There has been a lot surmising of over the recently announced results of the census in the North of Ireland.
For the first time since partition, Catholics now outnumber Protestants there. The census found that 42 per cent of people in the North are Catholics, 37 per cent are Protestants, 1½ per cent are of other religions, and 17½ per cent have no religion.
This narrative about religious breakdown is a manufactured division, created by Britain to maintain its rule in the Six Counties. The one thing that all these people, of any religion and none, have in common is the deprivation and exploitation of capitalism inflicted on 99 per cent of them by their common enemy: British imperialism.
British rule and the capitalist class are secure so long as the working class are diverted into concentrating on each other’s differences rather than on what they have in common: oppression.
None of the problems that working people face every day in the North are caused by religion. The underfunding of the health service, the housing waiting-list, poverty wages and rack-renting landlords have nothing to do with religion and everything to do with the capitalism inflicted on the citizens of the North by British imperialism.
It’s time that Protestants, Catholics and the rest of the people in the North joined up the dots. There are not two (or three) “communities” in the North: there are two classes, and one is dividing the other to stay in power.
The reality is that the bottom 30 per cent of households in the North account for only 14 per cent of total income, while the top 30 per cent account for 51 per cent. The top 10 per cent of households alone receive 24 per cent of all income, while 45 per cent of households have no savings. The North of Ireland is a very unequal place.
The National Health Service is a shadow of its former self. Today 184,000 people in the North are waiting more than a year for a first hospital outpatient appointment. A further 66,000 are waiting more than a year for surgery or another form of treatment in hospital, while 48,000 are waiting more than six months for a hospital appointment after being referred by their doctor for further tests.
43,971 households are on the housing waiting-list, with at least 24,717 children under the age of eighteen affected. There are 444,000 children in the North; 103,400 of these children live in poverty. That is almost 1 in every 4 children living in a family that struggles to provide for their basic needs, providing a warm, adequate home, nutritious food and appropriate clothing and to pay for child care—children whose parents often have to get into debt to make ends meet and do not have the means to save money for unexpected costs or family outings.
316,000 people, or 17 per cent of the population, live in relative income poverty (before housing costs).
These are just some of the problems faced by the working class every day in the Six Counties, none of which are caused by religion. They are caused by capitalism, and the particular strain that is forced on the citizens living in one of the last colonies in the world.
Citizens need to decolonise their minds.
The people in the South of Ireland suffer similar deprivation, despite not having hang-ups about what religion their neighbours are.
It’s time to concentrate on our common enemy: imperialism. We must move beyond the colonial construct of difference and build an independent all-Ireland economy for the common good, where the resources of Ireland are owned by the people of Ireland and are used in our interest, where all citizens are treated equally. For too long the citizens of Ireland have been exploited by a tiny elite who live off the fruits of our labour.
“If you remove the English army to-morrow and hoist the Green Flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain. England would still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs.”—James Connolly