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9 July 1998 Edition

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Absurd analogies

By Seán Marlow

It has been a week of comparisons, some hilarious, some tragic.

Gerry Adams is looking forward to change but even he must be amazed at the sight of what had previously been right-wing, fundamentalist Orangemen proclaiming their support for Gay Pride marches in London and their opposition to segregation in the southern USA, apartheid in South Africa and the National Front in Britain.

Notwithstanding this new-found liberalism (maybe prompted by PR ``experts'' like Ruth Dudley Edwards and Eoghan Harris?), the reality is slightly different. One of the most vociferous opponents of gay rights has been Nelson McCausland of the Orange Order and supporters like Ian Paisley and David McIlveen. Redneck segregationists in the Deep South of the US awarded Paisley his ``doctorate'' and of course the reason that Portadown is so segregated is that many Catholics were driven out of previously mixed areas by Orange supporters, who are now trying to starve them into submission.

In the 1970s and 1980s Loyalist and Unionist leaders visited South Africa in defiance of the anti-apartheid boycott and praised the apartheid state's ``vigorous action against the terrorists'' of the ANC. And it was to the apartheid regime that Trimble's Ulster Clubs, Robinson's Ulster Resistance and British/Loyalist agents like Brian Nelson turned to get weapons to arm the Loyalist death squads. It's no wonder that the ANC observer on the Garvaghy Road said that Orange Order claims that the opposition to their march was ``cultural apartheid'' was completely out of order and belittles the struggle of the oppressed people of South Africa against real apartheid. He astutely observed that in Ireland, as in South Africa, right-wing opponents of change were trying to derail the peace process.

As for John Taylor's comments that the National Front would not be allowed to block a march in London, I reckon that the sunshine in his beloved Turkish partitioned Cyprus is getting to him. Surely it's the National Front (which supports the Orange Order!) that insists on marching through areas where they are not wanted - and who ARE often stopped by courageous anti-Nazi activists.

Taylor further demanded that the British Army should not be used against the ``civilian population''. I didn't hear him objecting in 1972 when the British Army was used to gun down Civil Rights marchers in Derry. And, of course, Taylor was Stormont Minister for Home Affairs in charge of the RUC when that force was used against the people of Derry in the Battle of the Bogside and against the people of Hooker Street, Bombay Street and Divis Flats in August 1969.

I am certainly not advocating that the RUC and British Army be used in a similar brutal manner against the Orange Order, but can anyone seriously imagine nationalists being allowed to stage illegal marches and block roads at will while the RUC stands idly by?

There were also some less absurd comparisons over the past week. Last weekend we saw Black Panthers routing an attempted Ku Klux Klan rally in Jasper, Texas, where a black man, James Byrd, had been viciously killed by white racists. I was reminded of this when I saw TV pictures of Orange marchers at Drumcree taunting Garvaghy residents, shouting ``What about Hamill?'' while one jumped up and down imitating the killing of Robert Hamill. I wonder do establishment politicians and journalists in Texas demand that the black people of Jasper accept a KKK march through their neighbourhood? Or that Stephen Lawrence's community in London welcome a march by the National Front after white racists killed Stephen and racially biased police failed to properly investigate the murder?

Ironically, on the same day that those same London police sprayed CS gas in the eyes of black protesters who wanted to get into the Stephen Lawrence enquiry (and the RUC, who stood by as Robert Hamill was killed, fired dozens of plastic bullets at nationalists in Lurgan), a reporter on Sky News was complaining that French police ``over-reacted'' against English soccer thugs in St Etienne! When will they ever learn?

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