The Marching Season

The Marching Season is beginning in Northern Ireland bringing with it the old provocations and threats that we thought might go away with the new spirit of unity when the new Assembly took power. The following is from the Irish Times:
Residents to protest over alleged parade breaches
Irish News 04/06/07
“Nationalist residents are to complain to the Parades Commission after what they said was threatening and provocative behaviour by supporters of a loyalist band parade in the small Suffolk estate in west Belfast on Saturday.
Senior Ulster Defence Association figures, including south Belfast loyalist Jackie McDonald, as well as Ulster Political Research Group spokesman Frankie Gallagher, attended the Black’s Road march that saw upwards of 40 bands and several thousand supporters bussed into Suffolk through surrounding nationalist areas.
Paramilitary flags were carried by several bands in contravention of a Parades Commission determination. Breaches of commission rulings at the parade on previous occasions had led to calls for it to be banned. However, an agreement was reached between nationalist residents and members of the Upper Falls Protestant Boys flute band, which organises the march, after mediation.
Community representatives said that while they kept to their part of the agreement by ensuring there was no trouble at the interface, some supporters at Saturday’s parade behaved in a menacing manner. Observers from the Parades Commission monitored the march.
Stephen Magennis of the area’s Safer Neighbourhood Project said he was relieved there had been no major violence but that some issues needed to be dealt with. “While nationalist residents abided by their part of the agreement there were some sections of loyalist supporters who did not,” he said. “Residents were verbally abused by some band members who made threatening gestures as they were arriving. Paramilitary flags were also on view and that has caused anger among residents who see such displays as blatantly provocative. We have no control over the fact that this parade takes place each year. What we can do is work to try and make sure it passes off without incident.”
Mr Magennis said assurances had been given by organisers in Suffolk that they would take steps to prevent trouble. He said the majority of bands were well-behaved on the day.
“However, there were a few who seemed intent on causing trouble,” he said. “The interface at Suffolk is on the whole peaceful and both sides have built up a network of communication that has helped keep it that way. It would be unfortunate for that relationship to now suffer because of the parade. It is in the best interests of both communities to keep tensions at the Suffolk interface at a minimum.”
No parade organiser was available for comment.”

For Further information
Troops Out Movement ~ Campaigning for British Withdrawal from Ireland
PO Box 1032 Birmingham B12 8BZ

The following information should be taken into account by those selecting the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party:
Alan Johnson Against a United Independent Ireland
The news is full of the elections for the deputy leader of the Labour Party. The Troops Out Movement (TOM) has always asked Labour Party members to consider candidates’ views on Britain’s occupation of Ireland and self determination for the Irish people before casting their vote. The BBC article below explains the situation and is followed by a comment from TOM.

NI Labour ‘will fight elections’ (BBC 31.5.07)
“It is inevitable Labour Party members in Northern Ireland will contest elections, one of the candidates for the party’s deputy leadership has said.
Education Secretary Alan Johnson was speaking to PA News before a commemorative Labour dinner in Belfast. Earlier last week, Labour agreed members could set up an NI-wide forum once they passed the 200-member mark. Mr Johnson said momentum towards Northern Ireland party members contesting elections was unstoppable.
The dinner was marking the 100th anniversary of the first ever Labour Party conference, which took place in Belfast. “It is highly appropriate that on the 100th anniversary of the first ever Labour Party conference which was held in Belfast, we have seen moves to re-establish the link between Northern Ireland and the rest of the party. We had a ridiculous situation in the party where people in Northern Ireland could not even join Labour,” Mr Johnson said. Thankfully the party has allowed Northern Ireland members to join and under this deal they can participate in conferences and decision-making bodies. However, I think an unstoppable momentum is building up which will see party members here, in the not too distant future, being able to contest elections.”
Case dropped: As part of the agreement on the forum Belfast trade unionist Andy McGivern agreed to drop a race discrimination case against the party for not allowing Northern Ireland members to set up constituency associations.
“People are showing an interest in joining, following the deal we struck,” Mr McGivern said on Thursday. The fact that Alan Johnson has said that it is inevitable the Northern Ireland Forum will develop to the point where we can contest elections is having an impact. I am of the view that once we get past the magic number of 200 members and the forum is set up under this deal and gets operating, we will have enough people to form constituency associations in the 18 Northern Ireland constituencies.”

Troops Out Movement Comment
“It is often argued in the Labour Party that “communal” or “religious” divisions could be eliminated by campaigning on “bread and butter working class issues.” This argument is illustrates a traditional colonial mentality. Labour’s decision to organise in the north of Ireland, shows that it clearly has a unionist agenda to maintain the political link between the north of Ireland and Britain. This flies in the face of the longstanding policy for a united Ireland, by consent. It states that Irish people cannot organise on their own soil on issues that are relevant to their own communities. It forgets that Ireland was artificially divided against the will of the people.
The party appears to be oblivious of the ridicule it risks in elections. Partition is still a key issue in the north of Ireland and attempts to organise as a Labour Party have failed. Most recently Malachi Curran (Labour Party – Northern Ireland) standing for the Northern Ireland Assembly in South Down, managed to get bottom of the poll with 123 votes compared to Sinn Fein’s 6,334 at the top of the poll.”

It is to be regretted should New Labour endorse a right wing colonialist agenda. It is well known that the marches described above attract Nazi sympathisers. We would expect, if the party is interested in involving itself in the politics of Northern Ireland, a distancing from that position. It is worrying that Mr Johnson, a front runner in deputy leadership contest, should be putting forward these views. New Labour should clarify its position.

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