13th November, 1995
St. Columban’s College, Dalgan Park, Navan
Breandan MacCionnaith (Chair, Garvaghy Road Residents’ Group)
Evelyn White (Member, Garvaghy Road Residents’ Group)
Eamon Stack, SJ (Jesuit Community, Portadown)
Joe Duffy (Member, Garvaghy Road Residents Group)
Chaired by John Clancy (Meath Peace Group)
Addresses of speakers
Questions and comments
On behalf of the Meath Peace Group, John Clancy welcomed the speakers and audience and mentioned that the previous talk, on the subject of the Orange Order (held on 16th October), had looked not only at the history and traditions of the Order which is 200 years old this year, but had also discussed the meaning of the Order in today’s context. The talk was given by three members of the Orange Order speaking in an individual capacity, and they were accompanied by Dominic Bryan, researcher and co-author of Loyalist Parades in Portadown. Both Dominic Bryan and Roy Garland (a member of the Unionist Party) were among the audience for tonight’s talk and the Meath Peace Group were delighted to welcome them both.
He continued: “At the last meeting it was said that there were 3000 marches in Northern Ireland in any one year. There are actually 2, 700, and of those, 2, 400 are loyalist marches. Tonight we welcome the Garvaghy Road Residents Group which is a coalition of a number of groups drawn from that area of Portadown. The particular speakers tonight are those that objected to the marches by the Orange Order through their area commencing on 9th July of this year. We’re delighted that they have come to share with us their thoughts, their feelings and their fears, no doubt, of the implications and impact of these marches through their area. The history of marches in this area, as documented by Dominic Bryan, goes back a long time. It should be noted that in the last century, for 12 years between 1830 and 1842 the Orange Order was actually outlawed, and between 1850 and 1882 or thereabouts the Orange Order was also outlawed – there weren’t parades. There’s a long history and there’s this apparent or perceived territoriality that people perceive the Orange Order have when they march in their areas. It’s real to them and that’s what we must all realise, it is very real. So in that context I’d like to introduce you to Brendan McKenna from the Parkside Residents Group, Evelyn White from the Churchill Tenants Association, and Rev. Eamon Stack, SJ, from the Drumcree Faith and Justice Group.”
1. Breandan MacCionnaith: Background and explanation of issues
“Thank you very much for the invitation. Our group was originally set up on May 10th following an open meeting held in the Community Centre in the Garvaghy Road area….”
“Since 1795 a church service has been held at Drumcree Church of Ireland Church each July. It’s recorded in Plowden’s History of Ireland that, following the first church service there to commemmorate the Battle of the Boyne, in July 1795 – a couple of months before the Orange Order was actually founded – two Catholics, minding their own business while digging in a field nearby, were murdered by those attending. Since then, from a nationalist viewpoint, all those parades in Portadown have taken on a degree of sectarianism, a degree of provocation towards the nationalist community in the town. There hasn’t been a decade in the last 200 years that has not had violence associated with Orange parades; people have been killed during them, people have been killed as a result of them.
Routes of marches: “Now as to the marches in question today: I have here a map of Portadown – the area shaded in green is obviously the nationalist areas, and you have here the route that the Orange marches used to take up to the mid-1980s when the Obins Street parade has been rerouted. That march came down Carleton Street, through the town centre, down Woodhouse Street, along Obins Street (a mainly nationalist area, and the oldest nationalist area in the town) and out the Dungannon Road to Drumcree Church, and on the way home they take that route. The housing estates built there are new housing estates – Ballyoran, Garvaghy, Churchill Park, Woodside, The Beeches, The Poplars are all new housing estates – they’ve all only existed in the last 30 years. That’s why, that’s one of the reasons the Orange Order claim that they’ve never met any resistance along that route before – there was never anybody there to object, maybe an odd cow or a horse. Orange marches were banned at various times in the last 200 years from going through that area. Following local protests in Obins Street in the 1980s, that route was taken away from the Orange Order. The alternative route then given was from the Orange Hall out past St. Mark’s and along the Corcrain Road… As you can see that route takes them alongside the nationalist areas – actually at this side of the road there’s a “peace wall” – a 10-foot wall surmounted by a 12-foot wire chain link fence. It goes out and returns.
Issue in July 1995: “The whole issue this year has been the parades coming back down through Garvaghy Park or Garvaghy Road. Approximately 1200 nationalist families live in that area. The group we represent are mandated by the residents of that area to communicate our opposition to the marches on their behalf to the various authorities and to the Orange Order. We wrote to the Orange Order – unfortunately, unlike yourselves, we have never met them and they have never even acknowledged our letters. We contacted the Northern Ireland Office and have also had meetings with the RUC in an attempt to have the parade rerouted. When we wrote to the RUC they told us that the whole issue can only be dealt with under the Public Order legislation. When it was pointed out that the Obins Street route had been completely banned they said “yes, it can be done by a ministerial ban by the Secretary of State.”
“However, when we asked the Secretary of State and the Northern Ireland Office where they stood on the issue, they told us it was an RUC decision. One passed the buck to the other.
“We then attempted to get in touch with other political parties. We’ve been in touch with the Tanaiste’s office, the Taoiseach’s office, most of the political parties down here. We’ve also contacted parties up in the north as well. We contacted Cardinal Daly and Archbishop Eames of the Church of Ireland asking them to intervene. Cardinal Daly, as you know, did publicly support our attempts to have the march rerouted. We received a letter from Archbishop Eames’ secretary saying the Archbishop would contact us in the near future, and in November we’re still waiting a fuller response from Archbishop Eames.
Our last meeting with the RUC was held on the Friday morning before the march, and the RUC told us that they were not prepared to make any definite decisions regarding the march. In the meantime we had filed notice with the RUC the previous Sunday that we would be organising our own protest on the Sunday morning before the …Orange march and that we would hope to be able to be in a position to organise a protest march of approximately 100 people to go from the Garvaghy Road into the centre of the town up to Carleton Street
to deliver a letter appealing to the Orange Order to refrain from coming home along the Garvaghy Road. On Sunday morning the RUC stopped us here [indicates position on map] – we couldn’t get any further. We then moved back up the road and stayed in position on both sides of the road – we didn’t actually block the road at any stage. At approximately 12.30 there was on site an Assistant Chief Constable plus one of his aides, the Divisional Commander and the sub-Divisional Commander of the RUC, and during that whole time talks were going on between us, and our people were not blocking the road but had lined both sides of the road.
“The RUC then started to pull their landrovers closer. I went to the Assistant Chief Constable and asked what was going on. He said: “tell your people not to worry, we’re just pulling these landrovers down a wee bit closer. You get your people together and tell them not to worry.” I went back and got our people together in the middle of the road and said – “don’t worry, they’re only coming down 10 or so yards, away you go back to the sides of the footpath again.” I went back up to the RUC. The RUC said, “you have blocked the road”. I said, “you asked me to give those people a message”. They said “you blocked the road”. I said “well, there you have it. The road is blocked.”
Stand-off: “From then on a stand-off situation developed – ourselves positioned here [map] and the Orangemen, when they came out of the service, positioned along here [map]. That developed on and Evelyn has an account of what it felt like for those couple of days in Portadown. Suffice to state that there were many Orangemen assembled here [map], Orangemen were assembled here [map], here [map] and all along here [map]. The supposed “Siege of Drumcree” was not the siege of Drumcree – it was the Siege of Nationalist Portadown. Our entire community was surrounded and held to ransom for a period of almost 48 hours. The loyalists had complete freedom of movement, people trying to get in and out of my area had severe problems.
“On Sunday evening a certain reverend gentleman arrived at Drumcree and helped to stir the crowd up a bit more; the same thing happened again on Monday night. These houses here [map] were attacked, houses around here [map] were attacked, the chapel, the school and the graveyard were attacked. People living in Craigwell Avenue and into Obins Street were informed by a senior RUC officer that the RUC could not guarantee protection for them or their families, and he advised them to evacuate their homes.
A loyalist mob, approximately 1000 strong, was at one time allowed through a line of police landrovers positioned in Woodhouse Street, and they entered the corner of Obins Street and Park Road at 3 o’clock on Monday night/Tuesday morning. In the meantime we had issued a public statement on the Monday afternoon – as far as we were concerned the march had been rerouted that Sunday. There was still the issue of the 12th march to be considered. It too goes along the Garvaghy Road – we issued a public statement asking for a meeting with the RUC and the Orange Order to be held in Portadown Town Hall. The RUC were going to come, but the Orange Order were not.
Mediation and compromise: “At that stage, the Mediation Network were brought in. Now the Mediation Network had been invited to Portadown by us on that Sunday, and indeed we had been talking with them for a couple of weeks beforehand. Because the Orange Order wouldn’t talk to us directly we made use of the mediators as go-betweens. “Eventually on Tuesday morning a compromise agreement was reached – I realise the circumstances of that agreement will not be remembered. These areas were completely surrounded [map] – you’re talking about 20, 000 Orangemen, you’re talking loyalist paramilitaries in that town, including what would be called a couple of loose cannons. Against that background we came to a compromise with the Orange Order for that day, and that day alone, in an attempt to diffuse what was fast becoming a very volatile and explosive situation. God knows what would have happened if it had continued on to the 11th July night.
“The agreement was, and I don’t have the exact wording – the agreement was somewhere along the lines that the RUC would make the necessary operational changes and moves necessary to facilitate this, that the Orange Order would come down the Garvaghy Road in a completely silent parade, our protest would move to both sides of the footpath as it approached, and in return there would be no march down the Garvaghy Road on the 12th July. As you are probably aware, Mr Paisley and Mr Trimble – they didn’t march the Garvaghy Road by the way, only local Orangemen marched the Garvaghy Road – when they reached Castle Street they were questioned by the media about the compromise, about the agreement. They denied that any agreement or compromise had been reached. The District Master of the Orange Order denied that any compromise had been reached and we were left in the position then, on the 11th night, not knowing whether or not to expect another march on the Garvaghy Road on the 12th. as it so happened, the Orangemen did stick to their agreement although they publicly denied it.
