Far-right groups hurl racist abuse at parade to commemorate life and role of James Larkin
Some 25 were arrested on Saturday in Liverpool as protesters taunted marchers celebrating at the birthplace of the Irish trade union leader
JAMES LARKIN, who later founded the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, was born into grinding poverty in Combermere Street in Toxteth, one of Liverpool’s poorest quarters, in the 1870s. Today, nearly 150 years on, it has the record for being Britain’s most deprived district.
On Saturday afternoon, the James Larkin Society, led by the Liverpool Irish Patriots Republican Flute Band, gathered for the seventh occasion – this time outside the Globe pub on Park Road – to commemorate Larkin’s life and works.
In the past, it has been a family occasion, with children brought along. However, times have changed in ways that indicate that street violence by the far right, seeking to exploit economic troubles and unemployment, is returning. For days previously, far-right groups had urged protesters to come on to the streets to “stop the IRA march”, telling them that they should remember Tim Parry and Jonathan Ball, killed in an IRA bomb blast in 1993.
From the off, beginning outside the Toxteth Tabernacle Church on Park Road, police – some on horseback – kept protesters away from the marchers, many of them carrying trade union placards, as they gathered outside the Globe pub.
Most of the protesters were young, male and tattooed, but not all. One elderly woman, her lips pinched from years of heavy smoking, told a policeman: “This is terrible. They shouldn’t be allowed to march like this, no way.”
From Park Road into Liverpool city centre, the abuse came in torrents.
“F*** off back to Ireland, ye murdering bastards,” one man screamed, as he tried to force his way towards the marchers. Like 25 others, he was arrested.
Some were locals, others had clearly travelled for the day.
On the junction of Park Road and Upper Warwick Road, significant numbers had gathered, chanting variously “Rule Britannia”, or “No surrender to the IRA”. One was seized by police after he sent a volley of phlegm-lined spittle into the marchers.
“It’s not like the worst of the troubles that you see at an Orange Order march in Belfast, but it’s not a bad imitation, is it?” said Billy Hayes, general secretary of the Communications Workers Union, one of those who spoke at a rally later.
Historically, Liverpool has always had sectarian tensions. The city has a dozen Orange lodges, while the Liverpool Protestant Party, which had once campaigned against Irish emigration after the Famine, existed up to the 1970s.
However, Saturday was, at times, surreal. The majority of those marching behind the James Larkin Society flag were not Irish. One Muslim man in his early 20s sighed in despair as he was accused by an obese black teenager of being “an IRA murdering scum”.