How will we remember these days of marching madness and what will we learn from them?
Who on the unionist side is big enough to stand up to the Loyal Orders and the loyalists, and tell them that the days of marching where you want, when you want, are over?
Of course, there are questions too for republicans and the police;
For republicans about how they present themselves on the march, what they wear, what they play and what they carry.
There should be no place in any parade for wooden weapons.
The real guns fired by all sides left scars that will never be healed.
That is the real story of our past, and the message of the peace process should be that there is nothing romantic about war or conflict.
On radio earlier this week, I said no parade should happen – republican, loyalist or other – where there is a possibility of causing offence.
There are also questions and challenges for the police – for new policing and for the PSNI.
The RUC buckled on this issue in the 1990s, cracked under threat and pressure – particularly in the decisions it made at Drumcree in 1996 and 1997.
There can be no repeat of that era.
In recent days police officers have taken a real battering; pelted with bricks and petrol bombs on a frontline in north Belfast.
More trenches were dug there on another battlefield and in another dangerous play of the parading game.
It is something that is being orchestrated to create a crisis in the hope that the Parades Commission will crumble.
That is the plan; and the violence of recent days is only part of the story, something that fits into a wider context, and it is this wider context that has to be analysed to identify who is at play and for what purpose.
So, there was some surprise – indeed anger – at a police assessment given on Tuesday.
Then, assistant chief constable Will Kerr said there was “no evidence to suggest that the UVF or any other loyalist paramilitary group is officially or actively orchestrating the violence”.
The senior police officer, including in an interview for this website, separated two things – loyalist paramilitary involvement from paramilitary leadership sanction.
“Nonsense,” was the response from a senior Belfast republican.
“There is no logic to it [the police assessment],” he continued, and he said it had the potential to damage police credibility.
A senior loyalist was much more blunt: “The peelers have no b***s,” he snapped, suggesting the assessment had more to do with “community impact” than the reality on the ground.
In other words to blame an organisation might make things worse.
The police would obviously reject that criticism, but there is a gap between what Chief Supt George Clarke said on Monday and ACC Kerr said on Tuesday; a gap also between what the police are saying and the assessments of many others.
Clarke, describing Sunday’s events in north Belfast when 47 of his officers were injured, said:
“The violence did come from both sides of the community but initially, certainly, it came from within loyalism. There was clearly orchestration. There’s no doubt about that.”
So, who was it, if it was not the UVF or any other loyalist paramilitary group?
Inside the Shankill community, paramilitary organisations still rule with an iron fist.
If they were not behind the violence and wanted it stopped they would have the numbers and authority to switch it off instantly.
Indeed, there was an interesting comment in a piece written for the Belfast Telegraph on Wednesday (September 5) by my colleague Ivan Little.
Reporting on events in north Belfast on Tuesday evening, he wrote: “In a quiet corner, a loyalist youth told me the UVF, who have denied orchestrating the trouble, had put the word out that there’s to be no repeat of Sunday and Monday’s violence.”
Up until then, the UVF had been under a bright spotlight; accused by republicans, loyalists and others of pulling the strings in the background.
So, with a few words were they able to switch the violence off, switch it off having had nothing to do with switching it on?
Is this what we are meant to believe?
There is another question.
What is leadership sanction?
Did the UVF on the Newtownards Road consult the brigade or command staff before attacking the Short Strand last year?
Did the UVF on the Shankill convene a meeting of the brigade or command staff before shooting Bobby Moffett?
Did the UVF in south Belfast seek leadership approval before placing bombs outside houses in the Falls district?
Probably not is the answer to all of the above, but the UVF was still responsible.
No one should be splitting hairs.
Sunday’s protest in north Belfast which ended in violence did not just happen.
It was organised.
Indeed, there is a suggestion from loyalists that a text message was circulated, and what happens when you bring people out onto the streets in numbers?
What happens is what happened on Sunday.
But this was building long before then.
There are other questions that need answers.
Who decided the Young Conway Volunteers band would march Saturday week ago against the ruling of the Parades Commission and that other loyalist bands would breach the ruling also?
What is meant by these words?
“There will be no more acceptance of the double standards being applied against Protestant heritage. Those days have gone.”
The parades issue is, in a very deliberate way, being stirred up and loyalists are one part of an orchestra that clearly is being conducted.
