Dublin unionist march turns violent

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Protesters tossing a metal barricade.

A Unionist march in central Dublin, Ireland turned violent after republican protesters tried to disrupt the parade. So far, several Garda Síochána police officers and a journalist have been injured. Due to the violence, the march has been called off.

Hundreds of republican protesters turned out to oppose the "Love Ulster" march organized by the victim's group Fair. Democratic Unionist and Ulster Unionist politicians were planning to take part in the march. The march was to highlight the deaths of Protestants in Northern Ireland by Irish nationalists. A delegation was also to meet the Justice Minister, Michael McDowell, after the march.

A counter-protest was organised by Republican Sinn Fein, a political party that is believed to be linked to the Continuity Irish Republican Army and which split away from Sinn Fein in the 1980s, just as the Continuity IRA split away from the Provisional IRA. Sinn Fein stated they had no involvement in the violence. Counterprotesters threw bottles, fireworks and many different objects at riot police.

However, an on-looker stated "They have no right to be coming down here and rubbing our noses in it." He added that many Catholics also suffered during the conflict known as the The Troubles. Kelly Ann Moore, 20, a republican protester said "Loyalist protesters knew what was going to happen if they tried to do this. They were trying to provoke this violence." The Troubles is an ongoing conflict that stems from the partition of Ireland in the 1920s into two entities, the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland. The Irish Free State eventually became the Republic of Ireland, an independent nation, while Northern Ireland became a constituent part of the United Kingdom. The conflict is split into two camps, the nationalists or republicans which advocate a united, single Ireland and the unionists or loyalists which advocate a continued union with the United Kingdom. The conflict also boils down into religious divides as unionists are generally Protestant and nationalists are usually Catholic.

Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern condemned the violence and stated "There is no excuse for it and that it is the essence of Irish democracy and republicanism that people are allowed express their views freely and in a peaceful manner."

Other politicians condemned the violence too. Sean Crowe, Sinn Fein TD for Dublin South West said the rioting was "disgraceful" but included that the unionist rally had been "provocative".

Alban Maginness of the Social Democratic & Labour Party stated "It is disturbing that marchers have been prevented from peaceful demonstration. This action of extreme republicans simply plays into hands of those of the unionist right who cannot conceive unionist rights being upheld in a new Ireland."