The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

When The Falls & Shankill Marched As One

Davy Carlin

On the 14th December a demonstration took place in West Belfast, a demonstration that raised both eyebrows and comments from various quarters. From parts of our local media we had 'an historic march' while others drew a symbolic significance of seventy years past of the outdoor relief marches. This was a march which seen people from the Shankill Rd march up Lannark way to meet people of the Falls - Springfield road, a road in recent years that has seen confrontation between orange marchers and the local residents. On this day though it seen unity in a common cause of economic concern in support of the firefighters and of our fire service, with many of those marching stating it was an absolutely brilliant initiative.

The march itself consisted of about one hundred and fifty persons. It was led by a banner which stretched across the road stating 'Falls and Shankill in support of our fire service.' I would like to thank my more artistic young comrades in the Belfast Socialist Workers Party (SWP) for doing the banner, as those community and trade union activists who carried it with me gave it nothing but praise as did firefighters who suggested I should keep it safe in case for further use.

Behind this banner, the N. Ireland Fire Brigades Union (FBU) banner was carried with up to twenty five local firefighters in full uniform walking behind it. This was then followed by other trade union banners such as that of Unison and that of the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance banner (NIPSA), the largest union in N.Ireland, with other political and community banners joining also in support. The make up of the marchers drew many rank and file trade unionists as well as leading members of the Belfast Trades Council and the Irish Congress Of Trades Unions (ICTU). They were joined by Catholic and Protestant, loyalist and republican community activists, socialists, and local residents with their children amongst others all lending support. The speakers were from the ICTU and FBU and also a young woman who being inspired by the reasoning of the march asked if she could say a few words at the end. The march was the first organised by the West Belfast Firefighter Support Group and supported by the Belfast Trades Council and the Fire Brigades Union. I found in the build up to the march a lot of people in 'both communities' having a lot of support for it. Doing interviews together, attempting to build support for the march through different media outlets myself and Alex, a Shankill Rd community worker found massive vocal support for the Firefighters' cause. Such issues of concern can and do find a resonance and support across the 'divide' and with the possibility of a similiar march in North Belfast being raised, again another 'flashpoint' and interface area, persons involved in the support groups are looking for cross community support for the firefighters and our fire service. Yet it is not only on bread and butter issues but on other issues I have found 'cross community' support. For example as per my previous article on The Blanket I wrote of the two hundred plus march last week through central Belfast against US imperialism's initiated coming war on Iraq. The march called by the Belfast Anti-War Movement brought again amongst others Catholics and Protestants. Fortunately as a leading organiser also for this march I knew and could see key community activists from East Belfast's Protestant estates marching with key community activists from West Belfast's Falls Rd behind their Trade Union banners such as that of the Unison banner in support of the Belfast Anti-War Movement.

Of course after thirty or so years of this recent conflict we see still a lot of bitterness or disillusionment or tiredness and of 'sure nothing will change'. Yet as in the very first article I wrote for The Blanket, written this time last year, and one of the first article I had ever written entitled 'New Governance And The Working Class' (archive section), I will therefore end this article with the same understanding as I ended that one.

That is - may it be in initial small steps, patiently but determinedly, building unity and in doing so creating strength, locally and internationally, we then have it within ourselves to attempt to effect real change. Some wish it to, some want it to, but ultimately despite whatever - may it be through small victories or indeed against defeats we always have to keep working, keep building, keep moving forward, to attempt to make it happen.






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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.
- Hamilton Wright Mabie

Index: Current Articles

2 January 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


From Pig to Man and Man to Pig
Tommy Gorman


Up the IRB, Down the Amazon

Seaghán Ó Murchú Gem of Exploitation
Liam O Ruairc


The Tyranny of Christmas
Anthony McIntyre


Eat, Drink, Be Merry
Brendan O'Neill


The Silence of the Left
Henry McDonald


When the Falls & Shankill Marched As One
Davy Carlin


19 December 2002


Take It With A Pinch Of Salt
Tom Luby


Victory 2016 plus 40 - Remember to Read the Small Print

Anthony McIntyre


The Men of No Property
Liam O Ruairc


Relatives of Republican Prisoners
Orlaith Dillion


Dirty Politics
Carrie Twomey


Henry McDonald, “Irish Anti-Semitism” and the Zionist Roadshow
Brian Kelly


Arrests in London of Turkish Hunger Strike supporters




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