As rotten decisions go, the green light given by Glasgow City Council to two Irish Republican parades yesterday was a howler.
Only eight days before, more than 300 police officers in riot gear, a low-flying police helicopter, a multitude of riot vans, snatch squads and dog handlers had to be deployed, when Loyalist protestors disrupted an Irish Unity march being held by the James Connolly Flute Band.
This march, allowed to walk through Govan, a neighbourhood not known
for its Republican sympathies, on the Friday night of an Old Firm weekend. Sorry…say that again?
Needless to say, it was mayhem, and for the shocked residents cowering in their homes and the shaken innocents caught up in this sectarian melee of hate, a terrifying experience, one they will never want to see repeated.
And as the barricades burned in scenes reminiscent of the violence from Northern Ireland during The Troubles, I don’t doubt that, if not for the rapid intervention of the police, somebody would have been killed.
And now, despite that carnage, the outrage expressed by the vast majority of decent citizens, the infantile whataboutery, the blame games, apologies and excuses that followed, not one but two similar Republican marches, the Cairde na Heireann Calton Republicans and the Friends of Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association have been given the go-ahead.
Talk about pouring petrol on a skip fire?
It’s completely crackers – these type of marches, no matter what side of the divide they purport to support, should be banned and banned for good.
Their request to march shouldn’t even be allowed to reach the committee stage, but thrown out for the divisive and inflammatory parades they are.
They are a complete embarrassment to a modern, tolerant, inclusive and progressive Scotland.
Religious bigotry and sectarian violence, much of it centred on long-ago events that took place across the sea in Ireland during the 17th Century and more recently during the years of the Troubles, should be put firmly in the dustbin of history
But yet here we are, still allowing a dwindling number of bigots from both sides to dictate the terms of when and where they can march.
It’s not on.
I have a great deal of sympathy for Glasgow City Council as I have with Police Scotland who both say the options open to them are limited, both by the law – the people’s right to march and protest – and by circumstance.
In the past couple of years, we have seen a priest spat on outside his chapel, banned songs sung glorifying the death of Catholics outside another, inflammatory banners unfurled supporting banned terrorist organisations of both sides, a riot taking place on Govan’s streets and the apparently related petrol bombing
If the current law isn’t fit for purpose, if it isn’t robust enough to deal with these bigots, if we are continuing to spend vast sums of money on hundreds of riot police to make our cities and people safer, then it is time and incumbent on the Scottish Government to make sure it is.
And that time is now!
If the marches are perceived in any way to be sectarian and inflammatory, and present any risk of endangering the public, then the legal tools allowing banning orders for both the council and police should be at their disposal.
If parades and marches meet legal requirements and then fall foul of the law, then it should be a case of first strike and you’re out on your sectarian ear.
Enough is enough, it’s time the sectarian bigots were marched off our streets and the legal mechanisms were put in place allowing our councils to make sure they are.