Only protest if you can do it entirely peacefully

Morning View
Morning View

Yesterday’s decision by the Parades Commission to again stop Orangemen from returning on the Twelfth evening along one of Belfast’s arterial routes has caused understandable dismay for many unionists.

The swift coordinated response of unionist leaders is an indication to all of the anger within parts of the unionist community, particularly Belfast, at this ruling.

Unlike last year, when unionist leaders strongly condemned the parades decision, this year they have come together in a broad coalition and have taken action.

That provides a demonstrable political outlet for unionist anger and will achieve far more than the rioting which some parade supporters engaged in last summer.

Ultimately, it will be politics, not street protests, which remove the Parades Commission and it should be to that end that unionists now work in unison.

Nevertheless, for all the justified anger at yesterday’s Parades Commission decision, which seemed to yet again reward the threat of republican violence, there must neither be violence nor the threat of violence from unionists.

To do so by attacking the police or others would not only be morally repugnant and criminal but would undermine the lawful institutions of the state to which unionists are loyal.

If any loyalist or unionist throws bottles, petrol bombs or acts in a thuggish manner, as happened last year, they will be going against the express instructions of the Orange Order and all the unionist parties. And they would be providing the Parades Commission with the chance — as happened yesterday — to highlight that there has been violence by parade supporters, putting them in the same space as violent republicans.

Unionists have a right to protest against a ruling which gives dangerously disproportionate influence to dissident republicans. But they should only do so entirely peacefully.