Parade and protest

After my invitation to join me on a walk in Belfast this morning only one Slugger reader came along. The following is a taste of our day and the photos, mostly provided by Gerard, are on Flickr. A big thanks to Gerard for providing some great company. Unfortunately logistics meant despite best intentions we couldn’t get to every aspect but we gave it a good go

UPDATE: Youtube footage now added (one of the UDA groups arrives at 6:18)

This blog entry needs a joint credit – Gerard, I couldn’t have done it without you. ThanksWe met up at 10am before heading into the town via the Falls Road. Passing Dunville Park where SF were assembling it was a mass of high visibility vests with marshals greatly outnumbering any early protesters but groups of people were congregated around shops near the park.

At Divis Tower the éirígí protest had attracted around 200 and a throng of journalists, the riot squad had formed up 100 yards down the road with 25 landrovers, around 200 police men, and dog units. We hung around for a bit before heading into the city centre.

Passing College Square North we noted the presence of 2 parked water canons which weren’t used.

At Fisherwick place, the arrival point of the SF protest, a crowd of around 1,000 had already started to gather – this number was to swell hugely later.

Round at the city hall the streets were lined by 10s of thousands of well-wishers. The atmosphere was light and carnival like. Then at three stages the crowd erupted with cheers as groups 100s strong marched towards city hall down the centre of the road – it became apparent that two of these groups had numerous well known UDA figures the other UVF figures – it was pretty clear these were the paramilitary contingent.

Then, I made my way back towards the eirigi protest while Gerard stayed at Fisherwick Place. Arriving back on the Falls Road the eirigi protest parade was slowly moving towards police lines headed by yet more marshals in high visibility vests. I rang Gerard suggesting he come back to this protest but he was prevented from getting near by the PSNI and from his report was close to arrest for pursuing the issue.

As eirigi came towards the police blockade an announcement was made over a loudspeaker that the parade was illegal and participants could be subject to arrest. In response an eirigi member made an announcement over their loud hailer ‘This is an eirigi announcement, ignore that announcement. We will be walking on this road’.

As the protesters stood face to face with the police a PA system was erected and speeches started. The initial announcement was that with regret Relatives for Justice would not be attending and a statement was read on their behalf.

Then Brenda Downes, whose husband John was killed by the RUC at a protest rally in 1984, addressed the crowd. At this point the police helicopter which had been high overhead descended to a much lower level and my ability, and I assume that of the protesters, to hear the speech was greatly reduced.

After Brenda, eirigi chairperson Brian Leeson made an address and of what I heard two lines got the loudest response

“As proud Irish Republicans we will march on our streets without asking their permission”

And the much more interesting

“The day will come when we fight them, today is not that day”

Brian then announced the intention to turnaround march back up the road and disperse. At this point I decided I’d make a move back towards the city centre.

Back in Fisherwick Place Gerard had managed to get himself into the centre of things as his photos show and I was on the fringes of a by now greatly swollen, tense and hostile group of 5,000+.

As the SF protest started to march down the Grovensor Road the crowd began to sing.

We were treated to:

”Home, home on the range”

“Do you want a pastie supper Bobby Sands”

And then the Rangers classics – The Famine song and The Bouncy which was accompanied by much bouncing.

To shouts of ‘Gypsies’, ‘scum’, much more and various hand gestures the shinners edged closer at which point members of the crowd that had scaled scaffolding started a barrage of fireworks and bottles that continued intermittently until well after the parade had passed.

Then the drum beat struck up from within the grounds of Inst, received a huge cheer and the soldiers marched out onto the road to what I assume was the RIR regimental march which was followed by Onward Christian soldiers as the parade passed the demonstrators.

Most of the soldiers marched stony-faced but a few couldn’t keep huge grins off what were often frighteningly young faces that couldn’t have had too many occasions to need a razor.

The crowd at Fisherwick Place went mental as they passed saving a massive roar for the RIR contingent who followed the other soldiers. A small group followed them on their way but the majority preferred to stay on for more jeering at the shiners and sporadic missile throwing.

Then the shinners turned, left and the crowd started to disperse.

So then on along the route of the parade where the majority of well wishers were and a much lighter atmosphere to try and see what was happening at the Markets and the answer to that was not a lot – things may have been in the process of breaking up but at Friendly street there were small groups of residents clustered about and a demonstration of around 30 with 32CSM and RNU banners on the road outside the St George’s Market.

As we arrived a policeman politely asked them to break up and they politely complied.

And that was my Sunday morning in Belfast. How was yours?

And here is some video:

  • Blair

    “Blair: could be it was the one with half the squad playing silly buggers.”

    Big Maggie,

    It just seems strange that with all these other incriminating photos they decided to go with one which was perfectly harmless. I’m sure they wouldn’t be involved in any kind of lies or spin though.

