31, August 2019
The quest for Irish unity has now spread to Scotland, as demonstrated by Friday evening’s march in Glasgow’s Govan area.
The lawful march, organised by the James Connolly Flute Band, was set to begin peacefully at Govan’s Elder Park at 18:30, on August 30, before it was forcefully countered by disruptive elements.
The authorities deployed in force with riot police, mounted officers, a police helicopter and dog units as part of a “proportionate” response to the agitation initiated by rival demonstrators.
The peaceful march by supporters of Irish unity was disrupted by “several hundred” counter-demonstrators made up of disparate Scotland-based loyalist groups.
According to the police, agitation by loyalist counter-demonstrators led to “significant disorder”, with the police blocking off Govan Road.
By all credible accounts, the pro-unity march – organised by locals sympathetic to the cause of Irish unity – was peaceful and the situation only became violent and chaotic when local loyalists tried to disrupt the march.
This version of events is corroborated by Police Scotland, whose divisional commander, Chief Superintendent Mark Hargreaves, described the chaotic scenes in the following manner: “Police Scotland has a duty to facilitate processions and any peaceful protest, but this kind of behaviour by persons demonstrating against the parade is utterly unacceptable”.
But in a sign of political manoeuvring, Glasgow City Council tried to pin the blame on both sides, including the originally peaceful pro-Irish unity marchers.
The council tweeted a statement calling the chaotic scenes in Govan “unacceptable”, before adding that the “overwhelming majority” of Glaswegians “want nothing” to do with “these marches or counter-protests”.
Glasgow City Council has historically been dominated by the Scottish Labour Party, who controlled it from 1980 to 2017. Currently no political party has overall control of the council, even though the council leader, Susan Aitken, is a leading member of the Scottish National Party.
The disturbances in Govan come at a critical time in Northern Ireland, where Irish nationalists are bitterly opposed to British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson’s quest for a hard Brexit.
In late July, the leader of the mainstream Irish Republican group, Sinn Fein, called for a poll on Irish unity following a no-deal Brexit.
Mary Lou McDonald told reporters that she informed the PM that: “In the longer term, we have advised him [Johnson] that constitutional change is in the air. He can’t say that he hasn’t been told”.