Yesterdays Belfast Telegraph featured comment from David Hagan, a member of a Loyalist Flute band on the Shankill Road, the Regimental Band Association and a Committee member of the Confederation of Ulster Bands. Note: The Confederation of Ulster Bands is an umbrella body for a number of localised band associations from across Northern Ireland, with a membership exceeding 350 bands and over 10’000 people.
In the piece he accused the newly appointed Parades Commission members this year of having “put their nose against anything that the unionist community is doing”, and by virtue of the nature of 2011 determinations, bringing the Northern Ireland parading issue “back to square one when the problems started in 1995 or 1996.”
This weekend has no less than four events deemed to be worthy of highlighting by the Parades Commission, though most are off the media radar by virtue of being ‘old news’. Competition and fundraising band processions in Maghera and Downpatrick, Belfast Pride and the weekly Portadown Drumcree Protest are all deemed sensitive. (Interestingly however a Republican band parade in Dungiven is not, despite its overt paramilitary nature and it being apparent that its route has been deliberately arranged to pass one of the two local Protestant Churches)
Belfast Pride has brought yet again a new dynamic to parade comment during the last week. Effectively those that oppose or have reservations about the parade (citing the overtly sexual nature of many participants), have been told ‘get over it’.
In his recently published book on Ulster Marching Bands, author Darach MacDonald (an unashamed Irish Nationalist, Gaelic enthusiast and GAA stalwart) ended the work by stating on parades “choosing to be entertained… rather than affronted, is the secret to a shared future.”
Is it not time to take a new approach to parades? Is there not an easy answer to all grievance? Why not just enjoy when you want to and ignore when you don’t?
Would the world end?
Unashamed Ulster Loyalist. Marching band activist and band member for over 25 years. Contributor for the Belfast Newsletter and currently studying History at QUB.