6 February 1997 Edition

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Anti-Bloody Sunday bigotry

NATIONALIST WORKERS AT DESMONDS Clothing factory in Newbuildings outside Derry City were verbally abused and threatened by loyalist workers last week after they observed a two minute silence and wore black commemorative ribbons for the dead of Bloody Sunday.

According to a number of workers who spoke to An Phoblacht, about 30 nationalists wore the black ribbons to the plant on Friday 24 January and were reported to management. The workers, when ordered to remove the ribbons, refused and were told they would be given written warnings. However management retracted this and issued a verbal warning for disobeying a supervisor.

Loyalists, who believed nationalists would wear black T-shirts instead of the ribbons, arrived in work on Thursday 30 January wearing orange t-shirts: some also wore Glasgow Rangers scarves.

``On Thursday afternoon as the nationalists observed the two minute silence,'' said a worker, ``the loyalists sang the Sash and called us Fenian bastards''.

That evening as workers left Desmonds a crowd of loyalists gathered outside the factory and shouted abuse at the nationalist workers. During the protest the bus was kicked and battered and, said the worker, ``the RUC did nothing. They were about 10 yards away''.

DUP politicians Gregory Campbell and William Hay, who were present, claimed the protest was in defence of ``Protestant workers who were being intimidated''. The loyalists held a two hour strike on Friday morning.

The loyalist workers, who are in the majority, are demanding an apology. ``They have no chance,'' said our source who said that since Drumcree last year relations between workers in the plant have got so bad that people who were very friendly before won't talk to each other; ``Protestants won't even sit beside Catholics now. At the time of Drumcree we were stopped by loyalists and pregnant women were pushed about. Our bus has been stoned a couple of times since then. Luckily no one has been injured''.

Both management and trades unions have come under fire from the nationalists workers over their inaction. ``The union, GMB, is a disgrace. Our shop steward is a member of the DUP and doesn't represent us and some of the supervisors just take the side of the loyalists too,'' a worker said.

A spokesperson for Desmonds told An Phoblacht that while the company was not prepared to discuss the present situation they were ``reviewing development and training to ensure that a neutral environment exists in the plant''.

Desmonds also say that while they will do whatever they can to resolve the difficulties within the plant anything that happens outside the plant ``is the responsibility of the RUC''.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1