Return to Recent Articles menu

Anti-internment march ban: back to square one
4 August 20126

In 2016, almost 50 years after the first civil rights protest and almost two decades after the Good Friday Agreement, an anti-internment demonstration had been banned from Belfast city centre. As with many hundreds of attempts in the past, the state forces will form a line of steel at the edge of the Catholic ghetto to suppress the right to demonstrate.
The decision has been made by the Parades Commission, a quango operating above any formal law and charged with enforcing British policy while acting as a foil to shield the police and government.
Their determination is, quite frankly, a tissue of lies based on limited violence last year that was not linked to the anti-internment march and was provoked by the Commission and the police themselves. It also stands in sharp contrast to routine violence and shameless sectarian incitement by loyalist paramilitaries that is ignored by the authorities.
But the most significant aspect of the situation was the Commission statement;
'The Commission has always recognised the city centre as a neutral space that should be accessible for all and therefore this decision has not been taken lightly”
So a basic demand of the civil rights movement – for freedom of expression, for the right to assemble and protest, does not exist. Areas are divided into Orange, Green and neutral and the British adjudicate sectarian privilege.
Why ban the demonstration? In part it is linked to a hidden struggle to suppress the remaining republican groups by both surveillance, military and political action. However the main task of the commission is to put Orangeism to sleep with a mixture of bribes and concessions. A deal on Ardoyne marches is almost in place but the loyalist groups need reassured that the croppies will be kept in their place. The evidence of a deal lies in the fact that no counter demonstration was filed. The loyalists knew before the parade organisers that the march would be banned. The Parades Commission can act with assurance because Sinn Fein has, with crocodile tears, supported the action of the Commission and demanded that the marchers accept the ruling. 
The problem is that most people think that making concessions to loyalism is a price worth paying. We have to convince them that there is no such thing as a harmless sectarianism. If we leave this sectarian state in place the shocks of the Fresh Start austerity programme and of Brexit will fan the flames of sectarian hatred, discrimination and intimidation.
Our aim should not be so poor as to stop with the Parades Commission, the police and the state. We must target the many in the trade unions, political parties, communities and civic society who stand on the sidelines and we must also resolutely oppose the forces, including the whole of the Irish capitalist class, who support the sectarian carve-up of society.
That can only be done through a broad and inclusive movement that will offer an overall criticism of the Good Friday deal and spell out a genuine alternative.
While Socialist Democracy believes that the only alternative to the current failed settlement is a Workers Republic, we are anxious to join with democrats and socialists to oppose injustice today. 

Return to top of page