A recent outbreak of violence in Belfast has me pondering parading. My husband and I visited Belfast just a few days before the riots, and the streets were calm and peaceful. It seems that the majority of the incidents in recent years have occurred at or around a Loyalist or Republican parade. The non-parading faction usually takes umbrage at the chosen route, stages a protest, and tempers escalate.
The president of the Capitol Hill-based Irish National Caucus, Father Sean McManus, has offered a solution: "Stop being stupid."
Here is his statement in full :
"First, full disclosure: I have no personal interest in, or existential need for parading.
Although I have been almost forty-one years in the United State, I've never marched in the New York or Washington St. Patrick's Day parades. (Although in 1973 and 1974 I led the 45-mile Irish Freedom March from Baltimore to Washington, to the White House and British Embassy respectively).
That being confessed, here is my suggestion: Stop the stupid marching in Northern Ireland. I say stupid with all due respect, because if one keeps doing the same thing over and over again, with bad and sad results, then surely it is stupid.
Why should grown ups -- indeed, middle age men and women keep doing this?
Does it really need to waste the time of the excellent Richard Haas? Does it need a professional diplomat to resolve it?
All parties should suspend parading indefinitely, or accept parades being banned.
Stop being stupid."
Sean Mc Manus
Irish National Caucus
So what do ye think, fellow Wild Geese? Should the parades be banned to limit the violence, or are they an important expression of free-speech?
I'd say I agree with Mc Manus for the most part about this. These parades and all the nonsense that happens in the aftermath are basically like little kids poking one another back and forth. A little maturity, please?
All parades and their purpose should be reviewed- not just the orange ones but the Republican ones as well. Yesterday we saw a Republican parade in honour of two IRA volunteers killed by their own bomb. It was a paramilitary display designed to make some people feel uncomfortable and antagonise relatives of those killed in the conflict.
I remember when a republican pipe band from the north came to the St Patrick's Parade in Galway. Amidst the carnival atmosphere came these guys dressed in paramilitary garb looking very serious. People were horrified and it just did not fit in.
If the north continues to hold martial parades, tourists will stay far away.
I read about the parade you're referring to. Yeah...that seemed to be in poor taste.
According to the Parades Commission website, there were over 4,300 parades in the 12 months up to 31st July, 2012. The figures suggest that Republican/Nationalist parades account for about 5% of the total each year.
That's a lot of parading for such a small area but, thankfully, there are now only a handful of contentious parades (but watch this space).
For many on the Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist side, parading is an important, (and, for some, the most important), manifestation of their 'culture' (to use a much overused word). They aren't going to give this up voluntarily, so telling them to stop being stupid will have about as much effect as telling the Tea Party that they are being ridiculous or the North Koreans that they are being embarrassing.
Séan McManus knows the politics of the north of Ireland very well and, I suspect, he knows that the paramilitary linked bandsmen will never, never, never voluntarily hang up their garish uniforms and decommission their Lambeg drums.
What some of the bandsmen might not know is that their marching tradition hasn't been handed down as an unbroken tradition since the battle of the Boyne in 1690. The Orange Order came into being in a period of sectarian strife in Armagh, just before the 1798 Rebellion. Sectarian violence continued to be associated with the Orange Order throughout the 19th century, with the July parades banned at various times between the 1830's and 1870's.
The 'Marching Season' sparked serious fighting in 1829, 1830, 1849, 1857, 1867, 1872, 1886, with scores of people killed in hand to hand fighting, and thousands injured or burnt from their homes. Today's die-hard Loyalist marchers have inherited, and many embrace, this heritage of sectarian violence (although they proclaim the virtues of the Enlightenment, Freedom and Liberty of Worship).
There have been many examples where dialogue with the local community has enabled potentially contentious parades to pass off peacefully. The trouble which has erupted this year, with the 'Flag' protests and the July parades, has happened where Loyalists insist that they are 'The People' and cling to their outmoded illusion that they still live in a 'Protestant country for a Protestant people'.
We can tell people to stop being stupid, but, where they choose to ignore this advice, the authorities should enforce a more rigorous framework to banish the blatant sectarianism that has fed this 'culture' since its inception. The normal procedure now is for the riots to be filmed and for individuals to be identified later and then brought before the courts.
These are usually the 'foot soldier' young men acting out the communal macho impulse. Rarely, if ever, are the organisers of the Parades held responsible for the mayhem they bring on to our streets. They are allowed to wash their hands of the matter, and facilitated to organise the recurring replay each year. Indeed, the Orange Order has been awarded six figure sums in grants, from the European funding allocated to 'Peace & Reconciliation'.
So, although I agree with Sean McManus, my advice would be to the authorities. Stop being stupid. Stop tolerating this culture of sectarianism. Stop funding the Orange Order. Stop the sectarian parades.
I woudl whole heartily agree with every word you have written , Farther Sean McManus was absolutely right about 'stop being stupid' - that is however, the language of the School Playground - trying to get bullies to behave, All of them without question are bullies.
What has happened to the Good Friday agreement ??? Has all of that good work been for nothing.
The Politicians --- all of them - should come out strongly in favor of ' no parades '-- end off . Orange and Republicans ... Has either the Orange or The Republicans Politicians got the backbone to do this ; woudl they dare to stand up to their individual constitutions; and say ; I don't care how long we have been marching ; it is going to stop !!!
To live in peace; all sides must respect this ; will this ever happen ?? It is a certainly worth a try
McManus raises a provocative theme, "parades in Northern Ireland," but it masks a much more specific topic which is central to any discussion about Northern Ireland.
My sister Mary Jean Strathern and I visited our family homestead in July/August near Bellaghy of Northern Ireland in the summer of 1979. We were first generation American Irish whose first cousin Willie Strathern was the victim in the Good Samaritan Killing in Ahogill in 1977. My Dad had just celebrated his 50th wedding anniversity and my four brothers and I had hope to send him back to his family farm for a return to Ireland visit as part of that celebration. He refused the offer. My father never really discussed his and his family Northern Ireland experience because he did not want to pass on to his children the mutual hatred. In a week we were given a crash course in the reality of Northern Ireland at that time to my Dad's disappointment. We were to witness that annual parade through Bellaghy (A strong hold of Republican feeling) This made little to no sense to Americans who understand the in your face confrontation under minds any opportunity to develop the common good! We left Ireland shaking our heads and puzzled at our experience. I talked to many Protestant and Catholic neighbors in this farming community. All expressed their hope and desire that this parading practice stop. Here we are 30+ years later hoping for the same outcome. Common sense tells us that this behavior works to destroy and I believe delay an outcome that demographics ultimately will resolve. At age 75 it will not be in my life time. On the other hand I never thought I would see in same life time a black American President.. So never give up hope.
Richard A Strathern, Gresham, Oregon, USA
These parades do not benefit the community and it is important for those in power to speak out against them. SF was strong in condemning the loyalist parades and violence yet seem to thing a parade in honour of two IRA bombers appropriate. Martin McGuinness was refused to condemn the IRA parade on Sunday. While such attitudes exist Loyalists will feel justified in having their parades and the tribalism continues to flourish.
Fortunately some people want to look forward
Hopefully he will not become another Ronan Kerr.