By a Socialist Youth member
Sectarian attacks have once again hit the headlines in Lurgan after bloody clashes broke out in January between Catholic and Protestant young people aged between 14 and 18 years old.
Rival crowds gathered in the town centre and inflicted serious injuries on one another with one person receiving a stab wound to their hand and another needing attention to a head wound after a brick was broken on his head. The town centre is now scene to regular sectarian attacks, especially on young people. One family have recently moved out of the town after a 14 year old Protestant was viciously beaten by a gang of Catholic youth. One father of a witness told the local press “They gave the boy a terrible beating. They used his head as a football. My son said there were mainly 14 or 15-year-olds involved, but there were also men running around with sticks or baseball bats.” Catholics are also victims of sectarian beatings in the town.
Paramilitary forces have become more active. Dissident republican groups have begun carrying out so-called punishment beatings on young people in Catholic estates. However, Lurgan is not exceptional. Unfortunately sectarianism is growing across Northern Ireland. Meanwhile the sectarian politicians carry out attacks on working class people, Catholic and Protestant, and bosses continue to exploit young workers. Sectarianism only divides and weakens working class people and only serves the interests of the ruling class. That is why sectarianism needs to be opposed, not through liberal do-gooders, but by uniting working people to fight against the poverty which afflicts both Protestant and Catholic working class areas and fighting for a decent future. Unemployment is ravaging working class communities. Workers and young people are best able to struggle for jobs and services if they are united.
In the 1990’s the socialists played a crucial role through the Youth Against Sectarianism campaign and through trades councils in mobilising Catholic and Protestant workers in opposition to sectarian threats and killings. School walk-outs were organised to give a voice to the majority of young people who wanted to speak out against sectarianism. Socialist Party members on the Mid-Ulster Trades Council in the 1990’s also organised strikes and demonstrations which succeeded in isolating the bigots on both sides. These are examples of what can be done to tackle sectarian division.