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Belfast Anti Interment march: Choreography of collusion

Choreography (n) A series of dance steps. (Irish peace process) A secret agreement, implemented by a fixed series of statements and actions.

The word choreography was widely used to describe to describe the retreats and betrayals by Sinn Fein as they accommodated to renewed partition. It has faded from use as the North arrived at the current unstable political equilibrium.

Now we have a new betrayal, a new choreography.

The sequence rolled out as follows:

The anti-internment league announce their annual march through Belfast. The former organiser has been charged following a republican Easter speech and is banned from any political activity.

Sinn Fein move their annual Ballymurphy massacre march so that the timing conflicts with the AIL march.

The Parades Commission put timing restrictions on the AIL that are impossible to meet, while allowing three counter-demonstrations organised by Loyalist paramilitaries to take control of the city centre.

Police stop the AIL march as it leaves Ardoyne. After speeches the march disperses peacefully.

The BBC announce the police action and note that over 50 officers were injured on a previous demonstration - only locals realize that it was the loyalists, celebrating their triumph in the city centre, who had attacked the police.

Police deploy water cannon, invade the area, make arrests, in response to a limited amount of violence sparked off by their presence.

Sinn Fein leader Martin McGuinness immediately condemns the violence, which he lays at the door of the AIL march organisers. His remarks are echoed other Sinn Fein grandees, by the Catholic church, the British secretary of state and the unionists and loyalists.

The outcome of the choreography is that Sinn Fein support for the sectarian state in the North is extended. Where before they condemned physical force by republicans, now they denounce political action. Belfast city centre is effectively closed to republican demonstrations - a keynote feature of the previous sectarian state.


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