People gathered for a peace rally in Derry have been told that the current political impasse and lack of prospects has created a vacuum in which paramilitaries have exploited ‘hatred and anger’.

The rally was organised by trade union, NIPSA, in the aftermath of the car bomb on Bishop Street and attacks on workers in the form of hijackings.

A couple of hundred people gathered at the Peace Garden in Foyle Street where trade unions sent a clear message to paramilitaries that there can be ‘no going back’ to violence of the past.

Patrick Mulholland of NIPSA called for an ‘end to paramilitarism’ in all its form, both nationalist and unionist.  He said people want an end to sectarianism whether it is ‘clashes or attacks on The Fountain estate’ or ‘a young man killed at a barbecue’ or ‘politicians escalating sectarianism by their language’.

“There are always voices that call for increased repression as an answer to the problems in our society,” he said. “Well we’ve lived with that as well and repression has not worked and will not work, and repression should not be tolerated.”

He spoke about his trade union’s vision for the future, which is one for working people and the younger generation. “That means a change of course, first of all break the political deadlock, changing our economy, we must do away with austerity, it has failed the people, it will continue to fail the people and will underpin paramilitarism, sectarianism and repression.”

The rally was told we need an economy that’s based on 99% of people and not the 1% who own a disproportionate portion of wealth.

Addressing those in attendance, Liam Gallagher, Chair of the Derry Trades Union Council, said the bomb last Saturday evening had the potential to cause very serious injury.  He made reference to footage of the young people walking past the bomb-laden vehicle moments before it exploded and reflected on how it could have been devastating for those young people and their families.

“The message needs to go out to the people who planted that bomb that the only thing they’ve done is damage the local community and the only thing they will succeed in doing is causing death and destruction.  The people of Ireland, north and south, have rejected that type of politics and have said we want to move forward and have a better society.”

He described as ‘reprehensible’ the attack on workers going about their daily lives on January 21.  “The other difficulty here is the current impasse at Stormont, more and more people are becoming frustrated, the more people become depressed, at the lack of movement and consensus, then this creates a vacuum that allows people to feed on hatred and anger – it’s important that we fight against that.

“I would urge our politicians to go the extra mile, to get together, it will require leadership, it will require compromise on both sides, but unless that’s done more and more incidents like we seen in Derry/Londonderry last Saturday could happen again.”

‘True Equality’

Meanwhile, Antoinette McMillen of NIPSA, said workers such as those at the Court Service, Housing Executive and Royal Mail should not have to face threats or bombs when undertaking their duties which is done on behalf of everyone in the community.

“The evidence of a lack of an Executive is now clear for all, this cannot continue, political parties must step up, they must show leadership, they must find a path, the impasse must be broken.”

She added: “Our people are dying on trolleys and doorsteps, our nurses and our doctors are leaving the country, our businesses are closing, our workers are underpaid and again now we have violence on our streets.  I urge you politicians, as Kennedy said, do not be blinded by your differences, look at the common interests of the people in order to resolve those differences.

“The people voted democratically and overwhelmingly for peace, we cannot return to a violent society, we urge those responsible to listen to the workers, to the people, any threats, bullying, intimidation, bombing, or any form of violence cannot and will never achieve equality.

“True equality, true democracy, true peace, can only be achieved by people working together in dialogue, in peace.  We invite them to join our struggle for a true democracy, true equality and true peace in our society.”

Photo: Liam Gallagher speaking at the peace rally in Foyle Street.

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