Commemorating historical battles & tolerance’s test: Derry gets a pass; Antrim flunks

The weekend provided another example of how far ahead nationalists remain of political unionism in the tolerance stakes and just why it remains all too easy to drive the proverbial horse and cart through unionist politicians’ pronouncements on tolerance and all things shared, space and future.

The past week was the occasion for two commemorative events of historical conflicts in Irish history: the Siege of Derry (1688) and the Battle of Antrim (1798).

On Saturday, 35,000 loyalists descended upon the centre of the overwhelmingly nationalist city of Derry for a day-long parade involving dozens of loyalist bands, playing favourite tunes and flying flags associated with loyalism. Some of these bands took part in feeder parades, including the UVF-aligned Shankill Protestant Boys, who marched down the nationalist section of the Crumlin Road to the Twaddell Camp- before boarding buses to travel to Derry (because it’s very important to do that.)

There was no trouble and a senior PSNI figure noted that it was the quietest loyalist parade in the centre of Derry for three decades.

Alas, it still was not enough, and after some loyalists had marched past the catholics at Ardoyne and boarded buses to go to Derry at Twadell, others remained to attend the weekly protest rally at which loyalist leaders warned that there will be further action on the ‘graduated response’ front in the weeks to come at all levels of government. You couldn’t make it up.

Meanwhile, earlier in the week (Tuesday) in the town of Antrim (with a much closer demographic balance between unionist and nationalist than Derry) loyalists, with the support of Ulster Unionist Party councillor Adrian Watson, gathered to successfully prevent a tour of United Irishmen battle sites from including the centre of the town- a tour which has in the past included unionist and loyalist representatives, according to its organizer, former SF councillor Martin McManus. The story is featured in this week’s Antrim Guardian (not online yet.)

It is worth noting that the tour was not publicized in Antrim, did not involve flags nor emblems and did not involve marching nor flute bands, paramilitary aligned or otherwise.

In essence, it was the flip side of a tour of the Walls of Derry and would have remained utterly unremarkable to locals but for the decision of loyalists – with UUP support- to take action to prevent it from taking place (apparently they mounted a social media campaign to assemble the masses.)

UUP Antrim councillor Adrian Watson ‘fully understood’ the frustration among grassroots loyalists.

“They wanted to give these people a taste of their own medicine- and after a shameful campaign by the Ardoyne residents, who can blame them?

“They will undoubtedly whinge on that this was somehow a cultural event, but let’s get real here. This was a republican event for republicans, and the loyalist people of Antrim said ‘No.’

“Why should we tolerate their culture, when they refuse to accept ours? They can’t have it both ways.”

Let’s dig a little deeper on this one.

Councillor Watson’s effort to equate a historical tour with a desire of loyalists to march through a nationalist area of the Crumlin Road is, of course, spurious. The equivalent of an historical tour is another historical tour, and as I’ve demonstrated, these take place regularly along the Walls of Derry without adverse comment or opposition from the majority nationalist population.

The equivalent of a loyalist parade through a nationalist district along north Belfast’s interface is a republican parade through a loyalist district there, and as we’ve seen, to suggest that unionist politicians and loyalist spokespersons find that one hard to stomach would be quite the understatement.

In purely demographic terms, a ‘unionist’ equivalent of Derry would be Bangor or Lisburn, and the level of tolerance (rightly) displayed by nationalists in Derry in accommodating 35,000 loyalists parading and attending a commemoration of a battle significant to loyalists is quite simply unparalleled in our society. In short, unionists don’t ‘do’ toleration in their bailiwicks, else we’d have Jeffrey Donaldson championing the right of republicans to parade through the centre of Lisburn.

Don’t hold your breath on that one.

Antrim, on the other hand, has a demographic balance which, whilst majority unionist, also includes a very sizeable nationalist minority. Yet you will search long and hard for a unionist politician who would believe that the centre of Antrim should host a republican gathering in any way similar to that which took place in Derry at the weekend, never mind facilitate a historical tour.

The irony overload does not end there.

Councillor Watson was perhaps unaware that his own party colleague, Danny Kinihan, had granted permission to the tour organisers to include visiting Templepatrick Mausoleum as part of the tour!



