A sense of injustice about parades and the handling of the past

Morning View
Morning View

In many respects this has been a successful week for Northern Ireland.

One of the most contentious centenary events, that of the Easter Rising, passed with minor difficulties.

There has been debate about whether unionists should have attended the main Dublin ceremony last Sunday to mark the Rising, or whether they should be present at the coming City Hall dinner that the Irish President Michael D Higgins has decided in the end not to attend.

In the event Jim Rodgers, the long-standing Ulster Unionist councillor in the city, will have spoken for many when he observed that the Republic had handled the main commemorations tastefully and sensitively, but that dissident thuggery in places such as Lurgan had shown why unionist concerns about showing respect for the Rising were justified.

The menacing and illegal dissident parades remind people of a wider problem, which is the determined attempts to justify the IRA terrorism of the Troubles. There is widespread dismay about the seemingly endless investigations into past alleged failures by the state when so few IRA victims got justice. The IRA killed far more people than anyone else.

There is a further sense of injustice about the handling of loyalist and republican parades.

The police clearly face a difficult balancing act, and Arlene Foster is right to say that there is no PSNI intention to discriminate against loyalists. It is difficult for the police to stop republican paramilitary marches partly because Sinn Fein might start bleating about ‘human rights’.

But even so, action must be taken. Our story today presents a confused picture of what is and is not illegal.

There should be a presumption in favour of peaceful processions and against anything that involves masked people.

We also need to reach the point where all violent or drunken behaviour in public, loyalist or republican or neither, is dealt with so swiftly that most future culprits are deterred from even trying to behave in that way.