RIR parades in a new Northern Ireland

I’m using my privileges to start a new thread on the subject of RIR parades rather than come in at comment 47. page 2.
Earlier in wrote in comment:

“It is extremely difficult for the nationalist tradition to separate out what I might call peacetime Britishness from unionist triumphalism, just as many unionists find it difficult to separate Irish patriotism from at least implied support for the IRA. I know this sounds piously balanced but I believe it to be the case”.

Like any balanced view, this doesn’t satisfy anyone completely and may satisfy nobody. I suspect – though I don’t know – that there is a little more tolerance all round than Slugger threads normally expose. But certainly, rawness abounds and this thread expounds it brilliantly.

Let’s try to grasp a basic principle we might agree on, at least in the abstract to start with:

Democracy means both the will of the majority and guarantees for individual and group rights, not winner-take-all.

The democratic process the elected representatives signed up to in 1998 and 2007, enacted into law for three jurisdictions, UK, NI and the Republic, and endorsed in referendums in NI and ROI should prevail. These agreements are shot through with requirements of mutual acceptance and toleration. In contested cases, the official toleration of the law can be imposed, but in day-to-day life, imposed toleration is an oxymoron. Real acceptance will take time and intelligence to achieve

Of course no individual or group need sign up slavishly to any particular proposal; that’s democracy too.

It is accepted in law that British de jure sovereignty is a fact. But sovereignty in law and in fact is no longer the whole story, in NI and throughout the world, as the Agreements and their accompanying Acts show. Rights, identities and structures other than Parliament are now entrenched, a technical term which means what it says.

Max Weber’s definition of the State applies: it is the monopoly provider of legitimate force. In fact, we are getting there (probably) but have not yet arrived, in terms of consent and in fact on the ground. This will be a remarkable achievement ( and it will be accomplished, I believe). It will serve as a rare example of the political class leading opinion. But in the meantime, nothing should stop public opinion adopting generous positions for itself.

Demonstrations of de jure sovereignty enjoy no absolute rights. For instance, displays of the Union Jack a symbol of sovereignty, can constitute an offence in circumstances we all recognise.

But where displays of a flag and an army parade constitute no threat to individual freedoms and a civic reception is backed by a democratic council majority, I cannot see how they can be denied. Obviously, they must be sensitively staged. We cannot have a Garvaghy Road in uniform.

Democracy means tolerating things you don’t like, provided they don’t threaten you.

Of course it must equally be OK to let fly with delicious polemic provided it isn’t hollered all over the streets. Self-preservation if nothing else, probably guarantees that.

Finally in this secular sermon, what NI needs is not what this thread is really about: a sense of common purpose, a developing sense of a shared future. In falling turn-outs at elections and in Life and Times surveys there are some signs that some of the public are wearying of the old disputes.

While taking care to protect new-found and long overdue rights and freedoms, we should surely do all we can to encourage this trend.

  • Garibaldy

    The trend that sees people withdraw into apathy? Surely that is not what we should encourage. This is not a sign of a shared future so much as atomisation. A trend to be combatted through encouraging civic participation I’d have thought.

  • Ms O’loan

    These parades are more evidence that all proddies are sectarian methings

  • PaddyReilly

    It is extremely difficult for the nationalist tradition to separate out what I might call peacetime Britishness from unionist triumphalism, just as many unionists find it difficult to separate Irish patriotism from at least implied support for the IRA.

    Very well put. The fact is that 20 miles South or East of Northern Ireland, sanity breaks out and everything is peace and light.

    In Dublin, elderly members of my (Catholic) family are able to attend World War II and regimental reunions at or sponsored by the British Embassy without any comment from the rest of the populace. They even submit their memoirs for publication in Irish Defence Force magazines and are paid for their contributions. Indeed, the said IDF is manned partly by soldiers whose fathers and grandfathers fought in the 2nd and 1st World Wars. And partly by those whose grandparents served in an organisation called the IRA. The reason these two groups do not fall out with each other is because frequently they are embodied in the same person.

    But within the six benighted, well, there’s no hope really. The unionist faction thinks that it is the British Empire. The word ‘British’ here has a completely different meaning, which has little to do with Britain. The trouble with peacetime Britishness here is that it can’t just be privately celebrated, it has to be flaunted, preferably in the faces of those who don’t like it, and that’s where the trouble starts.

