Irish Republican News · March 21, 2015
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: St Patrick’s Day parades pass without major trouble
St Patrick’s Day parades pass without major trouble

patricksdaycrowd.jpg

There were only relatively minor incidents in Belfast on Tuesday after a loyalist flag protest outside Belfast City Hall was held as thousands gathered to celebrate the feast day of Ireland’s patron saint.

A 12-year-old girl taken to hospital after being struck by a missile as rival groups of youths clashed. Earlier, nationalist children were seen to set fire to a British flag, enraging the flag protestors.

Loyalists had said they planned to stage a 24-hour “vigil” on Tuesday to coincide with a St Patrick’s Day parade organised by the city council. However, only a few dozen hardened flag-waving protesters showed up to demand the return of the Union Jack to council buildings on a year-round basis.

There was little to protest, however, as the British flag was already flying above City Hall due to St Patrick’s Day being one of the 18 designated days the British flag is scheduled to fly there. Nevertheless, the loyalist protest continued into the late evening, with occasional skirmishes between flag-waving loyalists and youths dressed in green.

The PSNI said “isolated incidents of missiles being thrown have been reported”, but that the St Patrick’s Day events in Belfast had been largely peaceful.

Outside of Belfast, the largest parades in the north were in Newry, Derry, Armagh, Strabane, Omagh, Enniskillen and Downpatrick. The only other negative incident reported on St Patrick’s Day was a loyalist woman who was arrested for setting fire to an Irish tricolour.

At the weekend in Derry, however, buses carrying football fans from County Louth were attacked.

Three coaches, carrying up to 100 fans of Dundalk football club, were attacked with bricks, stones and blocks of concrete outside the Brandywell Stadium. The attack followed the League of Ireland fixture between the two clubs.

Aiden Kinsella, the driver of a 52-seater coach, said he had to take evasive action to get his passengers to safety.

“We tried to reverse but we couldn’t because of the traffic. We had nowhere to go. There were some young children on board. It was very scary for them. The people on board said they will not be in Derry again. We were very fortunate that no one was hurt.”

PROTESTS

About 500,000 people lined the streets of Dublin on Tuesday afternoon to watch the nation’s main St Patrick’s Day parade. Temple Bar and other areas of the capital were later packed to capacity as the drinking continued into the night, without major trouble. There was a similar story around the world, although a few controversies over the involvement in St Patrick’s Day parades by diverse campaigns have continued.

Following years of protests, gay rights groups were allowed to take part in both the New York St. Patrick’s Day parade and Boston parades. Out-at-NBC took part in New York, the first gay group to do so. Boston’s St Patrick’s Day parade also made history Sunday as two gay and lesbian groups marched after decades of opposition that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

An Irish feminist group temporarily halted the London St Patrick’s Day parade, demanding “free, safe and legal” abortion in Ireland. The women lined up in front of the parade floats and defied a large model of St Patrick to come any closer. They shook snakes and chanted “Our bodies, our choice. Autonomy. Women on the island of Ireland need access to free, safe, legal abortion now.”

And anti-water charges campaigners had their float controversially banned from the parade in Limerick.

‘We Won’t Pay The Water Tax - Limerick’, which has been spearheading opposition to the charges in the city, were told by the parade’s organisers that they would not be allowed take part because the event “does not have any place for political agendas”.

The group blamed Fine Gael mayor Michael Sheahan for blocking their participation. Mr Sheahan defended the action and said that St Patrick’s Day was about “Irishness and openness” rather than current issues that could be “quite divisive”.

EXCEPTION

In Glasgow city, following opposition by Labour-run Glasgow City Council, no St Patrick’s day parade took place. Funding was refused after Labour MP Jim Sheridan said the Irish should not be regarded as an ethnic minority in Scotland.

“If people want parades up and down the streets it is entirely up to them. I don’t think that the taxpayer in these austere times should be asked to pay for it,” he said.

Incredibly, however, permission was granted for an anti-Catholic parade by an extremist loyalist faction, the ‘Regimental Blues’. On St Patrick’s Day, the self-proclaimed loyalist pressure group deliberately marched in front of several bars associated with the Irish community in the city centre, but fortunately without causing trouble.

© 2015 Irish Republican News