In an average year, there are 1350 British-Protestant parades and 145 Irish-Catholic parades in Northern Ireland. Of these, up to 80 British and 20 Irish ones are flashpoints for violence. The first attempt at stopping the violence at these parades occurred 197 years ago, when Henry Parnell appealed to Parliament to control the parade situation. They have tried, repeatedly and fruitlessly ever since.
Since the 1960s,the flashpoint parades are those that deal with commemoration of long-past battles between the two factions. The Irish don’t like British parades through their neighborhoods that celebrate 1689-90 battles that resulted in their complete subjugation and loss of all civil rights. Imagine the Sons of the Grand Army of the Republic holding yearly parades through Atlanta to celebrate General Sherman burning the city to the ground. Then imagine the seething resentments felt across the Deep South over the Civil War lasting not 147 years but 322 years.
Once again, in Belfast over night, violence flared over the July 12th parades celebrating the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Because of the limited restrictions placed on these parades, it was a very small group of paraders marching among police guards along a Catholic street that set off the rioting. Size doesn’t matter in Northern Ireland, just place.
Forty years of rock throwing and gunfire have done nothing to end the clashes. It is time for the British government to stop being intimidated by the Orangemen. No government should allow a small group of citizens to dictate policy for 197 years. Impose no-parade zones for both sides, an absolute ban on marching in each other’s territories, or stop pretending you have any control over the situation.
And as for the Catholics, they have been ejits, to use their own vernacular. Way, way back when Rev. Ian Paisley was preaching that letting Catholics have equal rights would lead to the Pope sending in his armies to overthrow the Queen, why the hell didn’t anyone make fun of him? The Pope can only raise one army – the 90 men in doublets and tights carrying pikes around the Vatican. Even the elite Swiss Guard, the papal ninjas, only amount to a hundred men or so. The idea that they could invade England was ludicrous, and should have been mocked instead of protested.
Why the hell can’t you guys get creative instead of stupid? Put posters of mooning asses in the windows the night before the parades. Get on the roofs and drop harp flag banners down the fronts of your homes and shops as they march through. Throw buckets of shamrock-shaped confetti out of upper windows on the marchers. Mock them, make fun of them, stop giving them the power to enrage and incite.
Marching season isn’t over. The summer season terminates in mid-August with the Apprentice Boy marches in Derry. Until then, we can only hope that there are no more incidents involving gunfire and Molotov cocktails.
One definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result. After forty years, clashes over the parades are insanity.