Lobbying and meetings: “Since July we have been continuing our lobbying of the political parties. We’ve been again in touch with the N.I.O., with the RUC, and with the parties, north and south. We have a meeting arranged shortly with the leadership of the Alliance Party next week. As yet we haven’t had any contact with the Orange Order. After July we asked for contact with the Orange Order – again we didn’t receive any acknowledgment. A few weeks ago we started working with the Mediation Network – they are hopeful they can facilitate a meeting between ourselves and the Orange Order. Whether it comes off or not is a different thing – we have always said from day one in May that we would be willing to meet them. I hope that they do come and hear our views.
“So basically that’s the background to Portadown in July – a couple of very long days I can assure you. So Evelyn is going to give you a summary, from a resident’s viewpoint, of what it was like to actually live on the Garvaghy Road for those couple of days.”
2. Evelyn White:
“Thanks for inviting us. I would like to explain that I am not used to public speaking, but at least I received at first hand the views of the ordinary residents of the Garvaghy Road, and not that of a politician trying to make political capital out of a sorry situation.
Tensions: “In Portadown unionists outnumber nationalists by roughly a 4:1 majority, with the nationalist community living in one small corner of the town consisting mainly of the Garvaghy Road and Obin’s Street. Each July the whole town, especially the town centre, becomes saturated with red, white and blue bunting, Union Jacks and images of King Billy. The sense of tension is very high during this period. Many weekly shopping trips to the town centre are abruptly ended as the news spreads of yet another loyalist band parade and panic sets in until you reach the safe haven of home.
“On many occasions nationalists have received extremely vicious attacks for being in the town centre at the wrong time; some have been left physically or mentally damaged; some have lost their lives. Many teenagers are afraid to go shopping in the evenings after school, afraid their religion might be recognized through their school uniforms.
“I am not suggesting that all nationalists are good and all unionists bad, but the reality is that for every “nationalist bully boy”, the chances are that there are four “unionist bully boys” to match him.
Those reasons may explain why Portadown nationalists feel relatively safe in the nationalist corner of the town, and they may explain why we generally prefer to socialise in the area with people who know and accept us. After the paramilitary ceasefires, people began to have new hope. We thought that maybe if we tried to talk to the Orange Order and explain our fears and apprehensions, maybe they would decide against marching through our safe haven on the July Sunday. So a letter was sent to the Orange Order requesting a meeting between them and representatives of our own community on the Garvaghy Road.
“No reply was received – more letters were sent, they weren’t even acknowledged. Other letters were sent to anyone we thought might have the slightest interest in our plight.
Protest: “Why you may ask do the people of Garvaghy Road have a problem with a church parade, marching through the area? For years this march has taken total control of the Garvaghy Road. Sober staunch faces at their ease, make their way along the road, the only time in the year they use the road. The local residents are hemmed in like animals unable to go about their normal business. Police jeeps are used to create barricades ensuring the virtual imprisonment of the locals….. you can’t get out, you’re just hemmed in.
Throughout a series of public meetings it was decided that we would have a peaceful sit down protest on the morning of the march. The support from Cardinal Daly gave many people the confidence to join in the peaceful protest. As we sat on the road we were tense and nervous, but as more people joined us a new confidence and unity spread among the people. The atmosphere relaxed, some people started singing and playing music. Hours passed. We then realised that we might have succeeded. People couldn’t believe it – not that the Green had won over the Orange, but that someone had paid attention to the Portadown nationalists. With a sense that justice had been done, we went quickly home and enjoyed a peaceful sunny Sunday.
Stand-off: “As news filtered through of the Orangemen remaining at Drumcree determined to get down the Garvaghy Road, we did not really concern ourselves; after all the police had made their decision and we were no longer involved. Leave it to the police, somebody thought. By Monday evening everything had changed – David Trimble accused the people of the Garvaghy Road of bringing people in from other areas – this is one of Mr Trimble’s many lies. It was Mr Trimble who gave the war cry; it was Mr Trimble who was responsible for the loyalist mobs who besieged the surrounding area of the Garvaghy Road. It was Ian Paisley’s poisonous speech that seized the 15,000 strong mob to make a frenzied attack on the police in an attempt to reach the Garvaghy Road nationalists. A well-known loyalist paramilitary leader was there. Many homes were attacked as, at one stage, the police lost control.
“During this period, the people of Garvaghy Road were in a turmoil of fear. Children running crying to their mothers. Although they could not fully understand the situation the blind panic among the adults filtered through to them. People wandered about helpless, just waiting to be attacked at any time.
“At around midnight rumours of the police backing down to the loyalist mobs spread. The people were horrified. What would we do? We were totally defenceless. Pandemonium broke out. The only option we had was to do what we had done the previous Sunday, sit down on the road and stay there. Sitting on the road in the darkness of night in fear for our jobs, in fear for our lives, we huddled tightly together. At about 3 in the morning we could see, coming from the top of the hill, the police jeeps creeping slowly towards us. With the headlights on full beam we were nearly blinded. When the jeeps stopped, the back doors sprung open and out jumped numerous black figures, almost clones of “robocop” – it was the police in their riot gear.
“Just in time a television crew appeared and they started recording. God knows what would have happened if the camera wasn’t rolling.
