So there’s been a few reports around the INLA funeral where guns were fired in Galliagh, right on the outskirts of Derry. Some alleging that the PSNI withdrew countered by a statement from the PSNI that they simply didn’t intervene.
Such events do serious damage to the efforts currently going on within the city to make it fit for the extraordinarily large numbers of high achieving students that exit the city every year, many of them never to return.
In his Irish News column today, Newton Emerson points out an imbalance in the way legislation is being implemented on parades by the Loyal Orders and completely ignored when it comes to Republican celebrations.
The dispute over an INLA show of strength in Derry last Saturday is just the latest addition to a wider loyalist and unionist grievance about policing.
There may be excellent operational and public safety reasons why the PSNI did not wade in and make immediate arrests in Derry. However, letting paramilitary commemorations go ahead is increasingly compared to the pettifogging requirement for everyone else to fill in a Form 11/1 just to march down the street.
Nor are these comparisons confined to issues of paramilitarism, where traditional whataboutery can of course go around in circles forever. Black Lives Matter protesters, anti-lockdown protesters and street preachers have all complained the law is only applied to them because, in effect, they are safely law-abiding.
How many more summers can roll around with this perception building up before the regulation system collapses?
The kindest interpretation of our predicament is that too much constructive ambiguity has been allowed to accumulate. There is an urgent need to reset some basic points of understanding. Is parading legislation taken seriously enough to be enforced without fear or favour?
What does it mean for an organisation to be proscribed when police facilitate an IRA procession and the NIO talks to an umbrella group for the UDA, UVF and Red Hand Commando? [Emphasis added]
To be fair to the cops, it’s the desertion of this territory by most political parties that means they’re left trying to make the best of a very poor job. Simply put, they have no political cover to deal with these events.
Given places like Derry (far from the economic epicentre of Belfast) ultimately pay the price of such shortcomings, it’s surely time for all parties to reflect, reframe and rethink the issue of demonstrations from the bottom up?
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