Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Parade must not be dragged down to Sinn Féin's level

Last night I watched the Nolan programme. I’m not proud of myself. In my defence a mate of mine was in the audience and had been quite insistent that I should watch.

Naturally, given that Sinn Féin’s protest against young Irish men and women walking freely the streets of Belfast is a matter likely to inflame passions, Nolan opened with a rabble rousing debate on that topic.

The very fact that the welcome home parade has become a matter of such contention is the result which Sinn Féin was seeking.

Sunday should be, certainly would have been, principally a family occasion. There should be, certainly would have been, an orderly crowd in celebratory mood, joyfully welcoming back young people who have been doing a difficult job in dangerous circumstances.

With republican protests, whether organised by an extreme lunatic fringe or the lunatic fringe to which we’re more accustomed (i.e. Provisional Sinn Féin), I fear that the parade will acquire an added frisson for disreputable elements on both sides. Because a republican rabble has decided to protest the parade, the danger is that attendance becomes more enticing to a counter-rabble identifying themselves as loyalists.

That is the result which Sinn Féin is attempting to precipitate with this protest. They wish to dull the lustre of a celebration of bravery and safe-return and imbue it with the grubby communal flavour of a band parade past Ardoyne shops.

The best answer is for normal people, who were inclined to attend the parade before the controversy, to attend it regardless of these tawdry protests. This should be a day remembered for the original reasons which led to its organisation, rather than the zero sum sectarianism which republicans wish to bestow upon it.

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