Monday, 8 October 2012
Dear All, I enclose an article that I submitted to the Irish Post and the Irish World on the march that took place in Belfast on 6th October. Kind regards Austin Harney. A peaceful Trade Union march appealed to communities in the Shankhill and Falls Roads of Belfast. Despite the recent disturbances, Trade Unions organised a peaceful march in Belfast with a campaign group called "Youth Fight for Jobs" on Saturday 6th October. This demonstration intended to appeal to all working communities as one in five young people are unemployed due to the latest austerity measures. The march began with a rally at the Customs House Square in order to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Outdoor Relief Strike. There were a number of speakers at this rally from PCS, NIPSA, as well as Jim Kelly, General Secretary of UNITE in Ireland. During the thirties, many unemployed people were reduced to the level of begging "Guardians" (representatives of the rich) for poverty benefits (outdoor relief). But in October 1932, thousands of outdoor relief workers in Belfast went on strike, resulting in a riot that united Catholic and Protestant workers. After two weeks of struggle, the workers on the Falls and Shankhill Roads won significant concessions! Today, the march demonstrated the importance of this event by proceeding through the city centre and smoothly up the Loyalist district of the Shankhill Road. We saw only one armoured police vehicle and two motorcycles escorting us. But some of the passing cars in this Loyalist area sounded their hooters in support. We, then, stopped for ten minutes at the gates of the peacewall into the Nationalist area of the Falls Road. This occasion was to remember the two workers, one protestant and one catholic, who were killed by the police quelling of the riot. Afterwards, we walked down the Falls Road and finished with a rally at the City Hall. Much of the speeches denounced the austerity measures such as Workfare Scheme that is forcing unemployed young people into cheap or even free labour and undermining real jobs. These polices include cuts to education and attacks on workers' rights. No doubt, Trade Unions can play a key role in uniting workers of all communities against austerity in Northern Ireland! All Irish community groups in Britain, facing cuts, can, also, build on important events like this memorable one in Belfast! Austin Harney, Chair of CRAIC (Campaign for the Rights and Actions of Irish Communities) Fighting the Cuts.