  • Not in my name

    I hope that all those who turned out for the previous anti-war demo’s are willing to turn out and protest against this glorification of war, irrespective of where and when its held.

  • Chris Donnelly

    All very well and interesting points, Brian, but developing a ‘common purpose’ would surely lead us in the very opposite direction to majority unionist councils deciding to spend ratepayer funds parading ‘their’ troops throughout the streets, which after all, is what this really is about.

    I find this one ironic and yet another challenge to the assertion in Mick’s thread on nationalism’s ‘rudderless drift’ that it was nationalists- and not unionists- who were seeking a separate but equal (as opposed to ‘shared’) future.

    The truth is, of course, that we all want a ‘better/ shared’ future with better mutual understanding, but we have very different ideas about what ‘toleration’ and ‘mutual respect’ should actually look like in practice.

    For nationalists, parity of esteem is the logical premise for a ‘shared future’- one where the identities and expressions of both communities are afforded equal legitimacy in a non-threatening, shared manner.

    For many unionists, this doesn’t appear to be on the agenda- cue the ‘Ulster is British’/ ‘No Foreign flag’/ ‘No equivocation between soldiers and terrorists’ brigade.

    For what it’s worth, I think a common purpose can only be properly nurtured and developed when the issue of equality is resolved satisfactorily so that many of the ‘old’ arguments are put to the side. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t keep striving to develop what unites us: it’s more a sober assessment of how effective we are likely to be in the absence of the successful resolution of some thorny matters.

    You are correct in identifying that unionist majority councils will invariably go along with sponsoring these events- after all, the same councils currently fund bonfires in which the National flag of the Irish nationalist community is ritually burned- not to mention election posters…

    A civic reception involving a unionist Mayor and councillors welcoming British soldiers would hardly be newsworthy and really couldn’t be objected to- it is their individual right, after all, as is no doubt the right of a Sinn Fein mayor to host a reception for former IRA volunteers and their families following a republican parade.

    However, once the matter of public funds- via rates- come into play, then issues such as Equality Impact Assessments would have to be considered by the relevant councils.

    If not, then it would be interesting to see if republicans reciprocate the gesture in kind, and let’s see the commitment to tolerating what we don’t like when the foot and shoe are changed in our new ‘shared’ society.

  • Anti-war

    The imagery of a military parade becoming “a Garvaghy Road in uniform” is quite intriguing. It would certainly make for world headlines. Hope all others take note.

  • It was Sammy McNally what done it

    Presumably the parade can be reivewed by the parades commission – that the is the ideal place for the decision.

    Whatever Nationlaist feeling on the British Army and there role in Non Iron or further afield any anti-parade protestes should be very carefully organsided and controlled to ensure that they do not lead to violence.

    p.s. A welcoming home parade for olympic medallists would be far less divisive.

  • “a sense of common purpose, a developing sense of a shared future.”

    Brian, the constitutional ‘settlement’ in the 1998 Agreement runs counter to such an outcome.

    The settlement produced a tug-of-war between the two major political aspirations. Hence my proposal for a devolved administration under shared sovereignty and the merger of Strands 2 and 3. I feel this is as near to equality as you can get and it would permit a growth of your specified objectives.

  • kensei

    Here is the key question – is there mutual respect? Given the Dup’s behaviour over Irish language funding or Tricolour’s at St Pats parades then they have a cheek asking for magnanimy from Nationalism. The best strategy for the repeated Prisoner’s dilema is tit for tat with forgiveness. Unfortunately we should be on tat here.

  • interested

    Sammy McNally
    “p.s. A welcoming home parade for olympic medallists would be far less divisive.”

    Ya reckon? Really?

  • Greagoir O’ Frainclin

    Will there be victory parades in Britain as well, or are they only to occur in NI, the land of parades?
    Is there to be just one parade or will it be a frequent event?
    Does war and all its trappings rest easy with NI devout and pious fundamentalist Christians?
    Is killing for a ‘good cause’ justified despite what commandment 6 says?
    How does Jesus, the son of God feel about this?
    The IRA are doomed to hell for all the people they murdered as devout and pious NI fundamentalist Christians believe, so are all killers doomed to hell?

