The first Armagh St Patrick’s Day’s Ulster band parade…

Armagh City will be the centre of St Patrick’s day celebrations, with scout parades in the morning, a cross community parade through out the day and Irish music sessions in many of the city centre pubs. And this year, for the first time, when all the daytime celebrations are over, the city will host a band parade around the commercial centre of town.

The parade is being organised by Cormeen Rising Sons of William Flute Band, a local band who say that they are using a “well established band procession route that has no historical issues of contention” that all but the beginning is non residential. They also issued this statement:

While the event is of course a traditional Ulster band parade, and obviously participation will therefore be limited to bands from within that sector, all are welcome to watch and enjoy the music and colour of the procession regardless of creed or colour. As such the event falls within the remit of the Council policy on St Patricks events in the City.

The Parades Commission’s determination to allow the parade was challenged yesterday by Sinn Fein, the SDLP and several members of the public on several grounds. Commercial disruption being one of them and concerns about civil order in the city being another.

One specific concern raised was that the council sponsored cross community parade (devoid of flags and symbols) would be ‘frequented almost exclusively by nationalists and republicans’. There was also concern for the integrity of the parade itself with one SDLP councillor saying that up to 25% of it’s participants pulling out on news of the evening event.

And there was particular criticism levelled at the PSNI for not raising concerns about public safety. For its part the PSNI appears happy that there has been no specific civic disruption in Armagh city for over ten years.

Arguably, this is something of a test. There seems little doubt that the parade complete with insignia, flags and emblems would not qualify for inclusion in council sponsored parade. But it seems that the organisers have been ultra careful to ensure that all regulations have been complied with.

They also say that they have wanted to march on St Patrick’s Day since 2005 and this is the culmination of those efforts. It should be noted that the unfurling of a tricolour at a similar cross community event in Downpatrick last year was considered by some to have set community relations back decades, this one may test the diversity doctrine to the limit.

Or are we all ‘getalongerists’ now?

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty