Wednesday, 28 June 2017

HILLSBOROUGH: the background to crimes by the state

As the incredible, superhuman tenacity, determination and dignity of the families of the Hillsborough 96 pays off - at last, 28 years later - with the Crown Prosecution Service issuing criminal charges against six of those responsible for this man-made tragedy, here's the article I wrote 5 years ago - in September 2012. I wrote it in response to that week's ground-breaking Hillsborough Independent Panel's Report.

It spells out the atrocities against innocent working class people who never returned from a football match, with the attempts to frame them and smear an entire city, to cover up all that's rotten about the state.
All that I've added to the original is a couple of pictures.


Hillsborough (2012 article)

HILLSBOROUGH: truth at last, now for JUSTICE!

Words can only begin to hint at what the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s Report signifies.
A victory for the truth over the pernicious lies poured out by police chiefs, press and politicians – who tried to frame the 96 who died that terrible day in April 1989.
A victory for the superhuman tenacity, courage and heroism of the victims’ families and other fans who have fought for justice for 23 years – overwhelmingly working class people, with no resources but a deep well of determination and strong principles.
Overwhelming relief and vindication, tinged with renewed sadness, for the families of the 96 who perished in this man-made disaster: at last their loved ones’ names have been cleared.
A new wave of bitter outrage at the revelation 41 of the 96 could still be alive today, but for the incompetence of the police chiefs, which meant only 2 of 48 ambulances that arrived actually reached the pitch.
A renewed unity and sense of their own strength in challenging the authorities – not just for the indescribably brave family campaigners, but for all Liverpool fans, and indeed the whole city’s working class population.
Fury, and for some, utter disbelief at the blatant, corrupt cover-up by police chiefs, as they crudely doctored documents and witness statements – with successive Tory and Labour governments aiding and abetting their inhuman smearing of the dead in order to camouflage their own responsibility for the slaughter 23 years ago.

Class hatred

And after an initial attempt to palm off the clamour for justice with 24 hours of apologies and a shift back to trivial ‘business as usual‘ in the media, this naked expose of corruption in ‘high’ places has now forced the Crown Prosecution Office and Independent Police Complaints Commission to initiate an unprecedented scale of inquiry into police officers and the football authorities, with the potential of it leading to charges of gross misconduct and even manslaughter.
At last, a generation later, some hope of justice for those who died and those who have tirelessly challenged the most monstrous lie-machine in modern Britain.
Whilst pressing for prosecutions of those responsible, and re-opening of the inquests on the 96, we should not lose sight of the wider and deeper implications of this appalling episode.
It reveals a system that is steeped in class hatred for working class people, with the establishment, all the various arms of the state, implicated – a brutal reminder of just how low these people in power are prepared to stoop to retain their power and privileges.

Millions shaken

In some respects a great deal that is in the Report was known already 23 years ago. But its great merit is to have documented 450,000 pages of documentary evidence, piecing together the horror story and bringing it all out in the open.
Millions of people have been touched by the revelations, shaken to the core in their assumptions about the police, press and ruling powers.
Back in 1989, many of us warned of a monstrous cover-up by the police authorities, senior judges, Tory government and the media – the various arms of the ‘establishment’. Little did any of us know that it would take a whole generation, 23 years, for the truth to come out, after successive Tory and Labour governments had helped to keep the lid on what was known to those at the top.

Police savagery

At the time, in articles in the socialist press, I branded the initial West Midlands police inquiry into the South Yorkshire policing operation at Hillsborough as being a case of the Devil investigating the actions of Satan.
Some of us had lived through the savage class brutality of the Tories during the miners’ strike four years before Hillsborough – with Thatcher’s use of South Yorkshire and other police forces as a well-fed, well-paid, beefed-up government militia that treated working class people as scum, rampaging like uniformed thugs in the pit villages.
But even veteran socialists are still gob-smacked at the crudely blatant corruption of the police, who altered 164 police statements – in 116 cases to completely remove anything critical of the police actions at Hillsborough.

Top rank forgers

Senior police officers, including the subsequently knighted Sir Norman Bettison, and the solicitor representing South Yorkshire police, supervised the recording of junior police officers’ recollections of events that day. In contrast to the normal procedure of writing up their notes in official police notebooks – which can then be legally requisitioned as evidence in any court case – the police were instructed to write them on loose sheets of paper. Then they were doctored under the vigilant eye of police chiefs.
Later, these top-rank forgers offered the excuse that amendments were made to remove ‘opinion’ about the fans.
That was a cynical, dirty lie: the documents published by the Independent Panel reveal that not a single case of this happened; plenty of vicious ‘opinions’ about fans remained in the amended statements – but in 116 junior officers’ statements, all their original comments critical of the policing that tragic day were removed.
Similar corrupt doctoring of eye-witness statements by ambulance workers were conducted by the chiefs of the ambulance service.

