Nationalist cities forced to host sectarian festivals
Concerns have been expressed over major Protestant marching season events planned for the overwhelmingly nationalist cities of Derry and Newry this month.
Residents of Derry are already leaving in droves ahead of the year’s largest loyalist parade, which is forced on the city every August.
An anticipated 15,000 members of the Apprentice Boys organisation -- accompanied by 140 ‘kick the Pope’ bands -- are expected in the city tomorrow [Saturday] for an event which is detested by locals.
Every year, residents criticise the effective closure of the city as a result of the parade. Dressed in red, white and blue, or in suits and bowler hats, the marchers walk through and around Derry to mark a medieval Protestant battle victory, ‘the siege of Derry’.
However, unlike the openly sectarian Orange Order, the Apprentice Boys organisation has broadly engaged in talks with nationalist groups, and serious disorder has been avoided in recent years.
THREE DAYS OF MARCHES
In Newry, another sectarian “show of strength” is planned, with three days of unionist marches at the end of this month.
From Friday 24th August until Sunday 26th August, a total of five unionist parades will take place with over 3,000 participants and 50 bands taking over the streets of Newry.
Thousands of unionist bandsmen and supporters will be bussed into the County Armagh city from across the Six Counties for what eirgi said was “triumphalism” and “a sectarian coat-trailing exercise”.
Stephen Murney, the local spokesperson for the socialist republican party, said, “Just last month we had thousands of unionists accompanied by dozens of bands descending on Newry leaving the area a virtual ghost town.
“Band members and participants shouted insults at local people observing and even rushed to attack a local photographer.
“A massive security operation sealed Newry off and most people couldn’t go about their daily business. I have no doubt that this upcoming sectarian ritual will mean the same for the nationalist people of Newry.”
Murney continued, “Before and after the 12th of July our party were inundated with complains from local people who are sick and tired of this happening time and time again. The fact that this next disruptive demonstration will take place over a three day period will mean that many nationalist people in Newry will have to endure an entire weekend of sectarian intimidation and bigotry.”
TOURISTS SAY NO
Meanwhile, the Sinn Fein mayor of Limavady in County Derry has said there had been no unionist reciprocation to the removal of tricolour flags in the town earlier this year, which was facilitated by his party.
Mayor Cathal McLaughlin said there were too many unionist flags and Orange parades in the town, and that it was affecting tourism.
Most recent figures have pointed to a decline in overseas visitor numbers to the North of 5%. The decline comes despite the spending of five million pounds on an advertising campaign.
“The proliferation of unionist flags is a disgrace,” he said. “This sends out a menacing signal to tourists whom we are actively trying to attract.”