Observing the Loyal Sons of Ulster, proudly marching into the past

Let’s recap on yesterday’s events:

  1. Loyalist bands, along with Loyal Order representatives and unionist politicians- including First Minister Peter Robinson- release a letter to the newspapers condemning the Parades Commission for action taken following an explicitly sectarian act by a UVF-aligned loyalist band on the 12th July outside of St Patrick’s Church on Donegall Street, Belfast. The sectarian action involved stopping to play a song described as ‘racist’ by a Scottish Court and which celebrates the death of one million Irish people during the Famine.
  2. Loyalists assemble and are whipped into a frenzy by the City Grand Master at Clifton Street, who rips up the Parades Commission determination before the bands proceed towards St Patrick’s Church.
  3. According to numerous accounts, virtually all (if not all) of the loyalist bands breach the Parades Commission determination by playing music outside of the church, including the Sash.
  4. In addition to the music, many of the loyalist supporters have been pictured stopping directly outside of the church and waving loyalist flags, dancing with Union Flag umbrellas and/or making offensive gestures to the assembled protesters.
  5. Known loyalist paramilitary leaders- and unionist politicians- accompany the UVF-aligned Young Conway Volunteers band past St Patrick’s Church, a direct breach of the Parades Commission ruling that the band be forbidden from taking this route.
  6. Nigel Dodds releases a statement condemning republicans and the Parades Commission for causing the trouble. Seriously.

It is inconceivable that the combined forces of political unionism, the Loyal Orders and loyalist paramilitarism did not meet prior to yesterday’s antics to plan out the choreography of the day’s events, which actually makes all complicit in plotting an illegal event.

Once again, through sheer stupidity, the collective PUL leadership have exposed the shamelessly bigoted side of the loyalist parading culture and in the process thrown down a gauntlet to the PSNI, PPS and Parades Commission to ensure that swift and sufficient action is taken to punish those who so blatantly flouted the Parades Commission determination and acted in a disgraceful manner.

Already the PSNI have indicated that action will be taken, no doubt conscious that nationalist eyes will be watching to ensure that arrests similar to those that followed the violence in Ardoyne are made and charges brought against those culpable. Furthermore, there will be an onus on the Parades Commission to act decisively against the Loyal Orders to protect the integrity of the organisation- after all, failure to do so will be tantamount to surrendering to the supremacist mentality which has led to yesterday’s direct challenge to the legitimacy of the parading body.

Quite how anyone within the leadership of unionism could have believed that this was a wise course of action is beyond comprehension.

Let’s examine the letter to which Peter Robinson, Nigel Dodds and other unionist politicians put their names to ahead of yesterday’s happenings.

In it, the Parades Commission were accused of making a “monstrous determination” which was “draconian” with the effect of setting back community relations.

Let’s recall that it was the loyalist YCV band which acted in a ‘monstrous’ manner outside of St Patrick’s Church on the 12th July, as did those within political unionism who sought to give the band political cover by offering incredulous excuses for the band’s behaviour (and on that front, step forward North Belfast DUP MLA Nelson McCausland, another signatory of the letter.)

They continue:

“…we are running out of adjectives to describe the commission’s arrogance, incompetence and general ignorance” before urging the Secretary of State to act against the commission as apparently the commission is doing “untold damage to the peace process.” Alarmingly, they continue by threatening that “one of their determinations [could] spark a series of events that takes us back to a place which none of us wish to return to.”

That can only be taken as a threat that future restrictions on loyalist parades will lead to considerable and sustained loyalist violence. One wonders which element of the North and West Belfast Parades Forum came up with that line.

This is a return to a theme previously stated by senior DUP strategist and North Belfast councillor, Lee Reynolds, following the 12th July parade.

In a Sunday Sequence Seven Days interview after the 12th July, in an extraordinary claim, Lee Reynolds suggested that loyalist violence could have destroyed the PSNI and that its future could have been called into question over the fallout from the Crumlin Road parade.

In a discussion in which the DUP councillor also dismissed the furore surrounding the decision by the Shankill YCV Band to play the Famine Song outside of St Patrick’s Church by claiming “they played a tune,” the senior DUP strategist also had this to say on the DUP handling of the Crumlin Road parade:

“The 12th of July could have been much worse than it was. We could actually have been sitting here not discussing the future of the Parades Commission but whether the PSNI had a future because it could have potentially have been broken by the serious disorder that could have broken out.” (my italics)

So, to recap, the PSNI could be destroyed and the Parades Commission must be destroyed for the peace process to be saved as the combined leadership of the protestant/ unionist/ loyalist community are sick of not being allowed to march where they want, when they want and in a manner they alone should be allowed to dictate.

Alas, this is but one more illustration of unionism’s failure to properly confront and deal with its supremacist tendencies, and it is this which will continue to pose a threat to peace and stability in the time ahead.