To suggest otherwise is not credible.
This issue needs dialogue, needs political and community leadership, needs common sense and demands respect for all.
There should be no reward for those who think they can get their way using muscle and threat and numbers, and politicians need to think before they open their mouths.
Will Kerr is right when he says someone could end up dead.
I wonder who will accept responsibility if that happens.
I am glad you raised this issue Barney as we do not have an elephant in the room but certainly one just outside the door. In Northern Ireland perception is everything – and then some more. When we hear the word ‘Parade’ we await the word ‘riot’ and yet the reality is far from this. Most parades pass off without any incident but just as one bad apple contaminates the whole barrel so it is with parades that one after-parade riot creates the perception that parades spell trouble.
We must get real about about post parade rioting – even if that is not in the immediate aftermath but occurs several days later. 300 people do not just appear from Ardoyne, Shankill or anywhere else for that matter without some form of organisation. The annual riot begins and a few days later the annual denunciation of violence begins (it always takes a few days for everyone to row in behind this basic democratic principle). The late and often admired David Ervine used to jibe about the Grand old Duke of York marching his men up the hill and then marching them down again – but each time he left some men behind. It might be reckless of me to suggest that those who led them up the hill are every bit as responsible as those who throw the first stone and then with belated hypocrisy a few days later the former berates the latter.
Many of our politicians owe some of their notoriety to fraternising with the very people they now condemn for riotious assembly – but how much were they responsible for giving the green light or nod of approval in the past – and in more recent times others sanctioned it in special circumstances. It is a dishonourable practice to blame failures on the political front as the cause of ‘civil disobedience’ – and yet that is what we have witnessed.
The failure to politically get to grips with parading lies at the feet of the elected politicians in Stormont. Yes we could abolish the Parades Commission and we could invent another name for another body that would have to take the exact same decisions as the previous officeholders and all because the people we elected have not got the guts to get to grips with this issue themselves. It is the Northern Ireland way of doing politics – anything we cannot handle we farm it out to a an unelected body and then complain about the decisions they come up with.
Barney Rowan has highlighted that some people within the Loyalist community will no longer accept the double standards of the Parades Commision. The same sentiments could be echoed by residents of Ardoyne as well as elsewhere – and in a democratic society they are entitled to peacefully protest by means of non violent civil disobedience. They too are entitled to respect and it behoves them to respect others. But more important it also behoves them to respect themselves. Self respect is a greater force and you do not demand self respect – no you bestow it upon yourself by your actions.
Tattered and torn flags of your Monarch and emblem of allegiance hanging from lamp posts or kerbstones painted in the national colours (of whatever side) where they are then tramped underfoot surely does not build self respect or in turn oblige people to give respect to your flag or country that you yourself defile by your actions. Every Easter and every July we deem it appropriate to decorate the country with emblems we hold dear and precious and as the months pass by these self same precious emblems flutter ragged and threadbare devoid of respect and as a consequence destroy self respect – the greatest casualty of all.
I am with the Loyalist people on this issue; and I am with the people of Ardoyne on this issue – as well as on all the other political issues. These are political issues and it is the job of our democratically elected political representatives to find solutions and not to pass the buck to the unelected.
There are many rooms in Stormont and a large debating chamber. Parliament is a substitute for civil war. You talk it out in Parliament instead of rioting on the streets.Unfortunately no one wants to grasp the parading nettle – instead they rely on the mantra of ‘local accomodation’ which translates roughly that the politicians do not want to do it and let someone – anyone – do it except us.
The Ulster Covenant celebrations will soon be upon us and there is no 24 hour sitting to solve the issue; no hot house talks; no round table negotiations – sadly we do not do things that way anymore. “The Volga is overflowing and we are organising swimming lessons”
Francis – talking is obviously the right approach trying to ensure a peaceful Covenant Centenary march at the end of this month. But if that’s all it’s about then it’s papering over the parading cracks.
I also worry about how some of this talking is achieved.
Last year, the UVF attacked the Short Strand and then representatives of that organisation in east Belfast met with the DUP including the First Minister Peter Robinson.
The purpose of the talking was obviously to try to get the street violence stopped, and it worked, but beyond those talks, the UVF was not held to account.
Nor is it being held to account for its role in the latest parading tantrum in north Belfast and the linked violence.
