Sectarian tensions were again elevated last weekend as the Royal Black Preceptory, a shadowy masonic organisation comprising of senior members of the Orange Order, held parades across the North.
One major parade saw over 100 bands and tens of thousands of loyalist supporters descend on the overwhelmingly nationalist and republican town of Newry.
The exclusively Protestant organisation styles itself as the ‘Imperial Grand Black Chapter Of The British Commonwealth’, or simply ‘the Black Institute’, but its events bear the traditional hallmarks of the other sectarian marching orders in the North.
Local residents wre forced to contend with drunken debauchery on the streets, the playing of sectarian songs, and paramilitary groups displaying the emblems and flags of their murderous death squads.
“In an almost routine example of bigotry, intimidation and disruption, Newry was brought to a standstill,” said local eirigi member Stephen Murney.
“The disruption lasted for two full days, affecting businesses, shoppers, resulting in the harassment and intimidation of local people as well as costing thousands of pounds.” He added that eirigi would continue to campaign for the right for Newry residents to live free from sectarian harassment and intimidation.
Meanwhile, a GAA Gaelic sports club has again been struck by loyalist vandals.
The attack in the village of Rasharkin was condemned by North Antrim Sinn Fein MLA, Daithi McKay, who called the early Sunday morning incident a “shameless and cowardly attack”.
“Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time this year that this has taken place, but the good thing about it is both the Protestant and Catholic communities have condemned it outright,” he said.
His claims of DUP support for the GAA was challenged by a a unionist minister who sad the organisation was opposed by unionists and was not ‘genuine’.
Jim Wells, who is to be the next DUP Health Minister in the Stormont Executive after Edwin Poots, called for a ban on GAA clubs engaging a traditional fundraising activity, packing shoppers’ bags in supermarkets.
“It should be genuine charities that need the money,” he said, “not an organisation that is rolling in money, and all collectors should have badges or armbands which clearly identify the organisation they represent.
Elsewhere, around 150 loyalists prevented the nationalist mayor of the local district council from opening a new sports facility in Bushmills before ripping a plaque from the wall last Wednesday, it has emerged.
Former Sinn Fein member and the current chairman of Moyle District Council Padraig McShane was due to open new changing rooms in the staunchly loyalist town of Bushmills, home to the eponymous whiskey.
Mr McShane, now an independent councillor, said he had been told the paramilitary UDA had organised the protest.
“Police informed me that they had met with UDA representatives in the area who indicated that they would stop the event.
“I remain committed to representing all the people of Moyle including Bushmills and refuse to bow to the bully boy tactics of the UDA and their sidekicks.”