Tragedy waiting to happen
This was literally a tragedy waiting to happen, mostly through a combination of the blatant failure of the football owners to invest in crowd safety measures, and the refusal by police chiefs to learn from and act on their own incompetent performance.
They had plenty of fresh warning: the very same FA semi-final, between the same Liverpool and Notts Forest, had been held at the very same Hillsborough ground the previous season, 1988. Overcrowding, lack of ground safety measures and incompetent policing had led to a near-disaster, with fans being crushed, but no fatalities.
But absolutely nothing was done to improve matters after the review of these events, either by Sheffield Wednesday’s profit-conscious owners or the heads of the South Yorkshire Police.

They framed the dead!

People at the match told me 23 years ago how they arrived to scenes of utter chaos at the turnstiles. Liverpool supporters had complained in advance about ticket allocation not reflecting the respective numbers from Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. There was no proper direction of fans to turnstiles, with only two policemen outside Leppings Lane!
Fans thronged into the middle terraces, even though the side terraces were half empty: stewarding was almost non-existent.
Overcrowding in the middle terraces was clearly visible by at least 2.30pm, or earlier; a clear half hour before the 3pm kick-off. But whilst doing nothing to address this, failing to usher fans into the plentiful spaces on the side terraces, the police officers in charge vastly compounded the crush by ordering the opening of Gate C (one of the Leppings Lane exits) – to reduce the logjam at the turnstiles, where it was clear fans would not gain access until at least 3.30.
Instead of delaying the kick-off, they tried to shove thousands of fans through Gate C as well as turnstiles like cattle, with the added disastrous result that Gate C led them straight down a steep tunnel and back up into the already-overcrowded middle sections.
And in their vilification of the dead and injured, the same police chiefs who ordered the opening of Gate C then told the media that afternoon that the gate had been broken down by fans – a malicious strand to their lies about “drunken, ticketless Liverpool fans” being the cause of the disaster.

Prisons not palaces

The root cause of this human tragedy was the way the football authorities regarded working class people as sources of vast profit, but also inherently violent thugs.
In the years before, there had been a sustained vilification of fans – and in those days football was almost exclusively the sport of the working class – by the media and government, branding them as hooligans, forging ahead with plans to introduce ID cards, in tandem with plans for ID Cards for the hated poll tax.
They built high perimeter fences, with narrow emergency exit gates that acted as traps rather than escape routes in any emergency…because they regarded it as an issue of crowd control, rather that one of crowd safety for people investing their modest weekly incomes in ‘the beautiful game’.

Profits before lives

The clubs failed to re-invest their profits in ground safety and comfort for the people who made the pools companies £661m profits from football the year before Hillsborough alone.
Many of the grounds were more like clapped out cowsheds, prisons with their perimeter fences, rather than palaces of entertainment. Hillsborough, capacity 54,000, had no proper medical facilities.
Fans had no say; football is like any other capitalist enterprise.
They fenced fans into pens, more accurately cages, like a sub-human species. The police were drilled to treat them with contempt, and arrests, rather than cooperate with supporters’ organizations in protection of crowd health and safety.

41 could have lived

As the crush began, the police stopped ambulances getting onto the pitch, falsely telling them that it wasn’t safe as the fans were rioting. That’s why many of the 41 who could have survived died that day.
Rows of police, three deep, were lined up outside the cages at the goalmouth where people were dying. Eyewitnesses at the time told us how police ignored pleas for help: shoving the fence back into position when fans desperately tried to smash it down as a means of escape; refusing to help a child gasping for breath who was passed over the heads of the fans; truncheoning a group of fans who managed to get onto the pitch to try and rip down the railings.
This callous failure to act as a rescue service largely lay in the previous training of police as unthinking, obedient servants of the police chiefs, who in turn deployed their forces on behalf of the Tories against mining communities and disaffected young people, and whose attitude to Liverpool working class people in particular was steeped in class hatred.