  • Big Maggie

    Blair

    Perfectly harmless? Are you kidding me?

  • Peter Brown

    The article actually says this is the only RIR photo but it came from a social networking site (Bebo?) of a North Belfast RIR soldier which also contained the other material…

    Therefore I wasn’t being disingenuous Maggie this was the only photo of the RIR and it still isn’t a paramilitary flag

    I’m also still waiting for the intellectual colussus (Steve) to answer my question when the wakes up in Canada….

  • Big Maggie

    Peter Brown

    this was the only photo of the RIR and it still isn’t a paramilitary flag

    It is. The context tells us that. Let me put it this way. If you found a similar photo on Bebo along with photos of neoNazis and antisemitic slogans, wouldn’t that set the alarm bells ringing for you and tell you that the soldier in question wasn’t, er, kosher?

    (Apologies to Mick for invoking Godwin’s law/rule.)

  • frank

    http://www.bebo.com/PhotoAlbumBig.jsp?PageNbr=1&MemberId=2145606749&PhotoAlbumId=8270929256&PhotoId=8272060353

    Strange that those highly educated RIR boys aren’t too good on their history dates.

  • Peter Brown

    Nonsense – simply owning an Ulster / 1922 NI parliament flag call it what you will does not make you a loyalist paramilitary.

    I have photographs of me on holiday in Scotland cruising the Caledonian Canal in 1993 with a cruiser with the flag across its deck and that does not make me or any of the other 4 guys who were with me or the flag paramiltary.

  • Big Maggie

    Peter Brown

    Did you understand my point about context? Do you wish to understand it?

  • Big Maggie

    Lads, lads…

  • Big Maggie

    LOL!

  • Peter Brown

    I have asked graciously and it didn’t work so why not just admit that you didn’t want to answer the question…

    Maggie what context – the weapons? I may be missing your point

    Btw Steve tell your wee ma that trolls only exist in fairytales and that catching warts from toads ia an old wives tale – I take in the light of this you were home schooled?

  • Peter Brown

    Here is the original question from 48 hours ago

    “I would like someone to explain why Sinn Fein (and Relatives for Justice etc) are protesting about the deaths of civilians at the hands of the Army during the Troubles (160 according to Table 18 in Lost Lives) when PIRA killed 636 civilans or four times as many (Table 20 – and at the risk of repeating myself from other threads none of their other killings were acts of war justifiable under any International Treaty – which is why the lily is not the equivalent of the poppy)?

    And finally can someone also explain why Gerry Kelly a man convicted of offences in relation to the killing of a civilian in a bomb explosion is the keynote speaker at their rally? Is it intentional irony or unbelieveable hypocrisy?”

    If I add please does that help?

  • james

    ‘And finally can someone also explain why Gerry Kelly a man convicted of offences in relation to the killing of a civilian in a bomb explosion is the keynote speaker at their rally? Is it intentional irony or unbelieveable hypocrisy?”’

    Perhaps when you explain why Peter Robinson ( A strong supporter of the paramilitary organisation -ulster Resistance, an organisation that imported weapons that killed dozens of civilians in the Intervening years), is given pride of place by the organisers of the parade)

    Hypocrisy is having Ulster Resistance founders Sammy Wilson & Robinson as dignitaries at the British army show of strength.

    And that’s before we get started on the welcoming reception given by the crowd to the loyalist paramilitaries, on their arrival.

    To quote Robinson at the launch of ulster Resistance “Thousands have already joined the movement and the task of shaping them into an effective force is continuing. The Resistance has indicated that drilling and training has already started. The officers of the nine divisions have taken up their duties”

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “[i]

    Demanding answers from me in a most impolite manner will get you the response you have gotten. If you and I mean you in particular wish to ask me a question do it with grace and manners

    In your case a little grovelling would heklp as I do not feel disposed to answer a cretin

    Posted by Steve”[/i]

    Arrogant gobsheite

  • Dave

    “I would like someone to explain why Sinn Fein (and Relatives for Justice etc) are protesting about the deaths of civilians at the hands of the Army during the Troubles (160 according to Table 18 in Lost Lives) when PIRA killed 636 civilans or four times as many…

    And finally can someone also explain why Gerry Kelly a man convicted of offences in relation to the killing of a civilian in a bomb explosion is the keynote speaker at their rally? Is it intentional irony or unbelieveable hypocrisy?” – Peter Brown

    I would see principally as an example of opportunism by the amoral that is consistent with the self-serving practice of SF/PIRA throughout its squalid existence. You are right to dismiss them as blackguards. Those blackguards, however, shouldn’t be used to obscure the public’s view that the relatives of many innocent people who were wronged by the State’s forces still seek the justice from the State that they are entitled to and that is denied to them. It is self-defeating for groups such as Relatives for Justice who represent victims of human rights abuses to share platforms with a group that was by far the worst violator of human rights abuses in NI. In fact, if the State wanted to create a political climate that makes it possible for justice to be denied to victims of State violence, then they could do no better than to mobilise their puppets, SF, to support such victims. After all, both the State and its puppets have a common agenda and a common selfish interest to deny justice to civilian victims of the violence.

