Republican guns okay; Loyalist insignia not okay…

There’s a piece in yesterday’s Belfast Telegraph in which Sinn Fein is accused of hypocrisy in their insistence that loyalist bandsmen may not sport any sort of paraphernalia relating to loyalist paramilitaries. That insistence is something that’s been carried through by the Parades Commission, which, according to Leslie Anne Henry:

…upheld a decision to allow 41 loyalist bands to march through the Co Antrim village without restriction. However, bands have been warned in the commission’s determination that paramilitary-style clothing must not be worn at any time; flags, bannerettes and symbols relating to a proscribed organisation not be displayed; and musical instruments must not bear any inscription or mark of a proscribed organisation.

All fine and very much in line with the generally prescribed movement towards a shared future… Now have a look at this video of a re-enactment from the Sinn Fein sponsored parade at Galbally in Tyrone on 16th August:

Then see this picture from Galbally. Slugger is told that the guy at the back in the black military uniform may be Ruairí Gildernew, an independent member of the Dungannon DPP listed as a Sinn Fein worker and former Press Officer for the LoughGall 20 commemoration. I say may, because it’s only from the photograph; I’d be happy to hear if it is otherwise).

On the face of it, to the east of the Bann Sinn Fein is prosecuting a reasonably popular campaign to rid the streets of any signs of paramilitary insignia on public display, whilst to the west it is endorsing and even participating in considerably more graphic displays of its own military tradition.

Whichever way you take it, from a Sinn Fein point of view or from the outside, it makes little sense to petition for the abolition for even vaguest of militaristic displays on one hand and then to go ahead use the public highway to portray them in right front of your own leadership (the dFM included) on the other…

At the very least he party’s actions in Galbally undermine its eminently reasonable petitions in places like Rasharkin.

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  • skullion


  • the future’s bright, the future’s orange

    interesting post Mick but no real surprise. Hypocrisy and the shinners usually comes in hand in hand IMHO.

    That said, this is absolutely no excuse for parimilitary trappings associated with ‘Loyalist’ band parades. Certainly, in terms of the OO, they need to have a zero tolerance to this kind of stuff. The residents of Rasharkin have every right to kick up a stink (peacefully of course :)) if bands are displaying such emblems of hatred.

    But yes, pehaps SF should look at themselves before pointing the finger at others.

  • Chris Donnelly


    You’re misrepresenting the Sinn Fein position, perhaps innocently…

    Sinn Fein’s objection is not to any such public displays but those in contentious areas, where such parades could be deemed as provocative – the party makes no comment on loyalist parades in the Shankill or other loyalist communities where bands with paramilitary backgrounds march to their hearts content.

    However, it rightly objects to the organisation of a parade in an overwhelmingly nationalist area which includes bands named for loyalist paramilitaries, not to mention the involvement of two bands from which eight members are currently facing charges relating to the sectarian murder of a catholic man in Coleraine.

    It is quite a reasonable position, hence the ‘popularity’ you concede.

    As Skullion suggests, the location is the important element, and I really doubt if there is any confusion about that.

  • Davros

    On the same day as the tall ships too. I bet there were some disappointed kids:”Sorry Rory, Daddy has to go for his funny walk”

  • ol

    Location, location, location!

    Galbally is a republican area. The difference is of course that the parade last night contained loyalists in a nationalist/ republican area. That is where the issue lies, sin é

  • RepublicanStones

    Skullion is bang on with the first post.

    Although I still think the re-enactments were a bit cringeworthy.

  • Scaramoosh

    “Galbally is a republican area.”

    What is a Republican area?

    Do you think that the Catholics of the Kilcooley Estate in Bangor, which is presumably a “loyalist area” should be required to tolerate the loyalist flags and murals on display there?

    The need to march like Fascist foot soldiers, whilst on the one hand funny, is symptomatic of latent tribal dysfunctionality. On the one hand, those that behave like this, know that their display is going to end up on You Tube. Secondly, what is the message that they send out -that come the future United Ireland, loyalist and unionists will be free to join the parade.

  • John

    Complete misinterpretation of SF position. If this loyalist parade was through Stranocum or Ahoghill SF would have no problem.

