14 October 2004 Edition
UDA parade an affront
The praise lavished by Councillor Jim Wells of the DUP on the organisers of a UDA band parade in Ballynahinch on 1 October is revealing.
Ballynahinch Young Loyalists, who hosted the parade, are directly affiliated to the UDA and last Friday's march amounted to a unionist paramilitary show of strength. This is a band that has a website with a page dedicated to a UDA memorial on the Langley Road and where anti-Catholic jokes are considered funny. The following is a typical example: "what is a pity, what is a shame - a bus load of taigs crashes and they all die, that's a pity, but there were three empty seats, that's a shame!"
On the same website, a spokesperson for the band somewhat incredulously states that nationalist residents of Windmill Street enjoy watching the annual parading of blood and thunder bands past their homes during the spring, summer and autumn months. It beggars belief that anyone could be so self-deluded as to believe there is some truth in this statement, but yet again contempt for the Catholic community seems to be a central theme of hardline Unionism.
This brings me back to Cllr Wells who was a keen observer and enthusiastic supporter at the UDA parade in question and is aware of what bands participated and how they behaved. Yet again however, he has shown himself to be typically arrogant and hypocritical by refusing to condemn the flying of unionist paramilitary flags by bands, and this includes Ballynahinch Young Loyalists, who have well established links to organisations that murdered many innocent Catholics and Protestants throughout the Six Counties. Will he now call on the PSNI, who were there in force and filmed the parade, to prosecute the people who carried flags and banners of these proscribed organisations? The people of South Down await his response with interest.
I wish to commend the people who courageously attended the protest. This is an important first step in asserting nationalist rights in Ballynahinch. We are no longer prepared to be treated as second-class citizens.
The parade on 1 October has proven to be extremely offensive to the vast majority of nationalists living in Ballynahinch and there is widespread anger that it was allowed to take place. The organisers of this parade, namely the UPRG/UDA, have serious questions to answer, as does the Ballynahinch Regeneration Committee, which gave cast-iron guarantees that there would be no displays of unionist paramilitary symbols. If this is their idea of a disciplined march, then they should re-examine their role as mediators for future loyalist band parades that are inherently sectarian.
On a final point, I would remind Councillor Wells and the UPRG/UDA that the days of them trying to dictate to the nationalist community who they will decide to talk to are over. Sinn Féin has a sizeable and growing democratic mandate in South Down and speaks for more people in the town of Ballynahinch than unionist paramilitary organisations ever will. As a party we will continue to provide proper representation for our community and only when this is recognised by hardline elements within unionism will some of the problems surrounding loyalist marches be addressed.
59 Loughside Drive, Ballynahinch, County Down.
I note the interview with Diarmaid Ferriter, author of a new history of Ireland and the simultaneous review of his book by Richard English (Irish Times, 2 October).
Diarmaid Ferriter repeats allegations in his book that surrendered British soldiers were shot after the Kilmichael Ambush and secondly that after the Truce, Protestants in West Cork were targeted and shot because of their religion. John Bruton repeated these allegations in an Irish Independent review of the book, thus giving them wider currency.
Both of these allegations are false and Meda Ryan has dealt with them comprehensively in her book Tom Barry IRA Freedom Fighter (2003). I am astonished that Ferriter has not referred to her findings or even to note that another point of view exists. I believe that historical scholarship is expected to be exhaustive, or at the very least merely diligent. Therefore, I am surprised also that Ferriter fails to take account of a long series of letters between Peter Hart, the source of Diarmaid Ferriter's information, and critics of his views, which were published in the Irish Times in 1998. Ryan takes this correspondence further and comprehensively answers the poorly researched allegation put forward in Hart's The IRA and Its Enemies (1998).
Diarmaid Ferriter in the interview identifies himself with "post-revisionist" historiography — a practice Professor Roy Foster says is "nationalism with footnotes". It is a pity that Diarmaid Ferriter did not avail himself of the Professor's scorn by including Ryan's non-Fosterish view in one of his works, even in the bibliography.
I also note that Richard English failed, in his review of Ryan's book some few months ago, to take up the serious differences on very important matters of historical fact between Meda Ryan and Peter Hart. The differences between both authors stand out and should have given rise to an important and worthwhile debate. Could it be that Richard English and Peter Hart were QUB colleagues and that Hart had favourably reviewed English's book not long beforehand?
I endorse the highest standards of historical and critical research. However, I believe that those who challenge historical fact would need to justify their actions.
Seán Ó Céilleachair,
Droichead na Banndan, Chontae Chorcaí.
Mellows book now available
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