Letter: Fears that haunt the Orangemen

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The Independent Online
Sir: What celebrations of cultural identity take place where the local residents have to be batoned off the streets and then penned in their homes by riot police? Is this how the Notting Hill Carnival traditionally begins, or your local Armistice Day parade? The Orange Order marches in Northern Ireland are celebrations not of Protestant cultural heritage but of sectarian triumphalism.

The Portadown march has made it plain to every Ulster Catholic that when push comes to shove, the forces of law and order cannot be relied upon to act impartially, but are liable to act in concert with the forces of loyalist bigotry.

Who then can they look to for protection of their lives and homes but the IRA?

Mo Mowlam's decision also has a huge bearing on the forlorn peace process and arms decommissioning. Sinn Fein/IRA should say that there can be no decommissioning until such provocative marches stop going through Catholic areas, and the police and Army can prove that they will stand up to Unionist intimidation by protecting Catholic residents.

As someone who grew up in the Ulster Protestant tradition, I express my solidarity with the residents of Garvaghy Road. I have far more in common with them than with the Orangemen who have hijacked my culture and claim to speak in my name.

LAURIE McDOWELL

London N2

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