More on loyalism’s red, white and blue Paddy’s Day in Armagh

 With loyalists intent on upstaging the St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Armagh this year, I thought it appropriate to highlight some of the contributions on the subject by individuals associated with the controversial parade.

Let’s take a look at the parade organiser and some-time contributor to Slugger, Quincey Dougan.

In 2010, Quincey penned this article. In it, he claimed that a number of factors led to protestants ‘going off’ St Patrick’s Day celebrations, whilst other senior loyalist figures were also quoted.

Grand Orange Lodge Director of Services David Hume claimed that nationalists used St Patrick’s Day parades “as a weapon, effectively using the shield of Patrick to express obvious militant anti-British and therefore anti-unionist sentiment.”

Quincey argued that Unionist disenchantment with the St Patrick’s Day parades was also because of “…..the disjointed and casual nature of the (St Patrick’s Day) parades and the now integral alcohol element alien to PUL parading tradition and customs.” (my italics)

Without the slightest nod to irony, here’s Quincey on unashamedly Blood & Thunder loyalist bands and the aggressive use of flags by……nationalists :

With a few exceptions, such as the participation of an unashamedly Loyalist Blood and Thunder band  in the 2003 Limerick St Patrick’s Band competition, Unionism still does not feel comfortable taking part in the modern version of a St Patrick’s Day parade. Concerns still exist regarding the involvement of militant Republicanism in such events along with the aggressive use of flags and symbols…..”

More recently (in fact, on Mick’s thread put up earlier this week) here’s Quincey on why the loyalist bands won’t join any civic-sponsored St Patrick’s Day parades:

Two years ago an invitation was extended. Cormeen and two other bands accepted that offer. It became apparant (sic)very quickly however that that acceptance was not expected. A list of pre-conditions was then applied to any participation. It began with colour party’s and flags not being permitted, but then went on to want all badges on uniforms covered (usually 3 with most uniforms), drum insignia covered, bass drum insignia covered, and badges on hats covered. Then it was having to agree on a pre arranged list of music that could only be played.

Following those pre-conditions would not have resulted in the participation of the bands. All elements that physically and musically contribute to their identity and what they are was having to be removed. On that parade they would cease to be ulster bands.

Please remember that Ulster bands are a tradition ingrained in the Unionist psyche. There is no equivelent in Irish Nationlism today. Ulster bands are a package. Its uniform, performance, music. Its all of those. Removing one element changes the dynamic.

This form of ‘inclusion’ is a de-facto exclusion.

Quincey reiterated this line on Good Morning Ulster earlier today, when he also claimed that the loyalist parade was about ‘building bridges.’

Let’s be clear then. Loyalists went off St. Patrick’s Day because of the excessive alcohol and lack of discipline amongst revellers and band participants. The aggressive use of flags and symbols didn’t help either. And, the fact that the day evolved into a celebration of Irishness by people comfortable with an Irish identity was also a major factor.

Oh, and we won’t be marching along with anyone else because we can’t fly our flags, sport our symbols nor play whatever music we like.

Excessive alcohol, rowdy band participants and aggressive use of flags and symbols. Who are we talking about again, Quincey?

Of course, it is worth reiterating the point that unionists are entitled to celebrate their cultural identity, including their brand of Irishness. Indeed, that was the case when the parade was held in Killylea whilst those more comfortable with a differing Irish identity were more commonly to be found assembling elsewhere, includingArmagh.

It is the fact that Quincey and his bands have deliberately decided to ratchet up tensions in the town on the spurious grounds employed for relocating this parade which is objectionable to most people- including many protestants and unionists if my own personal soundings are correct.

After all, loyalists take to town centres likeArmaghto parade on innumerable occasions throughout the year, so the reasons for this shift in location are hard to justify beyond seeking to play a spoiler’s role.

Imagine the reaction of the Loyalist Band fraternity were republican parades to be organised to coincide with 12th July parades on Belfast’s Lisburn Road and elsewhere? No amount of reconciliatory rhetoric would deflect from the reality that such a development would bring with it the potential for violence and be little more than an antagonistic gesture.

The real source of the problem for Quincey and others would appear to be the refusal to recognise and afford legitimacy to the Irish nationalist tradition in the north ofIreland.

St Patrick’s Day is a time when Irish people throughout the country and across the globe celebrate their Irish heritage and identity. For rather obvious reasons, many unionists do not identify with such celebrations whilst others feel able to, perhaps more confident in their own British/ Irish identity than the parading loyalists ofArmagh.

All the claptrap about aggressive use of symbols and anti-unionist St Patrick’s Day parades really is simply a rather poor attempt to deflect attention from that fact. Complaining that the evolution of St Patrick’s Day into a celebration of Irishness is historically ironic would carry more weight were it not for the fact that the Loyalist marching tradition is sustained by dubious historical narratives including that which seeks to brush under the carpet Papal support for the beloved William of Orange in order to maintain the simple narrative which plays out every July.

Ironically, the excuse for the change of venue from Killylea to Armagh is one which should interest nationalist groups in towns forced to host sizeable contingents of loyalist bands annually. If this parade was deemed no longer suitable for a village due to the number of bands involved, then why should villages like Rasharkin be forced into hosting band parades?