Ulster Practices in London

I was born and brought up a Protestant, although my own parents were considerably more open-minded than some and probably regarded Catholics  as misguided rather than as the evil followers of the Antichrist; they even knew and talked to some, though sensibly kept quiet about this.

It wasn’t in Northern Ireland, and my parents had chosen not to worship at the church where  the rest of my father’s family went, occasionally visited by and spiritually if not physically in the see of the The Rt Honourable The Rev’d Ian Paisley.

Later in my seven years in Manchester I often attended a Presbyterian church, eventually learning to cut through the preacher’s powerfully Northern Irish accent to find his views were considered and moderate.  Because of this background more than most English I feel a understanding of groups such as the Apprentice Boys of Derry, even though I don’t share their views.

Protestant marches in Ulster are a way of displaying tribal loyalty and showing a cultural defiance, a clear display both of cultural difference and of superiority. Often they have acted as a catalyst for violence between the communities, stirring up hatred that has lead to killings and maimings by both ‘Catholic’ and ‘Protestant’ terror groups.

In London, they are just celebrating a culture and I can’t imagine anyone on our streets feeling in the least intimidated or upset by their marches.  They are,  as one man put it to me – “having a fine day out and enjoying ourselves.”  But this very large man wearing dark glasses did rather spoil the effect by attempting to prevent me taking pictures and to intimidate me, pushing me backwards through the crowd and telling me very firmly to leave the area.

I don’t have a problem with people marching in my city, but I do object to being threatened and intimidated on its streets. This man attempted to justify his  unacceptable behaviour by saying that someone had told him that I was a photographer who worked for a left-wing newspaper. Unfortunately it’s untrue (I could do with the money, though left-wing publications seldom have any.) But even if I were, it would be no excuse for his attitude and his assault.

I asked him who had told him this nonsense, but he wouldn’t say – probably it was a story he had made up. The only people I recognised at the event apart from other photographers (including one who does work for a left-wing publication) were several police officers including the FIT team who have photographed me on so many occasions – although I didn’t see them doing so at this event. Unfortunately none were in the immediate area when the incident took place, and in any case I preferred to keep on working rather than stop to make a complaint.

Most of those I met were happy to talk and to be photographed, but the incident did leave a nasty taste in my mouth. If the Apprentice Boys want to get a better press in London they really need to take the lunatic fringe responsible for this kind of behaviour in hand.

More pictures on My London Diary

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