Video: Young people alienated by poor economic conditions lured by groups like Derry bombers, peace rally is told
Young people alienated by poor economic conditions in working-class areas are being lured into the ranks of violent groups, peace protestors were warned in Derry on Friday.
Seamus McLaughlin, speaking at a NIPSA protest in response to the Bishop Street bomb, said young people were being preyed upon by paramilitary organisations.
The 19-year-old told several dozen people in the Foyle Street Peace Park that most of his peers had been shocked and appalled by the detonation of a car bomb in the city on January 19.
“The last few days have been particularly disturbing to me and many other young people since we didn’t actually experience the violence that many did experience over twenty or thirty years.
“You’re not alone. We are just as opposed to this. I want to express our opposition to what is going on. We are with you,” he insisted.
Mr. McLaughlin, however, warned the crowd that included Sinn Féin Deputy President Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, East Derry MP Gregory Campbell and local councillors, that the frustration and hopelessness felt by some young people was driving them into the arms of violent republicanism.
“There are some young people who are lured into these ideas that this sort of violence will take them somewhere but this is a false promise and I think there is a section of older people who are taking advantage of these young people,” he said.
“The main Stormont parties have some responsibility to bear in this regard too. They have created the conditions which...facilitated these young people’s alienation with what is going on in the world and their turn towards this sort of politics.
“For instance, Creggan, where much of the disruption took place with the hoax bombs, is an extremely deprived area. It is one of the most deprived in the UK. There are 4,500 [across the North] who have died from suicide since the passng of the Good friday Agreement. Clearly people are unhappy and they are pulled towards this because of the misery of everyday life,” he added.
Despite this cautionary warning Mr. McLaughlin had a strong message for those attracted by violent groups.
“I’d appeal to the young people who are being lured by this and call on them to reject the failed ideas of these groups. What did fail for over 30 years - the Troubles - won’t succeed now. Whilst they may believe they are fighting injustice, the suffering and misery of austerity and everyday life, you are just perpetuating this kind of suffering and damaging communities and livelihoods.”
Another young trade unionist, Chris Stewart, from Unite’s hospitality branch, shared these sentiments.
“We completely oppose and condemn the sectarian attacks that we have seen. We are saying there is absolutely no going back to a time of misery and violence. What we’ve seen over the past year or so has happened in the context of an attack on working class communities by the Stormont parties that represent the interests of the elite.
“We are here to say we oppose the austerity that has been inflicted on our communities, the cuts and the privatisation and what not. It’s not enough to say there’s no going back. We have to move forward,” he said.
NIPSA President Patrick Mulholland told the rally: “We have buried people. We have seen generations going to jail. We have seen a political failure and we have seen a political catalogue of disasters.”
The union chief identified three evils in paramilitarism, sectarianism and repression, that needed to be opposed.
“The question is always asked: do we mean nationalist paramilitaries or do you mean unionist paramilitaries? Let’s be clear. We mean an end to all paramilitarism. We also say it is time for an end to sectarianism in our society and the message is this, whether it is the sectarian clashes and attacks at the Fountain, whether it is a young man killed at a barbecue, or whether it is politicians escalating sectarianism by their language, we want no more sectarianism in our society. Enough is enough.
“And the last point I will make, comrades, there are always voices that call for increased repression as an answer to the problems in our society. Well, we’ve lived with that as well and repression has not worked and repression will not work and repression should not be tolerated either.
“So an end to paramilitarism, an end to sectarianism, and an end to repression.”