Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Loyalists' Santa suits fool nobody

Loyalist protest at Belfast City Hall, November 30, 2013
Loyalist protest at Belfast City Hall, November 30, 2013

The best that can be said of the Loyalist march on Saturday is that it passed off relatively peacefully. Nevertheless there were a number of incidents, and two PSNI members were injured. These are two injuries too many in a police force that faces so many other challenges, not least those from the dissidents who seek every excuse to disrupt life in this province.

Some of Saturday's marchers wore Santa outfits in an attempt to bring a seasonal dimension to the parade, but the real significance of this demonstration was the fear it caused among potential shoppers, and further misery to the traders.

The vast majority of people believe that even one parade, based on such vague and unobtainable objectives, is more than enough for this busy season. However, it is depressing to learn that another parade is planned for tomorrow to mark the anniversary of the origin of the ever-festering union flag dispute.

Not only that, but there is a possibility of more Saturday parades, right through the festive season, and perhaps beyond that.

Clearly, these pose a continued threat to the business life in this city, at a time when everyone should be joining the Backing Belfast Campaign, and not taking actions which are bound to have a disruptive effect.

In a democracy, people have a right to protest in a peaceful manner, and to remain within the law – which Saturday's marchers failed to do technically, by starting off late, and apparently deliberately so. There comes a time, however, when people have made their point, and there is no necessity for continuing to hold others to ransom by repeating tired slogans.

Many people have asked the protesters repeatedly to think again about the disruption they are causing to the commercial life of the city, at a time when its citizens and visitors only want to shop peacefully in a non-threatening atmosphere. The longer these kinds of protests continue, the more they will damage the cause they claim to support. Surely it is time for the organisers of these unnecessary marches to realise they are impressing nobody, and winning no friends.

In the meantime, the best ordinary people can do is to continue coming to the city centre to shop and to share in what should be one of the friendliest and happiest times of the year.

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