Everybody likes a band, and especially a marching band. These spectacles are exciting and stimulate the blood of supporters. The sound of the massed pipes and drums never fail to confirm my Scottish blood. But wait a minute, I am a first generation Scot. My Dad was, and all his family still are Irish, so I can claim legitimately to have a vested interest in both countries and cultures.
The ‘Marching Season’ stirs my blood too, but for very different reasons. The name is given to the time in summer, in Northern Ireland, where masses of marchers take up their flutes and drums, and beat their way down the public streets, including those areas who are opposed to their views... and especially those opposing areas, to celebrate a battle some 300+ years ago. I am not aware of any other band which marches to a 300 year old tune. Do you? Once again, some marches were spoiled by sectarian opposition throwing stones, bottles and petrol bombs at the police. The authorities stood by and watched while the violence unfolded in the streets of Belfast, just like the old days of ‘the troubles’. Supporters of the march will say it’s their right to march wherever they want, and they are right. It is a free country after all, but freedom at what price? Is the price of blood and broken bodies enough?
To balance the scales, there are also the Irish Republican Hibernian marches, which are staged to say simply, we are here and you didn’t whip us 300 years ago after all. In my book, one side is as bad as the other. Neither are interested in anything other than their own narrow view, and each is right (in their own minds). Having said all that, let me make an observation about the minority of Republican protesters in Northern Ireland, living in a country they don’t like. They are happy to live in a more prosperous part of Ireland, and work there paying taxes, or if they are unemployed will happily draw benefit payments, and use the health services. If they have children, they will be educated in the same system as the one they are opposed to. I may be simplistic in my thinking, but would it not be the rational thing to move to the Southern part of the land where they can live out their own ideal lifestyle? That would let them march in the Hibernian parades without the threat of violence, and they wouldn’t have to put up with the Loyalist marches in the North which annoy them so much.
Let me try to balance things a little, while realising that there will always be a minority living among us, in our multi cultural society, who cannot be reasoned with. Why persist in marching to celebrate a 300 year old battle? Why keep old wounds open and sore? Would it be so very bad for society if these marches were stopped? Of course that applies to the other sectarian half of the problem, the Hibernian marches. These also attract trouble from the ‘opposite side’. If we are ever going to be able to live together, does it not follow that we shouldn’t intentionally wind the other side up? Of course it’s deliberate, what other reason can there be? The rest of us are only putting up with these marchers as they peddle their own hatred, and we can easily live without them. So, if either side doesn’t like where they live enough to make them violent against it, can they just leave and go elsewhere? Please? For the sake of the rest of us who want to live in peace with each other. Oh yes, Protestants and Catholics really can get on together. It’s really not difficult. Ordinary, good people do it all the time. It’s only the bad ones who can’t. These same ordinary, good people, can live without BOTH of these sectarian, troublesome, violent, hate filled parades!