    Going through Rasharkin is just pure triumphalism designed to stir up tension.

  • Jer

    The use of replica weapons only contrasts the more strongly with the Loyalists retention of real weapons.

    Thats an awkward fact in the mix no?

  • Mick Fealty


    I will keep an eye on things, but I’ve made own simple point above, I’d prefer to leave it to others to elaborate their own views on this…

  • alan56

    Crazy knit picking from I hope otherwise intelligent people. Surely in the ‘new’ dispensation there is no justification for any paramilitary style marching or symbols regardless of the pathetic ‘location,location,location’ argument.
    The video is funny though !

  • Fanboys in the PIRA

    SF now views the IRA as nothing more than a recruitment tool for its young fanboys – join Ogra and you too can be a member of the Pretend IRA!

    With no sense of irony and no sense the ridiculous

    The Pretend IRA – jaysus you couldn’t make it up

    F’kn sad

  • conor

    Mick you are a sad pathetic little wannabe unionist. enjoy your home in england, u sad little prick.

  • Turgon

    What a spectacular way to encourage a united Ireland.

    The gates of unionism tremble under the weight of such insightful and intellectual analysis. Your remarks can be viewed as a sort of verbal trebuche smashing down our position. Now even today after that remark I know that all is lost and a united Ireland inevitable. Actually teh whole escapade in Galbally has clearly advanced a united Ireland colossally. I am sure it fits in perfectly with the unionist engagement strategy of whatever it is called now.

  • Frank

    I have not heard any objections from the Nationalist community regarding the upcoming paramilitary band parade for UVF killer Brian Robinson in early September.

    Presumably this is because loyalists, Orange Order members and Paramilitary linked bands will be parading on the Shankill Road and not trying to march through areas were their presence would not be welcome and deemed offensive.

    A large number of elected Unionist representatives take part in Orange Order parades which contain bands linked to paramilitary organisations.

    I heard no Unionist outcry regarding the paramilitary displays and glorification of UVF/UFF/RHC members during this years marching season.

    Did Nelson McCausland object to banners and bands commemorating UFF commander Joe Bratty, UVF leader Brian Robinson and all the other paramilitary bands taking part in this year’s 12th parade through the centre of the city.

    I don’t recall McCausland having any issues marching in the Whiterock parade with plenty of loyalist paramilitary banners and bands.

    Regarding Mick’s point, I have not heard Sinn Fein object to loyalist paramilitary displays during parades within loyalist areas & I have not heard elected unionist politicians object to it either.

  • wild turkey


    are you sure the Utube clip isn’t an out-take from an old Myton Python sketch?

  • Observer

    Republicans marching through Ballymena would have been worthy of a post, but this is just mischevious.
    If you had decried the ritual simulated killing of Catholics at Scarva every year, by unionists in uniform with replica firearms, perhaps the issue could have been regarded as an objective piece.
    You mentioned on another thread that these things are news whether we like it or not, Mick. However, with all due respect, you are the author of both posts. Without this site the serial bloodvessel bursters would probably be out walking the dog and learning to socialise with others, before they know what religion they are.
    Where is Slugger going with this kind of rubbish?

  • bk

    Mass marches, commemorative parades, demarcation of territory, choirs and music, speeches and pledges, worship of the dead, the glorification of conflict,hatred of outsiders, flags, torches, bonfires, anything promising dramatic effect. What next Pogroms?

  • Mick Fealty


    “Without this site the serial bloodvessel bursters would probably be out walking the dog and learning to socialise with others, before they know what religion they are.”

    Is this for real?

  • eranu

    why were they playing ‘Simon says do this..’ for the first 20 seconds? totally ruined the atmos for me!

  • Mark McGreg

    I find this interesting and worthy of being discussed for several reasons.

    First up the parade that SF supported but claim they didn’t organise clearly included large elements of militarism (paramilitarism to some).

    We have a DPP member dressed in this militarist garb.

    We also see that many ‘independent’ members of the DPPs are nothing of the sort being declared political activists.

    The issue it raises for me is the ludicrous situations SF creates for itself by pretending to be a revolutionary grouping and associating it with the trappings of its revolutionary past when it very clearly has rejected those aspects and has morphed into a fully constituitional nationalists party of the status-quo.