  • Wilde Rover

    Perhaps the junkies from both sides of the divide could lead the way in the search for peace and reconciliation and line the streets for these parades to show their appreciation for the availability of a cheap and endless supply of smack in Northern Ireland.

  • Kensei

    Here is the key question – is there mutual respect? Given the Dup’s behaviour over Irish language funding or Tricolour’s at St Pats parades then they have a cheek asking for magnanimy from Nationalism. The best strategy for the repeated Prisoner’s dilema is tit for tat with forgiveness. Unfortunately we should be on tat here.

  • eranu

    paddy, your exaggerating by miles any problem in NI. 90% is actually only in the minds of the extreme end of nationalists. people who cant accept the reality that they live in the UK and not the ROI. it really is as simple as that. there are a few unionists that come out with the odd cringe worthy outburst. but most people regard these events in the way you portray them in dublin. nobody is wanting to flaunt anything, they are just going about the normal type of ceremonies you get in any country. theres no point in trying to portray these kinds of ceremonies in a bad light, people know the reality and can see its just throwing mud at what you dont like.

  • Dr Strangelove

    If most nationalists do not wear poppies then it is reasonable to expect that not a lot of them would be in favour of a parade.

    In addition to the patronising tone which Unionists adopt towards nationalists in regards to these events, the fact that the regiment parading is partially constituted by remnants of the UDR should be enough to have the parade behind closed doors.

    I mean, really, how does one polish a turd ?

  • doctor

    “there are a few unionists that come out with the odd cringe worthy outburst.”

    Thank you for inadvertantly providing the biggest laugh of the day. You’re not by any chance Iris or Ian Jr.?

    I also like the calculations, presumably made up in your own mind, about how nationalists really feel.

  • Occassional Commentor

    Why not commence with a Civil War and be done with it, winner take all?

  • Harry Flashman

    PaddyReilly, the ongoing debate in the letters page of the Irish Times concerning that paper’s printing of the diary of Lt Paddy Bury from Wicklow who is currently serving with the British Army in Afghanistan would indicate that it ain’t all sweetness and light down south either.

  • Mr E Mann

    >cheap and endless supply of smack in
    >Northern Ireland.

    The RIR’s got heroin, the Provos have Northern Bank notes and need jobs. I think I see a shared future.

  • Garibaldy

    Gee people object to the valorisation of imperialist wars, past and present. Good.

  • Brian Walker

    Chris Donnelly states:
    “For nationalists, parity of esteem is the logical premise for a ‘shared future’- one where the identities and expressions of both communities are afforded equal legitimacy in a non-threatening, shared manner.”

    This is surely at the heart of it. But we have to take it case by case. Abstentions by nationalist and republican councillors in relevant votes or at least a low key approach to the parades, would be a magnanimous gesture. I cannot help feeling sticking on the RIR parades is a gesture not worth making. It is not a piece of unionist exceptionalism; it is in line with a GB practice after it was pointed out US troops got a welcome home while UK soldiers didn’t – apart from an honour guard for flag-shrouded coffins arriving at Brize Norton.

    Nationalist/republican abstentions might fairly be made conditional on a DUP/UU response on terms of their choosing, as over 12th funding, the display of the Tricolour and lots more.

    In that event – and on merit anyway- such a unionist response would be absolutely mandatory and should be carefully monitored.

  • Kensei

    Brian – given the Dup’s current behaviour I think delivery up front should be ‘mandated’ if they want anything.

  • #

    PaddyReilly, the ongoing debate in the letters page of the Irish Times concerning that paper’s printing of the diary of Lt Paddy Bury from Wicklow who is currently serving with the British Army in Afghanistan would indicate that it ain’t all sweetness and light down south either.
    Posted by Harry Flashman on Aug 21, 2008 @ 03:46 PM

    In fairness Harry, most of the south couldn’t give a flying f–k what happens in the letters page of the Irish times. It’s a minority paper even amongst those who purchase papers, who are in themselves a minority. So I wouldn’t use the Irish times letters page as a gauge.

