Irish Republican News · September 6, 2014
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Belfast march tensions continue


A firework was thrown along with sectarian insults during a republican commemorative event at a Belfast interface last weekend, while there were further sectarian displays in north Belfast as the Protestant marching season wound down.

Hundreds of republicans took part in the annual Henry Joy McCracken event on Sunday, August 31st, walking through north Belfast and into Clifton Street Cemetery where the Protestant rebel leader was buried. Republican bands from Portadown, Kilkeel and Glasgow also took part in the event, which was largely peaceful.

However, there was a constant stream of vile abuse from loyalists on the side of the road. Loyalists complained that the parade route passed near an Orange hall, but Martin Og Meehan, one of the organisers, said they had not applied to play music and had not passed a place of worship.

“We are promoting a culture and a radical alternative to Stormont. The Orange hall is just a building and not a church where prayer services are held today. We applied to stay on one side of the road and march to a single drumbeat,” he said.

“These protesters should go and read their history. They are protesting against Henry Joy McCracken. We are here to commemorate on the date of his birth, what he did for Ireland for Catholic, Protestant and dissenter.”

Meehan told those gathered that McCracken was an eighteenth-century radical who envisioned an Ireland “free from British occupation, free from religious discrimination, free from imperialism, free from social, cultural and economic inequality”.

Last year the parade was banned from reaching the cemetery on Clifton Street which is the resting place of Henry Joy McCracken due to loyalist opposition, but this year the commemoration reached its destination.


Meanwhile, the annual ‘Black Saturday’ marches, which typically mark the end of the main Protestant marching season, also passed off without violence. One band controversially played the sectarian Famine Song as it passed St Patrick’s church on Saturday, August 30th, in clear breach of a Parades Commission determination.

It was a repeat of the original inflammatory action, filmed on video two years ago, which began nationalist protests over sectarian acts taking place on that parade route.

Another band played sectarian tunes on Clifton Street, and during the return leg of the march, a bandsman was recorded on camera threatening a protester with a drum stick.

Later in the week, a large Union Jack flag was erected by loyalists close to Holy Cross Church. A PSNI patrol stood by at the flashpoint between the loyalist Twaddell and nationalist Ardoyne areas to allow loyalist paramilitaries in high-visibility jackets and hard hats to erect the flag on Thursday. The PSNI had previously said the raising of flags in interface areas amount to a ‘breach of the peace’ and would be prevented.

But the decision to play the incendiary songs at one of the north’s most sensitive parading sites for a second time drew most criticism from nationalists.

Sinn Fein culture, arts and leisure minister Caral Ni Chuilin, who was one of the political observers present, said the Parades Commission determination had been breached and called for a resolution to the ongoing crisis of parades along the stretch of road.

“Local people are furious, she said. “This could all be resolved with bands sounding a single drum beat - no music, no supporters. This ultimately needs to be resolved and the ball is in the loyal orders’ court.”

Residents later held a white-line protest to highlight what they described as “draconian measures” imposed by the PSNI during parades.

Manuel Conway said that while attention is centred around the flashpoint at St Patrick’s Church, residents on nearby Clifton Street are being corralled by excessive and unnecessary policing arrangements. Even the republican parade to the grave of Henry Joy McCracken resulted in residents being hemmed into a confined space by the PSNI, despite the Parades Commission ruling that they could stand at Clifton Street to observe the march. However, loyalist protesters who were not from the area were permitted to gather by the PSNI.

He said Clifton Street residents had “become the compromise” and because measures are being imposed outside the church, those residents were being sacrificed.

“The situation has got gradually worse since 2009 and shows no sign of improving,” he said.

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