“Throughout the remainder of the night we carried on with our peaceful protest. Never before have I seen the nationalists of Portadown so united.
Compromise: “At about 11 o’clock on the Tuesday morning the people of the Garvaghy Road were asked through mediators to let the march down the Garvaghy Road. In return there would be no loyalist bands or banners marching with them. The people would not be hemmed but could make a protest. More importantly we were told that would be the last Orange march down the Garvaghy Road.
“So eventually, in an eerie silence, the Orangemen made their way down the Garvaghy Road. The only sound was the plastic cup accidentally treaded on by a solemn faced Orange man. Let’s hope the police hold to their promise and that next year we can go about our normal everyday business, and let the Orangemen march where people want to see them. ”
3. Eamon Stack, SJ:
“Again I’d like to thank the Meath Peace Group for inviting us along to listen to the nationalist perspective, the nationalist experience of Orange marches. Looking at the tape of all the TV coverage of what went on over those days – maybe many of you watched, but you may not have noticed…that 90% of the coverage was of the Orange Order; 90% of the coverage is of Mr. Trimble and Mr. Paisley, and all that is going on on that side. Only about 10% is airing our viewpoint, and probably the most significant thing is because there are no big political leaders among us, we have no big organisations, and we’re a small minority in a town which is 70-75% Protestant. So I think the evidence is there – we’re not listened to and we’re very grateful that you might listen. I’d like to look at the “Orange perception of the nationalist experience” – the “unionist deception of their people about the nationalist position”, and then the loyalist misconception of what this is all about. They’re major issues that come up in the summer conflict. Finally I’d like to look at the Church position on it and ask questions about what is the involvement …
Orange perception of nationalist experience:”The Orange side, the unionist/loyalist side keep telling the public what our situation is – they explain to the public what it’s like for a nationalist in Portadown and they say “there’s no reason why they can’t put up with a march that lasts seven minutes”. I just had a brief read there of something that the Orangemen said to you and it was the same thing – that “there are no nationalist houses on the Garvaghy Road, really they’re off it”, and that “the march doesn’t last very long and we don’t see what the problem is.” So we’re glad that you’ll listen to us tonight as we tell you what it’s like from our side.
“So just look at the Orange perception first of all. They keep repeating that this is only a march that goes through the nationalist area for 15 minutes – 7 minutes to go down the road, and why can’t the nationalists allow that? Nationalists in Portadown live in one corner, as explained earlier. Parades go on in Portadown for two if not three months – every Saturday morning I’m woken up to the sound of Orange bands banging their drums in town because we can hear everything, it’s not a big town, we can hear everything from where we are. Everyone will tell you in Portadown it is a terror to go, if you’re going shopping at the weekends or even sometimes during the week, because you’re stopped at a parade and there’s absolutely nothing you can do.
“Over the streets in Portadown there are 6 arches representing “No Surrender”, “Victory” and statues of King Billy, and while they’re going up everyone has to wait and put up with them and the place is covered in flags.
Tensions: “The nationalists have to put up with all of that, week in week out for most of 3 months, and then comes the build up to the parade; the tensions build up in the town because everybody knows the Orangemen are going to be back through the nationalist area and they’re going to provoke trouble. The Orange will say it’s no problem, like the leader of the Grand Lodge of Ireland said on television that for the past few years there’s been absolutely no trouble in Portadown. And I heard a leading clergyman in the town, a Church of Ireland rector, saying there’s been no trouble in Portadown for the last few years so why this year is there a problem?
Rioting: “Last year there were 5 hours of rioting in our area and I was out on the streets trying to get some of the property from our community centre off the rioters and I had a petrol bomb thrown at me last year. And for the Orange Order to say that there’s never been any problem in our area – it’s just not true – it’s a wrong perception of how we experience it. So if there is no protest organised by the people of our area to this march, if there’s no political protest, then there would be violence, and one of our big successes this year was that we stopped the violence for the first time; we worked with all the community leaders and with all the various organisations. We said to the people “we’ll organise a peaceful protest if you don’t have violence”, … and probably the moment of most joy for me this year was at 5 o’clock on Saturday morning to see the first police car drive down the Garvaghy Road, and it was spotlessly clean and there wasn’t a person on the road. They said to us that the police cars went back to the barracks and there was silence in the police barracks, they were so shocked at what happened – that there was no violence from the nationalists on Friday night and Saturday night.
Stand-off: “Then on Sunday we held our protest and there was the “stand-off”, and that went on [through] Monday and Tuesday and I want to say that during all that time the nationalist community were committed to a peaceful protest and even though they were provoked to the extreme, they kept the peace all during that. I think that was the most extraordinary part of the experience and that was basically ignored by the press, because the press don’t publicise the absence of a riot, they want a riot. So our experience is very different and the Orange Order don’t see any of that and ignore it and that’s what we want to tell them about.
“Unionist deception“: “As far as I’m concerned Mr Trimble lied to the press over and over again during that parade and he used that parade as a means to gain his own political advantage. He said to the press over and over again that there were … IRA men behind this and they’re down there on the Garvaghy Road, and he told his people they were dealing with a “sinister political force”, that paramilitaries were involved. That was a blatant lie. He said on television that the police had told him that the IRA were down there, and we checked on that afterwards and … the police never told him and yet he went on television to say that. And that created great resentment against us who are a community group, a coalition of residents’ associations, as well as having representatives of the political parties; and the Drumcree Faith and Justice Group was absolutely and totally committed to peaceful means and wouldn’t be involved if it wasn’t guaranteed peaceful.
