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19 August 1999 Edition

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Same old story

Street battles in Derry and nationalists under attack in Belfast. That was the story of August 1969 and 30 years later, that is the story of August 1999. So much for progress towards ending the nationalist nightmare.

Thirty years after the RUC and B Specials were unleashed in Belfast and Derry against nationalists who dared stand up and protest at being treated like second class citizens, nationalists have again been beaten off the streets to facilitate the Apprentice Boys.

A political decision was taken by the British government's Parades Commission to reward the Apprentice Boys for engaging in talks with residents. Not for making any concessions, mind you, nor for recognising the offence their marches cause in nationalist areas, but for merely deigning to talk to the taigs.

The attitudes of the Apprentice Boys, of the Orange Order, and indeed of the British mandarins who put the rights of such bigoted organisations before those of nationalist residents, is proof, if further proof was required, that many attitudes remain unchanged by the peace process.

Bigotry is alive and well in Westminster, at Ulster Unionist HQ in Glengall Street, and within the ranks of the still unreformed Royal Ulster Constabulary.

The Good Friday Agreement was supposed to enshrine equality of treatment and parity of esteem in the Six Counties. But then it was supposed to do a lot of things. We were supposed to have power sharing, after all, cross border bodies, and movement on a range of other vital issues, including demilitarisation.

We surely could have expected that the RUC by this stage would not have free rein to get suited up like Stormtroopers and beat the heads off peaceful protestors. Last Saturday's events are a sad reminder of the ugly reality of the distribution of power in the Six Counties, of how far we have to travel and of what is waiting around the corner should the peace process collapse altogether.

An Phoblacht Magazine

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