Twelfth Riots: Unionists still don’t understand the Rule of Law

As we saw six months ago, again we have Unionist protesters pledging loyalty to Her Majesty by ignoring her laws and Unionist politicians doing nothing to stop them.

I was struck by footage of one riot situation in which protesters were heard singing the National Anthem. I wonder if they were aware of the second verse as commonly sung, which contains the line: “May she defend our laws” – that everyone, even the Monarch, is subject to the laws of the land is a fundamental feature of Britishness stretching back centuries.

The irony of people breaking her laws in support of people who would rather ignore them should not be lost on anyone claiming to be “loyal” and “British”.

One protester was interviewed, asking what “right” the Parades Commission had to determine as “no one elected them“. Ahem, but someone did elect the Government of the United Kingdom (the same United Kingdom to which that protester presumably claims “loyalty”) which appoints the Parades Commission (effectively to act impartially on its behalf) on the basis of a Law passed by elected MPs in the United Kingdom’s Parliament (a Law signed by the Queen, of course).

The irony of people claiming to be “loyal” to the Queen while ignoring and indeed breaching Laws she signed should not be lost either, of course.

Again, the basic problem is the notion, inherent within too much of what passes for “culture” in Northern Ireland, that abiding by the Law is something you can opt out of if you happen to disagree with that law. It isn’t. Absolutely fundamental to any democratic society is acceptance of the Law, even of the aspects of it with which you disagree; where you disagree, you campaign politically (including at elections) to change that law, but you have no right to ignore it.

Who is going to stand up and explain this?


16 thoughts on “Twelfth Riots: Unionists still don’t understand the Rule of Law

  1. Lord Nelson says:

    Agree with alot of what you’re saying Ian – but you maybe make it unnecessarily provocative by saying “unionists don’t understand the rule of law”.

    Would it not be more accurate to say “loyalists don’t understand the rule of law”?

    The mob in North Belfast don’t speak for the majority of unionists.

    • You probably make a fair point, but then spoil it by the suggestion Loyalists can all be tarred with that brush!

      The fact remains that both main Unionist parties cannot come out and accept the Rule of Law absolutely applies, and that calling for protests at that specific location will inevitably lead to law breaking.

  2. Stephen says:

    Your an idiot if you are claiming to not understand the issue here. Trying to mark this up as simple law-breaking just highlights that you really haven’t got a clue.

  3. Stephen says:

    What does attacking the police do to help nationalists…… Oh aye, gets them whatever they demand, and gets the goverment to forget about its moral obligation to promote / protect tolerance (so long as it doesn’t cost too much to protect) :-/

    Yes it’s breaking the law, but it’s not breaking the law just for the sake of breaking the law. It’s a form of protest against discrimination and intolerance. It seems though that violence and law breaking is only useful when it is used in an effort to promote discrimination and intolerance, as per gun-men attacking psni last year.

    Maybe if loyalists shot a few people the parades commission would take their concerns more seriously….. Positive reinforcement an all that like.

    • Lord Nelson says:

      Stephen makes an interesting point – maybe in a perverse way unionists/loyalists/march enthusiasts/the mob [insert correct descriptive phrase here] DO actually understand the rule of law – in the sense that if you disobey it the Parades Commission will bestow reward upon you.

      Its the aspect of this embroglio that nationalists/republicans/march sceptics [insert correct descriptive phrase here] have been unable to effectively counter – the Parades Commission DID effectively reward republican ‘demonstrators’ for trying to shoot a policeman last year.

      • and the OO got their march by threatening violence – the residents perhaps learned that last year

      • I actually agree that the Parades Commission was illogical.

        Nevertheless, the place to argue that was in a democratic chamber (as happened) and through the Haass process (now on-going). That would have shown an understanding of the Rule of Law (and isolated those who refuse to apply it).

        By behaving as they did, the broad Loyalist/Orange side has put itself on the back foot and made itself out to be just as bad as any “dissident Republican”, instead of putting those intolerant of their culture on the back foot. This, legally and politically, is lunacy.

  4. Stephen says:

    The law is fluid, it changes for the betterment of a country. The last ten years of parades have taught the PLU community that violence,disruption and threat can influence the law.

    Republicans create mayhem = law pandering to republicans
    Unionism abides by an ever more discriminatory law = law moving to farther discriminate against them.

    It’s not right, but it will continue to happen until the country is governed by a strong government with a backbone to stand up for what is right, rather than what will cause the least chaos. Something which is impossible with the current set-up in Stormont

    • I don’t like this Government any more than you do, and am highly frustrated by its complete failings even to start the basic process of tackling poverty and so on.

      That gives me the right to seek to change it by campaigning and standing for election to change policy. It doesn’t give me the right to take a truncheon to a police officer or a brick to an MP. In fact, that latter course of action would rule me out of any serious long-term role in changing society, including its laws, for the better.

      What frustrates me particularly is there are lots of people who fundamentally agree with much of what the PUP and even some Orangemen say, but are then barred from making common cause with them because they encourage or at least attempt to legitimise damaging, anti-social and illegal behaviour.

      In a country where we are all minorities, “ourselves alone” makes no sense.

      • Stephen says:

        You do,realise that the biggest influence in Northern Irih governance has been the ira. The second biggest influence has been popular violent protest. Stand for election all you want but you’ll never have as much influence as a couple of hundred teenagers with petrol bombs, commanded by a few figures in the shadows.