  • Ernekid

    I’ve never understood why certain people need to march down a street to commemorate a historical event. If you want to remember history. Why not invite local historians to a discussion of the event. A public event where people can reflect on and learn from history. The siege of Derry and the battle of Antrim are very interesting historical events but I don’t feel the need to bring an entire city to a grinding halt to learn and enjoy this history.

    Why do we allow people to use history as an excuse for modern bigotry and sectarian behaviour? Why can’t people learn from history that sectarian attitudes can only hold people back?

  • Joe_Hoggs

    The parade’s success in Londonderry was due to both sides working together, the success of this event should not be equated to one side alone. I think it’s fair to say that the ABOD have shown how very progressive they are with changing parade dates to accomodate Christmas shoppers in December time and implementing a good level of discipline too.

  • Tacapall

    Thats ignorance for you Chris when some Unionist politicians can get away with equating Republicanism with Catholicism especially when concerning the United Irishmen. Ah well, hopefully their knuckles weren’t too sore with all that dragging, perhaps some unionist politician will grow a pair and actually enlighten the unionist electorate on historical fact when it comes to our local history. Its not surprising though as the loyal orders were formed to sabotage and divide those Irishmen, Protestant, Catholic and dissenter who united under a single banner.

  • congal claen

    Unionists not only tolerate, but subsidise Catholic schools.
    Unionists not only tolerate, but subsidise the GAA.
    Unionists not only tolerate, but subsidise the Irish Gaelic language.
    The vast majority of unionists do not vote for Terroticians.

  • Reader

    Chris Donnelly: The equivalent of an historical tour is another historical tour, and as
    I’ve demonstrated, these take place regularly along the Walls of Derry
    without adverse comment or opposition from the majority nationalist

    Well, to be more precise, the equivalent of a historical tour organised by Republicans is a historical tour organised by Loyalists.
    Is the above a historical tour organised by Loyalists?

  • Michael Henry

    UUP Antrim Councillor Adrian Watson -” The Loyalist people of Antrim said No”-
    Is Watson a spokesperson for the Loyalists of Antrim now-

    Watson again -” why should we tolerate their Culture when they refuse to accept ours “-Well the morning march in Ardoyne was allowed through with no trouble – where was the reciprocal outreach for that Peace move-( we can walk in your areas but you can’t walk in ours says the UUP loyalist wannabe spokesperson )-

  • Michael Dowds

    Unionists not only avoid any kind of illness, but subsidise the healthcare of ‘Catholics’.

    Unionists not only teleport everywhere, but subsidise roads for ‘Catholics’.
    Unionists not only avoid committing any crime, ever, but subsidise a police force for those troublesome ‘Catholics’ who can’t stop murdering babies and stealing from grannies.
    The vast majority of ‘nationalists’ do not vote for insane theocrats.

    Thanks for the well though out arguments there. Keep it up champ!

  • The blogger
  • gendjinn

    Good article, great comment thread.

  • barnshee

    Thats ignorance for you Chris when some Unionist politicians can get away with equating Republicanism with Catholicism especially when concerning the United Irishmen

    Yea the time that Catholicism

    1 Massacred those prods stupid enough to support the UI (Scullabogue)and

    2 Failed to turn up (“Battle” of Antrim- read the word of “Roddy MaCorley carefully)

    Yea -sure check your version of “history”

    The usual half arsed claptrap

    Derry is a “nationalist ” city because of

    1 Tthe huge economic immigration from that nirvana the ROI

    2 The inability of a section of the population to keep its zips up and/or knickers on( a situation not exclusive to “Derry”

    3 The intimidation of the prod out of the city side (and the city)

    PS The Prods do not walk “through Nationalist areas” They walk on a road with shops (presumably nationalist) on one side and Protestants on the other side but thats ignorance for you

  • barnshee

    “Antrim flunks”
    Should read Antrim flunks– AGAIN


    Catholics turn up 214 years late (after Prods get executed for rebellion )

    oh see the fleet foot hosts of men who come with faces wan….. too late too late are they”

    well 214 years late is ahem a bit late–( dies laughing as ” Wolf Tones” fade out)

  • carl marks

    You really need to get out more; your first three lines would only make sense if nationalists paid a lower tax rate than unionists and the last line would sting if unionists where not in bed with the UVF/UDA but don’t let the truth get in the way of a good old sectarian rant!