    The re-enactments initially made me think -wtf how twee and inappropriate, they now just highlight SF being unable to admit what they have become and thinking dressing up as their former entities gives some sort of revolutionary credentials. It doesn’t, it is just kids and aul lads playing toy soldiers and looking bloody ridiculous while doing it.

  • Richard Aardvark

    So Chris,

    Sinn Fein supports the intimidation of isolated Protestants through paramilitary shows of strength?

  • Tom

    RA, yes.

  • Trev

    More vids like this pleeese! It was so funny.

    [edited moderator]

  • Jimmy Sands

    “I still think the re-enactments were a bit cringeworthy. ”

    A group of sad gun fetishists skulking in hedgerows pretending to be soldiers?

    I can’t think of a more appropriate commemoration.

  • Jimmy Sands

    Obviously the distinction is one of location. Loyalist paramilitary displays are unacceptable in nationalist communities because members of such communities were among their victims, whereas no-one in a nationalist community ever suffered at the hands of the RA.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Richard Aardvark

    Hardly- were this to have taken place in a unionist area, then I can see how you’d draw such conclusions, but Galbally hardly fits the bill.

    Personally, I would prefer if the militarist outfits were quietly disposed.

  • Observer

    Yes, Mick, its for real.
    Apart from the obvious invitations to Fenian bash or Hun bash, such as the post under discussion, even posts on education and the economy degenerate into personalised attacks on this politician or that. The reason for this is not because of a particular view of the topic, rather it is a particular view of the “side” the person represents.
    As I said on a different thread, the site is rapidly becoming a refuge for the twisted and bitter who are not interested in serious debate, only in winding up the “opposition”. In most cases the “opposition” are Republicans or Unionists, not pro educational reform, socialists, anti blood sports, Santa believers or anybody else.
    Posts like this can’t be serious attempts to elicit debate. The answer is obvious – Republicans say yes and Unionists say no. The rest is just hyperbole aimed at winding up the other side.
    To invite discussion as if this is a serious issue is the equivalent of a Sun headline telling us that Unionists want to parade on the 12th but don’t want Republicans to parade – Shock Horror!
    If a serious discussion was your intention, why was the post angled in a way to invite comment about only Sinn Fein? Why not acknowledge Scarva and the OOs determination to march where they’re not wanted and invite discussion about how displays by either side can be made more sensitive to the feelings of the other?
    A “political” discussion could have centred around the reaction of the various political parties to the commemoration – eg, the SDLP. An analysis of politician’s attitudes may provide more insight into the state of politics and parties than the fossilised reactions so typical of Slugger these days.
    Sometimes reading through Slugger is reminiscent of the Belfast Telegraph letters page of 25 years ago. One would be forgiven for thinking that the Good Friday Agreement was only a dream (which some of your contributors obviously wish it was) when reading some of the posts. Parity of esteem appears an alien concept, smart alec and insulting comments are the order of the day.
    There is no debate, no search for knowledge or understanding.
    A simple voting system – we hate Fenians or we hate Huns – would save a lot of time and effort.

  • Jimmy Sands

    “invite discussion about how displays by either side can be made more sensitive to the feelings of the other?”

    Perhaps you’d better tell Mick precisely what form this invitation would need to take on order for you to contribute. Most of us manage without one.

  • Observer


    Sadly, most of you don’t manage at all.
    I imagine Mick is long enough in the tooth to understand the point I’m making.

  • Mick Fealty

    Thanks Obs,

    That’s a rather more fulsome and nuanced response than your first. Fr which, thanks. I would say too that some of this is ‘truth is in the eye of the beholder’ stuff.

    I get the feeling you’d prefer I hadn’t written this story at all. From my point of view it was the result of determining to take a closer interest in a story that was already the subject of the week’s only substantial political controversy; and therefore was a legitimate subject for further journalistic investigation.

    It also came at the end of a flurry of posts on the subjects each of which, it seems to me, though I fully accept others will disagree, was striking progressively closer to the heart of the controversy of that story. It’s been done in as straight and falsifiable way as I could manage, and through a determination to find out what is actually going on.

