Irish community parades in Liverpool: Destroying the myth of sectarianism
15/10/2012 20 Comments
I enjoyed another day out on Saturday just gone when members of the Irish community honoured the memory of the approx 200 volunteers from the Merseyside area, many of them Liverpool Irish, who joined the International Brigades to fight fascism in the Spanish Civil War. A good crowd of up 500 people together with Republican Flute Bands from Liverpool, Scotland and Wales ensured that the event successfully made its way through Liverpool City Centre and remembered with dignity and pride the sacrifices made by those volunteers so long ago. They inspire us to this day and remind us of the continued need to fight against intolerance and fascists politics.
As what now seems to be customary, the event drew out the combined efforts of both paramilitary fascists (National Front, Combined Ex-Forces and Infidels of Britain) and members of Liverpool’s Orange/Loyalist community. Although smaller in numbers, the fascists/loyalists were happy again to challenge marchers with racist and sectarian abuse, sing sectarian songs and behave like like characters off the Jeremy Kyle Show! They really do have no shame….in fact they are quite shameless and an embarrassment to this great city and its people.
- But more seriously, Saturday’s events highlight the cementing of relationships between fascists nationally and local Liverpool Orange/Loyalists. This year has seen CXF regularly attend loyalist band parades, and Orange and Apprentice Boys parades in the city, with CXF proudly boasting this through social media. This is clearly an attempt by the far Right to broaden its support base and quite naturally, the bigots of English Loyalism and Orangeism with their historical racist hatred of Irish Catholics, Irish nationalism and republicanism is a fertile place to propagate their fascist views and gain support. The fascists have been quite clever in gaining support by classing every Irish community street event in Liverpool this year as being ‘IRA Marches’ and of course Loyalists/Orange Order have taken it hook, line and sinker. Fascists, while acknowledging their limited leadership skills, have found it easy to pull the strings of local loyalists into swelling their numbers on Liverpool protests against Irish community events in Liverpool. Both the July March Against Fascism and last Saturdays events saw the majority of those opposing the march coming from Liverpool’s loyalist/Orange community. The far right have had precious little to campaign about in Liverpool for several years, failed in local electioneering and the idea of demonising Irish community events as somehow being associated with the now defunct IRA has proved an easy way of making links and networking with potential recruits. In the end these fascists are attacking everything they perceive to be ‘unBritish’ and as the Irish community would largely not describe itself in terms of ‘Britishness’ we are an obvious target, despite the relatively peaceful environment that Irish community parades experienced in Liverpool since the late 1990’s.
From what I’ve ever experienced of Irish community parades in Liverpool, they have neither been sectarian or racist in nature. In fact, any Irish parades I’ve ever witnessed have either been of a cultural nature (St Patrick’s Day etc) or Commemorative/campaigning. For instance Irish flute bands in Liverpool over the years have the led the Striking Dockers march in Liverpool 1997, annually led the Merseyside May Day March, countless marches supporting Irish Unity, remembering the Irish Hunger Strikers of 1981, or supporting anti racist (Anthony Walker March) and antifascists demonstrations. Of course, Irish flute bands have been to the fore over the last 15 years in ensuring the legacy of James Larkin, Liverpool Irish Trade Unionist, is remembered to this day. So it would seem ironic that given the dedication of members of the Irish community in supporting all progressive events in Liverpool over the years and Irish community street presence being the focus of attempted attacks by racists and fascists, I am now embarrased to say, that sections of the broader Labour/Left in Liverpool are hinting that the actual victims of racist and fascist abuse are somehow to blame for their own predicament? No you heard it right, the Labour/Left is not expressing concern about a minority community in this city that has been targeted for racist and sectarian abuse by fascists and the loyalist/Orange community, but instead blaming the presence of peaceful and legal Irish community parades/marches for stoking up sectarianism and the old ‘orange vs green’ battle. I’m flabbergasted to say the least and I’m sure you are too.
But this is not new to us as members of the Irish community in Liverpool. A section of the Liverpool Labour Movement has always had protestant/orange roots that it never really managed to shake off, for example, exemplified by Liverpool Militant during the 1980’s which would avoid discussing the ‘Irish Question’ for fear of alienating some its supporters and activists and more surprisingly, the actor Ricky Tomlinson often seen as being left wing, is a prime example of one coming from a Protestant/Orange working class background who always supported Loyalism/Ulster Unionism and remains so to this day. I really do feel embarrassed for having to highlight this whispers and information that I am now hearing and that has been confirmed to me by emails.
In simple terms, those in the labour/left in Liverpool involved in this way of thinking should really be ashamed of themselves. They really do need to be outed for what they are i.e bedfellows of fascists and racists by default, and by not showing support for members of the Irish community who have been the victims of fascists and loyalists they can neither call themselves anti-racists or antifascists. It is quite clear as I’ve outlined above that the experience of Irish community parades/marches has been one of racist attacks by fascists and members of the Loyalist/Orange community and not sectarian. How clear does this need to be stated? Historically, James Connolly, James Larkin and other great leaders of the Irish Labour Movement have been exasperated by the failure of the British Labour Movement to properly support Ireland. Sadly, today it seems that the Irish community in Liverpool can expect the same lack of support and that the British Labour Movement is well and truly integrated with the British State and its institutions.