    Also there is a spanking new memorial to the dead men from Cork who fought in BOTH world wars for the British Empire complete with all the inscriptions and regiment names erected by the British Legion too, right in the city centre on South Mall too only about 50 yards from a memorial to the 19th Fenian movement. It’s even resplendent with poppies adorning it and what surprised me is that there is no graffiti or vandalism on it. Famous last words now I suppose I’ve put the kiss of death on it.

    http://www.irishwarmemorials.ie/html/warMemorials.php?warID=2&warName=WW II

    These are old pictures but there are quite a lot of WW2 memorials (surprisingly!) located in the South. The problem with those commemorations(e.g. parades etc) in the North is that they are too divisive and it’s about the never ending battle of one upmanship between both sides in a bitterly divided place.

    Anyway the new memorial is nice and as an Irish nationalist I have no problem with it.

  • Peking

    “While taking care to protect new-found and long overdue rights and freedoms…”

    Such as?
    Surely it can’t have escaped your notice – even from the distance of your London base – that those “overdue rights and freedoms” you refer to are hardly “new-found”, since they arrived circa 1972.

    Incidentally, it always intrigues me that so many of those who like to sneer at all things British and wax so lyrical about all things Irish, choose, nonetheless, to live in England. I suppose it’s a bit like the champagne socialists who would rather kill their own mother than distribute a penny of their great wealth – barefaced hypocrisy.

  • fenian bastard

    BW writes…

    “what NI needs is not what this thread is really about: a sense of common purpose, a developing sense of a shared future.”

    Sorry Brian, that’s what Ireland needs. Ireland is a country that has absorbed various immigrations save for the descendants of part of the plantation of Ulster, which it will do so in time.

    NI is not a country, but a gerrymandered entity, brought into being by the incompatibilities of British and Irish Nationalism. It has never worked and it never will.

    It is time for intelligent Unionists to start reading the writing on the wall, or listen to the crowd at Hampden, or watch Team GB at the Olympics and start to make common cause with their countrymen in the Republic of Ireland.

  • Peking

    “…or watch Team GB at the Olympics and start to make common cause with their countrymen in the Republic of Ireland.”

    What do you mean, stop winning lots of medals and start doping horses instead?
    Strange sort of advice that.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Brian

    You make a lot of sense in your response to my earlier post. I, for one, believe such a tactical approach by republicans has been long overdue, and would bring considerable advances in terms of resolving the protracted rows over (for example) the contrast between power-sharing on nationalist-majority councils and not on unionist majority councils; the display of flags and emblems from all such councils; the absurd contrast in Belfast between a Council refusing to fund a March 17th parade because some people might have tricolours and throwing money at the burning of the same flag from bonfires!

    Having said that, as Kensei points out, republicans would be within their right to demand upfront delivery- or at least guaranteed reciprocation- as the ‘moral high ground’ argument wears thin.

  • Brian Walker

    Chris, I think you and I could sort all this out over a few whiskeys and chasers in this poor weather. If we were delegated full powers…

    P.S You’re not a Pioneer are you??

  • Brian Walker

    Sorry, no “and” before the chaser – when I get excited the typos increase..

  • Bemused

    I (for once) agree with Chris Donnelly. Funding scum to burn Irish flags while by the same token threatening to remove funding from Irish ratepayers if they fly Irish flags on St. Patrick’s day says all there is to say about the moral cess-pit that constitutional unionism has been paddling about in in Belfast for decades. As I’ve said on this and other threads – these parades will not take place (there may be a token dander about the cultural wasteland that is Ballymena – who cares). IF unionism had behaved itself in local civic politics for the last thirty years (“We will never tolerate a terrorist mayor of Belfast! (Oh – Hughie Smyth? He’s different – he’s OUR terrorist)” etc. then of course people may have found it within themselves to turn the other cheek, ignore the parade and let the ‘no surrender’ human sewage brigade turn out and gulder and drink themselves sick as they cheered on ‘Ulster’s’ finest. As things stand – you must be joking. Constitutional unionism is on it’s last majority-rule legs in Belfast and it and everyone else knows it. Within five years the demographics in Belfast will condemn the antics of Sammy Wilson and other arseholes to history. As Chris has pointed out (and again, I can’t believe I’m agreeing with him) that demographic sway should hold no fear for decent, civilised, respectable unionists.