  • carl marks

    Joe I’m glad that an arrangement has been made in Derry but to be honest all that has happened is that the ABOD have decided to act like adults and behave with manners, now let us hope that the OO can do the same, its behaviour at Ardoyne (supported by grand lodge) is to say the least uncivilised. And the behaviour (and hypocrisy) of unionists in general will have to change.

    Derry is proof that nationalists are not out to destroy your culture now would be a good time to dump the terrorists and corner boys , follow the example of the ABOD then you might get somewhere.

  • Gopher

    I’ve been to Antrim, its pretty much as unspectacular as the battle (sic). I seem to remember plaques around the town describing various parts of the riot, sorry battle. I’ve been to Derry and their is more substance in artifacts, personality, narrative and the actual fighting bit. Whilst personally for selfish reasons and loathing of the whole marching culture Im glad the 17th century strategic situation in Ireland precluded my home town being the site of the longest siege in British History Im sure many shop and pub owners would be glad of the 35,000 punters as well behaved as they were in Derry. As for Antrim the skirmish, round the tour appears to have lasted longer than the 1798 battle (sic) They should have a 1798 exhibition at the Maze after all they have a free schedule with the Air museum being unable to exhibit. I expect things will get even more petty and blinkered.

  • carl marks

    Was it organised by loyalists? does’nt seem to be seems to me like a tour for those pesky tourists and not locals looking at specific historcial events, nothing in common with what happened in either Antrim or Derry so what is your point

  • carl marks

    Is shops Ulster Scots for houses? cause i lived in what us English speakers called a house on the Crumlin road.
    Why don’t you check out Google earth those shops with the gardens and back yards are really houses and could you tell me where these “Prods” live on one side and the nationalist shops on the other.

    the rest of your post doesn’t stand up to scrutiny either. but i did like the Catholics breed like rabbits allusion, very 1960’s

  • Reader

    Chris was comparing historical tours in Antrim and Derry, suggesting that he was comparing like with like. I pointed out one point of difference (one is politically partisan and the other is not). And – well done – you have pointed out another. You should probably have directed your remark to Chris though.
    I’m not sure that SF will appreciate your suggestion that they are only involved in Local Tours for Local People, but that’s between you and them.

  • barnshee

    Have just “walked” from corner of Twadell to Carlisle Circus via Google map- don`t know how current maps are – houses seem in short supply –lots of commercial property, –jail?, hospital? etc

    “the rest of your post doesn’t stand up to scrutiny either. but i did like the Catholics breed like rabbits allusion, very 1960’s”


    The inability of a section of the population to keep its zips up and/or knickers on( a situation not exclusive to “Derry”

    The normal method used in “debate” is to demonstrate the error or inaccuracy in propositions/statements

    “the rest of your post doesn’t stand up to scrutiny either”

    is hardly a rebuttal

  • DangerousDave

    Everywhere in the UK has Catholic schools. Tell Catholics in England how grateful they should be for the generosity of their benefactors in Northern Ireland and watch them tell you to go forth and multiply.

    Ask the people of England, Scotland or Wales if they feel gratitude that you tolerate Scots Gaelic, Welsh, or Cornish.

    Stop expecting credit for giving your neighbours the same level of respect that everyone else in the UK gives theirs.

  • Zeno1

    “Republicans have negotiated and compromised often beyond their constraints. Republicans have crossed boundaries, made bold and difficult moves whilst simultaneously trying to reach across the divide. Republicans have made big initiatives work”

    It’s just your average blog that tend to appear on Judes site.
    The short version is Republicans are good and Unionists are bad. 90% of the comments all congratulate each other on agreeing with each other.

    The reality is the Republicans had unrealistic expectations and are now frustrated because they have made no progress towards their goal. Did they really expect Unionists to make it easy for them after 30 years of bombing and murdering them?