    There was no aim on my part to fan the flames of controversy. In fact, if you look at the conversation here it has been remarkably civil (especially if you compare it to the latest Rasharkin thread, where I note you have not entered your complaint).

    Why has it been civil? I suspect it’s because the post above contains a lot of incontrovertable reportage. The more there is hidden about any given event the more room for people to colour those events with as Gombrich might put it, ‘the beholder’s share’.

    Now I certainly buy the whole picture argument. Wittgenstein writes in one of his many journal entries:

    “Don’t get involved in partial problems, but always take flight to where there is a free view over the whole single great problem, even if this view is still not a clear one.”

    There is always a danger of becoming over-obsessed with one issue over the exclusion of another equally, or possibly more important one. Not least in such a fractured and partisan territory as Northern Ireland. But this blog, for me at least, has always worked in the manner of a journalist’s or even a scientist’s notebook. You follow the story as it flows, and you follow it as tightly and as honestly as you can. You don’t expect to get the whole story out in one go.

    BTW, the same gentleman also said:

    “Logic takes care of itself; all we have to do is to look and see how it does it.”

    The logic of this story is obvious (as contained in the last two paragraphs above), even as it is politically limited.

    If we deliberately blind ourselves to the evidence in front of us, then it is impossible to make hard and fast judgements about anything we see (or chose not to see).

    Like it or not, and for good or for ill we are moving into a much more open world in which the urge to self document and share experience is almost impossible to suppress. This kind of story is going to happen more rather than less often.

    The problem with this story is that it is way too honest and straightforward. Tabloid’s are sometimes that (especially when the broadsheets have vested time and money in ‘keeping’ in with the political classes), but in general they are much less careful both with the truth and the way they respond to wider issues.

    For example, the Daily Mail in England is against the cervical cancer vaccine, whereas in the Republic its Irish stable mate is for it… Both policies are aimed at little other than disrupting the government of the day… It’s an oppositionalist stance not a little analogous to this situation.

    In one sense Slugger is not for or against anything or anyone. If it is for anything it is for honest, careful and timely reporting and the provision of contestable, and pluralist analysis.

    Stephen Nolan/Joe Duffy we are not. Nor, I venture to suggest, the Belfast Telegraph either in it’s current mode, or the 1984 version.

  • Observer

    Thanks for taking the time to reply, Mick.
    I would disagree that the story was the only political controversy of the week. The young lad hoping for a liver transplant opened up more issues around the politics of this society – who determines that a guideline is an unbreakable rule, the role of the Minister of Health, indeed the Executive in making decisions, the inability of medical professionals to explain decisions by actually answering the questions put to them, etc – than whether or not Republicans are allowed to commemorate the Hunger Strike or people who couldn’t give a fiddlers about the GAA can interpret their rulebook.
    The apparent acceptance of one side’s right to trample over the feelings of the other, presumably because they’ve been doing it for so long, is also evident. Not so much following the story as perpetuating established practice.
    The deliberately offensive comments by a range of contributors (check out the post on the latest stunt by “dissident republicans”) is more reminiscent of wall grafitti than a discussion of the news. I would hazard a guess that even Nolan/Duffy would blanche at broadcasting it.
    Regarding the Rasharkin story, I’m not sure if the article had been about whether or not certain bands should have been permitted to march through a nationalist area, the discussion would have been so civilised.
    I still believe that the site is in danger of becoming irrelevant, for the reasons already stated. There is a need for serious debate, but focusing on the kind of stuff under discussion only facilitates people venting their spleens without running the risk of getting thumped. Heckling from the back of an audience might perform the same function.
    It’s your site Mick, and I hope you don’t take my comments as an attack, that is not the intention.

  • Mick Fealty

    No, that’s true, in a way. And Pete with his usual accuity covered that story in considerable depth. In fact his coverage of the shifting advice from Dept of Health in NI and GB on swine flu has been, I imagine, very useful to some of our readers. Neither however kicked up much in the way of controversy on Slugger.

    The only way of dealing with offensive remarks to flag up the man-playing stuff. As the law stands, I cannot pre-moderate without immediately becoming liable as the publisher of said. Duffy and Nolan have researchers and producers who get paid to do that kind of stuff. I have to rely on the good will and good sense of readers.