  • Driftwood

    1 RIR according to Tim Collins, never had anything to do with the ‘home service’ battalions.
    2 RIR is TA and, while I’m unsure, I don’t recall a lot of nationalist aggro against the Territorial Army even during the troubles.
    I don’t think the Irish Guards were ever posted here, but unsure.
    There is no need for any “parade”. Both units are garrisoned on the mainland. The regiments garrisoned here but often serving in warzones are unlikely to want to be subject to parochial politics. A big bash at Thiepval for the Irish Regiments (Officers at Hillsborough though)and everyone will be happy or unconcerned. jolly good show and all that. Pass the port from the left…

  • Big Maggie

    Has anyone asked the soldiers? Knowing soldiers as I do, extra marching is the last thing they’d want to do outside the barracks yard.

  • Brian Walker

    Bemused, nationalist pent-up fury at unionist behaviour is understandable but if you want to do anything more than orate, you have to turn your anger into a transactionable proposition.Yours is still the rhetoric of the disenfranchised.Chris Donnelly’s tone is markedly different from your furious despairing negativism of the unengaged.

    Driftwood, you and others comment as if these parades are unlikely. From my reading of the story, a parade is happening, at least to a service in St Anne’s. Am I wrong? The civic reception part of it is to be decided. I suppose if a mighty storm was created, they might just back off, but that would produce a worse storm. Irish regiments wer exempted from serving on the streets of NI up to the end of the Cold War. The Wikipedia version says:
    “The Irish Guards, in common with the other British Army regiments of Irish origin, were long exempted from service in Northern Ireland. (Small numbers of Irish Guardsmen, however, gained experience in Ulster while attached to other Guards regiments during their service in the troubled province.) The drawdown in the overall size of the British Army following the end of the Cold War, however, meant that this policy was no longer sustainable. The year 1992 saw the regiment finally carry out its first tour-of-duty in Northern Ireland, being based in County Fermanagh. The violence in NI had mostly subsided by this time and their first-ever tour west of the Irish Sea passed quietly. They left the following year. In 1995 their second tour of NI began, based in County Tyrone.”

    The regular battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment, an amalgamation of the Royal Irish Rangers and six UDR battalions which happened in 1992. After amalgamation, the bar on service in NI on the regular overseas battalions, as distinct from full-time locals, was upheld.

    The old depot, RIR at St Patrick’s Barracks Ballymena is now closed a part of “normalisation”

  • Driftwood

    A parade to St Annes would probably pass off unremarkably, in Remembrance Day fashion. Since St Patricks Barracks is no longer, then Thiepval seems appropriate. However what is the purpose of the parade? Service in Afghanistan? Fighting the Taliban, that’s fine. But squaddies,and I know some, don’t like church services very much. Nor marching.A big pot of stew, lots of Stella and females , and they don’t really care if its Belfast or Bristol.
    2 RIR, TA. Hillsborough castle,good food, some fine wines and a taxi home thanks. Bobs your Uncle.

  • Damien Okado-Gough

    Brian,

    The central problem with your reasoning is your belief that NI is in peacetime, when it is not. Northern Irish society is still deeply emersed in an ethnic conflict, despite a relative lack of political violence.

    A British army parade through any town in NI is nothing like a British army parade through Aldershot or any other town or city in Britain.

  • Bemused

    Brian – trust me, I’m a long way from dispossesed. Why do I need to convert anything into a ‘transactionable proposition’? Unionism (and by ‘unionism’ I mean the hideous, belching, fuck-witted variety as practised by the likes of Sammy Wilson, David McNarry etc.) is fucked. Let’s sit down, pass the popcorn and enjoy it’s demise – no? Why do I need to trade, barter or in any other way engage with it? Confident, modern, secular residents of Belfast no longer need to engage with these wankers – they’re on the way out. Why should we dignify them with engagement?

  • Prionsa Eoghan

    >>and as an Irish nationalist I have no problem with it.
    Posted by dave on Aug 21, 2008 @ 05:21 PM<<*chokes on coffee* *splutters* Re-reads it and checks the specs.Aye right!