  • Glenn Clare

    It must have been a great disappointment for Chris Donnelly
    that the relief of Derry celebrations, went off so well. Tens of thousands of people enjoyed the parade recalling the suffering
    and the historic victory of the Protestant people of that besieged city and recalling
    with pride this chapter in their history, is this why he has to come up with
    this diatribe.

    Several things that need addressing form the post I won’t
    address them all as it gets boring reading his posts and you lose the will to
    live half way through.

    As for the claim that the Shankill Protestant Boys are allegedly
    aligned to the UVF, was Donnelly himself not a member of Sinn Fein who are
    still inextricably linked to the IRA. So what is your point Chris???? To quote
    Gerry Kelly who stated at the Sinn Fein/IRA march in Castlederg last year (he
    Gerry Kelly was), “an unrepentant republican”!!! Therefore can members of the
    Unionist community not be unrepentant Unionists, and be proud of the actions of
    the UVF, who’s flags the band carry with pride, especially at this time. As we
    all remember the hundredth anniversary of the start of World War I and the part
    the UVF played not only in that conflict but in stopping home rule in Ireland.
    Knowing as we all do that if the band were to fly flags of the latest reincarnation
    of the so called UVF they would be arrested for supporting terrorists.

    Is this another issue where republicans are trying to corner,
    how you support your past or dictate what, when and how you can celebrate your past???

    As for tolerance from republicans, let’s take the wee Union Flags of apples and
    why are there wee Union Flags on egg boxes. That from the former Sinn Fein Lord
    Mayor of Belfast, who shops in a large British retail giant Sainsbury’s, who is
    bring employment to the republican employment black spot of west Belfast, who
    has had a Sinn Fein MP for 30 years, and it’s still an employment black spot.
    Then we have another former Sinn Fein Lord Mayor of Belfast who could not show
    any tolerance to a young female army cadet, and hand her a Duke of Edinburgh’s
    award certificate. Then there was the case of another Sinn Fein MLA who took
    down “welcome to Northern Ireland” road signs, because he is trying to deny the
    reality that he lives and works in Northern Ireland administrating British rule
    on the island of Ireland. But we not mention this republican and Sinn Fein intolerance
    for fear of offending the sensitive souls.

    I will let Donnelly and the rest of the republican masses clamber
    for their nirvana of trying to claim the moral high ground on every issue.

    Unlike Donnelly who was probably not in Londonderry on
    Saturday, I was in Londonderry on Saturday. I seen thousands of members of one
    of the Loyal Orders, their bands and their supporters spending their hard
    earned cash supporting businesses in Londonderry. Many shops on the parade route
    and in the shopping centre’s off the Diamond. The shops were doing a brisk business
    with the visitors from all parts of the United Kingdom, the Irish republic and
    further afield. In fact I seen some of
    the shop staff watching the parade and acknowledge their relatives and friends
    taking part in the colourful, respectful and peaceful celebration of their
    history and culture.

    As for Londonderry being a republican/nationalist place,
    that is very much a reality now, however that was not always the case. However what
    Donnelly will never do is look at the statistics around the terror and intimidation
    Protestants suffered from republicans/nationalists that lead to thousands of Protestant’s
    leaving the city side of Londonderry. Leaving an under siege small Protestant
    Unionist community, who are defiantly facing down the republicans/nationalists,
    who want to remove them from their homes.

    As for the parade’s in Londonderry, the only homes and
    therefore section of the community that are directly affected by parades in
    Londonderry are those of the small protestant Unionist community of the Fountain
    and those on the Waterside, the rest of the parade takes place in retail commercial
    area. Is Donnelly and republican’s now trying to claim that the Nationwide
    Building society and the many other British owned retail and commercial out
    lets, are on several days a year republican. This so the likes of Donnelly and
    republicans can clamber up that greasy pole to their moral high ground nirvana!!!

    Hope you’re looking forward to the new academic year Chris,
    and filling the heads of the children of Ardoyne’s Holy Cross Boys School with enlightenment,
    peace and understanding.

  • carl marks

    So you didn’t pass any houses from Twaddell to Carlisle Circus, you must have been too busy admiring Ardoyne Chapel to notice the houses opposite it.

