Imagine if, for example, the Muslim community in part of Bradford, West Yorkshire, decided that they did not want the local Boys Brigade, accompanied by brass band, marching past a row of shops on the edge of a Muslim neighbourhood, once or twice a year. Imagine if one of the slogans used was ‘No Christian Feet On Our Road’. Do you imagine that such (hypothetical) intolerance would be accepted by the authorities? Do you think the media would ignore the root causes of such deep seated & overt bigotry? Would such intolerance become normalised? I think we all know the answers to those questions. And yet here in Northern Ireland, it seems it is perfectly acceptable, perfectly understandable, for a small section of society to claim ownership of the public highway, to proclaim it a ‘no go’ area for everyone else & for this sickening bigotry to be legitimised, pandered to & accepted as somehow being normal.
OUR SHOPS DON’T LIKE YOUR SORT
The situation is almost tragically comic. The Orange Institution has been prevented, by an unelected quango, from returning home along a stretch of the Crumlin Road (a main arterial route) because part of the parade passes the Ardoyne shops, which have been proclaimed as the exclusive territory of the Irish nationalist/republican community. The Orange lodges do not go into Ardoyne, they do not go past the homes of republicans. It takes only a few minutes for the parade to pass. Yet the malignant, poisonous, morally bankrupt Parades Commission has ruled that the Irish nationalist cry of “No Orange Feet On Our Road” be respected, that the bigotry of Ardoyne republicans be accepted & that the petty territorial claims of a small minority in that area who simply cannot abide the thought of Protestants walking past, are viewed as legitimate. Unionism, in a rare show of mutual solidarity, has promised a response to this repugnant situation. Maybe some in positions of leadership within Unionism should have listened a decade ago, when they were warned that recognising the legitimacy & authority of the Parades Commission would lead only to disaster & the kind of cultural Apartheid we see being imposed today.
TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE?
Is political Unionism’s “graduated response” going to be adequate? Is this just more marching up to the top of the hill before doing a swift about turn & marching (or rather slinking) back down again? It’s time for Unionists & Loyalists to began acting with ingenuity & guile. Personally, I would advocate that the Loyal Orders, Loyalist bands & all the Unionist political parties publicly proclaim that they will no longer recognise the PC. Remove all legitimacy from that rotten, poisoned, injudicious quango. No more meetings with the Parades Commission. No 11/1 forms completed. Nothing. I would then go further. The ‘Pan-Unionist Front’ should confront those in the media who demonise Unionists & Loyalists whilst tacitly approving the unflinching bigotry of the likes of CARA & GARC. A statement should be released, informing BBC NI & UTV that no interviews will be conducted with representatives of any of the Unionist/Loyalist parties & no statements or information given to them, until those two organisations publicly admit to having a pro-nationalist bias & make demonstrable efforts to rectify that bias. This is not cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. In this day & age there are more media agencies than ever before. A boycott of UTV & BBC NI would send out a clear & unequivocal message: play fair or we’ll cut you out of the game! In addition, would it not be beneficial to expose the bigotry & sectarian hatred of certain Irish nationalist/republican ‘residents groups’? For example, could a group of ordinary Protestants walk past Ardoyne shops, or would they, like the OO, be met with a violent reaction? What would the world’s media think if the mere presence of Protestants was enough to send Irish nationalists/republicans into a violent frenzy?
THE SCRIPT IS ALREADY WRITTEN
If Unionists/Loyalists totally disregard the diktats of the Parades Commission, use exclusively peaceful & lawful means of protest & force a radical rethink of policy in regards to parading, the outcome is obvious. The return leg of the 12th parade along the Crumlin Road will go ahead & republicans will react, as they always do, with violence. Even if Provisional Sinn Fein managed to restrain their supporters, the so-called Dissidents would doubtless use the parade (the presence of Protestants near their area being an affront to their sense of ‘Irishness’) as an excuse to attack the ‘Crown Forces’, as they have in the past. With no Parades Commission quango to reward such violence, the future of the Crumlin Road parade would be secure. Such an outcome is however, merely a pipedream unless Unionism continues to present a united front, comes up with innovative means of protest & follows through on what they say. If not, then that section of the Crumlin Road, like the Garvaghy Road before it, will become a ‘no go’ area for Protestants. The media will normalise the tribalist carving out of exclusive territories & the ugly bigotry at the heart of Irish nationalism will continue to thrive. Like everyone else here, I will watch & wait. I sincerely hope that Unionism has drawn a line in the sand this time. “This far & no farther”. I may well be wrong, but regardless of the weather, I can feel a long, hot summer drawing near!