A draft report from the British/Irish Parliamentary Assembly (BIPA) has stated that at least two Irish centers in Scotland have been burned down in sectarian attacks and nervousness has been expressed at the public celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day this year.
The report stated that some community organizations were regarded as troublemakers and nervousness had been expressed with regard to celebrating St. Patrick’s Day this year, meaning hanging decorations and organizing community events. The Press Association reports that the proposed Glasgow St. Patrick’s Day parade had created tensions due to fears of possible Orange Order protests.
The report said:
“We recognize that symbols and songs can be divisive and firmly support efforts to promote mutual understanding and tolerance but we were concerned that this nervousness might in part be fostered by a sectarian narrative which had been constructed to characterize and perhaps even demonize some of these groups."
House of Lords peer Lord Dubs chaired the committee of the BIPA which investigated the Irish communities and support centers in Scotland.
He said he had been saddened by the draft report.
The draft report said: “It was distressing to hear that at least two such centers had been burnt down in what seemed to be sectarian attacks."
The British/Irish Parliamentary Assembly (BIPA) includes legislators from Scotland, the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England. The draft report has prompted significant dissent in the group and was not agreed upon during a plenary session in Dublin earlier this week.
The report said plans to hold a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Glasgow has been the cause of tension.
It states, “We were told that there was some opposition to the idea because of concerns about exacerbating community tensions and that groups including the Orange Order might protest.”
The two cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh, have their own St. Patrick’s Day festivals but the Coatbridge St Patrick's Day Festival, in the outskirts of Glasgow, had grown in scale during the last 12 years
The report states “Given Glasgow City Council's commitment to celebrating diversity and multiculturalism we recommend that it facilitate a dialogue between the police service and representatives of the Irish communities and other Glasgow residents including the Orange Order to consider whether it might be possible to stage a St Patrick's Day parade in Glasgow itself."
The draft report was not well received.
Labour Party member of parliament for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, Jim Sheridan, said he had not heard about the Irish centers being burnt down.
He also said that the Irish should not be regarded as an ethnic minority. He added that the public’s money should not be spent on celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Scotland.
He said, “If people want parades up and down the streets it is entirely up to them. I don't think that the taxpayer in these austere times should be asked to pay for it."
"People need to look forward, move forward and think of a modern Scotland and stop living in the past."
Mary Scanlon, a member of the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Conservative and Unionist, representing the Highlands and Islands, said the report is inflammatory and unhelpful.
"I am a unionist for the UK. We have just come out of the most divisive election ever in the history of my time in Scotland
"I do not want a Scotland divided on the lines of nationalism and unionism, that is not my Scotland."
She also objected to labeling the Irish in Scotland as a minority.
"They are an integrated, fully respected and loved members of our community, they are not different, this to me, I am afraid, I think is a little bit divisive."