"To break the connection with England" Wolfe Tone

Friday, 19 June 2009

Ardoyne: A Community Abandoned

Ardoyne: A Community Abandoned

There was surprise in the mainstream media earlier this year when Provisional Sinn Fein representatives announced that they were going to be unable to control Ardoyne during this year’s marching season. Ardoyne was one of the most formidable strongholds of the Provisional IRA and the support for PSF there is somewhat of a litmus test for the support trends in hard-line republican areas across the occupied six counties. However the people of Ardoyne are no longer content to accept the unquestioned rule of Sinn Fein and the Provisionals because they have seen no changes or benefits from the GFA in their community. Social deprivation, unemployment, drugs and sectarian attacks have plagued Ardoyne since the ceasefires. Community spirit still endeavours and the pride shown by locals in protecting and maintaining their communities is admirable. They have however been abandoned by the leadership of the provisional movement. Rather than protect and aid the community these people were content to “control” the area. What they failed to realise was that they had always relied on the support of the people of the area to have any influence. Under the GFA this community has been subjected to humiliation, left defenceless to sectarian marching, British harassment and anti social crime. The situation was never going to be tolerated for long by people who had been to the forefront of opposition to British rule. As PSF moved into the constitutional nationalist position and the British parliament in stormont so discontent and disillusionment grew.

The issue of perhaps most contention is the annual Orange march through Ardoyne. This sectarian display is one of many across the six counties. These marches seek to dominate and humiliate nationalist communities. Glorifying sectarian politics and revelling in the perceived superiority of the orange culture. They are akin to white supremacists marching through African American neighbourhoods and are bitterly opposed by nationalist people. Ardoyne as an interface area has suffered more than its fair share of sectarian attacks and these marches merely reinforce the reality that they are facing a sectarian opponent that is backed by the state. How then can a British police force be acceptable to people in communities like Ardoyne? A police force that aside from a cosmetic makeover is the same one that savaged this community on a regular basis for 30 years. The truth is of course that it will never be acceptable, because Republicanism is not a tactic for the people there it is an identity that has defined them and one that they have fought, suffered and died for. It will not be traded for seats in Stormont.

And so the people of Ardoyne turned to those that had stayed the course. The so called “dissidents” are not monsters that seek to cause havoc. They are republicans that are in no way different to those that defended the community for years. They are people who stayed true to the cause that was fought for. It is hardly surprising that they are being welcomed slowly but surely in working class communities across the six counties by beleaguered residents who need help. These were people who were familiar who did what they said they would do. They do not wear Armani or lunch with Brown but they do actually work for the communities. They have been subjected to at various times, ridicule, slander and vile accusations by both former comrades and the mainstream media. But the truth is becoming clear. They are being accepted by Republicans. Ardoyne is one of many communities rejecting the provisional sell out.

The price of this is isolation and harassment. The suits from Sinn Fein will not venture into the area but neither will funding or community support which is tightly controlled by PSF. Likewise the psni/ ruc do not have to worry about their abuse of the community being highlighted by the “nationalist representatives”. the message is clear. If you don’t tow the line you suffer the consequences. The community has refused to bow to this cheap intimidation. The papers have been running lurid and sensational reports about the “dissidents” planning mayhem before this year’s marches. Translated into honest terms this means that the community will not be beaten and subdued by PIRA members this year. Last year youths were pepper sprayed by provisionals who were policing the area for the British who commented that they were more effective than the psni. Not this year it would seem.

Having rejected British authority the people of Ardoyne have rejected the authority of the discredited provisional movement. They will not be subdued nor will they submit to cultural humiliation or degradation. Republicans everywhere should follow their example and stand united against the onslaught sure to come with devolution of policing and justice. In the words of the late, great Brendan Hughes “stay true to yourselves and stand by the republic”