Not in my name!
This weekend once again saw violence on the streets of Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland with men of the Orange Order clashing with police. Orangemen, celebrating the Protestant victory over King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, have rioted on three consecutive evenings.
These so-called Loyalists threw bricks, fireworks and petrol bombs at the police lines, frustrated that the police were enforcing a legal restriction on the Orangemens’ “freedom” to march through Catholic areas or through other areas which the police had deemed unsafe. Many police have been injured. Many parts of the city have badly damaged. And, many people – on all sides – have been frightened. And many, many, like myself, are embarrassed that such foolish events are allowed to continue in a supposedly progressive, permissive and modern country such as ours.
Loyalists? Loyal to who? They do not do this out of loyalty to my Queen. They do not do this out of any loyalty to my country. And, these are not the actions of devout Protestants.
What is the difference between this and, say, allowing the National Front to march through the streets of Handsworth or Brixton? What is the difference between this and, say, allowing the Russian army to parade through the streets of Berlin every 8th May? It is provocative and vindictive and jingoistic.
The things that men do in the name of religion are appalling. The things that they do in the name of patriotism are just as bad. But the things that these men do in celebration of a three hundred plus year old victory seem at least out-dated and foolish.
I am sure that all communities in Northern Ireland could make much better use of the millions spent every year to police these events, and to compensate for the damage and destruction caused.
This is not the Northern Ireland that Barak Obama celebrated on his recent visit there.
No controversial marches, walks, parades – call them what you will – of this nature should be a part of our modern-day heritage and they should be nothing to do with celebrations of our past.
Look forward not backward.