Allegations :”They were saying to us that we were IRA men over and over again, and I went on television and I put my own credibility on the line, and I said “that’s not true – as a priest and as a human person that’s a lie” and I’ll stand over it. But he [Mr Trimble] continued to say that and he said it at the mass rally in front of 15, 000 people. They said this was part of a Sinn Fein plot – it may coincide with a tactic that Sinn Fein are using in some areas, they’re having some rallies and so on, reminders of the rallies that happened in the ’60s – but this is not a Sinn Fein operation. Anyone looking at the people in the coalition would see this – there are Sinn Fein people there, but a lot of the residents are Sinn Fein so they have to be represented as well in the group, but there are representatives from all sorts of bodies on it and it’s just a lie to say that this is a Sinn Fein or paramilitary protest. I just find that personally very insulting.
“Last stand of Unionism“: “There is also the deception of saying to the people of Portadown that this is the “last stand of unionism”, that if this falls, everything is lost. Well it’s just not true that the whole unionist organisation depends on marching through the nationalist area. It’s just a deception, and rather than leading the people, to say “in politics you have to give and take, and here’s an area where we have to give.” So I feel that the Unionist leadership have deceived their people about what’s happening on the Garvaghy Road and that’s a source of a lot of the conflict. Also, there are a lot of loyalists in Portadown, paramilitaries and their supporters, and they’re being led to believe that this thing really is the last stand.
“Ian Paisley is probably the most dangerous figure in this respect because he actually believes that what was happening in Drumcree, as he said himself, “is the darkest day since the Reformation”, and he’s leading, he’s stirring up loyalist feeling there that all is lost if they give in on this one. That has to be challenged straight on – the Reformation does not depend on a march going down through our area. It just cannot be true and I think it has to be stated by other church people that is the situation.
Inability to take any more “These people believe … that maybe it’s possible for the nationalists just to sit down and stay in their houses and allow the march to go through and that’ll save all of us an awful lot of problems. And maybe it would be true to say in the Republic that some people would hold that view as well; that basically the problem would just go away – if the nationalists would just allow this march to go through that would solve the problem. But I suggest that that’s avoiding the problem that’s there. For one thing, the nationalist community have had to take an awful lot already – the nationalist community have to take a lot of the Orange unionist and loyalist tradition in Portadown every single day of the year, and especially during May-August. My experience is that they just can’t take any more – that it’s just not possible for the nationalists just to stay quiet, that if there isn’t political protest, there’d be violence. Secondly, the Orange people are really pushing their rights to the limit in this area and it seems to me that the Orange and the unionists have done this right through the history of the Northern Ireland state. Maybe it is time, both politically and in terms of the Church, that we stood up to these people in this situation and say “this is too much to ask of a nationalist community.” And I’d say to them “what you’re doing is actually wrong and you’re creating great resentment in the nationalist community that is totally intolerable in a democratic state.”
“But we realise that their reaction to taking that position is going to be extreme, it’s going to be… rallies of 15, 000 – maybe 100,000 people. But are we willing to stand up to that? Are we willing to say to Mr Trimble that “what you’re saying is not true, it’s lies. Sorry we can’t accept that.”? Are we willing to say to Mr Paisley “look, what you’re saying is totally off the wall – it’s not a scientific and theological interpretation of what our faith is about; it’s not acceptable; it’s a very minority extreme view and we can’t allow that to rule in Northern Ireland or rule in Portadown.” I think we have to have the courage to say that and maybe I’ll leave it at that and you can ask questions and we can discuss it further. Thanks very much.”
Chair, John Clancy thanked the speakers and reminded the audience what Dominic Bryan had said in concluding his submission at the last talk (on the Orange Order). He had asked 3 questions:
“1) Do we want, yet again, to enhance the ghettoes of Belfast by reinforcing boundaries? Because when we stop people parading in certain areas that is what we’re going to do. At the end of the day, nationalists have suffered more in that sort of situation than have unionists.
2) Are those claiming the right to march prepared to publicly support the rights of all to express their opinions in a public space, no matter how unpalatable those views? These truly are a test for civil and religious liberties.
3) Are those marching prepared to show respect for others’ rights by limiting inconveniences to the fewest possible occasions and by showing the utmost respect for neighbouring communities? Whatever the outcome of the Peace Process, it seems absolutely necessary that people’s identities should be respected and where are the deeds on all sides to show that these identities will be respected?”
John Clancy continued: “I think this is very appropriate in terms of what we have heard here this evening, and while you’re thinking of your questions I’ll just go on a little further. …Dominic Bryan in his book quotes from a report in the Belfast Newletter in 1892 complaining about the disgraceful conduct of the police against Protestants on the 12th July – “At 10 o’clock a cordon of infuriated policemen was drawn up across the mouth of the Tunnel to charge a lot of innocent factory girls who were marching down the street at the time. The police are, at the time of writing, much excited.” I think that… when Brendan was talking about the issue of trying to find out who’s responsible for controlling these marches, and there was sort of “shuttle-cocking” between the N.I.O. and the RUC, it seems that in some ways the police are used, in the end, as some very crude weapon of benign neglect, and not facing up to the issues of the marches and the impact on people, and vice versa.
QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS (Summary only):
Q.1. Noel Weatherhead [Tullamore resident]: Stewarding of marches [Mentioned that he had asked at the last talk whether the Orange Order controlled their own marches, especially the fringe elements.] “Now I have seen many Orange parades and I have never seen an official steward at any of them. What is your experience – do they make an attempt to control the fringe elements?
Brendan replied that in a number of parades actual members of the Orange Order had broken ranks and that men, women and children had been assaulted in Obins Street in 1980/1981/1982 and there were no Orangemen charged. “On the Garvaghy Road they also broke ranks and another member of Eamon’s group [Drumcree Faith and Justice], Michael McCooe was actually standing videoing a parade a couple of years ago and they broke ranks and attacked him standing at the side of the road. The police landrovers were there… but there was no effort made to stop them.”
Lurgan resident: “It was actually a loyalist band that broke ranks, not the Orangemen. It was loyalist bandsmen.”
Brendan: “They’re invited by the Orange Order…It could have been the band that attacked Michael but I know for a fact in Obins Street who it was. I can actually name the person who was carrying the tipstaff or whatever you call it.”
Questioner: “But there are two points they specifically made. Number 1, the bands are not part of the Orange Order. They are bands hired in for the day like anybody else can hire them in elsewhere, and 2, that the likes of Ian Paisley is not a member of the Orange Order. He has no right to wear the collarette or the sash or whatever it is.”
Brendan: “Well ok… Ian Paisley is not a member of the Orange Order. Why then did Ian Paisley negotiate on behalf of the Orange Order this year with the RUC? Why was it that when the Mediation Network went into the meeting on our behalf they found Ian Paisley, Ian Paisley Jr., and David Trimble with the RUC? Ian Paisley is either a member of the Orange Order or he has no say, but they can’t have it both ways. If he’s not a member why was he in there negotiating on their behalf?”
Questioner: “Well he may be their concept of a mediation service.”
Joe Duffy (Garvaghy Road Residents Group): “Look you’re talking around the whole time and you’re getting back the implication, you’re saying that at the end of the day, if the Orange march was well-marshalled and well-stewarded then they should be allowed down the Garvaghy Road.”
Questioner: “Not necessarily.”
Joe Duffy: “But history, our history, and what has happened to us, and the way we’ve been [treated]… means we don’t want them under no circumstances… Our speakers have emphasised more this year, but this has been going on from the start and we’re not prepared to take it any more, as Eamon Stack said. We’ve had enough of them.”
Eamon: “Just one thing, on the stewarding of marches. This is a very complicating factor because the Orange Order cannot steward a march through our area, so instead it takes a minimum of 400 policemen and 100 landrovers to get them through safely, and if you know the nationalist areas up to now, the presence of the police alone is an intimidating factor. But the presence of 500 of them when there’s only 1, 000 families living in the area is extremely intimidating and we can’t resolve that problem. So not only do you have an Orange march but you’ve got an enormous police presence for the whole day just to facilitate that.”
Q.2. Rev. John Clarke (C. of I. Rector, Navan): “I would like to thank all our speakers for the sharing of their view of what’s going on, and indeed it shows again the intensity of the entrenched positions on both sides.. I do think it is intolerable. I would find it intolerable to live in a community whereby any section of the society was to take to the streets with that intensity. Three months must be quite unbearable… I can’t credit what it must be like. There is a woeful imbalance there… This issue that’s being addressed, the issue of the “right to march” – it just seems to be quite unbalanced, and surely there must be some group addressing the rights to take to the streets in that intensity… Surely there must be some way to deal with this as part of the peace process…Surely marches of this nature should be stopped from all sides and all angles as part of the overall peace package… it’s childish.”
Brendan: “I would like to mention a point I missed earlier… We would prefer if the Orangemen were to take the same road home again [from the church]… it only actually means passing about 50 nationalist homes and to us it’s the least contentious route of the lot…. What we’re objecting to is the marching through the heart of the area…. Now you know our position, it’s been well-documented in the papers but you never came back to us on that. It’s not that we’re trying to stop them going to the church, we weren’t trying to prevent them. What we were saying is “look, go to your church, have your service and go home the way you went to it.” We didn’t think it was too much to ask.”
Eamon: “It has been said to us by the Orange that this is an issue of religious freedom and it’s also an issue of “parity of esteem”… It’s good to try and find common language like that where we can talk in concrete terms about the issues, e.g. religious freedom. We as well can affirm our belief in religious freedom but we don’t want to stop people going to a Church on Sunday and having their service.
“We value that as much as they do, but what’s going on here on the Garvaghy Road seems to be an extremely excessive demand on religious freedom – they want to march through a nationalist area to go to their service and come back again right through the heart of our area. That’s asking too much of religious freedom, and secondly, it’s imposing their religion on us unnecessarily. If they do want to have demonstrations of their faith, there is an alternative route that is in fact slightly shorter than the other route and that is mostly along a unionist/loyalist area, a Protestant area.
