PSNI Officer: A Marching Season inspiration

There’s a title I never thought I’d write, at least not the second half.

But amid all the balderdash about impersonal historical forces and “community feelings” that paint a bullshit picture stripped of personal agency; of rioting individuals as the victims of history rather than its authors; of young and not-as-young-as-they-think men at the mercy of violence rather than its – ‘because we can‘ – reveling perpetrators, isn’t great to be reminded of the decency of the individual?

Tonight this cop got firebombed in the face.

His face-mask remains on fire for no small amount of time. He keeps his nerve, follows his training (despite his face being on fire), gets down on the ground to smother the flames and, with the help of a colleague, puts the flames out.

He then takes 2 years off on the sick goes straight back to the front line.

That’s class. That’s us. Or at least who we could strive to be.

I try to avoid the marching season stuff. Let people march where they like, whether or not they would offer the same rights to others, is largely my view – but I’m not living there at present so, yeah, cheap seats and peanuts. I grew up near loads of marches; the noise in the background remains synonymous in my mind with the smell of freshly cut grass and playing soccer until about 9pm (because it was bright enough and dry enough to do so). I preferred our summer evening pastime but each to their own.

Too softly-softly? Sure there was an unmistakable feeling of tribal hostility that grew in direct proportion to the copious amounts of alcohol taken by all (not Irish? – ever seen a bar’s takings on the 13th morning?) but damn it, I was and remain fascinated by the spectacle.

Ireland would lose something if Orange marches disappeared altogether. No, not quite an equivalent to Rio’s Carnival, but something not altogether bad – far from it.

While there’s no prospect of the Orange disappearing, the organization hardly looks like an outfit in rude health.

They’re certainly not the only problem but they increasingly look almost resigned to presenting themselves as a problem; certainly as a group with little interest in the interests of wider society.

When men with the character, courage and take-one-for-the community spirit of tonight’s assaulted PSNI officer are on the other side of the line, it’s time to reflect not on where but on what you’re marching into in the years ahead.

One of the less remarked aspects of this annual showdown is the platform it provides the camera-seekers – and the “community leader” salaries that infuriatingly seem to follow those with the loudest growl and mandate of none. How telling then that the best of us is the cop who can’t afford to share his identity for fear of the consequences.

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