Monday evening’s events at the Ardoyne shops will have come as little surprise to anyone who has followed what is termed ‘the marching season’ over the years. After all, it was a loyalist march in Derry in August 1969, following the murders and bomb attacks of previous years, that lit the fuse that was to explode the conflict that we are still trying to pull ourselves out of 35 years later.

Back then the RUC/B-Specials and the loyal orders raised two fingers to the people of Derry. On Monday evening the PSNI, the Orange Order, the bandsmen and loyalists hangers-on did exactly the same. It was as if nothing had changed.

Crowds of drunken loyalists, many carrying UDA banners, were forced past the Ardoyne shops by the PSNI who took a decision not to police the Parades Commission’s determination to ban the loyalist hangers-on from returning home on foot via the nationalist area.

Nationalists were outraged by the PSNI actions – but not in the least bit surprised. Once more the threat of loyalist violence during the marching season determined the actions of the PSNI – just like their RUC forerunners.

Last month the same thing happened on the Springfield Road after the Whiterock parade was banned by the Parades Commission from walking past Workman Avenue. Predictably, Unionists hinted at a threat of violence – not by them, of course, but by loyalist elements; unionist politicians joined forces with loyalist paramilitaries and the Orange Order in a parades forum. The Orange Order refused to speak to Springfield residents. And what happened?
The decision was overturned by the Parades Commission and the march went ahead.

This newspaper has been to the fore over the past month reporting how the Orange Order, bandsmen and their hangers-on consistently break Parades Commission determinations by carrying paramilitary flags and banners – and yet decisions constantly go their way.
And as happened on Monday evening – and again on Tuesday night in Lurgan – even when the Parades Commission comes down on the side of nationalist residents who have to put up with this disruption of their communities – the PSNI move in to facilitate the loyal orders.

Is it any wonder that over the past couple of days some members of the SDLP – who many would say signed up to the Policing Boards far too hastily – are intimating that the PSNI can not take their continued support for granted.

Monday’s action at Ardoyne is proof positive that there is very little difference between the PSNI and the RUC – other than a change of name, badge and uniform. The decision to force loyalists through a nationalist area came as second nature – it’s been happening long before the current state was founded through the threat of unionist violence. When weighing up the situation, who would they rather beat off the streets: nationalist residents who live in the area or drunken loyalists?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work that one out.

So where does this leave us?

Obviously, recent decisions have been taken with one eye on the resumption of talks in September – keeping the DUP sweet, as it were.

However, pursuing such a policy is to take nationalism for granted. Just as in the Springfield decision, nationalist residents are expected to take the moral high ground and hold a peaceful protest.

As a consequence, it’s understandable that many Ardoyne residents on Monday evening vented their fury at being walked over again by the bigots and by the state.

The lesson of this summer won’t be lost when negotiations resume in two months’ time.
However, one thing’s for sure: we have come a long way since August 1969 and don’t intend to walk back in time with the Orange Order and their ilk.

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