Letter: Ireland will not be bullied into silence

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Sir: The events of 12 July 1996 have placed the future of Northern Ireland in critical jeopardy. As a native of that country, I am appalled by both the actions of "loyalists" and the abject surrender of the British government in the face of intimidation and violence.

In scenes reminiscent of Mussolini's march on Rome, loyalists have been permitted to stage triumphal pageants through Catholic areas while the police protected them. Fascism also achieved its ends by intimidating the authorities with mass rallies and violence.

Most people outside Northern Ireland are unaware what an Orange parade is. They see images of peculiar costumes and banners, quaint if faintly absurd, and register a vague connection to entrenched tribalism. As "the Twelfth" went ahead this year, I even heard a radio reporter speak of "traditional parades", showing "no visible signs of triumphalism". Of course, "tradition" gives a dubious air of respectability. But an Orange march without triumphalism is like a forest without trees.

The peace process is in ruins, nationalists more alienated than ever, and a much needed recovery for the economy destroyed by blazing cars and road docks And why? Because the powers of state were too cowardly to call bluff? Or merely because the present government's term of office is almost entirely decided by Unionist support?

Loyalism is doomed. They refuse to get their heads round the fact that most British people are sick of them. They burn their own shops and community centres in futile rage. Like the unstable child of a dysfunctional family, they throw tantrums. So why is the "parent" in Westminster appeasing an unreasonable demand? And why is the "child" unable to grow up and mix with its neighbours?

KEVIN McGIMPSEY

Bristol

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