Over 300 young people and trade unionists took part in last Saturday’s ’March for a Future’ called by Youth Fight for Jobs & Education, in Belfast, which the Socialist Party initiated. The march crossed the ‘peace-line’ between the Shankill and Falls areas in commemoration of the 1932 Outdoor Relief Strike, and in protest at today’s mass youth unemployment and austerity, particularly cuts to education.
The march was called to mark the heroic 1932 Outdoor Relief Strike, when Catholics and Protestants from across Belfast united in opposition across the sectarian divide to fight for proper unemployment benefits. Youth Fight for Jobs decided to commemorate the ’32 workers’ struggle, despite recent weeks of rising sectarian tensions in Belfast over disputed parades, and to use it to highlight the ‘welfare reform’ cuts of the Assembly, Northern Ireland’s power-sharing local government.
Photography by Tyler, www.facebook.com/photosbytyler
Young people are particularly incensed by the Assembly plans to attack the Education Maintenance Allowance benefit, which has already been taken away from for school and college students in England and Wales.
Last Saturday’s march symbolically retread the path of a famous 1932 Outdoor Relief Strike march, setting off from Custom House, near the docks, where generations of trade unionists, socialists and labour activists rallied, marching up the Shankill and down the Falls (predominantly Protestant and Catholic working class areas often associated with the ‘Troubles’), stopping briefly at gates at a peace-line (a high metal and brick wall separating the Catholic and Protestant working class areas), and finishing with an inspiring rally at Belfast City Hall.
Several unions took part in and supported the march, in particular Unite, NIPSA, PCS and INTO. Youth Fight for Jobs in Scotland and NSSN in England and Wales were also represented.
Neil Moore, Secretary of Youth Fight for Jobs & Education in Northern Ireland, said:
"The march was a powerful statement that young people and workers can and will unite across the sectarian divide to fight in their common interests.
More photos of the event can be found at www.facebook.com/photosbytyler
We got a fantastic response on either side of the peace-line. The event really captured the spirit of the Outdoor Relief Strike eighty years ago."
"We won’t be resting on our laurels now. Youth Fight for Jobs will be building on this success by launching a campaign against the Assembly’s plans to cut EMA for school and college students. Students here have already beaten the politicians on this issue and they can do it again."