A little bonus for NSFW Corp subscribers. I don't normally do this, but this will run elsewhere early next week.
JASON WALSH, BELFAST, JUL 13, 2013 There were more riots in Northern Ireland this weekend, with loyalists attacking police in an attempt to force a march where it wasn't wanted. This nonsense will never end – thanks to the mechanics of the peace process.
In the interests of not boring you senseless, I'll try and spare you the Irish history lessons and get straight to the point: on Friday July 12 a pro-British Orange Order parade was banned by the Parades Commission, a local quango that licences political demonstrations (yes, really, that is what it does), from passing through the republican Ardoyne district of Belfast.
There is no doubt that Orange Order brought-on the violence and must answer for it. The organisation, having been banned from parading, invited not just the three lodges that usually parade through the district, but anyone else who wanted to to come along and make their feelings known.
This they did in spades. Loyalists clashed with police, attacking them with bricks, bottles, ceremonial swords and, eventually, petrol bombs. Police retaliated with plastic bullets and water canon. One unionist MP, Nigel Dodds, who arrived on the scene to complain about the Parades Commission was knocked unconscious and hopsitalised by a brick thrown by a loyalist protestor. A senior Orangeman was also injured.
The idea of the Parades Commission is to relive tensions between unionists and republicans in contested areas. On the surface this seems fair enough – few reasonable people like riots and Belfast is still a divided city – but actually it's not.
All of the academic blather about 'contested spaces' and political gubbins about a 'shared future' cannot disguise the fact that the Irish conflict has now been fully transformed into a struggle of identity politics.
There is also no doubt that the Parades' Commission is undemocratic and opposed to rights. I fully accept that republican residents don't like the Orangemen marching through their areas; I didn't like it either when I lived there, but isn't putting-up with things you don't like the price of living in a free society? If every demonstration or gathering that offended people was banned then there would be no demonstrations or gatherings at all.
At this risk of being accused of supporting those who want to resume the war – I really don't – the fact is that conflicts are zero-sum. In order to end, someone has to win, and if someone wins, someone else has to lose. In Northern Ireland, no-one won and no-one lost; that's how the peace process was engineered.
For the record, the idea that the alternative to the top-down peace process which nurtures grievance and division through supporting communitarian politics, complete with great wads of cash for a cast of dubious characters, is false. Call the local protagonists in the conflict, loyalist and republican, whatever you want – terrorists, paramilitaries, freedom fighters; it makes no difference – the fact is that armed groups cannot wage a guerrilla war without the at least tacit support of large sections of the population. The end of the conflict didn't come about because the British and Irish Prime Ministers knocked thick Ulster heads together, it happened because the people of Northern Ireland were exhausted. 30 years of war will do that to you. The fact that the loyalist flag protestors and various zombie IRA micogroups resemble the Keystone Kops more than their forebears is an indication that what support there is for violence is patchy and extremely localised.
Following the weekend's debacle, the Orange Order for its part has warned, correctly, of a culture war going on.
Edward Stevenson , Grand Master – seriously – of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland complained: "Republicans are engaging in a cultural war to erode all symbols of Britishness."
True enough, but Orange complaints about culture wars would be easier to take seriously if they weren't engaged in it themselves. What is the point of a marching organisation if not to play at culture wars? Besides, transforming the shooting war into a culture war was the inevitable outcome of the peace process.
The future? Ah sure, it'll be grand… ENDS Jason Walsh is a reporter based in Ireland