Tory hatred of Liverpool

It is no mere coincidence that the police mercilessly doctored the evidence in order to smear Liverpool fans and hide their own scandalous role. And Thatcher’s Tory government’s fingerprints are all over this monstrous frame up.
Only four years earlier, hundreds of thousands of the city’s working class, led in mass action for jobs and services by socialists, had inflicted a decisive defeat on the Iron Lady of capitalist reaction.
Mass demos of 50-60,000, general strikes and a determined, militant upsurge of workers united in action had won £60m in government funds to create massive improvements in jobs, housing and public services.
Liverpool was an inspiration to workers across the UK and beyond – and the target of ruthless revenge by the Tories and their media lickspittles.
They portrayed Liverpool people as violent dole-cheats, mindlessly militant, worthy of being taught a harsh lesson.
They discussed in the Tory Cabinet about organising the “managed decline” of Liverpool – something pursued through systematic workplace closures.
Thatcher made the trip north the day after the Hillsborough Disaster, 16th April 1989, to meet with South Yorkshire Police chiefs, no doubt to endorse their launch of a propaganda offensive against the victims. In part this was to protect her loyal protectors during the momentous class confrontation of the 1984-5 miners’ strike – the civil war without bullets – but it was further fuelled by Thatcher’s and the Tories’ desire to avenge their government’s defeat by the rebellious Scouse working class, led by socialists, in 1984.

Press vitriol

The demonisation of Liverpool’s working class came out in its full inglorious venom after Hillsborough.
The press didn’t even have the decency to wait until the dead were buried before spewing out their vitriol.
A Sheffield Tory MP, Irvine Patnick, passed the Sun a packet of vicious lies, peddled by police chiefs to a local Sheffield press agency (White‘s), which the Murdoch rag gleefully published. This accused Liverpool fans of being “drunken animals”, of “urinating on the dead and police”, of “mugging dead bodies”, of “assaulting firefighters”.
The Report confirms what we argued in 1989: this was a monstrous lie on a monumental scale – designed to blame the victims for their own deaths and stop awkward questions being asked about the role of the FA, the unsafe state of the football grounds, and especially the role of the police. In fact it further reveals that the police tested dead children for evidence of drunkenness.
Boris Johnson, the extreme right-wing Tory London Mayor who basks in a carefully created disguise of buffoonery, wrote in the Spectator magazine editorial that Liverpool “is wallowing in victim status” after Hillsborough.
Edward Pearce of the Times thundered “Liverpool is the world capital city of self pity…why are you treated like animals? The plain answer is that a good and sufficient minority of you behave like animals.”
The fangs of these Tory animals were revealed, and working class people should never forget that that is the true face of capitalist politicians and their pet press.

Re-open the Inquests

>One of the multiple bodies of the establishment knee-deep in this obscene cover up was the Crown Prosecution Services’ mini-inquests and Coroner‘s Court, presided over by the CPS’s Dr Stefan Popper.
The evidence at the mini-inquests was viciously slanted and selective, feeding the media’s line about drunken disorder by announcing the alcohol level in each of the victims.
Popper took an arbitrary decision to assume all the victims had died in the first few minutes of the crush, and therefore refused to investigate anything that happened after 3.15pm, the time the first ambulance arrived on the pitch.
This was instrumental in the cover-up; the 3.15pm cut-off time meant all evidence regarding the response of the emergency services (and therefore whether some of the 96 could have survived even after the crush) was ruled “inadmissible” by the Coroner‘s Court.
The Hillsborough Families consistently challenged this decision, but to no avail – until the Independent Panel’s documentation blew apart the authorities’ excuses for the 3.15 cut-off point.
The Coroner’s verdict for all the victims was ‘accidental death’, attributed to asphyxiation. The assertion was that nobody could have survived for more than a couple of minutes. That is perhaps the most cruel revelation of the Independent Panel Report: medical evidence, involving cloning of the brain, shows that 41 of those who died did not die almost instantaneously, but survived long enough to have been revived, given the right and punctual medical attention.
And other medical experts have subsequently estimated the toll could be as high as 58 out of the 96.
That fact has been deliberately buried for 23 years so as to avoid the finger of blame pointing at the incompetence of senior police and senior ambulance service officers – both of whom doctored junior staff statements to remove all reference to the appalling chaos caused by those in charge of the emergency response.