A starting point in these latest talks should be to make cleat to the Loyal Orders and the loyalists that they can’t walk where they want when they want.
And those who are stirring this up – loyalists and others – need to be told in the clearest possible terms that their scaremongering will not be tolerated.
It must be clearly demonstrated that the days of mouthpieces getting their way by threat and muscle and numbers are over.
So, yes talk, but for the right reasons, to the right people and delivering the right messages – not as a one parade fix, but with a strategy and mechanism to deal comprehensively with the marching question.
Why no mention on both Loyalist Organisations being represented and having meetings with Republicans, Residents and indeed Sinn Fein through the N.W.B.P.C.F ??
As you are well aware we have been meeting with ALL Republican and Nationalist groupings that have ever been put forward from Ardoyne, and that is exactly why the Parades are Peaceful at Ardoyne, bar one which is the 12th July evening Parade,
And the reason it is only the one evening Parade is because we have gave up ALL other evening Parades to facilitate dialogue.
As Sinn Fein have now said that it is Dissident Republicans who caused the rioting in Ardoyne, who are we meant to speak too ???
Do we still speak to ordinary Residents who do have a Peaceful Protest or do we now have to speak to Dissidents who are causing the Rioting ??
When we meet with Carrickhill Residents (and quite rightly so) and we all come to an agreement with tolerance and respect for each other, what then happens if G.A.R.C put in for another Protest outside St Patricks (which they are entitled to do) and the Parades Commission allows this Protest ??
The only way forward on Parades is to meet with residents and explain our views and a perfect example is Ardoyne where we have peaceful Parades and Peaceful Protest for all Parades except the very last Evening Parade we have left.
We dont attack Protesters when on Parade.
Im very intimidated walking passed Hardline I.R.A men and Dissidents, but I respect their right to protest against me, but that does not give them the right to Attack me.
Dialogue, Respect and Tolerance is what is needed, but it MUST be both ways.
Hi Thomas – and thank you for joining in the discussion here. Your contribution is welcome.
Let me be very clear no one should be attacking anyone. The parade in the evening at Ardoyne was a problem long before the dissidents started to use this issue and that stretch of road as a playground.Indeed, I remember one year, when the IRA would still have been viewed as the dominant player in that area, when a number of soldiers became isolated and could easily have lost their lives.That is the danger that existed then, and there is still a danger that someone could be killed in the madness of what happens there.The dissidents want to present an argument that nothing has changed – unwelcome marches still walk that stretch of road and to get the parade through the police have to present themselves in combative mode.
I feel the Loyal Orders are walking right into the hands and the arguments of the dissidents.You might be aware that after Ardoyne this year I interviewed Carl Reilly – chair of Republican Network for Unity and a suspected leadership figure in Oglaigh na hEireann.He said the Loyal Orders should be speaking to GARC and not Sinn Fein.My argument is – and I realise you won’t agree with it – but my argument is the Orange should walk away from that evening parade, not as a climb down, not in defeat but as an act of leadership.It would pull the rug out from under the feet of the dissidents, remove the need for that huge security operation at huge cost and would be a significant contribution to the peace process.I don’t make that argument in any anti-loyalist or anti-Orange sense, but as many others have been asked to make difficult decisions in this process, so, this asks for such a gesture from the Orange.And if that were to happen the dissidents don’t win – they lose.Thank you again for your words, and feel free to contribute any time.
If the orange order was to walk away from the return walk home these so called residents groups would just move onto another parade within the city , any time the orange order or the black or ABOD do move on parade issues these so called residents group want something else again and again .
Thomas, North Belfast:
On the face of what you are saying this is logical. I invite you to undo your anonymity and step forward as your name and identity would add weight and greater value to your contribution. This would help to strip away some of those layers of misinformation about what cross community dialogue is actually taking place. Thanks for your input.
piece raises some interesting questions for all parties to parading
disputes. As a Republican I don’t intend
to duck my responsibility in examining how we manifest our culture at various
parades. While Republican parade routes
are usually free of contention confining their parades to Republican areas or
neutral zones, we need to question the display of replica weapons as a form of
pageantry at some Hunger Strike commemorations.
