REPUBLICANS organise a parade that passes by a Presbyterian church in Belfast.
The parade for whatever reason comes to a halt outside, and the band walk around in circles playing overtly sectarian tunes. Those watching sing overtly sectarian songs to what the band decide to play.
A man is attacked while filming the spectacle. The church and local Unionist councillors are rightly outraged. Alex Maskey defends the band stressing that they were acting innocently and there may have been some “over-exuberance”.
About six weeks later a major parade is scheduled for the same route. The Parades Commission, taking into account the disgusting behaviour exhibited previously, ban the particular band from the route at all, and prohibit any music being played as the parade passes the church. A prominent organiser addresses the gathering at the outset, theatrically tears up the Parades Commission determination, and leads a parade that proceeds to breach its conditions and therefore is unlawful.
Alex Maskey repeatedly refuses to condemn this wanton lawlessness on the basis that the Parades Commission is biased, it makes absurd decisions, loyalists hold illegal parades all the time, and that his people have had enough. That would be utterly unacceptable. Every Unionist politician in Belfast would be rightly up in arms, and calls would be made for Sinn Fein to be excluded from Government for their blatant lack of regard for the rule of law.
But of course the reality of this is that “republicans” are the Young Conway Volunteers, the church is St Patrick’s on Donegall Street, and Alex Maskey is Nelson McCausland. I fail to see why the reaction is so very different.The YCV (an initialism shared with the youth wing of the UVF - coincidence I’m sure) behaved reprehensibly on Donegall St on the 12th.
They shouldn’t be allowed near that church again until and unless they show they have learnt to behave with some respect. At the very least it should be some time before they can be trusted to pass that street.
The mass signed letter published by this newspaper and others on Black Saturday would have been funny had it not been so serious. I utterly fail to see how it was “monstrous” to prevent the YCV down Donegall Street, or to ban other bands from playing music as they passed the church given the recent history of abuse (although the latter possibly wasn’t necessary, but we’ll never know).
When I expressed that I was horrified to see UUP names on that letter I was told by a senior party official: “Last straw for Belfast. An empty building with no service taking place? They have had enough.” I know where that argument comes from, because I have heard it before. It runs that the only basis for upset is that Catholic doctrine provides that Mass is always in session in a Catholic Church (not quite true, but close enough to the truth to be passable), why should we be dictated to on that basis – it’s an empty building with no service taking place. It’s a disgusting argument, particularly in the YCV context.
It’s a church. I don’t care who is or is not in it. I don’t care what the theological doctrine is. It’s a church and it should be shown some basic respect. If your church was treated like that you’d be disgusted. Is it really too much to ask that a band in a parade organised by the Orange or Black (religious institutions after all) have some respect for the doctrine of a church as they walk past?
I think it’s reasonable to expect better than this of the Black.
I am astonished that any senior member of the Institution would tear up a legally binding determination, and proceed to participate in a parade that flagrantly and deliberately broke the law. I understand that the Parades Commission has made some fairly dubious decisions recently, but how the Donegall Street one can be described as such is totally beyond me. I understand that there is strong concern that making parades contentious is a republican production line, and that people travel miles to be offended, but when the band actually is offensive, it’s hard to complain when people react, wherever they live.
I understand that republicans engage in militaristic illegal parades frequently. But I also understand that to use that as a basis for defying the Parades Commission is childish, counter-productive, and that two wrongs don’t make a right. I expect more of the Loyal Orders than I do of republicans, and I will always be disappointed when they act in a way that is no better than the provos in Dungiven.
It saddens me that they have acted in such a way, but the simple fact is that they did. It is depressing because it debases everything that they should stand for, civil and religious liberty, tolerance, Christian compassion towards your neighbour. But they have willingly surrendered the high ground in order to make some spurious point, which will not advance their cause one inch.