Labour betrayal of working class

One of the most appalling recent revelations, hot on the heals of the Independent Panel’s Report, is the documentary confirmation that the Labour government which replaced the Tories in 1997 sustained the cover up of the real facts, prolonging the pain and indignity of the victims’ families and the vilification of the reputations of the 96 by a clear extra 15 years.
Within five weeks of taking office, Labour Home Secretary Jack Straw had made up his mind there was no need for a further Inquiry into the causes of the tragedy.
Whilst assuring Hillsborough Family campaigners he would leave no stone unturned in seeking the truth, he cynically organised Labour’s own cover-up, in connivance with PM Blair.
On 5th June 1997 Straw wrote to Attorney General John Morris:
“I am certain that continuing public concern will not be allayed with a reassurance from the Home Office that there is no new evidence. I therefore propose that there should be an independent examination of the alleged new evidence by a senior legal figure.”
On 9th June he rammed home the same cynical calculation in a secret Memo to Tony Blair, fearing the public would refuse to accept their verdict from the government, and that it had to come from an independent source instead.
Late in June Straw met the hand-picked ‘senior legal figure/independent source’, Lord Justice Stuart-Smith, appointed to lead the review. Straw told him his officials had already looked at the case and concluded “there was not sufficient evidence to justify a new inquiry”. So he conveyed his scepticism to the judge before he even started his Review.
On 26th June, a Note of a discussion between Home Office Minister Alun Michael (Straw’s junior) with Des Parkinson, secretary of the Police Association of England and Wales, reveals that:
“Jack Straw was very concerned to avoid starting a hare running. As a result there had been some ‘creative thinking’ in the Home Office to find a way of testing the evidence without reopening the whole affair.”
This is in stark contrast to the weasel words of Straw in a statement to the House of Commons four days later, on 30th June:
“I am determined to go as far as I can to ensure that no matter of significance is overlooked and that we do not reach a final conclusion without a full and independent examination of the evidence.”
The Stuart-Smith Inquiry dragged out for seven months and predictably concluded there was no case for a new Inquiry – and utterly failed to investigate evidence that police statements from the fateful day had been substantially rewritten.
No wonder Margaret Aspinall, whose 18-year-old son James died, responded to these recent revelations by stating: “What he [Straw] did was deceitful. All governments let us down, not just the Conservatives.”
This was an appalling example of Labour’s betrayal of working class people in their devoted defence of all arms of the capitalist establishment.

Never again!

Successive Inquiries and successive Tory and Labour governments buried the truth, terrified of the backlash against institutions that the rich rely on to maintain their power. But they reckoned without the Hillsborough Justice campaigners, who were adamant in their demand ‘Never again – justice for the 96′.
This victory for working class people in exposing the truth should not be the end of the matter. Apologies without justice mean nothing. The Hillsborough families are rightly demanding the reopening of the inquests, which were part of the cover-up, with their ‘accidental deaths’ verdict. That, and the call for prosecutions of those who were in charge of this man-made disaster, are the next steps towards justice.
The apologies from the Sun editor of the time, some police chiefs (though even now, not all of them), Boris Johnson and David Cameron are too little, too late. They had little choice but to apologise, given the devastating impact of the truth revealed; not to do so could have led to the Tory government’s downfall, and irreversible damage to the standing of the police.
But already within 24 hours of the Report, there were signs they wanted to make this a one-day wonder of apologies, swiftly followed by days of distraction with stories of tasteless, intrusive pictures of topless Royals. For the sake of those who perished, they must not succeed.

Justice at last??

In the wake of the damning, irrefutable public exposé of the role of senior police in the Independent Panel’s Report, unprecedented investigations of serving and retired police officers and bosses of the football authorities has been launched by both the Crown Prosecution Service and the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
Those facing potential charges of gross misconduct or even manslaughter include Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison, who had tried to dodge the full consequences of his role in the unforgivable cover-up by first of all apologizing whilst provoking fury with the remark that “Liverpool fans had made policing more difficult than it should have been”, and then by announcing his retirement on a full, generous pension next March.
The scale of the CPS and IPCC investigations have the potential, at least, of starting to bring about some measure of justice – although the public outcry at the revelations of the truth which has been instrumental in forcing this action from the authorities will need to remain as eternal vigilance to ensure justice is done.
And the mid-September Panel Report’s damning revelations to millions has been joined by the current flood of revelations about the despicable sexual abuse by Jimmy Saville, and in particular the cover-up by that pivotal wing of the media, the BBC.
Taken together, these monumental scandals mean the powers-that-be will be terrified of a complete meltdown in the public’s faith in the media, police, prosecution services, allegedly independent complaints bodies, judiciary and governments; hence their obligation to be seen to do something about it, even if it has taken them 23 long, cruel years to even start.

Monument to the 96

In continuing the struggle for justice, democracy, accountability and socialism, I stand by the words I wrote in April 1989:
“They are desperate to cover up the real culprits – the police, the Tory ministers, the football clubs who just want our ticket money. They do nothing about the clapped out, unsafe grounds, which are part of the whole rotten free enterprise system which the Tories and their press uphold…
The unity of working class people in this hour of sorrow cuts across the rivalries which big business fosters in order to reap profits…
The messages on the sympathy cards are careful not to appear controversial in deference to the bereaved. But the collective grief does not prevent the collective rage. The anger at the treatment of fans by the football authorities peeps through even in sympathy cards…
One day the silent, choked up rage of these two million people [the number who poured into Anfield to pay tribute to the 96 in the first week after the tragedy -RV] will be turned on the authorities responsible for this needless suffering and death. They will erect the best possible monument to the fallen 96 – a society where men, women and children can work, rest and play without fear of poverty or death for profit’s sake.”

