On Easter Saturday 30 March 2013 the Republican Network for Unity and the Henry Joy McCracken Republican Flute Band held its annual Fianna commemoration. The event has taken place every year since 2009 and is organised by dissident republicans.
According to the Ardoyne Republican Blogspot this is held 'to pay tribute to four young Na Fianna Eireann Activists, Josh Campbell, Davy McAuley, Bernard Fox and Joseph McComiskey, all of whom lived in Ardoyne and died tragically on Active Service in 1972.'
The commemorative march started at 3pm outside the Glenpark Social Club in Ardoyne Avenue and made its way to the Fianna Mural at Berwick Road, where there was a speaker, Paul Crawford from South Down RNU, and a wreath laying ceremony.
The Henry Joy McCracken Republican Flute Band notified the PSNI and according to the website of the Parades Commission they stated on their 11/1 form that there would be three bands and 700 participants in the parade with 500 supporters. The website also records that this was a late notificiation.
The parade was not identified by either the PSNI or the Parades Commission as being contentious but I think most people will find that surprising.
A report on Ardoyne Republican blogspot has two photographs of the parade, one of which shows three very small children dressed in what appear to be Fianna uniforms, with white shirts, black berets and neckscarfs.
Even more disturbing is a short video-clip on youtube (Ardoyne Fianna 2013) which appears to show a masked man in a paramiltary uniform firing a handgun in front of the Fianna mural during the commemoration. This is particularly alarming in view of the number of times that guns have been used by dissident republicans in Ardoyne over the past year, including the attemped murder of police officers.
One other point worth noting is that the notification for the parade was for 1,200 people. The video-clip and the two photographs do not suggest a parade of anything like that scale. Obviously they did not attract the crowds they were hoping for.
So then, what needs to be done?
1. The PSNI should explain their approach to this parade.
2. The PSNI must investigate the apparent firing of a weapon by a dissident republican gunman.
3. The use and abuse of very small children in such a paramilitary display is worthy of investigation by the PSNI and the Parades Commission and also by the Children's Commissioner.
4. In view of this evidence the PSNI and the Parades Commission must never again treat a parade by either the Republican Network for Unity or the Henry Joy McCracken Republican Flute Band as anything other than contentious.
5. In view of the use of material obtained from social media by the BBC and UTV, they should now highlight this particular incident.
Those points will now be taken up with the relevant agencies.