Unadulterated provocation. Holding people to ransom. Outrageous.

 Jeffrey Donaldson was so exercised this week about the right of loyalists to express their culture in north Antrim that he accompanied the local MLA, Mervyn Storey, to a meeting with the Parades Commission and intimated that violence would flow were the Commission not to reverse its determination which had angered loyalist marching bands ahead of tonight’s parade in Rasharkin.

Here’s part of Jeffrey’s press release following that meeting:

Instead of cohesion and sharing the Parades Commission appear determined to impose segregation and effective apartheid in Rasharkin on Friday evening.

Thus, following DUP logic, loyalist parades – as expressions of protestant/ British identity- in nationalist districts are examples of sharing and cohesion; denying such parades equals segregation and apartheid.

It is an interesting argument, not least because it provides an opportunity to expose the gaping holes in this unionist strategy which seeks to deny the sectarian and provocative dimension of such parades whilst also opposing any reciprocal challenge for unionist communities to play host to expressions of the Irish nationalist identity.

I have covered some of this ground already this year with regard to the Ardoyne/ Crumlin Road situation and parading in contentious routes in general.

However, events in the past week have –rather handily- provided a more updated set of examples to expose the Achilles heel of the unionist strategy which seeks to define shared spaces as areas ‘fortunate’ enough to be graced with loyalist parades.

To Banbridge shall we go for the first case study. As was the case last year, unionist spokespersons have expressed their outrage at the appearance of a small number of Irish tricolours in the predominantly unionist town. Note the language used by UUP MLA George Savage, who began by warning that the flags would “not go unchallenged:”

This is a clear attempt by a small-minded minority of republicans to raise sectarian tensions and intimidate the unionist community, not only of the Peggy’s Loaning area but the entire town…. Residents have voiced their concern about these levels of intimidation which, to their mind, hark back to the dark days of the Troubles.

Of course, he may indeed have a point on both fronts. Those behind this move could be motivated by a desire to raise sectarian tensions, and doubtlessly some residents- not least those of a unionist disposition- would feel intimidated by this move.

But George appears incapable of following that logic to its natural conclusion, which would involve him condemning as sectarian and intimidatory in motivation the erecting of loyalist flags from lamp posts in far, far greater numbers right across the north of Ireland.

The photograph above is of St Patrick’s Catholic Church in Chapel Hill, Lisburn. Note the Union Flag erected at the front door entrance to the chapel. There are no other flags flying the length of Chapel Hill, apart from those some 50m above the church at the junction where DUP MEP Diane Dodds has her constituency office, which looks down Chapel Hill towards Bow Street Mall. The motivation, therefore, behind the erection of this flag was and remains clear. Perhaps Jeffrey should be tending to matters somewhat closer to home.

And from Banbridge and Lisburn we head southwards to Kilkeel, where unionist representatives recently opposed a parade by local republican bands.

Note the language, again, used by local unionist councillor, Henry Reilly:

 Today has shown very clearly why that band should not be allowed to enter the centre of Kilkeel – it is just unadulterated provocation…..To be held to ransom for all that time – churchgoers held to ransom both in morning and evening – is outrageous.

The band in question was linked with the Independent Republican councillor, Martin Connolly, who refused last week to condemn the attempted bomb attack on his niece (a member of the PSNI.) Again, let’s play follow the logic. Unionist politicians recently condemned the Parades Commission for opposing an attempt by the Apprentice Boys to incorporate a band which prominently proclaims links with a UVF man who killed an Ardoyne catholic in its parade along the Crumlin Road, passing close to where the killing occurred. Tonight, several bands linked with loyalist paramilitary groups will parade through Rasharkin. Amongst the bands last year (and in all likelihood tonight) will be loyalist bands including members who have been charged in relation to the sectarian murder of catholic man, Kevin McDaid, in Coleraine last year.

Unadulterated provocation. Holding people to ransom. Outrageous. Here, here, Henry.

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