Posted By: August 15, 2013

Note: Jim Gibney’s column reflects an Irish Republican perspective on the parading controversy.
Jim Gibney. Irish News ( Belfast). Thursday, August 15, 2013
BELFAST’S Clonard Monastery holds a thousand people. Tuesday night a week ago it was packed to the doors. The crowd were there for The Priests and the Ulster Orchestra’s concert as part of Feile an Phobail. When Belfast’s mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir took to the stage to introduce the concert he was clapped and cheered to the rafters. His comments that he would continue to represent all the people of Belfast and his praise for the brave police officers who protected him from the attacks by a mob of unionists that afternoon in Woodvale drew equally loud and prolonged applause. It took Mairtin 30 minutes to leave the monastery. He was swamped by well-wishers. Last Wednesday night the life-long human rights campaigner Clara Reilly told the leader of the UUP Mike Nesbitt, who was on the panel of West Belfast Talks Back, another Feile event, that while she disagreed with his politics he was welcome to west Belfast. “We know how to treat people with respect,” Clara said. Since last December when councillors on Belfast City Council took the democratic decision to reduce the number of days the Union flag flies above the city hall I have listened carefully to what leaders of loyalist opinion have said about their perception of the motivation behind that decision. I have heard but not listened to what DUP politicians have been saying about their concerns about the decision. And the reason for that is because I do not believe one word from the DUP. They are engaged in a cynical exercise of trying to out-loyalist the loyalist politicians because they believe that the protest activities could result in the DUP losing a few council seats and possibly an MLA seat to loyalists. The DUP feign concern about working-class unionists. The muted response of its MLAs to successive cuts in the block grant and the Tory government’s welfare cuts agenda has hardly been that of a champion of the working class. Loyalist leaders are claiming that their community is discriminated against and are marginalised by the decisions taken by the executive and that republicans are involved in a ‘cultural war’ against their unionist and British identity.Their response to the claims of discrimination and the mythical cultural war is to bring loyalists onto the streets and indulge themselves in street violence by attacking the police.I do not accept these claims, but even if I did, how is the street violence going to end discrimination and marginalisation? Do loyalist leaders really believe the way to end discrimination against their community is to discriminate against republicans as they did last Friday night when they protested against republicans who were marching through Belfast city centre against the introduction of internment. In the 1960s when the Civil Rights Movement organised its marches Ian Paisley organised counter-demonstrations which fitted neatly into the sectarian policies of the then unionist government who banned the civil rights marches on the grounds that violence might occur. That was the thinking behind the tactic of the loyalists in Belfast last Friday night and also the DUP who whipped up opposition to the republican commemoration in Castlederg at the weekend. But it failed because the Parades Commission correctly permitted both marches to proceed and the police upheld both decisions.Republicans are entitled to march through Belfast and Castlederg. All over the north nationalists and republicans have to accept British war memorials in the middle of town and city centres where Union flags and other flags offensive to nationalists are flown. These war memorials commemorate those in the British crown forces who killed hundreds of Catholics and republicans during this period of conflict. Yet unionist and loyalist politicians (and Secretary of State Theresa Villiers) ignore the feelings of those relatives whose loved ones were killed by the crown forces. There are countless numbers of streets, roads and bridges named after British and unionist figures yet nationalists and republicans are not campaigning to have these names removed. They accept that at all levels of society the north has to be shared from the streets to the government. And that means cultural equality, recognition and acceptance by all, not cultural domination by unionists as we have now.