Events in recent times – such as the decision to let Gerry Kelly off with an informed warning for clinging to the front of a police Land Rover and then issue the same warning to the driver of the vehicle – have seriously damaged unionist confidence in the PSNI. The decision of the PSNI to take part in the New York St Patrick’s Day parade will have done nothing to improve the situation.
On Monday TUV highlighted the official guidelines for participants in the parade.
Rule one stated:
“All units must have two (2) flags. Irish and American flags or no flags at all. NO EXCEPTIONS!! An American flag on the right and an Irish flag on the left”.
Rule four stated:
“The only banners allowed are ones identifying the unit or “England Get out of Ireland”. Only one identifying banner for each unit. NO EXCEPTIONS!!”
The dismissive response of the PSNI reported in Tuesday’s Belfast Telegraph in which they simply referred the paper to statement issued some time ago which said they were “delighted” to be taking part added insult to injury.
The message to unionists was clear – we will enforce the rulings of the Parades Commission which ban Orange parades in Northern Ireland but we are “delighted” to march under the tricolour and behind an “England Get out of Ireland” banner in New York.
It’s hard to imagine something more insensitive or, indeed, foolish.
Many unionists will see the banners as an attack on their right to live in Northern Ireland as they more than suggest that the island of Ireland is only for those who see themselves as Irish – an ironic sentiment given that those displaying the banners live in a country where the native American population was driven from their land by, among others, Irish American immigrants.
Hundreds of police officers from Northern Ireland were murdered by those who championed the racist “Brits out” message displayed in the New York parade. It was outrageous that PSNI officers took part and the Chief Constable should immediately apologise for the gross offense caused.
The PSNI need to wake up and start thinking about the concerns and sensitivities of the unionists community. Failure to do so will only result in a growing disconnect between the police and unionism.