The Royal Mail is going through difficult times. In recent weeks, we’re reported on problems inside the company with bullying and harassment issues and it’s clear that a huge problem exists within that huge company.
But much more worrying than any of this is the latest threat made against postal workers, which we reveal on page one today.
Protestant workers have been warned to stay out of West Belfast or they’ll be shot. The threat was made by a man claiming to represent the Catholic Reaction Force. It’s highly debatable whether any such organisation actually exists, but the very existence of a death threat, from wherever it may come, must be taken seriously by both management and workers alike.
It is literally a matter of life and death and the old adage ‘better safe than sorry’ applies perfectly in this case.
Postal workers are in a uniquely vulnerable position – that is why they are so frequently targeted by thugs and cowards, and that is why threats against them must be treated with the utmost concern.
It is essential that the entire community throws its weight behind our postal workers at this worrying time in order to convince the people behind this that they have zero support for their reprehensible actions.
Not that the Royal Mail is the only target for the sectarian bully boys of both sides. We report this week that the Irish government has been on the ground in Lisburn and Dunmurry, seeing at first hand the plight of Catholics who are being targeted by the UDA in its continuing campaign to try to shape the sectarian geography of our streets and roads.
This is a positive development, because concrete support like this for victims of loyalist violence in flashpoint areas is of immense help, if only in allowing them to feel – perhaps for the first time – that they are not alone and someone is fighting their corner. Targeted Catholics are in a particularly difficult position for not only are exposed nationalist families estranged from their neighbours, but they are estranged from the state as well – particularly its forces of law and order – and that can lead to powerful and debilitating feelings of helplessness and fear.
Needless to say, the British government has fallen down on its responsibilities in this regard in the past, preferring to fiddle while Rome burned, and even on the few occasions when ministers and politicians turned up on the ground some – if not most – of the nationalist families in the firing line were resentful of their presence, rather than grateful.
Clearly, the Irish government is not going to send soldiers into Dunmurry or Lisburn to protect Catholic families, but their very presence is a valuable signal that events on the ground are being watched by concerned politicians who will take steps to ensure that people’s safety is secured.
We look forward to more such visits in the future.
We would be greatly heartened, for instance, to see Irish government figures on the ground in North Belfast, where the mini-pogroms against the Catholic community continue to rage.
Obviously, such visits would need to be subtle and sensitive – the sight of an Irish minister would be a red rag to a bull to the mindless thugs behind the UDA campaign in North Belfast.
But it is important that families be assured that this is not 1969 – even if the realities they are facing up-close virtually every night suggest that it might as well be.
Catholics – for it is they who are overwhelmingly the victims in this madness – must not be left alone to cower in the corner. Too many of us did that for too long.