Build a real peace process for the 99%
Guinness Book of World Records rules mean Northern Ireland will escape international recognition for being without government for the longest period during peace times. August 28 will nevertheless be marked by protest across the North under the #WeDeserveBetter slogan.
All main parties have spoken positively about the protests. Representatives of both the DUP and Sinn Féin stated they acknowledge the frustration felt by people before swiftly moving on to blame the other party for the deadlock. Over 500 days of no government in Stormont have caused frustration and anger among ordinary people: working-class people who are most affected by cutbacks in public services; women and LGBT+ people who are told to wait for Stormont to be re-established before advances in marriage equality or abortion rights can be discussed; workers waiting on pay increases.
Orange and Green division has failed
Most people have little confidence that the next round of talks, whenever they take place, will bring meaningful progress. The draft deal leaked in May suggested the two main parties were close to agreement – with Sinn Féin dropping ‘red lines’ such as progress on marriage equality – but it was scuppered as the DUP leadership felt they could not sell a deal including an Irish Language Act to their rank and file.
Having turned this issue into a political football in their sectarian game, the two main parties are now caught in a web of their own making. Ultimately, this crisis illustrates that the political system in Northern Ireland is fundamentally flawed. It is dominated by sectarian parties who through cooperation are supposed to unite a divided society. In reality, they rely on sectarian divisions to continue to protect their voter base. While a deal is possible, it would only be a sticking plaster. The Green and Orange parties are incapable of reaching real, lasting solutions to the complicated questions which still divide our society.
A return to business at Stormont would not represent a real step forward for the interests of ordinary people. The main parties’ records show they have continuously implemented austerity, paid only lip-service or actively stood in the way of progress on LGBT+ equality and women’s rights and intend to lower corporation tax.
Build a cross-community alternative
To move beyond this quagmire, we need a new, real peace process, one organised by and for working-class people; one that is capable of uniting ordinary people from both Protestant and Catholic communities on the basis of our common interests, as well as striving to find real solutions to the divisive questions in a spirit of mutual respect and solidarity.
We need to build a genuinely cross-community, left alternative that fights alongside the trade union movement in the workplaces, communities and in Stormont for the interests of the 99%.
Such a movement could advance the struggle for what ordinary people in the North really deserve, including:
- an end to austerity measures and for fully-funded public services;
- marriage equality and tackling of trans- and homophobia;
- abortion rights;
- high-quality public housing;
- a minimum wage of £10/hour.
by Ann Orr