THE Shankill Road was completely closed on Saturday afternoon to facilitate a parade paying tribute to a ruthless sectarian killer.
No-one disputes that Brian Robinson shot Ardoyne man Paddy McKenna to death for no other reason than his religion. And yet over 50 bands and thousands of spectators joined in what can only be described as a joyous celebration of the UVF killer’s life and legacy.
Listening to the sound of the shrill pipes and thudding drums drift across the Crumlin Road were Paddy McKenna’s family, friends and neighbours.
Let us say first of all that we have no objection if the Shankill wants to remember Brian Robinson. There are enough politicians determined to lay down the law about who wore the white hat and who wore the black hat in the vicious and grubby conflict from which we’re still struggling to emerge. And let’s not forget the most vocal of those claiming the high ground are people who wore not white hats but red berets.
These same people, who whipped off the red berets and stuck them in the bottom drawer when it was politically convenient to do so, were loudest in their condemnation of the Wolfe Tones at Féile. Added to their faux outrage about young people singing rebel sings were demands that funding for the festival be withdrawn by public and private organisations.
And the same people represent loyalism both in council chambers and at Stormont (when they bother to turn up). But not a single man or woman was able to utter a word of rebuke for such a large and public demonstration of support for sectarian murder; doubtless their moral indignation had been exhausted by a week of shrieking about a poll in which nationalists expressed their opinion about the inevitability or otherwise of violence erupting in... 1969.
As for funding, we reveal today that 16 of the bands taking part in Saturday’s parade were in receipt of funding from the Ulster-Scots Agency’s resilience fund to help them make it through the Covid crisis. In their helpful list of awards made, the agency describes the 16 bands as “Ulster-Scots groups”. Quite how marching to celebrate the life of a UVF Catholic-killer is advancing the Ulster-Scots cause is not entirely clear. Throw in the fact that these bands have been marching in this parade for years – a fact which is revealed in a simple Google search – and one then wonders what diligence was applied in the consideration of funding disbursement.
Can we be surprised that unionists display such Homeric levels of sanctimony when it comes to expressions of outrage when the same representatives quite literally sit down with Brian Robinson’s colleagues in the UVF to discuss political developments? Emerging from a meeting with the murderous narco-gangs of the UVF and the UDA to feign disgust at teenagers in a park brings new depths of meaning to the word hypocrisy.
Against that background, the double standards at play can be seen not simply as bad faith and dissembling, but as necessary  cover for the legitimisation of continuing  loyalist violence.