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2 September 2012 Edition

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20,000 unionists to parade past flashpoint in September

Clashes at August’s Royal Black Preceptory parade | A vehicle for ‘Venom and Hatred’ directed at nationalists

Reacting to the responses of unionists to the events, Sinn Féin Minister for Culture Carál Ní Chuilin called on “all unionist politicians present at Saturday’s parade, particularly those who are members of loyal orders, to make a clear statement of their intent to co-operate with the PSNI investigation into Saturday’s incidents”.

‘We thank Almighty God for this opportunity to demonstrate for our reformed faith which is Bible-based and Christ-centred’

Extract from a resolution passed by the loyalist Royal Black Preceptory

THERE WAS very little ‘Christ-centred’ behaviour on show by the loyalist bands and their supporters taking part in the Royal Black Preceptory parade on Saturday 25 August which passed St Patrick’s Catholic Church on Belfast’s Donegall Street.

And nationalists are fearful, following the most recent sectarian provocation and open defiance of Parades Commission rules, that when more than 20,000 unionist members of the loyal orders pass the church on 29 September to mark the centenary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant there could be a repeat of clashes — or worse.

During the parade by the Royal Black Preceptory (also known as the Imperial Grand Black Chapter of the British Commonwealth), loyalist bands and their supporters directed what parish priest Fr Michael Sheehan described as “sectarian hatred and venom” at peaceful nationalist protesters.

Tension surrounding this parade was high after the Commission determined that loyalist bands could not play music as they passed St Patrick’s Church.

The Commission also barred the Young Conway Volunteers (YCV) band, from the Shankill Road, from marching past St Patrick’s after its performance on the Twelfth of July caused outrage when it played the anti-Catholic Famine Song in a provocative parade around the Catholic church’s steps.

The YCV band ignored all this and strutted past the chapel while a number of other loyalist bands played sectarian tunes at the church’s doors.

At one point, a loyalist supporter tried to pull a banner calling for respect for the church from the grasp of a nationalist in an incident that sparked an attack on the PSNI by loyalist supporters.

The area’s MP, Nigel Dodds, who was at the parade, ignored the loyalists’ aggression and said the trouble was sparked by a “republican attack”.

Reacting to the responses of unionists to the events, Sinn Féin Minister for Culture Carál Ní Chuilin called on “all unionist politicians present at Saturday’s parade, particularly those who are members of loyal orders, to make a clear statement of their intent to co-operate with the PSNI investigation into Saturday’s incidents”.

‘Sectarianism you could almost taste’

“IT WAS THE KIND OF TENSION that you could feel right in the pit of your stomach and a sectarianism you could almost taste,” Irish News columnist Allison Morris said of the Royal Black Preceptory parade.

“As thousands of loyalists descended on Donegall Street for ‘Black Saturday’, outrageous displays of sectarian and highly provocative behaviour were played out as they passed St Patrick’s Church.”

Allison Morris added that disrespect for the Catholic Church of St Patrick’s, its clergy and worshippers makes a mockery of cries that marching by the loyal orders is about religious and cultural rights.

“The hatred expressed by many of the supporters, of all ages and including women and young children, was a depressing indictment, not just about Northern Ireland but the Peace Process in general which appears to have left behind large sections of loyalism.

“As I stood reporting on Saturday’s events a well-dressed, middle-aged woman to my right shouted sectarian filth, the type of which you wouldn’t even expect to hear on the terraces of an Old Firm football match. Her face was red from the exertion of screaming at the top of her lungs. The foul, abusive, hate-filled language is something which could never be printed in a family newspaper.

“What makes a woman take time out of her weekend to stand outside a church and disrespect the religion of other members of society is a mystery to me. But for the 30 minutes I was unfortunate enough to be beside her, the deep-rooted hatred she felt for Catholics — all Catholics — couldn’t have been voiced any less eloquently.

“And she was not alone. It was like a competition to see who could be the more offensive.

“Bandsmen not only defied the Parades Commission ruling to play only a single drum beat passing the church but instead played even louder with several playing The Sash at the doors of St Patrick’s.

“Whether the Parades Commission survives another marching season, given political pressure to dismantle it, remains to be seen.

“But if Saturday showed one thing it was that the solving the issue will require proper leadership, something that is not going to happen while unionist politicians continue to pander to the lowest common denominator.”

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