Across the world, St Patrick’s Day sees the Irish diaspora taking to the streets for parties, celebrations and parades in their respective cities. Everywhere that is, except for Glasgow.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Paisley Labour MP Jim Sheridan made headlines after he voiced his opposition to St Paddy’s day parades in the city, arguing that the Irish aren’t an ethnic minority and that facilitating such parades is “living in the past”.
It may be a surprise to Jim to hear that there was a St Patrick’s Day parade through Glasgow city centre today, yet there wasn’t a tricolour or oversized Guinness hat in sight. Rather, the parade was being held by extremist loyalist faction the Regimental Blues – and what’s more, it had been fully sanctioned by Labour-run Glasgow City Council. Incredibly, the march had been allowed to go ahead on the same afternoon as the Scottish League Cup final, with Celtic taking on Dundee United at Hampden, and passed several packed Celtic pubs on its route near the city’s Gallowgate.
With the Dennistoun Rangers Flute Band (yes that’s their real name) leading the march, around 60 supporters also tagged along as it made its way from loyalist enclave Bridgeton along London Road and High Street, culminating at George Square. There, a short ceremony was held at the Cenotaph, before it returned to the east end along Duke Street. A large section of the city was effectively shut down for the duration of the walk, with the police primarily concerned with chasing away anyone wearing green from near its route, an easier option than restraining anyone on the march itself.
The Regimental Blues are a self-proclaimed “pressure group campaigning for the Loyalist Community in Scotland”. They’ve long made it clear that they view any expression of Irish culture in Glasgow as tantamount to support for terrorist groups, which is ironic given how big fans of proscribed groups (i.e. the UVF) they are themselves. In 2013, their chairman Kris McGurk put his case to the council for why the Blues should be allowed to march up the Gallowgate – a street lined with Celtic pubs that has seen violent clashes over Orange marches in the past, saying:
There’s no point in dressing it up. It will cause tensions. But for them for the simple fact they support terrorists.
Unsurprisingly, their march didn’t get the go ahead on that particular occasion. Today, however, the Regimental Blues were allowed to all but march through the Gallowgate, with their route taking them both within earshot of it and right in front of several Celtic pubs near Glasgow Cross. That serious public disorder was avoided – today at least – is more thanks to good luck than any skilful planning on behalf of the council or police. Quite why they were also allowed to carry spiked, weapon-like flagpoles, which we believe to be illegal, remains unknown.
But beyond the public order issue, a simple question remains: why were a hundred bigots from the loyalist fringe allowed to march through a city centre to “celebrate” the national day of a country they despise? I’m sure they’ll justify by saying that the St Patrick’s cross is, after all, one of the component flags of their dearly held Union fleg, but their St Paddy’s banner from last year’s march, with its slightly sinister sign-off from “your friends at the Regimental Blues”, doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence when it comes to their intentions.
While the arrival of PEGIDA Scotland in Edinburgh next weekend will inevitably spark a media frenzy, much the same bigots marched through Glasgow today with the explicit intention of riling up the Irish community and there has barely been a murmur of dissent. For anyone doubting the links between these organisations, check out the charming James Campbell, who we believe works for the council, and his public social media posts below:
For a long time, the simplest thing for the authorities in Glasgow to do has been to allow bigots to march whenever they want – with Labour councillors even going so far as to cut secret deals with them ahead of elections. While the Orange Order continually invoke “tradition” to justify their marches, that line of argument doesn’t really fly with the Regimental Blues, who’ve only existed for a few years as a sort of EDL/Lodge mash-up, intent on standing up to the “onslaught and eradication of [loyalist] culture and ways of life”.
Marching down the Gallowgate is some kind of twisted Holy Grail for the Regimental Blues, with the presence of a few Celtic pubs and an Irish Republican shop seeming to them to be the greatest injustice in Glasgow and an affront to their culture. The next big event on their calendar is a mysterious “New Campaign Launch” on Saturday 4 April. Its mooted location? The Barras.
Deary me. Maybe when their football team stops being such a shambles they’ll have something else to believe in other than a futile crusade to wave a union fleg in front of Timland. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so tragic – and potentially dangerous.