Wednesday, 21 June 2017


Far from being strong and stable, as the robotic Theresa May repeated ad nauseum during the general election, the new Westminster government is a toxic Tory coalition of chaos.
May's reliance on the misnamed Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in her desperate bid to cling onto power - and prevent a left-leaning minority Corbyn government - has built explosive instability into the very foundations of her regime. 

But who are the DUP? What are their roots? How did they manage to become the biggest party in Northern Ireland? And how can socialists and trade unionists dislodge this reactionary Tory party from its dominant position?

The DUP's particularly reactionary brand of conservatism has smacked those previously unaware of their politics like a stinking wet fish in the face. 
This is the party that blocked equal marriage by wielding their power of veto in the Northern Ireland Assembly, after a majority had voted in favour of bringing the North into line with every other part of the UK. The DUP regard LGBT people as "an abomination", with one of their MPs declaring they could only be "saved by the power of prayer". In fact, in 1977 they launched and were at the heart of the charmingly named campaign, Save Ulster From Sodomy. 
They are creationists, denying science. Climate change deniers - although as we will mention later, ruthless, corrupt opportunists when they can make a fast buck out of allegedly 'green' environmental measures, as implemented by their power-sharing government with Sinn Fein!

Old Testament DUP 
Their attitude to women is equally prehistoric. They deny women the right to control over their own bodies through the right to abortion - even in cases of rape. 
As Theresa May discovered after declaring her intention of negotiating a 'confidence and supply' deal with "our friends in the DUP" - a loose version of coalition government - the DUP are strict Sabbatarians. They refused to negotiate on a Sunday, and kept the hapless May waiting until the Monday. 
It's hardly surprising that comedian Frankie Boyle described them as "the political wing of the Old Testament", or that another wag dubbed the DUP "the Old Testament with fortnightly bin collections."

Pork Barrel Politics
But when Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson rushed to the nearest TV cameras to declare she had been on the phone to Theresa May asking for reassurances that a deal with the DUP would not mean a reversal of legislation on LGBT rights here, she was guilty of one of three things. Profound ignorance of the politics and roots of the DUP; cynical opportunism to win kudos amongst voters for her 'oh-so-liberal' social policies; or a bit of both. 

The DUP are backward-looking reactionaries, but they are also masters at duping their own electorate by having other policies attuned to win votes from mostly working-class Protestants. In fact, surveys have shown that 73% of DUP voters favour advances on abortion rights, and a majority favour equal marriage. So pushing their bigotry on these social issues doesn't win them a majority amongst Protestants at the ballot box, and won't be their preoccupation in carving out power and influence for themselves at Westminster.

Rather than push their reactionary social policy agenda, the DUP are far more interested in exploiting their unexpected power as kingmakers to wring funds out of May for some vote-catching projects, or as the BBC N Ireland correspondent rightly put it, "to have slightly less severe austerity than they'd otherwise impose, for they certainly won't get enough funds to avoid austerity measures altogether". 

As opportunist vote-hunters with an ear for working class concerns, the DUP are opposed to Tory plans on pension cuts, and call for UK-wide abolition of the bedroom tax.
And whatever concessions this pork barrel politics forces on May, it will add to the severity of cuts for working class people elsewhere in the UK; another strand of government instability. 

Brexit Chaos 
One of the DUP's other policy planks could spell disaster for their Tory friends: they are pro-Brexit, but oppose a 'hard border' between the North and South of Ireland. Some close observers believe they preached the virtues of a Leave vote in the EU Referendum in order to curry favour with voters concerned to hold onto their British identity, in the belief that a majority in the UK would reject their advice and vote to Remain - thereby handing the DUP a win-win situation. 
Their voters in the working class and rural poor would be potentially crucified by the impact of border tariffs and trade barriers, so the DUP try to square the circle, advocating an open border between the EU member state in the South and the Brexit North - but try to avoid arguing for special status for Northern Ireland within a Brexit deal, in case that encourages the SNP in their pursuit of the same for Scotland, thereby undermining the cohesion of the 'United' Kingdom. 
At the very least, their presence in the Westminster government weakens the full-blown, Little Englander 'hard Brexit' advocated by the Blue Brexiteers of the Tory right, now advocated by May. Even on that one issue, a 'coalition of chaos'. 

Sectarian History 
Those who rightly condemn the DUP for their mind-blowing reactionary social policies - but leave it at that - are in serious danger of implying all Protestants who made them the dominant Unionist party in several recent elections are a homogenous block of Bible-thumping, anti-women, homophobic, anti-Catholic bigots. 
Not so! Many of the DUP's party activists undoubtedly fit that description, but their broad base have voted the way they did for entirely different and varied reasons, rooted in the history of Ireland, the consciously divisive role of the British landowning and capitalist class in Ireland historically, and indeed the role of other political forces in Ireland to this very day. 

