What a difference three weeks makes. Three weeks ago, we experienced an aggressive, unpleasant bonfire and parading weekend where parades supporters injured public servants and forced people out of their homes, while parades opponents attacked community centres and openly threatened violence if they did not get their way. Yet this weekend, a thoroughly fun and inclusive feast of social liberalism known as “Pride” came to an end – and, far from coming under attack, public servants were even able to decorate one of their vehicles in the colours of the festival. From Belfast at its worst to Belfast at its best within a month.
That is not to say that everything about Loyalist parades is wrong (many, indeed most, are a musical and artistic delight, particularly in rural areas); and it is not to say that everything about Pride is right (it has become alarmingly party-political, for a start). However, a visitor to Belfast would not have missed to aggression in the air three weeks ago; yet they would have felt utterly welcome this past weekend.
All is far from lost for Loyalism, however, because on the day of the Pride Parade I caught just one tweet which offers real hope for the future – the author is apparently a member of the PUP:
“Important that we dispel the myth that a non-Loyalist event is by default an anti-Loyalist one. We should end any remaining self-isolation“.
Yes, yes, and thrice yes! Give that man a leadership role in Loyalism, and Northern Ireland will become a far better place – not least for Loyalists.