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?

Tags: Belfast, Northern Ireland,, Parades, Riots, Troubles

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At the time (1979) the whole thing seem very silly to me. Only a few people on the street to watch the parade. Since that time I grew to understand how confronting this whole affair became. It looks like a last ditch stand to me. Something like the "Tea Party" positions in the United States/

Was your cousin the pharmacist in Ahoghill who responded to an 'emergency' call and then was ambushed?
I think a police officer was eventually tried for the murder, and it was later revealed that this officer was involved with other police and British army personnel in a series of murders.

Yes Gerard your information is correct. These facts were not known at the time of my sister's and I visit to Killyberry Farm outside of Bellaghy.

With behavior like that ; on both sides ; Peace and the stopping of Parades looks bleak for teh future .

Its a an argument that neither side can win ; unless they are prepared to say 'all Parades must stop '. Are the Politicians really going to stand up and say that .

No... they have  " not got the bottle"  [no backbone ] as we would say in Wolf Tone Bray Co Wicklow , where I grew up..................

If children in Northern Ireland were not taught to behave in this manner ; then they may have a future in Northern Ireland. Even then it will take a couple of generations for this learning to be handed down to future generations    

Pretty simplistic solution for a complex issue. First to compare the NY St. Patricks Day Parade to the Orange Walk is absurd. The NY Parade is enjoyed by people of all ethnicities. It is what parades should be. There are dozen of parades in the US expressing multiple points of view, some not popular, and they go off peacefully.

Banning parades or banning the songs people can sing are treating the symptom, not the disease. What's next bans on what people can say or write? What sort of society is that? Funny it is not mentioned that the Apprentice Boys Parade went off peacefully and without incident, but when loyalist hooligans disrupt a Republican Parade, now we want it banned.

Anyone familiar with the troubles knows that the root cause has been the double standard of justice. Operation Banner, the British Army occupation of Northern Ireland, began with a ban on parades that ten evolved into a ban on only Irish parades.

Lets stop looking for quick and easy answers but instead work to a Unified Ireland with justice and respect for all

A lot of truth there from Cosgrove...  I'd like to see the parades stop because I don't like them or see their purpose today.  Same for the murals and sectarian flags.  They seem to act as barriers to unity, marking turf like gangs.  HOWEVER, my liberty-loving American self does not believe in legally banning things just because I don't like or understand them.  Once we start down that road, we end up in Canada, which is now trying to repeal their unenforceable laws that basically ban hurting peoples' feelings.  I'd love to see the parades stop, but it really needs to be the paraders who decide to stop them.  As another commenter said, that is a long way from happening.  If stopping is unthinkable, a change in the tone of the parades would be welcome.  Until then, the violent reactions are the only acts that should be repressed by the state, if we are to have a free society.  I appreciate all the opinions shared on this difficult issue.

Northern Ireland is a lovely place, but they are shooting themselves in the foot with all this nonsense. People are afraid to go there now. After all The RIRA or CIRA might  decide at any time on another Omagh or  a tourist might get the way of  car bomb meant for a police officer.

Tourists take pictures of the murals and shake their head in disbelief that such primeval hatred still exists in Europe. Maybe if tourists just ignore Shankill and Falls Road 'culture' it will go away. While both sides cling onto their paramilitary parades in honour of dubious characters things will remain unchanged.  

So which is it?  Are the tourists drawn in to Belfast by morbid curiosity, or are they scared away?

The parades are not stupid!

For a person appointed here in the US to represent the voice of Irish America to utter such nonsense is, to me, a disgrace.

Mc Manus you do not speak for me nor many others in the Irish diaspora.

It is the reaction of the community in which these parades take place that might be a little out of hand. How about join in with party instead of fighting against it?

Besides there are many Orange parades that are not at all controversial and are welcomed ON BOTH SIDES OF THE BORDER, in the communities where they occur.

If I live din American ; I am not sure I woudl like you to represent me...... If you cannot see that all sides in this thorny issue need to learn the lessons of the past; then you do not deserve to represent any Irish diaspora.   

In my opinion, the murals are a historic reference, not unlike, cave drawings, hieroglyphics or ogham writings. They remind us of a moment in time, some tragic, others hopeful, all poignant. All have a significance.

I have noticed, here in the last few years more so than before, in Belfast and in Derry, the murals seem to bring about much discussion and heated debate. Removing the murals will not erase the history nor will stop the tensions. It will only stand to lessen the significance of those who lived that particular moment in time.

Not everyone sees the murals as inciteful... but rather as reflective. There is a lesson to be read in most every mural


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