  • Quagmire

    Why not have a parade in Belfast for the brave men and women from the 6 counties who are currently overseas with Oglaigh na hEireann participating in peace keeping duties in places such as Chad and the Lebanon? After all the four largest towns/cities in “our wee country” i.e. Belfast, Newry, Derry and Armagh City, are all majority nationalist cities are they not? Its time people began to wake up and smell the coffee and start to address the big green elephant in the room i.e. “our wee pravance” is slowly but surely slipping in nationalist control. The British army is despised by approx 40%-50% of norn Iron and would not be welcome to parade in almost half of the 6 counties.

  • Mike

    Chris Donnelly

    “For nationalists, parity of esteem is the logical premise for a ‘shared future’- one where the identities and expressions of both communities are afforded equal legitimacy in a non-threatening, shared manner.

    For many unionists, this doesn’t appear to be on the agenda- cue the ‘Ulster is British’/ ‘No Foreign flag’/ ‘No equivocation between soldiers and terrorists’ brigade.

    For what it’s worth, I think a common purpose can only be properly nurtured and developed when the issue of equality is resolved satisfactorily so that many of the ‘old’ arguments are put to the side. ”

    I disagree compeltely with your entire premise. I’m more than happy to accord respect and equality to nationalism, its political aspirations and to nationalists’ Irishness.

    That’s not enough for you, however. No, you wish to tie in with “equality” and “parity of esteem” the notion that I should go along with legitimising the Provos’ terrorist campaign, that I should regard those who perpetrated mass murder in atrocities such as at Enniskillen, La Mon, Ballygawley, Narrow Water, Tullyvallen, Kingsmills, Teebane, etc etc as “soldiers” and be fine and dandy with commemorating them.

    The likes of the Balcombe Street Gang might be heroes to the terrorists’ apologists (witness those scenes back in 1998) but let me be clear to you Chris – I view them as terrorist thugs who committed cold-blooded murder, mass murder, based on people’s nationality, religion, job, and political opinion. You might think murdering people for these “reasons” deserves some sort of commemoration or respect: I do not.

  • Bemused

    Mike – I’ve made some simple, obvious but telling amendments to your post. See what a twat you are?

    “I disagree compeltely with your entire premise. I’m more than happy to accord respect and equality to unionism, its political aspirations and to unionists’ Britishness.

    That’s not enough for you, however. No, you wish to tie in with “equality” and “parity of esteem” the notion that I should go along with legitimising the British terrorist campaign, that I should regard those who perpetrated mass murder in atrocities such as Bloody Sunday, Loughinisland,the Miami Showband massacre, the Dublin/Monaghan bombings, McGurk’s bar, the entirety of the murders carried out by Mark Haddock, Brian Nelson and the raft of other Crown servants etc etc as “soldiers” and be fine and dandy with commemorating them.

    The likes of Lee Clegg and Fisher and Wright might be heroes to the terrorists’ apologists (witness the cheerleading of them by the entire British media and political establishment throughout their trial, incarceration and subsequent army careers) but let me be clear to you Chris – I view them as terrorist thugs who committed cold-blooded murder, mass murder, based on people’s nationality, religion, job, and political opinion. You might think murdering people for these “reasons” deserves some sort of commemoration or respect: I do not.

    Posted by Mike on Aug 23, 2008 @ 12:12 AM

    You stupid, stupid, stupid little man.

  • Well done bemused, you destroyed that fool’s argument hook line and sinker. Sure we all know the biggest practitioners of terrorism are states themselves with the British right up there with the Yanks vying for numero uno, look at Iraq.

  • Mike

    Bemused, you might have had some sort of point if I wanted to commemorate any of that, but I don’t.

    Wonder who the “stupid, stupid little man” is now?

    Intelligent debating style, by the way, saying “see what a twat you are” – classy, too.

  • fenian bastard

    Peking answers me…

    “…or watch Team GB at the Olympics and start to make common cause with their countrymen in the Republic of Ireland.”

    What do you mean, stop winning lots of medals and start doping horses instead?
    Strange sort of advice that

    GB won the medals, Peking. That’s an island to the right of you.