West Tyrone Sinn Fein’s strategy over the 11th August parade in Castlederg has been progressing according to a fairly well worn formula. Initially the annual event was announced at the spot where the volunteers Seamus Harvey and Gerard McGlynn were killed 40 years ago on active service. (translation IRA terrorists blew themselves up with their own bomb). Then following the predictable outcry which Sinn Fein apparently without irony have blamed on unionist politicians the parade has been rerouted to avoid the war memorial and Methodist Church.
The DUP have described the rerouting as meaningless and have shown that the modified route still passes the sites of three IRA murders. The daughter of one of those murder victims has pointed out that it is more than possible that the murderer of her father may be on that march.
Sinn Fein’s justification of the parade has centred round comparing it to loyal order parades. However, in order to compare it to a loyal order parade, such a parade would have to be commemorating loyalist murderers of the Troubles. Whilst one Belfast Orange Lodge does (disgracefully in my view) have a convicted terrorist on its banner (shot by the army) such is rare: I believe unique. No lodges in the Castlederg area have parades commemorating Loyalist murderers. As such the justification seems weak except of course to the Republican faithful.
The other justification is to point out that Castlederg is a 60% nationalist / republican town. This statistic is presumably drawn from the NI census: it certainly was previously when they trotted it out. Indeed when one asks the latest census for the relevant information Casltederg appears 63% Catholic (Sinn Fein’s usage of Catholic as an automatic proxy for nationalist / republican is interesting, far from unique or unsurprising in Northern Ireland but interesting). However, the ward is a different area to the settlement (census speak for town) and excludes all the town across the river which is solidly unionist as well including only the countryside north west of the town which is solidly nationalist.
Whatever the justification the reality is that the parade will be seen as coat trailing sectarianism by the Unionist community: what of Sinn Fein’s unionist outreach strategy (remember that) or its claims to understand the hurt it has caused previously? Next time Declan Kearney starts his loathsome “outreach” he should be reminded of this parade.
At some level the open regression of Sinn Fein into this most blatant sectarianism – has anything changed since SF/IRA? should almost be welcomed. It demonstrates the failure of their strategy thus far to undermine the realities of the union. Clearly unionists have been incensed by the removing of unionist symbols: of which the reduction in the flying of the Union Flag is the most prominent recent example; a similar, even more overt though less well known example of such cultural vandalism being the attempts by Sinn Fein to end the flying of the St. George’s Cross over Enniskillen castle. However, despite the “sacrifice” of Messers. Harvey and McGlynn, Castlederg remains the most westerly town in the United Kingdom. The pointless deaths of Harvey and McGlynn have failed and they have become “martyrs” to a small subset of people in much the same way as the terrorist thugs of a previous generation: South and O’Hanlon who also periodically get events in their honour. South and O’Hanlon even have their own songs though as I have mentioned before the surprised, outnumbered and outgunned policemen were the ones who acquitted themselves rather better.
Yes of course the march is sectarian and insensitive but it is the insensitivity of the largely impotent. It is the insensitivity of those honouring people who lost their lives for nothing more than their Sinn Fein masters getting a portion of political power (only after being elected) within the United Kingdom: Harvey and McGlynn on the other hand “Have joined that gallant band of Plunkett, Pearce and Tone.”