    Now I don’t want to burst your little bubble but the contested route is not towards Carlisle Circus but north the opposite direction and if you had of walked the right way then you (regardless of the side you walked on) would have passed houses, perhaps you are as confused about the difference between a house and a shop as you are confused about the geography of the area. (You’re not a Poots by any chance they seem to be geographically challenged as well)

    As for the rest of your post it was no more than whataboutry mixed with mopery and good old fashioned sectarianism,

  • carl marks

    No I don’t think he was claiming that the Derry and Antrim events was the same thing, he was comparing the ways that nationalist and unionists reacted, your will have to explain your point to me again, the tour you linked to seems to me to have no bearing on the issues.

    Off course I understand your unwillingness to discuss the intolerance of unionists, the principal of Omerta is rife among unionists, and the list of things you turn a blind eye to is quite long.

    And please read my post carefully you will see that at no time did I state SF are only involved in local tours for local people, I was referring to the event in Antrim do try to be a bit more accurate.

    This bit had me laughing out loud “one is politically partisan and the other is not” both are political the ABOD is the partisan one as an event relating to the UI would be equally relevant to both sides but you have to a prod and be willing to walk with a UVF band to be allowed to march with the loyal orders.

  • carl marks

    “the rest of your post doesn’t stand up to scrutiny either”

    is hardly a rebuttal

    maybe not,but its the truth!

  • carl marks

    Think you got the whole range of mopery and whataboutry in

    Any comments on the fact that nationalists will let (well behaved ones that is) parade in their city and unionists will not let nationalists go on a tour of their town
    Oh and by the way Derry was a Nationalist town the unionists just gerrymandered the democratic process to give themselves control, (do you and Barnshee both use the little book of orange history for your facts)

  • barnshee

    Thanks for the info I had no idea exactly where the parade went

  • Glenn Clare

    Gerrymandering first used in the Irish republic, to stop pro-Unionists, demanding that the border be redrawn and their persecution at the hands of sectarian Irish republicans is stopped.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Glenn Clare

    A few points:

    1/ If the Shankill Protestant Boys are allegedly linked to the UVF then they are allegedly linked to the UVF. Chris Donnelly’s association with SF and subsequently the IRA does nothing to take away from this.

    This is not a get out of jail free card.

    2/ Common sense would call for an appreciation of how most residents in Londonderry would feel about UVF banners; is the immediate thought one of brave men going over the top or of the latter day murdering scumbags?

    If the emphasis is on the UVF of the WWI era then we already have remembrance day for such commemorations, loyalists run the risk (and frequently do) of besmirching the memory of the Ulster 36th, hence it would be better if all bands respected this and left Ulster 36th commemorations for the designated day of Remembrance Day.

    3/ The UVF were not at the siege of Derry

    4/ ‘SF and the wee apples’. Quite happy to listen to that sort of hypocrisy from SF, carry on.
    However, please be aware that in the unionist community we’re not renowned for respecting republican or nationalist paraphernalia so be careful as you leave yourself open to whataboutery

    5/ Londonderry, for whatever the reasons (tragic or otherwise) is now a mainly nationalist city.
    End of.
    Same way some formerly mixed areas in Belfast are now Unionist.
    End of.

    6/ You highlighted how the shops were doing a brisk trade in the happier environment of a non-controversial parade, is this an argument in support of applying stricter but similar measures to Belfast’s 12th where the shop keepers cannot boast such brisk trade?

    7/ It is a fair assumption that most people working in the retail centre of Londonderry are of a Catholic or nationalist background and please bear in mind that the neutrality of a city centre with regards to parades was voided by the loyalist protesters in Belfast city centre last weekend who objected to a parade in the city centre.

    8/ Chris’s main point was that a mainly nationalist town would permit a massive demonstration whereas a mainly unionist town would not permit a much smaller tour (based on an event that was also a part of Protestant history).

    In your eyes is this fair?

    This was the main point and one which you did not address.

    Could you please clarify your position on the matter?

    I will state mine and say that both should have been allowed to go ahead and as always that common sense should apply to all.

  • Morpheus

    Ouch 🙂

  • carl marks

    wow, try a real history book next time!

  • Sergiogiorgio

    I reckon Glenn is hiding under the bed……does not compute, does not compute….what a bigoted tosser.