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This is the s.e.a.
That's the socialist environmental alliance. Eamonn McCann explains why you should vote for him, and them, in the Northern elections
Eamonn McCann, 13 Nov 2003
I’m told there’s a couple of rules of thumb for journalists up for election – don’t misuse your work by making a direct pitch for votes, or gratuitously resort to rough language. But fuck that. Vote for me.
The last time I stood was as long ago as Jesus lived, which is neat, since a miracle might be called for. Thirty-three years back, I sported a Mungo Jerry hair-cut and ‘In The Summertime’ was number one. Now Mungo’s a legend and I’ve got a number one. The campaign highlight came on a rainy night in so-cold Creggan when Big James Doherty resorted to the desperate doorstep argument, “Ah, say you’ll vote for him, missus, sure he needs the votes more than them other two.”
I did, too. The count was conducted to the accompaniment of our deposit glugging rhythmically down the drain. Could it happen again? The local pundits say it’s a cert. This is the North. Votes are Orange, Votes are Green, There’s no need to see votes any other way than the way they always have been seen.
We had a Johnny Cash fund-raising night in Sandino’s. It was the most sensational Derry gig since the last one I told you about. Roy Arbuckle conjured the spirit of the man from a gruff throat and a ghostly guitar, while the Shambelles, punk-angel honky-tonk women, sized up all before them and blew the building away.
I have always had a sneaking regard for the doughty anarchos who during every British election plaster London underground stations with stickers reading, ‘Why Vote? – It is wrong to choose your masters’. But there’s reasons for butting into the argument currently dominating politics here, about who’s to blame for the collapse of the Hillsborough choreography. What’s interesting about the argument is what’s left out, which is to say almost everything.
In the week between the hand of history reappearing at Hillsborough to give Tony Blair a clip on the ear and confirmation that the election was going ahead anyway, bus-workers across the North struck against a threatened reduction in already-intolerable working conditions; a government report revealed that the gap between the rich and the poor is wider in the North than in any region of Britain; and hell broke loose in Baghdad as the US/British occupation accelerated towards disaster. But none of this rated a syllable in the exchanges.
“Equality” is one of the words set on continuous buzz in politics here. But the revelation that this is the least equal region of the UK attracted no comment. Somebody is trying to squirt cider in our eye.
The fact that issues of this sort are blithely ignored is one of the reasons there is deadlock. You cannot overcome the sectarian divide by relating solely to issues which reflect the divide and not at all to issues which transcend the divide.
All day every day, we hear about the conditions under which Nationalists and Unionists will or won’t work together. But none of them says ever, for example, that they won’t serve in an executive which continues to close hospitals or persists with privatisation in schools or pushes for double taxation of the poor and lower taxation on business. Their politics are colour-coded exclusively in primary shades of Orange or Green. They are not the solution. They are the problem.
The Socialist Environmental Alliance (SEA), on the other hand, holds these truths to be self evident:
• The higher class issues are on the agenda, the less daunting community issues will seem. It’s when we come together to advance common interests that old divisions fade.
• There is no solution to problems of poverty in Catholic working-class areas which would not also be a solution to problems of poverty in Protestant working-class areas. We will advance together or not at all.
• Allow Nationalism and Unionism to lead us into the future, and we will eventually reach apartheid.
• The fight against imperialism in 2003 is a fight against US-led imperialism across the globe, or it is nothing. Those who welcome Bush as “a friend of Ireland” position themselves on the side of imperialism.
• Paramilitaries and constitutional politicians have this in common, that they see the mass of the people as spectators at politics. But people can only become free by freeing themselves. Freedom which is in someone else’s gift is an illusion.
These are the truths we will tell around the boreens of the Bogside and the siuchs of the Waterside between now and November 26th. And you never know. All beforehand has been the river. This is the SEA.
Stone the Crowe has been the recent watchword of Northern anti-racists. My pal Davy Carlin compiled an impressive list of credible luminaries demanding that former Craigavon mayor Fred Crowe be booted out of the Ulster Unionist party for remarks about Muslims which took the breath even from folk well-used to outbursts of bigotry.
Calling for Muslims to be prevented from building a mosque in the town, Crowe declared Islam an “evil” religion, whose adherents “are all for cruelty.” Muslims are “out to wipe out Christianity”. Councillors in favour of the Mosque were apostate. “Christianity is the enemy of the Muslim.”
In the ensuing furore, and taken aback by the strength of support for Davy’s petition, Craigavon council voted unanimously “to extend a welcome to people of all ethnic minorities” and David Trimble publicly slapped the ex-mayor down. Where might the bedraggled Crowe look to for comfort, then? In the pages of the Irish Times, perhaps?
Kevin Myers in the Times (October 22nd) showed again that he wasn’t to be bested for bigotry by any Armagh neanderthal.
In the course of a foam-flecked rant, Myers likened Nigerians arriving in the State to strangers invading Irish homes. It isn’t racist, he assured readers, not to want “to share your home with people who have insinuated their way under your roof with lies, and who then intend to help themselves to the contents of the fridge.”
Nor did he balk at inviting people suffering from the inadequacies of the health system to channel their anger towards immigrants, making an explicit link between “densely inhabited hospital corridors” and “dense throngs of foreigners cheating their way into the witless benignities of our welfare system.”
Echoing Enoch Powell’s infamous “rivers of blood” speech, he suggested that, “It is imbecilic to think that the numbers of foreigners pouring into this country will not soon become a major source of unrest...We have no choice but to turn all illegal immigrants around at the point of entry (pregnant ones especially).”
Thus is wholesale race-hatred distributed by the Irish Times to retail hate-merchants across the land, who will, understandably, feel that they have the endorsement of a section of respectable opinion for putting the boot into blacks (pregnant ones especially.)
Why is Fred Crowe cast beyond the pale and Kevin Myers given licence?