This is a statement issued by Belfast International Socialists and Socialist Democracy

We, the undersigned, wish to declare our absolute opposition to the growing bigotry and sectarianism within society in the North of Ireland as shown by events at Holy Cross, the Short Strand and countless other incidents.

Far from being the dying gasp of an old order, all the signs are that a new and even more virulent sectarianism is emerging as a direct consequence of the structures and way of thinking built into the Good Friday Agreement. The new institutional sectarianism is not confined to a few bigots. It involves most of the political and institutional structures of our society displaying a willingness to define incidents in terms favourable to bigots, and to collude with and make concessions to bigotry with the end result that sectarian arrangements are built into every level of society.

Thus the self-evident fact that the loyalist organisations are carrying on an organised programme of intimidation, which the main unionist parties are quite happy to excuse while conducting their own campaign, goes without comment. The British administration and the media immediately redefine the situation as community conflict. All the main political parties go along with this and the trade unions offer to act as honest brokers. The inevitable outcome is a settlement that further entrenches religious apartheid and institutionalises sectarianism.

We reject the contention of the British government, sectarian politicians and media commentators that sectarianism is the result of community division that can only be addressed through accommodating or compromising with the demands of sectarian intimidation. Sectarianism is not ingrained in working class communities but fostered by the politics of bigotry and intimidation. Sectarianism can not be combated by appealing to those carrying out the intimidation or acceding to any of their demands.

We reject the logic of sectarian apartheid which states that housing can be allocated by religion and that working people are not free to live in whatever location they desire. We reject proposals for provision and use of facilities on a sectarian basis. We also reject ‘solutions’ that see walls built higher around communities under attack, creating jail like structures in which it is the victims who are imprisoned.

The trade union movement’s lofty condemnation of all sectarianism is cover for its failure to identify the source of bigotry and assign responsibility for the real sectarianism that exists. Its attempts to advise loyalists on how their sectarian politics can be advanced in a more articulate fashion is accommodation with bigotry and not opposition. The trade union role is particularly shameful in that it denies the possibility of an alternative identity, as members of the Irish working class. It stands opposed to the desire of many workers who want to stand with us in defending the right of working people to live and work where they wish, who oppose the programme of loyalist intimidation and who oppose official promotion of sectarian logic involving collusion with, and appeasement of, the bigots.

We the undersigned call for a real campaign against sectarianism within the Protestant and Catholic working class. Many working class people despair of the violence and can see no clear way out of it. Such despair is precisely the object of sectarian attacks. We are confident in the belief that a large current of Irish society seeks a means to declare its opposition to the sectarian solutions on offer and wishes to hear a new voice articulate its hopes.

We the undersigned affirm that only the united organisation of workers across the island and beyond can promise defeat for bigotry and that a first step in this is a united socialist voice declaring No to Sectarianism!

Belfast International Socialists Socialist Democracy