Australian Left Review

Article Title

Sectarianism & Intra-class Conflict in Northern Ireland


At first sight it would appear that in Northern Ireland sectarianism is the principal problem and the major determining factor in the evolving course of events. Intra-class conflict within the working class is rife. Normal horizontal class cleavages are subordinated to the vertical sectarian divide that cuts a swathe of suspicion and hatred through the middle of society. Despite appearances, however, the basic contradictions that establish the parameters of the dev eloping situation are not based on sectarianism The two main contradictions underlying the conflict in Northern Ireland are firstly the fact that Ulster is a unique type of colonial situation, and secondly the nature of the evolving social formations in the Province, at a time when the anachronistic paternalist style of capitalism that still exists there is at last being forced to come to terms with the monopolistic managerial style of capitalism that is dominant in the rest of the United Kingdom and Western Europe. On this basis it can be seen that sectarianism is a manifestation of the underlying contradictions, and, while important, its presence and its ramifications can be explained in terms of these basic contradictions.