The Blanket

Interface Workers Snubbed

Billy Mitchell

Community workers and local activists involved in inter-community work within and across the interface communities of North Belfast are the hidden victims of the most recent cycles of interface violence.

Alarmed by the rise in inter-communal violence in both North and East Belfast politicians have been busy pulling together the “great and the good” of civil society to discuss ways and means of addressing the issue. There is nothing particularly wrong in this. Those who hold leadership positions in the CBI, ICTU, the Churches and our political parties do have a role to play in helping communities to break the vicious cycle of alienation, conflict and violence that has plagued interface communities for so long. But the most recent initiatives by both Des Brown (NIO) and Alex Maskey (City Council) have ignored those in the community sector whose daily work is carried out amidst the cut and thrust of sectarianism and interface violence.

Community activists who are engaged in addressing interface issues and promoting inter-community development, many of whom are on the streets when the violence is at its hottest, have been cast aside as irrelevant to the debate as to how society can best address interface problems. How many of the “great and the good” have direct experience of working day and daily on the interfaces? How many are called up out of their beds in the wee small hours to act as mediators? How many are there in the aftermath of the violence to help repair broken relationships? How many actually know what an interface looks like never mind knowing the real issues that affect people living and working in interface communities?

In none of the discussions facilitated by either Des Brown or Alex Maskey have interface workers been asked to provide an input based on their daily experiences. There has been no attempt to find out how community groups and their interface workers are coping with the pressures of working in a violent environment - one would think that the health of interface workers would be of concern to representatives of the ICTU . There has been no attempt to find out how some of these groups and workers are coping with funding cuts, staff lay-offs and programme restrictions. Perhaps, more importantly, there has been no attempt to hear about the wealth of good positive intercommunity work that is going on.

One could be forgiven for believing that these much publicised initiatives have more to do with political and civic leaders making a show of being concerned about what is happening on our streets, that being concerned about understanding the issues or actually addressing the conflict.











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If you stand up and be counted, from time to time you may get yourself knocked down. But remember this: A man flattened by an opponent can get up again. A man flattened by conformity stays down for good.
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Index: Current Articles

22 August 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


Listen Rather Than Punish
Anthony McIntyre


To Hell With the True Believers
Newton Emerson


Merger Mania
Ciarán Irvine


Interface Workers Snubbed
Billy Mitchell


A Vibrant Feile
Sean Smyth


RIRA & CIRA: No Support and Going Nowhere?
Liam O Ruairc


18 August 2002


Unidentified Mob Rule
Aine Fox


The West Belfast Feile
Newton Emerson


The Most Useless, Most Spineless, Most Pointless of Them All
Ciarán Irvine


North Belfast: A Resident's View
Joan Totten


A Tawny Sinew
Anthony McIntyre


Deepest Sympathy


Ahmed Al Kouraini
Sam Bahour


A Personal Voyage of Taboo

Davy Carlin


Reading Connolly
Liam O Ruairc




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