  • Peter Brown

    james as a former UUP man I’m unlikely to fall for you jump first again – I saw it coming the first time so why don’t you go first seeing I asked first?

    I’ll even give you a clue about my answer – how many murders did Sammy and Peter personally pull the trigger or fit the timer for?

    But I’ll save the rest til after you have your turn

    Steve if you don’t want to answer just say so – no more smoke and mirrors please

    “One can only how it was with a rusty pocket knife”

    Maybe you can translate this for me – into the Queen’s English.

    Who says I’ve had my sense of humour removed ;-p?

    I’m off to bed…

  • Blair

    “Blair

    Perfectly harmless? Are you kidding me?”

    Big Maggie,

    No not at all. A photograph of some armed soldiers posing beside their country’s flag is hardly controversial. Do you think that Barry McElduff who attended a recent Ulster rugby match, where hundreds of these flags were flown, felt he was watching it in the company of supporters of loyalist paramilitaries?

  • steve

    lol

  • Blair – small point, but as a Ravenhill regular can i just say that there arent 100’s of N.I. flegs flown/waved there. Admittedly there were 100’s of the N.I. fleg in Dublin in 1999, and the Union Jack flutters from a fleg pole a lot of the time but now its about equal numbers of the 6 county N.I. fleg and the 9 county yella one. As far as i’m aware its the only venue/location at which the 2 exist in apparent perfect harmony along with various other flegs mostly red & white such as Japan and Greenland.

    Celebrate r diverity – Stand up 4 the Ulstermen.

  • Steve

    you have an interesting policy on trolling Mick lol

  • Blair

    Militant Mike,

    You’ll agree with the general point that the flag is not a paramilitary flag though?

  • Yes – but maybe with the benefit of hindsight the photo of the/our troops in the desert wud have been “better” saying something like “No Surrender to Al-Quaeda” but perhaps they ran out of space or ink or “better still” it could have read something like “We support Obama for President”

    – but hey we don’t live in a perfect world.

    Could someone not doctor the photo for us and produce something we can all agree on?

  • Big Maggie

    Peter Brown & Blair

    See, read and reread my post at 4. Or don’t if that suits your agenda. That’s all I wish to say on the matter. Over and out.

  • Peter Brown

    I would accept that Maggie but it’s not alongside anyone or anything except fellow soldiers – it’s therefore the same as my holiday snaps except they have guns.

    I’ll give you an example – if i wear a beret in Ballymena unless it is in a certain context people will think I’m “affected” but if i wear it in this context

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/2759795.stm

    then clearly it has an altogether different meaning.

    An NI flag with No surrender on it is no more a terrorist flag in the RIR in Afghanistan than it is at a bonfire on 11th July – if they were wearing balaclavas I might have to eat some humble pie but as you can see from other posts your subjectivity has tinited your green spectacles again and i can stick to my no pie diet.

    I have an idea for a new kids book – Where’s Steve? You look for a guy in a green and white hooped sweatshirt (beret optional instead of wooly hat unless its a Cliftonville red and white bobble hat in which case look out for the fireworks) in a huge crowd of protestors at various parades but he is awfully hard to tie down – in fact he’s disappeared off this thread!

  • Steve

    not entirely Peter, I just out trolled you last night and mick objected

    as for the wheres Steve idea, Steve is a very easy person to find even in a large crowd of protestors so it wouldnt make much of a book, though I understand your facination with picture books as they are easier for you to read

  • Peter Brown

    I’m not the one who can’t / refuses to answer a simple question PLEASE

  • Blair

    Big Maggie,

    How does the context tell us that. It is a picture of a group of soldiers from Northern Ireland in Afghanistan. They are involved in a war and therefore they are armed. They have written a slogan which dates back to a famous siege, in which their forefathers may well have fought, on their flag. Their Regiment went over the top at the Somme shouting that same slogan.

    What on earth is wrong with the picture? And if there were more incriminating picture as the Angrytown News says then why did they go with that one?

  • Jack the Master

    Northern Ireland is one messed up place.

    One half of it hates Britain but Britain won’t let them leave due the bloodshed that will result.

    The other half loves Britain but Britain, while having to keep due to political realities, is thoroughly disusted by them and their claims of “britishness”

  • Sham Reporter

    I, for one, say no Bohemian involvement.