Northern Ireland news

Paramilitaries should listen to working class people

Speakers at a NIPSA-organised protest rally the Peace Garden in Derry yesterday, Friday, demanded that there would be no return to paramilitarism. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

A trade unionist has called on dissident republican paramilitaries to listen to the voice of the working class and give up their campaign of violence.

NIPSA official, Antoinette McMillen was speaking at a rally yesterday organised in protest at Saturday's New IRA car bomb attack on Derry's courthouse and subsequent hijackings and security alerts on Monday.

Around 200 people attended the lunch-time rally at Derry's Peace Garden, including representatives of the city's churches and business communities. Politicians from all mainstream political parties attended, including Sinn Féin deputy president, Michelle O'Neill, SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood and DUP MP, Gregory Campbell among others.

The rally was addressed by trade union officials from a number of different organisations as well as young people from Derry. While condemning the violence, speaker after speaker also angrily denounced Northern Ireland's political leaders for their failure to re-instate political institutions.

Ms McMillen said: “No worker, including our members in the court service and the Housing Executive, should have to face threats or bombs in undertaking their duties.”

The NIPSA official told the rally political parties, along with the British and Irish governments, must find a way of restoring the political institutions.

“The people voted democratically and overwhelmingly for peace. We cannot return to a violent society. We urge those responsible to listen to the workers, to the people. Any threats, bullying, intimidation, bombing or any form of violence cannot and will never achieve equality.

“True equality, true democracy, true peace can only be achieved by people working together in dialogue in peace,” she said.

President of NIPSA, Patrick Mulholland said the wider trade union movement was sending out the message to paramilitaries and anyone involved in sectarian violence that there would be no return to the troubles of the past.

Mr Mulholland said: “We have been there, comrades, we have buried people; we have seen generations going to jail; we have seen political failure and we have seen a political catalogue of disasters.

“We have seen people suffering and enough is enough. We do not want to repeat that.”

Following the rally, Sinn Féin northern leader, Michelle O'Neill said she agreed with the speakers when they condemned the failure to restore the political institutions.

“We all want an assembly up and running but the very issues which all the people spoke about today, about austerity, need to be tackled – the issue of discrimination, the issue of building a better, prosperous society, all need to be all of our priorities. We certainly will not be found wanting in playing our role in that,” she said.

Ms O'Neill told the Irish News the absence of the institutions and people working together created a gap which others tried to fill.

SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood said his party remained ready to engage.

“We know in this part of the world that a political vacuum can lead to violence. We have to fill that vacuum. That vacuum has to be filled by democracy and politics. We're ready and able to looking forward to doing that business and I don't sense that from anybody else,” he said.

A second trade union rally against paramilitarism will take place in Enniskillen today 3pm.

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