what was dished out before – in that regard.

Such governance of 'partnership' was voted for by the people of the isle, and if party politics ascends greater - its effect will give real succour and a growing platform for several steps back to the brutality of before.

This process of course and for the citizens who voted for it, they indeed have that right to seeing such governance succeed. And for Anarchist’s while the end of the war was a step forward the sectarianism institutionalised within the executive – and growing more visible, was something that we had long pointed out. Of course if the upcoming hurdles are overcome - no doubt, in time, a more staple form of structure for governance will eventually come to the fore

Anarchists though see governance as power taken out of the hands of the people, and what better example of the powerlessness for those that voted for such, as the watching now of the table tennis politics at Stormont while for many their day and daily living gets harder.

Yet within working class communities it is there that the collective power to effect change, not only for gains, but ultimately for real change lies as opposed to such governance, and it is there that Anarchists concentrate our work.

With the ending of war, we see still those who hold on to weaponry and who seek still to continue such war. The reality is that this is a cul- de- sac, and one that will leave many young people in prison, with little future after, or indeed going to the grave. Indeed at the height of the war and the huge support the IRA had got from within many working class communities the outcome was war to a standstill. With little support for the present ‘Dissident’ republican groups and with their huge infiltration - ideology it seems ascends above reality. The reality is that many of the ‘ visible ills’ that drove many to support in various ways the recent war, by and large have been dealt with or are being dealt with to a large extent. There are of course many other issues still of working class concern as I have pointed out within this article, but it is not issues that citizens will presently take up arms over. The issue of the National question again the majority of citizens of the isle have gave their voice as to how they want to see that presently progressed. Indeed more bombing and bloodshed is not the answer and, I believe, is and will be completely counter productive to achieving their aspirations.

And for the Loyalist groupings {political and otherwise}, again, many feel that the issue of concern for them {and their political reps and spokespersons} that should ascend, is the continual attempted bringing forward and of the improving of ‘their’ working class communities. Again with holding on to such weaponry it will be far more difficult for those that seek to work for the benefit of all such communities to be able to do so with any real effect.

And so the ins and outs of the process and how it was moved to happen will be for historians and such to ponder over for decades to come. For Anarchist’s though the starting point of our history is the working class, and to learn the lessons from our defeats and the victories. Now that the recent Irish war is in effect over in the greater military sense, it now though provides in even greater measure the opening of another war.


Indeed –

Let the Class War intensify!