The Peace Process in Ireland
As the Orange faction in Irish politics does its best to sidle out of the awful prospect (from its point of view) of being forced to do business with northern Ireland’s Catholic and Republican community, of being forced to allow them to participate in matters of state, it is hard to avoid noticing their fascistic nature, as well as the fascistic nature of the British army which protects the oppressive unionist domination of the province.
Reading some of the British press, which is for the most part still trying to hide the truth about the nature of Orangeism, one would imagine that rather than being a vicious and fascistic order, the Orange lodges were merely social clubs for peace-loving middle-aged men who liked to play a hand of cards with their mates from time to time, and that their traditional provocative marches were nothing but a harmless colourful tradition that would harm nobody if only the Catholics would stop making such a fuss about nothing.
The Times of 5 July 1999 congratulated the Orange Order in connection with this year’s ‘dignified’ acceptance that they could not march down through the Catholic housing estates of the Garvaghy Road, since the Parades Commission had ruled otherwise. The whole parade was presented as quite harmless:
“For 14 minutes the Orangemen filed past. One band played a hymn but that was all. There was no taunting, no sectarian abuse …
Another mile and the parade reached Drumcree church. The order’s annual service commemorating those killed in the battle of the Somme was relayed by loudspeaker to the crowd outside. They prayed for the Queen, the country’s political leaders and even the security forces. They prayed for lasting peace in Portadown.”
There is a reference to the “thugs” who
“hijacked the protest … last year,”
but only to reinforce the point that in its essence Orangeism is peace-loving and rather gallant.
Quite apart from the fact that the Orange parades commemorate not those who died on the Somme, but the victory of the British over the Irish at the Battle of the Boyne, with the Irish protestants whose forebears hail from Scotland considering themselves superior beings compared to the conquered Irish, the reality of this, admittedly relatively peaceful parade, was a great deal different from the way
To the extent that the parade was relatively peaceful, this was not due to the absence of ‘thugs’. The thugs were there all right, but British imperialism has decided that its interests are no longer best served by backing them. It had secured the area against trouble by means of
“a great steel wall painted military green and smeared with axle grease to prevent anyone trying to scale it. Either side of the wall was a flooded moat backed by rows of coiled razor wire. In front of the wall were two police officers, one in ordinary uniform and the other in full riot gear …”
with some 2,000 troops deployed elsewhere in the area in case of trouble, as against 1,300 Orangemen on the march. For the first time, British troops were deployed AGAINST the Orange thugs. This is what accounts for the latter’s relatively good behaviour, not any innate reasonableness on their part.
This is shown by the fact that prior to the parade there had been unsuccessful efforts by thousands of loyalists to break through massive security into the enclave on Sunday – no mention in
, – and indeed by the fact that the thugs have been besieging the Garvaghy Road for the past 53 weeks, just waiting for an opportunity to ‘reclaim their right’ to terrorise the local community by marching down the ‘traditional route’.
Furthermore, on the parade itself, as the marchers reached the end of the Garvaghy Road, where dozens of residents had gathered behind security cordons to watch them pass, several of the Orangemen made inflammatory remarks, mostly about recently murdered human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson. “Where’s Rosemary?, Where’s Rosemary” one shouted as he walked past.
One US-based independent human rights observer was injured by angry loyalists. The 48-year-old woman, Shannon Eton, suffered a broken wrist and a head injury in the attack, near St John the Baptist church at the top of the Garvaghy Road.
Afterwards she described the sense of evil she felt as she observed the march in Portadown on Saturday. As she sat on the cemetery wall next to the St John the Baptist Chapel, taking photographs, she was hit twice over the head by a youth wielding a flagpole and was punched and kicked as several more youths attempted to drag her off the wall.
Shannon was saved by a number of women residents from the Garvaghy Road who ran to the cemetery wall and managed to pull her back over the wall to relative safety. The RUC made no attempt to pursue or arrest her attackers, despite the huge security presence around the Chapel.
Although Shannon Eton gave a press conference to describe her experience,
made no mention of this incident!
What was in
, on 7 July, was a transcript of the interview given by Colonel Derek Wilford, the commander of the Bloody Sunday Massacre, to Radio 4’s
programme on 6 July. Wilford outraged polite bourgeois society by frankly expressing his attitude towards Irish nationalists in Northern Ireland. As far as he is concerned it is wrong to criticise the army for Bloody Sunday, where innocent unarmed civilians were gunned down and killed on a demonstration against the British occupation forces, because of the activities of the IRA:
“What about Bloody Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and every other day of the week? What about Bloody Omagh?
[Note that Omagh was not the work of the IRA, but of people opposed to it]. “
What about Bloody Warrenpoint, Enniskillen, Hyde Park … Bloody Aldershot and Brighton? Bloody everything the IRA have ever touched?”
Wilford considers that the only reason people raise the issue of gunning down unarmed civilians on Bloody Sunday is because the IRA has kept it in the public eye:
“The word ‘Bloody Sunday’ has become a very pejorative phrase, and it’s now in the canon of nastiness. It was put there by the IRA. It’s been kept there in the public mind by you and the other media.”
In other words, there was nothing intrinsically ‘nasty’ about the massacre, it has only become ‘nasty’ because the IRA have duped the media into taking up the issue!
Needless to say, the British army was far from pleased at this outburst on Wilford’s part, which thoroughly exposes the role of the British army in Northern Ireland, far better than any propaganda from any republican quarter. It demonstrates better than anything else possibly could why the IRA has grown strong, why Irish nationalists gave their support to the ‘men with guns’ and why even today, when British imperialism appears to have changed its agenda for Ireland, it would be extremely risky for the IRA to decommission its arms while the British army is still stationed on Irish soil – for who will defend the nationalist community against aggression of this kind, whether from the British army or from loyalist thugs and the RUC, if the IRA is disarmed?