People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll, who was was on the ground encouraging youths to desist from violence last night in Belfast, criticises the ‘hypocrisy’ of a Stormont Executive who have funded, catered to, and legitimised loyalist paramilitaries while punishing working class communities.
Today, just like last night, I stand with those families in interface areas who are once again living in fear, who have had their cars stolen, their areas petrol bombed. And I thank those community and youth workers who were also out last night appealing for calm.
I also want to send my solidarity to the bus driver and the passengers of the hijacked bus, and to journalist Kevin Scott who was attacked. No worker deserves this, especially those providing a public service on the front line in a pandemic.
Today MLAs gathered in Stormont to support a motion which did nothing to provide an alternative message to the same old politics that have fostered division across working class communities, and enabled sectarian tensions to grow. People Before Profit did not support this political charade and proposed an alternative amendment which was not permitted to be heard.
The talk of a law an order response should have come with heavy dose of irony, from parties that have cosied up to paramilitaries who by definition are not upholders of the law and have orchestrated much of the recent havoc on the streets.
It is hypocritical for the Executive to condemn the same paramilitary groups they have funded, catered to, and legitimised. These groups act as gatekeepers to funding and exert control over working class communities and young lives.
There has been little attempt to move away from these structures of paramilitaries and gatekeepers of communities, even 23 years after the Good Friday Agreement. That has been to the detriment of another generation of young people. It has been to the detriment of women’s groups and others who could take that funding and enrich their communities.
The only lot this arrangement benefits are those in the paramilitary groups calling the shots. We have no truck with this kind of order.
It is entirely sanctimonious for this Executive, particularly the DUP, to call for “law and order” when their recent statements have heightened tensions in communities, given cover to sentiments from loyalist groups, and attempted to paint this violence as the understandable outworking of anger they helped to whip up.
Lets be clear, the DUP have been in sectarian overdrive since polls have shown they are set to lose seats to the TUV. The blame for sectarian crisis comes from those at the top of society, yet it is working class people who always suffer. Same as it ever was.
The DUP, along with their Executive colleagues, have presided over economic and political policies that have increased child poverty and sent people to food banks. Working class people have been expected to live happily with crumbs from this Executive’s table ‘peace’ came to their streets.
Worse, those crumbs are cut every year. Services closed; mental health problems spiking without the resources; welfare reforms. There is a reason the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights visited many of those communities before his declaration that levels of child poverty are not just a ‘disgrace’ but a ‘social calamity’.
The same Executive oversaw a disastrous management of the pandemic which disproportionately harmed working class communities and workers.
That is the legacy of this Executive who gathers today without a semblance of humility or recognition of the impact of its actions on the ground in working class communities, before issuing a hypocritical blanket call for law and order when anger erupts, after politicians have stirred the pot.
In condemning the violence unreservedly last night, I am today calling for proper solutions to the crises in working class communities, for a radically different approach from the Executive and overall, for unity on the ground in disaffected areas.
Anything less will just repeat the misery of sectarianism, poverty and inequality that have blighted our communities for too long.