    As for the irrelevance of site, well, it’s summer. Tell me who is doing well at the moment. It’s the silly season. I think we’re doing pretty well on it as things stand, and the audience figures seem pretty robust too.

    One man’s deliberately offensive remarks are another’s acute criticism. I prefer to respond to the latter and ignore or (with my mod’s hat on) excise the rest.

    As risk of repeating myself, Slugger is pretty polite and civil compared to some of our hack-driven analogues elsewhere. People need to get used to the new open situation where is a lot least easy for political parties to control the means of media production that it once was…

    You can live with that and learn to prosper from it; or you can carry on regardless and get hit over and over again making the same mistakes.. As Sean O’Faolan said in an earlier context:

    “The new Ireland is still learning the old lessons the hard way, like a brilliant but arrogant boy whose very brilliance acts as a dam against experience, so that he learns everything quickly – except experience.”

    The lessons of this story are less for Slugger and more for political parties who presume we still cannot see beneath the waterline of their own political iceberg. Some genuine across the board engagement on the subject is what is required.

  • The Raven

    “There is a need for serious debate, but focusing on the kind of stuff under discussion only facilitates people venting their spleens without running the risk of getting thumped.”

    Conversely, “People need to get used to the new open situation where is a lot least easy for political parties to control the means of media production that it once was…”

    There’s the dichotomy. But the latter is why I – and probably many others – come to Slugger. The potential power to be wielded here, intentionally or otherwise, is probably far greater than any of us realise.

  • Observer

    Pete covered it in one post, with comments in the low twenties whilst the Hunger Strike commemoration warranted three posts with nearly two hundred comments(I stand to be corrected, however). Bit like the Sun headlining Big Brother while the world economy collapses.
    We’ll just have to agree to differ, Mick, but thanks for listening.


    The influence wielded by the site is directly related to the perceived relevance of it’s content.

  • Mick Fealty

    I can’t speak for Pete, or the health subjects he covered but there is no standard approach to blogging.

    We’ve just received another reader’s piece on the subject of the liver transplant case; which will go up shortly.

    I’ve no doubt we’re not covering everything we could. But it politicians who lead on these matters.

    I think we add considerable value by questioning them and their motives and the actions with an inch of their political lives.

  • Richard Aardvark

    “Hardly- were this to have taken place in a unionist area, then I can see how you’d draw such conclusions, but Galbally hardly fits the bill.”

    Then clearly you don’t understand the argument I was making.

    If this were to happen in a Unionist area then it is unlikely this paramilitary show of strength would have been as intimidating.

    However you can’t seriously be arguing isolated Protestant families in Republican areas, who bore the brunt of the sectarian murder campaign waged by Nationalist death squads, don’t find events such as this intimidating?

  • Pete Baker


    At the time of your comment I had one post on Galbally and one post on the liver transplant story.

    I have no control over what other bloggers deem to be suitable for their attention.

    But you miss the point about blogging entirely.

    We also have no control over what the kaboodle choose to comment on.

    But, more importantly, in following any particular story, the emergence of new details or points of interest depends on a sustained focus over time. When any new details emerge varies, and hence any new posts on that story.

  • DC

    Well I suppose living in Tyrone you’ve got to get your day in some how, Oswald Mosley would’ve been proud of that little regimentation manouevre.


  • fin

    don’t know about the sudden mirth from some quarters, their parade skills are no worse than a OO parade (minus the hideous polyester bright coloured circus garb) the collective stardard in NI is off new recruits in the TA or FCA, a decent NCO would knock either in shape over a couple of weekends.

    The sticking out elbows, not lifting their knees and wavey arm movements are easy to correct.

    The beauty of any parade is like a chorus or dance troupe, its the single movement, the timing which makes it beautiful.

    Apart from that, its a republican event to a republican audience, its not on a main street or through a housing estate. Thanks for posting it Mick, there is a valuable lession in there for the organisers of other annual events..

  • Observer

    “But you miss the point about blogging entirely.”
    I fear you miss the point of my comments entirely.