“It seems to us a good thing to do that, but we have extreme problems with their whole use of that class of religious freedom because we know that the vast majority of the people who go to that church are not church-goers, that the clergymen there could not identify the people who were attending that church, because mostly it’s a political statement, and the church is secondary.
“Secondly, the issue of “parity of esteem”, and Dominic Bryan has spoken of that – it has to be accepted that it is extremely difficult for a nationalist on this island to understand the Orange tradition. It doesn’t mean that the Orange tradition doesn’t have meaning, it doesn’t mean that the Orange tradition doesn’t have value, but to ask us, in a nationalist community in Portadown, to actually understand what they’re at is asking an awful lot, because I don’t think even the British over on the other side of the water really understand what the Orange tradition is about in terms of British nationalism. …People ask me “what about you, you’re from the south, you don’t understand it?”
“I don’t understand it any more than any nationalist in the North, but I think it is a good thing for our group to meet with the Orange and to try to come to a deeper understanding of the issue. But it has to be said at the outset that you’re asking an awful lot of the nationalists to understand the meaning of this marching with the collarettes and the bands and the swords and flags.
“Thirdly, in terms of religious freedom, the behaviour of the Orange Order this year goes against their whole principles. Firstly, they didn’t take into account at all the feeling of their neighbour, meaning neighbour in Christian terms. They didn’t seem to take any interest in their neighbour. Secondly, they publicly defied the law and Ian Paisley in his speech said “look, we outnumber the police, so we can just build up our numbers and we’ll be able to walk over our own police”. That’s against fundamental Protestant understanding of N.I..
“Thirdly, as you saw on television, when they got to the end of the road after having their march, after us giving a lot of ground, they ignored the agreement and behaved in an extremely childish fashion, marching along the road with Ian Paisley and David Trimble holding hands. They go against fundamental Christian principles of tolerance and acceptance of others independent of the actual march itself, and I think they have to be confronted with that.”
Evelyn: “The Orangemen can walk where they like in Portadown; the nationalists can’t walk, we must stay in our own place… we’re not allowed up the town; we must stay in our ghettoes and do what we have to do there. They can walk where they like, they own the town … when our children go up the town they’re told it’s their town. It’s not our town.”
Q. 3 – John Keaveney [Teacher, Kilbride]: Lobbying – “Did you make any effort to bring those issues to the Maryfield secretariat?”
Brendan: “No. We have been in contact with the Taoiseach’s office, and the office of the Tanaiste, before July and again since. I don’t know what will happen there at all… We have asked them to take this matter up on our behalf.”
Q. 4: [re Jesuits and Sinn Fein involvement] – “When the Orangemen were here last month, one of the remarks that was made was that they didn’t have any great problems with the ordinary Roman Catholic. … But there was this perception that there was some kind of Church plot, with the Jesuits involved and also that Sinn Fein was winding it up.”
Brendan: “We had a meeting with PACE [Protestant and Catholic Encounter] recently in Portadown Town Hall and obviously there were people there who didn’t agree with our viewpoint as well and what came out of that meeting was that those people had been told that Gerry Adams was on the Garvaghy Road, Martin McGuinness was on the Garvaghy Road, never mind the “200 armed IRA men” that David Trimble talked about. .. I don’t know where they were, they must have been hiding in somebody’s house, but we certainly didn’t get them on to the road to help us.”
Eamon Stack: Re the Jesuits – “There is a videotape containing the speeches at Drumcree … and fairly early in his speech Mr Paisley launches in with “you know the Pope has sent a special agent into Portadown to you .. a Jesuit priest” and he goes on. The difficulty is that the whole Jesuit idea is used as a symbol for a sinister force within the Roman Catholic Church – a force for the Anti-Christ to undermine the Protestant faith. It is unfortunate that there is a coincidence here between this myth about the Jesuits and the fact that I happen to be a Jesuit. There are 4 of us living in the area and we work as community workers.
“The difficulty is that if you’re going to work with people in community work, then you have to take the issues of the people, you have to deal with the concerns of the people, and to be authentic in your work you have to allow them to set the agenda for what is needed to be done. Now I never wanted to get involved in this issue. It’s been a most painful experience, it’s ugly, at times it’s ambiguous.
“I’ve never been as frightened in my life as at that march, but for the nationalist people of Portadown it’s an issue of their dignity at stake here which is the fundamental tenet of Christianity, that the dignity of every person is respected… We feel as a community that we cannot avoid this issue, we cannot play safe and deal with only sacramental issues, or deal with just youth clubs or something safe. Because it’s the major issue for the vast majority of the nationalist people of the area then we feel it’s our obligation to work with people on this and as a result it has led us into a very very difficult situation, but we stand with the people and I’m proud to do that.”
Q. 5 – Cllr. Joe Reilly (SF, Navan UDC): “I think the behaviour of Mr Trimble and Mr Paisley in Portadown exploded the myth… that the Orange marches were folksy, good-natured holiday days where everyone enjoyed themselves and that was an angle that was particularly pushed through the years by the Irish Times.