Looking at the growth of the DUP - from a fledgling party launched in 1971 by Ian Paisley, to the winners of 36% of all votes cast in N Ireland recently - actually only serves to emphasise their anti-working class role, as perpetrators of division within working class communities. 
In turn, it shows that socialists and trade unionists in Scotland who wish to help break the grisly embrace of the DUP over many working class Protestants need to assist those brave forces fighting for working class unity, equal rights and socialism in Ireland - not reinforce the sectarian divisions by being cheerleaders for the nationalist Sinn Fein. 

Ireland was conquered as Britain's first colony. The methods used included bloody military conquest, land robbery, mass death through entirely avoidable famines, and a long history of 'divide-and-rule' tactics, pitting Catholic and Protestant peasants and workers against each other. 
But throughout the centuries, waves of united struggles confronted the same ruling classes of Britain, with peasants and - in the 20th century - workers periodically overcoming the sectarian divisions injected into them by the landlords, capitalists and military chiefs, who sought to exploit them. 
The pinnacle of division was reached after the 1920s Partition of Ireland - and the religious and class-based discrimination that particularly hammered the Catholic minority in the North, but also working class Protestants. For instance, businesses had up to 30 votes in council elections - the bodies allocating jobs and housing - but poor Catholics and Protestants without property (tenants) had no vote at all, right up to the late 1960s!

Workers' Unity
In the 1960s, the trend was towards integration of working class communities, through mixed housing estates, radical struggles and united strikes by workers, and then the mass upsurge for Civil Rights in 1968, involving masses of young Catholics, but also big sections of Protestant youth and trade unionists. 
The entirely justified demand for an end to discrimation against Catholics on jobs, housing allocation - and even voting rights - initially won widespread support across both communities. 
But the leaders of both the Civil Rights and trade union movements failed to clearly link the demand for civil rights with a struggle for well-paid jobs and decent housing for all. 

This opened the door to reactionary bigots like founder of the Christian fundamentalist Free Presbyterian Church, Rev. Ian Paisley, to whip up support for his anti-Catholic vitriol amongst the most reactionary minority of rural, middle class and despairing sections of Protestants. 
He was able to whip up the justified fears of many that in a society of mass unemployment, low wages and appalling housing conditions (amongst the worst in Europe at the time), more opportunities for Catholics meant fewer for Protestants. 

Paisleyite Thuggery 
Paisley wasn't averse to mobilizing thugs with guns and truncheons to attack Civil Rights marchers - or two years later to arson-attack Catholics in their homes, leading to the biggest population displacement since the Second World War. 

By the 1960s the British ruling class had no interest in holding onto Northern Ireland. British monopoly firms by then were making twice as much profit from investments in the South as in the North. 
For them, some arrangement of a unified capitalist Ireland, willing to provide copious profits for British and multinational companies, was far preferable to subsidizing an unstable statelet they'd created half a century earlier. But they'd created the monster of sectarianism, which wouldn't lie down and accept the plans of the modern British capitalist class and their governments. 

Failed Opportunities
History is made by the struggle between living forces. The 1960s in Ireland - in the context of world-wide movements against inequality, capitalism and wars - was a golden opportunity for the organised trade unions and labour movement to advance working class unity and struggle towards a socialist Ireland. 
Instead, the leadership of that movement failed to advocate and lead such a unifying struggle, and the forces of Paisleyism went from a tiny but violent fringe - held in contempt by most Protestant workers - to a much bigger, and brutally divisive force.

The failures of the same labour movement leadership to resist state repression - after the Paisleyite pogroms against Catholics, and the introduction of British troops in August 1969 - led to the emergence of the Provisional IRA. Regardless of the intentions of the young volunteers, the methods of the Provos deeply alienated Protestants, driving them further into the arms of the likes of Paisley - their own worst enemies. 

DUP Launch
Paisley and his cohort launched the DUP in that context, in 1971, appealing to the fears of many Protestants that the upper-class Unionist Party leadership - landowners and factory owners, dubbed by many 'the fur coat brigade' - were selling them out. 
The Unionist Party tried belatedly to arrange power-sharing with middle-class nationalist politicians, hoping to stabilize Ireland for better profit margins for the rich. 
At first only a minority - mostly in rural villages and small towns - responded to the DUP's sectarian rants. But over the years they made inroads, based on growing suspicions towards the 'fur coat' Unionist politicians; fear of being driven into an unattractive united Ireland by the armed struggle and sometimes nakedly sectarian actions of the IRA; and the (false) impression that the demagogic Ian Paisley was standing up for 'the Protestant people'. 