        Very very sad, but in today’s society where morals count for nothing, and economy is king, this is the way it will continue. I remember a day when we didn’t negotiate with terrorists. Now the terrorists are dressed up as (bused in) concerned residents, the ransom is parade determinations and the puppets/negotiators are the PC.

        Until government changes into an organisation of leadership and management, it is becoming clearer and clearer that the way to influence society is through disruption and violence. There is a clear adgenda by the PC puppet masters to end all parades near areas that intolerant republicans don’t want them. Republicans have realised this and are furiously creating new flash points, and Unionists have realised this have tried every trick in the book to promote tolerance of Protestantism and change the tide. They’re all out of tricks and all that’s left is passion for a cause, anger and frustration. We all know where that leads.

        Instead of being critical of the OO, why don’t you meet with them and try to gain an understanding of their mindset. Realise that these well educated people aren’t protesting because they’re mindless criminals.

  5. Jeremy says:

    Without condoning anything here or arguing for or against any ‘side’ as such, surely it is a fact that the ‘law/s’ of any land are fluid by nature, continually changing, evolving if I may use that term, whether for the better or worse, usually worse in my opinion, but that another subject.

    What people deem to be the ‘proper’ democratic process to have laws changed is though the whole parliamentary system as you state. But history has indeed shown that by protest, both legal, and illegal, pressure can be brought to bear to have laws changed, this has been true, I suppose, since the beginning of any sort of government democratic or otherwise, and has indeed been seen to be very effective in Northern Ireland in times past.

    Personally I would respectfully reject the statements about unionists/Loyalists not understanding the rule if law or being in contradiction with themselves (my words I know, forgive me, but roughly speaking what you are in effect saying). On many occasions throughout history, people fiercely loyal to their country have opposed the ruling authority for what they perceive to be for the benefit of their country, we have seen much evidence of this over the last few decades, many of these examples have been welcomed and even supported by our government/s. That being the case any supporter of our government/s etc who then criticise anyone who takes similar actions are actually the ones being contradictory to themselves. Those whom you term Unionists understand the rule of law as well as anyone else, and some choose to oppose it in the way they deem appropriate, whether we agree or not with their argument or reasoning, it is something which is not as simple as it seems to condemn as being illogical, contradictory or otherwise.

    The problem is simply that there is no ‘absolute’ in government, it is not a case of what is right and what is wrong, it is a case of what is deemed right and wrong will be decided by what suits best at that time. And what suits one doesn’t suit another and so on, and because of this, disputes, protests of both kinds will continue and continue and continue.

    Just a few thoughts of mine on this post.

    • The laws of the land are not fluid.

      They are clear.

      They may be changed by legislators – ie in our case by Parliament or the Assembly.

      Whatever Parliament or the Assembly decide, we are bound to abide by. In return, we elect the members. That’s how it works.

      The laws in this case could not be clearer. Parades Commission determinations are legally binding. Physical violence is illegal (with very minor exceptions). If people don’t like that, elect different people to the Assembly and to Parliament and/or engage with them to change the law.

      But the law at any given time or place is clear. By suggesting it is legitimate to try to breach Parades Commission determinations, Unionists are advicating breaking the law. Them’s the facts.

  6. Stephen,

    We’re closer to agreement than we were at the start, but your last line sums up the Order’s and Loyalism’s problem… why don’t *I* meet with *them*?!

    I’m not the one bothered about parades. It is this typical but frankly ludicrous attitude that *others* should be doing things for the Orange and Loyalism which is the crux of the Order’s (and Loyalism’s) problem! Parading and Loyalism are minority pursuits, why would I or anyone else take time out of my day to meet them?! I’m not the one breaking the law.

    I am but a citizen. Even in that role I do plenty of engagement – in skills, film production, Ulster Scots, local enterprise and so on – entirely voluntarily.

    It is for the Orange and for Loyalism to go and meet others if they want to improve their lot. They must stop hanging around as if everyone else owes them something.

    Quite frankly, the rest of us are busy:

  7. Clare says:

    The basic problem as I said on this blog before is that the Orange Order has been used to getting its way.
    As someone said about gay marriage on question time recently. America has a black President, the most prolific rapper is white, and a Conservative Prime Minister is forcing gay marriage through parliament.
    The point I am making is that the world has moved on and the Orange Order still thinks it can walk where it likes as if Lord Brookeborough is still on the throne.
    It’s not about intolerance or discrimination Stephen it’s about respect and accepting that in a divided society compromise is essential and walking where you like isn’t.
    Am I seeing tolerance and respect from the Order and the people who parade?
    In a word No.
    The police service has moved on in its equal treatment of everyone but still the Order is stuck in 1690.

  8. other paul says:

    I’m not sure that the Queen can be prosecuted (I think this came out from the Paul Burrell trial and on googling I found this And I sort of agree with Lord Nelson in that the title is too simplistic/provocative, although I don’t recognise any distinction between loyalists and unionists. I do agree with much of your post.
    And as far as the Parades commission ruling being “illogical” I’m currently unaware of the decision making criteria behind a contentious parade being allowed/denied, and I’m not sure that many people do (it would have been in the papers/internet being picked apart if it were so), so stating that it was illogical seems a bit of a oxymoron to me.
    From my perspective (lapsed nationalist) and having said that I don’t understand the decision-making process, I thought that their decision last week represented a common sense compromise (allowed access once, denied access once).

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