Throughout this week there have been a number of reports of sectarian behaviour in the centre of Belfast by Irish nationalists 'celebrating' St Patrick's Day. Most have come from Protestants who were in the city centre and were offended by what they saw and heard. There are also photographs of a large crowd of nationalists gathered at Arthur Square and I understand that the PSNI had to deal with trouble at that location.
There is another report on what happened but this one is rather different in that it came from someone who was down to watch the parade because his child was participating in it. He is a Scot who lives in Belfast, a keen advocate for the Irish language, and the author of a blog entitled The Blether Region, from which the following is taken:
The Blether Region attended two Saint Patrick's Day events in Belfast yesterday, the parade itself, and an Irish-language service at Saint George's in High Street.
The News Letter ... has a report of 'drunken and sectarian behaviour' that relies heavily on the uncorroborated evidence of a single shopper.
Although the story in question might not give a particularly rounded picture of what was a long day (the shops didn't open until the parade was over, after all), there is relatively little doubt that it represents the true experience of the person interviewed.
Remaining in lock-step with that part of the parade in which Junior was participating, the Blether Region found itself keeping company with a group of young people draped in tricolours, drinking from beer cans and shouting 'F... the PSNI'. Whether that behaviour meets the dictionary definition of 'sectarian' is open to debate, but readers will, one hopes, agree that it was boorish, juvenile and offensive - not to mention cowardly, taking advantage as it did of the cover of a crowd in which few would have been up for cross-community fisticuffs.
Perhaps the most depressing thing about the incident was the fact that the offenders were noticeably middle-class, probably students of some kind ...
That is a very clear and independent confirmation of the way that some nationalist youths behaved in the centre of Belfast during the parade. What does chanting vulgar slogans about the PSNI have to do with St Patrick? What does a tricolour with IRA written on it have to do with St Patrick? Is it any wonder that Protestants tend to avoid the parade?