Ulster Resistance: DUP paramilitary wing
The fortunes of Paisley and the DUP were boosted by the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, arranged over the heads of the population by the governments of London, Dublin and the Ulster Unionists in Belfast. This earlier variant of a power-sharing agreement met a torrent of vitriol from Paisley at a series of mass 'Ulster Says No' rallies, which whipped up the fear of rule by Dublin amongst sections of increasingly beleaguered Protestants. 

But when the Tories tried to block Jeremy Corbyn's advance amongst the working class and youth in the recent General Election by dredging up his links with Sinn Fein and the IRA in the days of the Troubles, they display their customary, rank hypocrisy by now holding hands with the DUP. 
That's the party whose founders and past leaders - including Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and Ivan Foster - all attended the secretive, invitation-only rally in Belfast in November 1986, to launch the paramilitary Ulster Resistance. Paisley was secretly filmed donning the red beret of this militaristic outfit, then saluting its assembled 'soldiers'. 

From the Bullet to the Ballot Box
Ulster Resistance collaborated with the murderous loyalist paramilitaries of the UVF, Red Hand Commandos and UDA to smuggle guns, rocket launchers and copious caches of ammunition from the likes of Lebanon and South Africa.
One of those arrested for these gun-running operations - more than once - was Noel Little, whose daughter Emma Little Pengelly has just been elected as DUP MP for South Belfast. 
So Ulster Resistance was effectively the paramilitary wing of the DUP in the few years of its active existence, at the height of Paisleyite mobilizations against the power-sharing 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement. 

But in a parallel evolution to that of Sinn Fein/IRA, the very same DUP luminaries turned towards the ballot box rather than the bullet in subsequent years, grabbing power (and privileged incomes!) for themselves - through the new version of power-sharing... with the politicians they'd for years denounced as the Devil incarnate, mobilizing and misleading hundreds of thousands through a sectarian quagmire for their own ends. 

Demand for Peace 
After 30 years of 'the Troubles', with over 3,600 dead and countless maimed and scarred for life, working class communities were war-weary, sick of the killings, and made their desire for an end to the bitter conflict known to the loyalist killing gangs and IRA, through a series of vast demonstrations, peace rallies and united workers' strikes against killings and death threats. 
Those movements of trade unionists, and women in the communities - combined with the growing exhaustion of the paramilitaries, as they came to recognize the failures of their armed methods, and felt increasingly isolated from the mood of 'their own' communities - led to the peace talks, and the ceasefires of 1998. 

Paisley - who for decades had demagogically denounced any suggestion of 'power-sharing' as a concession to 'Popery' - was instrumental in establishing the power-sharing government, becoming First Minister, with his Deputy in the person of ex-IRA leader Martin McGuinness. The two became popularly known as 'The Chuckle Brothers', such was their level of friendly collaboration... including in horrendous austerity cuts, privatisation, welfare benefit attacks, and a drive to reduce Corporation Tax! 

Power-sharing Agreement - for the Political Elite  
The Peace Process, through both the 1998 Belfast Agreement and the 2006 St Andrew's Agreement, established a system of power-sharing that is purely between a political elite; it certainly doesn't open the door to working class people of either or both communities sharing power. 
It's a system with a history in other nations (such as Lebanon) also bedeviled by communal conflicts; divisions implanted by imperialist powers in the first place. 
It's an institutionalized arrangement between parties rooted in segregated communities.
Whilst the accompanying ceasefires were and are welcome - and the overwhelming majority of both Catholic and Protestant people are totally and utterly opposed to going back to the bleak, bloody days of the Troubles - the power-sharing agreement tends to reinforce the sectarian segregation between communities. 

Institutionalised Sectarianism 
In the Northern Ireland Assembly, every elected MLA has to be designated as either a Unionist, Nationalist, or Other. Additionally, what's called the Petition of Concern gives a full-blown veto to any 30 MLAs - either Unionist or Nationalist - against anything the Assembly majority might vote for. In that built-in mechanism, the duly elected MLAs who refuse to define themselves as either Unionist or Nationalist, but are classified as Others, literally disappear from the voting process. So much for democracy! 

A recent case, before last Christmas, illustrates this monstrously sectarian set-up. A majority of Assembly members voted for a motion demanding the resignation of Arlene Foster over her handling of Cash for Ash, which 30 Unionist MLAs vetoed, turning the Assembly majority into its opposite. 
The same device was used by the DUP to block lifting the ban on same sex marriage. 

DUP/Sinn Fein Austerity 
Theresa May is being propped up in office courtesy this voting system in Northern Ireland, which institutionalizes and reinforces a sectarian headcount, as was the case to an unprecedented degree in the June general election.
For a decade, the DUP and Sinn Fein caught up with and then eclipsed their more 'moderate' rivals in the respective communities: the Ulster Unionist Party and SDLP. 

