Friday, June 19, 2009

How will Sinn Féin tackle reactionary groups within the unionist working class?

Over the past number of weeks some of the worst elements within the unionist working class have come to the fore. The first incident was the murder of Kevin McDaid by a loyalist mob and the second has been the racist attacks on Romanian families in Belfast.

The response by Sinn Féin to both of these cases has been strong condemnation and a call for the police and local community to come together to prosecute those involved. Martin McGuinness has made clear and correct statements on the fact that the motivation behind these attacks is reactionary and should be opposed by all progressive forces within society.

The question I ask here is that all we can do? Is/will Sinn Féin be forced to simply condemn these attacks from the outside and to call on other groups to tackle these reactionary elements within working class unionism?

To date I’m unaware of anything happening within Coleraine that could be viewed as any orgainsed attempt to challenge the bigotry that led to Kevin McDaid’s death. However within Belfast that is not the case. The clearest challenge to the forces of racism has come form Paddy Meehan of the Socialist party Youth wing. He has been there organising resistance to racist attacks. He has stood with the Romanian families when they needed support and he was there to be counted and as a result he has been informed of death threats against him.

Yes, I know he has put himself forward as a resident’s spokesperson and kept his party loyalties in the background. And yes I know the Socialist party have avoided issues such as the RIR and other issues, but so what.

Paddy Meehan is doing what every good socialist knows needs to be done. He knows that the way to deal with these reactionary elements is to force the issue out into the open and deal with it. Communities need to confront the issues around these types of attacks and the community needs to decide whether it sees such behaviour as acceptable. If this does not happen and people are allowed to turn a blind eye to such attacks, then those behind them grow in power and influence. This then results in victims of such attacks becoming in ever-greater danger of serious injury or death.

So where does this leave Sinn Féin? How do we propose to be able to stand with Paddy Meehan and others in fighting racism? How can we develop in such a way so that we can be seen on the streets (in unionist working class areas) with progressive groups, immigrants and concerned residents? When do we see ourselves as being able to put our views across in person to the unionist working class?


  1. Starry Plough, a good range of questions here and plenty for everybody to think about, not just SF.

  2. Yeah Am I did think about broadening the question to consider how all republican groups see themselves as playing a role in defeating reactionary elements within the unionist working class, but decided to stick to SF to keep in line with aim of the blog. If you come across any good initiatives by other republicans etc let me know.

  3. Would it not be more apt to ask, if Sinn Fein and other parties on the left, including the SP, are relevant to ordinary "working class people" of any description in Ireland. I no longer believe that they are.

    What the kids behind this attack in Belfast will take away from this is that the people who are condemning them loudly now, are the same ones that have neglected them for years, and are all too often great at talking about the "working class", but very poor on listening to them.


    p.s. Like the blog

  4. Starry Plough, I actually meant it as wider than a republican response. I think the questions you pose challenge a lot more than republicans. I did not thimk you were ignoring repblicans not in SF in your strong post. Good work.

  5. Hi,

    I was looking through another blog, an english lad who used manage campaigns for the Liberal Democrats and before that for labour in New Zealand. He had a link to another NZ blog where I saw the below post.

    It has little to do with the north and probably even less to do with sorry happenings recently but it just struck me as interesting. At the other end of the world politicos are talking about the same issues - how to cross ethnic or national divides etc so as to represent all people. I knew little about Kiwi politcs but this talk of maori politics, fighting for more equitable policies while trying to balance all the opposing forces pulling them apart does sound familiar in some small way. The use of the phrase "race issue" is misleading here and I dont want folks to misread that into some comment on etnicity. from what I gather they are referring to the separate identity of the Maori people.

    Identity is more than class
    Posted on 17:49, June 24th, 2009 by Lew

    Marty mars, commenting at The Standard, nails down the problem with Eddie’s and IrishBill’s latest bit of anti-māori party propaganda in one brief sentence:

    You cannot fix any class issue until the race issue is sorted and that won’t be sorted while you are still working everything from the class angle.

    Until the Marxist left realises that Māori have their own political identity and generally don’t (won’t and shouldn’t) identify en bloc with non-Māori political movements which require their Māori identity to be subsumed by a transnational class identity, it can’t reliably count on Māori support, and can’t really consider itself an inclusive movement.

    Substitute ‘Māori’ for other political minorities if you like – the internationalist movement will only be successful when it learns to accommodate diversity and turn it to political advantage, rather than trying to squash it.

    The Clark Labour government’s fundamental inability to realise this (by passing the Foreshore and Seabed Act, most notably) is why the māori party is trying other options. They and their people have had seventeen decades worth of out-of-touch honkeys telling them how to achieve the sort of political and economic progress they want, and at the same time largely denying them the resources with which to achieve such progress. Time for a new strategy, and creating a bidding war between the two main ideological blocs doesn’t look like a bad one, to me.

    Hone is right, though – the party is going to have to get a lot more than they have if they want to retain their party’s loyalty and not be seen, come 2011, as the Brown Tories.

    if any folks know more about Kiwi and Maori politics it'd be interesting to hear more.

    As I said maybe this is a bit off topic or maybe its very on topic as an example where pentrating your vision into a new community can be quite hard to do. The comments on the page are interesting as well.