What message does this send out in the context of a genuine drive for
reconciliation and nation building? Do
some of our bands in military style uniform, with militarist symbols on drums
convey a sense of de-militarisation and an acceptance of peaceful and
democratic means? These and other
questions are already being debated within Republican circles and I myself have
addressed some of these issues with the bands themselves. The imagery on display with a small number of
bands is at variance with current Republican thinking and direction. So let us revisit this debate and reach a
consensus on the way forward.
highlights the dilemma for the PSNI in their contradictory analyses of the
recent violence. The violence was
clearly organised and orchestrated by the UVF irrespective of what levels of
command it received clearance. They are
still in conflict mode within their own community and at times in the honoured
fashion this spills over into Nationalist areas.
PSNI don’t want to burn their bridges with that organisation for reasons best
known to themselves. However, their reluctance
to clearly highlight UVF manipulation of Unionist/Loyalist concerns and anger
around parading scenarios is a major talking point among Nationalists. It provides an escape clause for the UVF,
ensuring once more that they won’t be held to account for their activities.
your mind up time for the UVF, whether to apply brain or brawn in the best
interests of those they would claim to defend.
Putting large numbers of known UVF heads, in intimidatory mode into
Donegall Street on the 25th August illustrates their current
mindset. It would indicate an intention
to bully, coerce, intimidate and threaten the PSNI, Parades Commission and
Nationalist residents in pursuance of their ‘cultural
heritage’, manifested in a desire to march where and when they want. Do they really view this as a viable strategy
or is it yet another act of desperation, of an organisation trying to reinvent
itself, devoid of vision or strategic thinking.
This is a significant intervention by Republican Sean Murray on the importance of all sections of Republicanism putting their house in order particularly if they are serious about reaching out to Unionism. Murray is unequivocal about pseudo paramilitary trappings and he literally puts these people in the dock. The directness of Murray’s message for the UVF in the wake of the recent Carlisle Circus street violence is breathtaking. Where does all this lead? It is now becoming evident that another quiet revolution is taking place within republicanism but there are many who appear blind to the reality of life.
Sean – you ask big questions in this contribution, not just of the UVF and the police but of your own community. This gives additional credibility to your words.
I know many people who simply do not accept that police assessment of events that was given a few days ago, and I know many people who are adamant that the UVF – or elements within that organisation – have played a significant part in winding this issue up.
I hear many references to the ‘boy general’.
I hope those you address so directly within the republican community hear what you say and respond appropriately.
And I hope those loyalists and others, who have been engaged in a very dangerous game, are not allowed to wriggle away from the madness of recent times excused of any blame or part in the play they directed.
Sean et all,
An authentic piece of writing.
The recent tension on Donegal Street has it’s roots in triumphalism & bad timing. The truth is that the GOLI procession had stopped to lay wreaths, and the Young Conway Volunteers FB being outside St Patricks was a fluke of that stoppage. What happened next was unacceptable because morally & in the spirit of society no band (Loyalist or Republican or Other) should be playing or dancing outside any place of worship. An apology should have been made at the time by all involved because it was wrong.
A manipulation followed as the media received spin and SF appeared at odds with differing opinions being put forth by representatives. Post Dungiven and AOH marches in country areas many from the Greater Shankill community saw a gross hypocrisy with selective complaint. That view point is still valid in the Greater Shankill community – it is a raw sore festering that “Irish Republicans are hypocrites”.
With no main stream Unionist political leadership on the ground & given the reality to the various strands to Loyalism (various paramilitaries; GOLI; RBP; ABOD & what I’d term the ‘super-prods’) some form of one up man ship reciprocation was inevitable. It came about with the RBP Procession on the last Saturday when Bands (not members of the RBP) flouted the PC Ruling. Regardless of the reality that hymns where played, it was unlawful and again it was wrong. I am glad that the RBP distanced itself from the Bands involved making an apology as soon as possible. Ongoing within all orders there needs to be a heart felt acceptance of responsibility – if you bring Bands onto the streets, they are your responsibility – if you can’t control them then don’t use those that are generating problems – GOLI and the RBP are supposed to be Christian principled organizations so lead as Christ did?