For a decade the DUP and Sinn Fein were content to collaborate in savage cuts; privatisation of services either through the Assembly or councils they controlled; a shared ambition to reduce the public sector; reduction of corporation tax; and benefit cuts averaging £2,000 to over 100,000 people. 

The DUP is reactionary to the core on women's issues; Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams have both described Sinn Fein as 'an anti-abortion party'. In the South's parliament, the Dail, Sinn Fein TDs abstained in a vote on a Bill calling for the right to abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities in 2013, only adopting that one narrow concession to abortion rights at their subsequent party conference. 

Cash for Ash Scandal 
Before his death, McGuinness toppled the DUP/Sinn Fein government led by Arlene Foster in January 2017, by resigning as Deputy First Minister. The issue was the Cash for Ash scandal. 
This was a scheme introduced in Britain, then adopted by Foster when she was Enterprise Minister in 2012 - with one critical alteration that opened the door to outrageous corruption. 
The cap on state subsidies for use of allegedly environmentally friendly biomass wooden pellets was scrapped, so that for every £1 spent by businesses, big farmers and individuals burning this fuel, they were awarded £1.60 from the public purse. 
When her advisers alerted Foster of the dangers of abuse, back in 2013, she dismissed them, and several of the DUP hierarchy, advisers and friends accelerated their investments in the scheme. 
Empty factories and farm outhouses literally burnt these pellets endlessly. They burnt taxpayers' money, to the extent an estimated £490million overspend in subsidies mounted up, with warnings from the Audit Commission that the eventual handout to these corrupt chancers will reach £1billion. 

Turning a Blind Eye to Corruption 
These corrupt practices were known to all the major politicians since at least early 2016, but not one of the parties - including Sinn Fein - lifted a finger to expose or end it. 
As recently as December 2016, Sinn Fein abstained on a vote in the Assembly demanding Arlene Foster's resignation as First Minister pending a public inquiry. They only brought the issue to a head, through Martin McGuinness triggering the March 2017 Assembly elections, after public protests erupted, with Sinn Fein at risk of losing their popular base for turning a blind eye to their DUP partners' corruption. 

Sectarian Headcount 
In the March Assembly elections and subsequent June 2017 general election, Sinn Fein whipped up righteous anger at the DUP's methods. In the words of their recently elected Fermanagh MP, Michelle Gildernew, they called on Catholic voters "to put manners on them".   
They conducted a belligerent campaign to make Sinn Fein the biggest party in the North, which wiped out all remaining SDLP MPs, but also played right into the hands of the DUP. 
The DUP focused on dire warnings to the Protestants that SF, Gerry Adams and 'the IRA' would become the biggest party unless they all voted DUP. 

In the most blatant sectarian headcount since the height of the Troubles in 1970, with appeals to "keep out the other side", the DUP rose to 36% of all votes cast by both communities, and Sinn Fein to 29%. 
The inbuilt sectarian division that the power-sharing system assumes allowed both major parties to escape scrutiny on their appalling track record on austerity; on social, economic, class questions that impact on the lives and livelihoods of working class people, regardless of what religious tag is attached to them; which side of the 'peace lines' they live on. 

United Working Class 
The DUP are blatant reactionaries, who only get away with their anti-working class agenda by whipping up the fears of working class Protestants of losing their identity and rights by being coerced into a capitalist united Ireland. 
Sinn Fein is nothing like a socialist party - even though many who vote for them are - and are incapable of appealing to Protestant workers - in part because of their historic links with the IRA's campaign of individual terrorism. 

In the recent elections, they've turned up the volume on their calls for a border poll - referenda North and South on reunification of Ireland, as permitted under the Good Friday Agreement - something now also echoed by the Green Tory Fianna Fáil party in the South. 
Sinn Fein have become increasingly triumphalist and belligerent on this demand, with references to demographic changes possibly making the Catholics a majority in the North a few years ahead. The sum total impact of that approach was to dragoon even more Protestants into voting DUP, whose vote rose nearly 10%, out of fear and uncertainty. Further sectarian polarization on the electoral front. 

There is a growing, desperate need for a working class socialist party that actively reaches across the community divide, uniting workers on class issues, but also guaranteeing the democratic rights of all communities in a socialist Ireland. 

A Socialist Ireland 
The vision of a socialist Ireland - a world apart from the type of societies that currently exist, North and South - is what's required to unite working class people, by convincing  them not only of the social and economic advantages, but that guarantees for all minorities would be embedded in such a socialist democracy. 
Consent, through patient explanation - and above all years of united struggle by working class people on common, class questions - is the route to a socialist Ireland, not ultimatums or coercion in any form.