Parade and counter-demonstrations in Belfast condemned

2 November 2008

The Communist Party of Ireland condemns the Ministry of Defence, the Unionists and the British government for encouraging the march of the Royal Irish Regiment through the streets of Belfast today. Whilst we recognise that families are relieved to have their relatives home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we also recognise that these wars are illegal and that all troops should be brought home. 
     In addition, the fragile peace process in the here is in danger. We believe that this parade has more to do with sectarian Unionists’ views than it has to do with support for the troops. As one young person noted recently, some of those who have served with the British army have sought help and advice because of the trauma that they have faced, but little or none was forthcoming. 
     On the other side of the coin, the Republicans are bound to see this as provocative and will relate to the role of the British army here. The whole event is complex and controversial, and the anti-war movement will be thin on the ground, thus leaving things wide open to sectarian forces. It will also reintroduce the question of the role of the paramilitaries during the last forty years. 
     Many young people will have less of a view of what it was like in the 1970s and 80s and will want a piece of the sectarianism action, which is still very rampant, and this event will threaten some of the positive actions that trade unions, community and women’s organisations have produced. 
     Since the ceasefires in 1994 we have been going through a period of reconstruction, moving from the conspiracy politics of the elite to more open politics. The trade union movement should call for calm and support for workers’ unity against the forces of bigotry. 
     “Support the troops: bring them home now” is the slogan that has been taken up by anti-war protesters in America and Britain. It is a slogan that may be hard for some to adopt but it is one that we should push. Rev. David Latimer, a British army chaplain who has just returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, spoke out against the planned homecoming parade for the soldiers. He said that “to bring the troops out into the streets in uniform I think is premature in Northern Ireland, because memories are still very real, and wounds are still very raw.” 
     The march is inappropriate. It is more about confrontational politics, and the anti-march protests are not far removed from this either.