Over the last decade, probably a bit longer, the paramilitary strands to Loyalism have invested heavily in ‘bands’. Both the UDA and UVF have intentionally guided youngsters into the various Loyalist Bands Forums that are available, and there are some bands in effect extensions to the post ceasefire Loyalist paramilitaries. Fueled by a growing perception of social injustice, raging at the hypocrisy of some elements within Irish Republicanism & raised on sectarian rhetoric they do want to march where they like, when they like. This is an issue that needs seriously addressed, the leadership of Unionism needs to get a grip on this growing attitude and those especially of old within Loyalism do need to question if this is what is to be ‘the lasting legacy’ of a once honorable cause?
I don’t believe that recent violence was ‘commanded’. Again, given the fractions within Loyalism, the reality is that individuals could be ‘on the balcony’ as part of the N&WBPCF to monitor the dissident Parade because despite the PC ruling that the parade was OK, elements of the Greater Shankill community did consider it contentious as it provocatively marched past an Orange Hall without conditions. On the day internecine violence and abuse kicked off the rioting. I’d a son caught up in the area and had to extract hm – I certainly witnessed individuals of the UDA, the UVF, GOLI, Loyalist Bands all on the ground, some if I am honest like headless chickens and some attempting to get youths to disengage.
Not withstanding, that violence and the subsequent 2 nights was wrong & while the PSNI may have INTEL on individuals with loyalist paramilitary backgrounds the reality is they will not comment through fear of compromising future arrests or legal proceedings?
As an individual I respect Spike’s position but one of realities thus far not talked about is the origin to this? As a tactic, in the day, PIRA orchestrated and manipulated residents groups to oppose GOLI, RBP & ABOD parades. The aim was deliberate – create civil disobedience to draw Loyalists into conflict with the ARMY and the then RUC as they tried to uphold the rule of law. Without ‘turning of the gas’ PIRA then ‘exited stage left’ leaving this festering hatred to linger in some areas of our society. With time a more confident dissident element in Irish Republican politic has emerged, and it’s aim is antiquated & simple: the denial of democracy through intimidation, bulling, coercion, violence & death. Yes there are a great many problems in the Greater Shankill area but we must not ignore the origins to this legacy of our shared troubles and together, in support of a mutually agreed future, we must debate to disengage the mindset of ‘them’ and ‘us’.
Finally, Republican areas, neutral areas, Loyalist areas? Should we all not be moving away from such
definition? Republicans don’t own the roads just as Loyalists don’t
& language needs to be inclusive in order to break down the barriers. No ‘them’ just ‘us’?
‘The RUC buckled under this issue in the 90s’ and the PSNI have already buckled under this issue again. Otherwise there would have been arrests for flagrant breaches of the Parades Commission’s determinations, and possibly also action taken against those signatories of that infamous letter, as well as the editor who published it.
The more things change, the more they stay the same!
your response as a valid and important contribution to the debate. You refer to the perception of a hypocritical
stance taken by Republicans, based on what happened in Dungiven. However, one can’t equate events at St.
Patrick’s with the situation in Dungiven.
As you outlined, the St. Patrick’s scenario was wrong and indefensible,
and a clear breach of a Parades Commission’s determination. In Dungiven no determination was issued and
neither the local Minister of any of his congregation had any issues to
complain about (see Liam Clarkes Belfast Telegraphs article).
clear on this point, ALL places of worship should be treated with respect and
sensitivity. On the Springfield Road,
the residents protest deliberately omits the Methodist Church and Protestant
primary school from their protest lines, and that has been the case since their
to say that Nationalist areas are free from sectarianism. The scourge of sectarianism is endemic
throughout society permeating all areas, age groups, social classes and
religions. What is required is the will
to challenge it when and wherever it rears its ugly head and I must say that
political Unionism has failed miserably in this regard.
Unionists and Republicans have manipulated scenarios around parades to further
their own political agendas. For
Republicans, they were a physical manifestation of Orange triumphalism and
intransigence and indifference to Nationalist sensitivities. Unionists used the parades as a reminder to
Nationalists not to think/act beyond their station and were an illustration of
where and with whom the real ‘power’ lay.
around parades is not a recent phenomenon.
It is as old as the Orange Order itself.
