Reality check
Reality check

By Bill Delaney

It is now clear that, in all and any circumstances, the hardline loyalist ‘Love Ulster’ parade could not have passed through city centre Dublin on Saturday without causing violence.

The reasons for this are obvious in retrospect, but more importantly, they were reasonably clear to anyone with an ounce of common sense well in advance of those chaotic scenes.

Of course, never before had an attempt been made to send a paramilitary-style loyalist march, complete with Union Jacks, Lambeg drummers and flute bands, down O’Connell Street.

Now we know why -- but it was never a mystery.

The playing of the British national anthem at sports events in Dublin remains taboo because of the inevitable cat-calls and potential for disturbances. How, in the mind of the 26-County government, did they make the quantum leap to allow a full blown sectarian parade, including pro-British paramilitaries and their supporters, frog-march past the seat of the 1916 Easter Rising and through the heart of civic Dublin?

As is often the case in dealing with the national question, one is left wondering whether cock-up or conspiracy lies behind the actions of government agencies.

Why anyone expected an alternative outcome, other than wishful thinking, is a mystery. Why did no-one in the 26-County establishment shout ‘stop’?

No objections were raised by the mainstream media or the larger political parties, who decided to either encourage or ignore the parade. The only real opposition was expressed by Republican Sinn Féin, local republican socialists, and other groups presumably considered too disorganised to be taken seriously.

Indeed, the official line was that the people of Dublin were to greet this little provocative spectacle with forgiving hearts -- tea, crumpets and little Union Jacks to wave for their unionist overlords, perhaps.

But in truth, everyone involved knew the situation had all the ingredients for a riot. Firstly, the triumphalist flute bands loudly banging through the city centre were sure to raise tribal hackles. Secondly, it was a time when young male Celtic supporters -- the key demographic -- traditionally gather in town to drink and watch soccer matches. Thirdly, there was a huge stockpile of riot gear in the form of construction materials, provided literally on-site and ready for use.

The inevitable conclusion to be drawn, on the actions of the forces of the 26 County state, is that some violence was to be facilitated and probably encouraged -- presumably to be used to condemn and further marginalise republican dissident groups.

But when the door to a riot was left on the latch on Saturday, those who did so clearly did not expect a large number of the young people of Dublin to come heaving through the door to vent their anger.

Of course, a number of other groups, such as anarchists, anti-globalists, deliquents, looters, hooligans, thugs and suggestible tourists also joined in the melee.

But contrary to some allegations, large number of republicans had not been “bussed in”. Instead, a unique opportunity to identify with the oppressed nationalist people north of the border proved a potent draw to normally apolitical Dublin youths.

Their actions have been dismissed as aimless and recreational rioting, but, amid the wreckage, there was another message to the establishment. The main victims of the violence were not Orangemen, who were surely thankful to be put back in their busses and driven to Leinster House. Instead, it was expensive automobiles -- symbols of the growing inequality to working-class Dublin -- and the Garda police, the representatives of an unrepresentative government.

In the velvet-lined lounges favoured by our ruling class in Dublin, the British occupation of the North and gross inequality in the South are just bad memories. Cosseted by a series of easy concessions from the Provisional IRA, discussion of the conflict and its underlying causes have been replaced by a comfortable stream of meetings in plush castles and well-scrubbed colonial buildings.

Meanwhile, an economy pump-primed by multinational tax exiles has showered a certain class with easy wealth, while those suffering continuing deprivation and unemployment are edited out of sight.

What happened on Saturday was wrong, and there is plenty of blame on all sides -- including on those who called for street protests without understanding the potential consequences.

But if a message has been received by Michael McDowell, the privileged few and their neo-unionist normalisation agenda, then some good may emerge from Saturday’s shocking devastation.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News