Friday, March 18, 2005

St. Patrick and the Alliance Party

Brian Feeney on the biased Alliance Party:

There'll be a St Patrick's Day parade in Belfast today (Thursday). It will be different from almost anywhere else in the world because it will not have the blessing of the municipality in which it takes place. The north of Ireland is unique. Here unionists withhold finance, or in many towns make it too dangerous to exhibit any sign of Irishness.

Even in English cities, icons of unionist loyalty, it's a different story. Sunday saw the biggest parade in Britain from Hyde Park to Whitehall with bands from England and Ireland and contingents from the GAA and the Metropolitan Police. Daylight proceedings ended with a party in Trafalgar Square entertained by Ronnie Drew, Frances Black and the Saw Doctors, among others.

It's the fourth year of St Patrick's Day parades in London subsidised by the mayor's office.

Belfast's parade will cost its voluntary organisers more than £50,000. Belfast City Council will contribute nothing. Belfast's mayor will ignore it. True, most of Belfast also ignores him.

Usually you could say it's not his fault that Belfast City Council won't fund a St Patrick's Day parade. You could, if he wasn't a member of the totally unrepresentative Alliance party which used its tiny vote to allow the unionists to get their way.

The absurd pretext given for refusing money is that the parade is not 'inclusive'. Parade organisers over the years have bent over backwards trying to comply with this undefined, trumped-up requirement, including proposing slogans in Chinese and involving Indian performers. This year they even suggested a multi-coloured shamrock logo in case a green one offended unionists.

Yet these same unionists are happy to reward organisers of Eleventh night bonfires. Now those are really inclusive events.

After the funding refusal we had the spectacle of unionist councillors who are prominent Orangemen giving lectures about the need to be inclusive. Obviously membership of their sectarian secret society makes them experts in inclusivity. The unionists' hypocrisy was exposed by Billy Hutchinson, who voted to fund the parade to encourage the efforts of the organisers.

Still, such attitudes are par for the course from Belfast unionist councillors. The fact remains, however, that the parade was denied £30,000 only because of the actions of the Alliance party councillors. Why did they vote against funding? Do they really believe the pretext the unionists hide their bigotry behind? Or is the truth that the three Alliance councillors – yeah, three – delude themselves that if they deny funding to a Fenian-inspired parade some unionists in east Belfast will slip them a preference in the local government elections in May so they can save their political skins?

Their pathetic posturing reveals the true desperation in the party as it goes down the tubes. For years the front party for the British administration here, in the last election Alliance got all of 25,000 votes across the north. In other words, in the whole of the known universe, Alliance couldn't muster enough supporters to fill Casement Park. Yet they have the self-righteousness to deny funding to the biggest popular parade organised in Belfast. Then again self-righteousness has always been that party's defining feature. They always adopted a 'holier than thou' position on critical issues since they see the problem here as purely sectarian.

If only people would stop acting like Ketholicks and Protestants and behave like people in 'the rest of the UK' everything would be rosy – balderdash the NIO endorsed for years.

As a result, every quango was stuffed with nayce Alliance figures to nod through NIO policies in return for nayce monthly cheques. Better than nasty nationalists and unionists on quangos eh?

In council elections Alliance has always put its sectarian view of politics into practice, trying to ensure that a nayce Ketholick and a Protestant are running mates in the same district to pick up transfers from both sides in the openly sectarian belief that Ketholicks transfer to Ketholicks and Protestants to Protestants. They're in big trouble now, thank goodness, because they've run out of nayce Ketholicks. With any luck they'll run out of voters in May.

For those who don't know, the Alliance Party is the unionist party that will not admit that it is unionist.


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