Our history is littered with stories of sectarian conflict triggered by
parades. In November 1970, a working
party, chaired by John Taylor, the then minister of Home Affairs in the old
Stormont regime produced a number of recommendations for policy around
processions and demonstrations. Two are
of particular relevance today:
We should act to
secure a substantial reduction in the number of processions hither-to
exercises of any kind should no longer be tolerated. So that there will be no misunderstanding,
we would like to give some specific, but by no means exhaustive, examples
of what we mean by this;-
parades should not be allowed to process along the Springfield or Crumlin
Roads, or along that part of the Antrim Road, between Carlisle Circus and
later we are still dealing with the consequences of such parades. Dealing with issues of contention around
parades, flags and symbols is a prerequisite towards building a genuine shared
future. If left unresolved they will
retain the potential to trigger division, instability and conflict. Only then can the ‘us’ and ‘them’ morph in to
a ‘we’ as we recognise our interdependence, commonalities and our ability to
live in peace with one another devoid of tension, fear, inequality and social
Just picked this up – Mr. Mallie needs to sort his IT Notification out as it ain’t pinging me alerts.
I accept your explanation on the differing perceptions regarding Dungiven (& AOH Parades in Kilkeel) against the reality to what happened at St Patrick’s.
Whole heartedly agree & posted previously that no band (Loyalist, Republican or Other) should be playing outside any place of worship – Chapel, Church, Synagogue or Mosque.
The small numbered, confident, forward thinking members of Unionism are held back by the still majority of ‘those who fear’ political & social evolution and the inevitable reality of change. It is easier for some to withdraw to their antiquated rhetoric of old than actually participate, challenge or lead – they find solace in the stench of ‘sectarian normality’. There is a fear of ‘risk taking’ that hangs over them.
There’s also a certain amount who now treat their position as a commercial role – no point tackling social injustice, sectarian or hate perceptions, political reform – that would upset the financial gravy train.
Having said that, there are individuals quietly working away – taking risk, leading change management, challenging the ‘inheritance’ of old: they are growing in numbers – these cyber debates one example.
Including Juniors, I was a member of GOLI for almost 30 years and in adult life also the RBP. I resigned from the Orders for a variety of reasons amongst them my opposition to some of the very activities you mention. Today it is simple for me (and many other Unionists) – the Orders are Christ principled based on the reformed faith – those principles and that faith do not espouse or support triumphalism, a belligerent attitude to people of other faiths, violence, or coat trailing of any sort. The Orders have to take responsibility for all participating in any procession and if they won’t change voluntarily then they’re their own worse enemy. I’d also add that on a human level, I just don’t why anyone would wish to parade in an area where the majority of inhabitants don’t want them but that’s another debate.
Finally, I don’t accept that the more recent Parades issues are a continuance of the John Taylor Stormont consideration – in 1970 the area of the Springfield Road you raise was actually predominantly Unionist though I accept the demographics have changed from then – it would be interesting to get an outside, independent body, to question the households the parade passes to determine if there is a majority of living residents actually against the Parades – same for Crumlin Road. I accept that the Duncairn Area of the Antrim Road is a vast majority Nationalist area and I can understand why the “Tour of the North” is not welcome.
I agree engagement, debate and resolution is the only answer.
I can agree with most of your response. Your comments concerning the fear of ‘risk
taking’ are spot on. To achieve
significant movement on key contentious issues requires risk takers from both
traditions, individuals who can provide progressive thinking and the requisite
leadership. It’s a big call, I
acknowledge to achieve this in some PUL communities for the reasons you
outline. Maybe it requires some forum or
shared space where progressive thinkers from all traditions and backgrounds can
come together and exchange narratives, viewpoints, while debating potential
resolutions. Just a thought, but we can’t
go on watching events unfold, in essence history repeating itself, which in
real terms will deprive our children and grandchildren of a shared and
qualitative future. Achieving
sustainable resolutions will involve some soul searching and pain in the short
term but everyone in our society will gain in the long term. In unison with yourself, it highlights the
imperative of engagement and debate followed by a search for resolutions.
No bother. Alas I am 1 individual and while my professional life takes me far and wide where I am an ambassador for our small Island, and a lobbyist of what is agreed, the reality is that here I am a relatively small pebble dropping into the vast ocean of perception..
Perhaps Mr. Mallie & / or Rowan can host dinner one evening and between us draw a line to the past (which we cannot change) and put in motion the necessary steps to create the positive future…… wishful thinking I guess – that refers to Eamonn getting the wallet out for dinner 🙂
The Reverend Harold Good has posted a new article on saying ‘sorry’ which is linked to this ongoing discussion. You can read his contribution by clicking on the following link: