By Brian Feeney (for Irish News)
When you strip it down to fundamentals, last weekend demonstrated exactly the same unionist attitudes and mindset as they held in 1968.
The bottom line is that unionists believe the Orange Order and sundry other so-called loyal orders can march anywhere they like in the North whereas nationalist organisations must be strictly controlled and never be allowed to march to, or through, a town centre.
It’s almost 45 years to the day since the first civil rights march from Coalisland to Dungannon on August 24 1968 was stopped by loyalist ‘protesters’ and rerouted from Market Square, Dungannon. On October 3, the far-right bigot Bill Craig banned a civil rights march in Derry from the Diamond. On November 30 Paisley and his lunatic sidekick Bunting with a rabble of cudgel-wielding thugs took over Armagh town centre to stop a civil rights march.
And so on and so on.
Only the members of the Parades Commission could be naive enough to grant permission to six, yes six, groups of ‘protesters’ against the anti-internment march last Friday, thereby guaranteeing the police would be run ragged at multiple flashpoints. As ACC Hamilton correctly pointed out, there was no evidence “at any point, and we were monitoring it all week as you can imagine, [of] any mobilisation to protest in a way that people had notified to the Parades Commission; it just simply didn’t happen.”
Of course it didn’t. They weren’t there to protest. They were there like their grandparents in 1968 to prevent a republican parade going through the city centre – and they did.
Similarly in Castlederg where the Parades Commission succumbed to contrived opposition whipped up by unionist politicians and banned the Sinn Fein march from the town centre even after the organisers had voluntarily rerouted it.
Two-nil in the propaganda stakes to republicans.
Even better, our clueless proconsul weighed in on the side of ‘protesters’ and appealed for the parade to be called off because it was ‘hurtful’ to many people. It has never occurred to her or her unionist advisers in the NIO to appeal for any Orange parade past Ardoyne to be called off as ‘hurtful’ because it included a band commemorating a UVF Orangeman who had killed an innocent bystander at Ardoyne shops or to deplore various other parades in the north extolling UVF and UDA killers.
You never hear any unionist politicians criticising such marches. On the contrary, some of them, especially in north Belfast, are happy to participate.
In short our proconsul, like the Parades Commission, buys the idea that a march is just a march, maybe even an expression of ‘ar culshar’ when it’s perfectly obvious it’s nothing of the kind and never has been in the 218-year catalogue of the Orange Order’s sectarian provocation and violence.
Orange marching is as it always has been, just like German oompah bands through towns in pre-war Poland, a demonstration of supremacy and territorial domination. Treating requests for marches and protests seriously as if that is really all they are while ignoring their hidden agenda is characteristically naive for the Parades Commission. They just can’t see the wood for the trees.
As for our proconsul’s ill-advised intervention in Castlederg, well, what do you expect? The past record of her advisers indicates that none of them had the wit to see they were about to hand Sinn Fein a double propaganda victory. In the first place denying them access to the town centre of a 75 per cent nationalist town made Sinn Fein’s point perfectly. Secondly, the proconsul fell into the carefully baited trap of condemning republican commemoration having completely ignored provocative loyalist commemorations.
Of course the fact that both the Sinn Fein parade and the anti-internment parade obeyed the law to the letter unlike Orange marches, while the loyalist mob in Belfast went berserk meant republicans had shot the proconsul’s fox.
Castlederg, the parade where she had intervened on the side of unionist mischief-makers, nothing to report. Belfast, where loyalists had once again succeeded in frustrating the Parades Commission’s determination, left her mute about the role of unionist politicians who had duped her. Moral: if you want to look even-handed don’t be unionist politicians’ catspaw.