“I think that … Mr Trimble was elected on the back of his role in Portadown, and the third point I’ve got to make is that no group, nationalist or republican, has the right to march in any area where they are not wanted and that applies as much to republicans and nationalists as it does to the Orange Order.
“ You cannot impose your marching right on people in an area that do not wish to have you in that area, and I think if that right was accepted then you would take much of the emotionalism and the fear out of the marches because they are a fact of the 6 counties and have been throughout it’s history. I think there is a democratic right to march but not to impose your right to march in areas where you’re not wanted.”
Evelyn: “Well we wouldn’t go to Edgarstown or Redmanville to march because we know we wouldn’t be wanted. They know they are not wanted down the Garvaghy Road, yet they come down it.”
Joe Duffy: “We agree with what you’re saying. We’ve no problem with it.”
Q. 6 – [re incitement to violence]: “Eamon talked about the video – on that kind of evidence does anyone press charges that they’re inciting to violence?”
Brendan: “I think that’s a job for the RUC under the Incitement to Hatred legislation…. so far as I know there’s only been a couple of charges ever laid under the legislation…”
Q. – “The community can’t do anything?”
Brendan: “I wouldn’t know what the exact standing would be for us to take a civil action, but they are exploring legal actions at the minute regarding the whole issue of the parades.”
Q. 7 – “What would be the percentage of Orangemen coming from other areas?”
Brendan: “The original parade on Sunday would be Portadown District. There would be people there from other districts now but they wouldn’t be in the majority. The majority of people at the original parade would have been Portadown men, but as it developed – well, there’s definitely not 20,000 Orangemen in Portadown….
“A few years ago, in the Obins Street area, when we were attempting to get the parades rerouted, what you did have was a major influx of loyalists taking part – the like of George Seawright etc. , a lot of main figures coming and probably hijacking the parades away from the Orange Order, and I would say Paisley probably hijacked the parade from the Orange Order this year.
Q. 8 – [Trim resident]: “Can we take it that in all areas where they march through Catholic areas that they’re terrorising Catholics in the North – that’s the impression. But when the parade is staged in Donegal there seems to be no trouble…. And the speeches over the last few years have honed down, they don’t seem to be so strong as they were … am I right?”
Brendan: “At Drumcree this year the speeches were honed up rather than down.”
Joe Duffy: “From my own experience in the ’80s in Obins Street, the Orangemen were mad fighting to get down Obins Street. There’s a particular instance where the RUC led 80-100 masked UDA men down Obins Street to the front of Parkside Flats where Brendan lives…. This is the background to what is happening in Portadown… That’s why we don’t want them – they can march all they want and do what they like in their own area but stay out of ours.”
Brendan: “Re the marches in Donegal etc. – the thing that you have to bear in mind is that the Orange Order is a very political institution in the 6 counties… it can make or break politicians. It made David Trimble, it certainly didn’t do Ian Paisley any harm either. Every P.M. in the North was a member of the Orange Order and a brave lot of their cabinet ministers too. They didn’t have that influence in the 26 counties and down here they are not the political organisation that they are in the 6 counties.”
Q. 9 – [Re loyalist paramilitaries]
Brendan: “Most of their entire leadership appeared in Portadown during that 48-hour period. You have to ask yourselves the reason why they were there. One of the people leading the mobs that time was a well-known paramilitary figure… we didn’t have anybody, we had only ourselves. … What we witnessed in Portadown was a pan-Unionist front of the Orange Order, the DUP, the Official Unionists, the loyalist paramilitaries, acting together for one reason and one reason alone – to trample over the people of the Garvaghy Road. They didn’t care how they did it. David Trimble for example is the MP of this area – we’re his constituents – and people talked about a peace process being built on confidence and trust – what confidence and trust did David Trimble seek to engender by his actions in Portadown? What bridges was he trying to build with the nationalist community? What was he trying to do by literally trampling over the rights and aspirations of a substantial number of his constituents?”
Q. 10 – Cllr. James Holloway (FG, Navan UDC): “I wondered if there was an alternative return route from Drumcree Church – it is my feeling that most parades like this describe a “one-way loop” – like the Navan parade on St. Patrick’s Day. Trying to bring the parade back on itself is logistically very difficult, is it not?”
Brendan: “Not really, there is a route, what I call the country route – the Loughgall Road where they actually walk up and join along here [map]… which would leave them to come back in a loop situation… That’s the route they were given after they were removed from Obins Street. We don’t find any problems with that.”
James Holloway – “That’s the route on the way out?”
Brendan: “Yes… you’re talking about logistics problems, they’ve a couple of fields, they can come out, go round and come back down again. .. On a usual Sunday you’re only talking about a few hundred Orangemen there… They could go that way, come out down there, cut across the back of Derryvore and then come back into the town… The only reason we’re not pushing that suggestion is we know it’s going to take them a couple of miles out of their way.
“ We’re not trying to stop them permanently, but if they’re going to persist in hardline attitudes themselves we’re going to have to sit down one of these days and say “look, if they’re not even willing to sit down and talk compromise with us then to hell with compromise, let them take the country route, don’t even let them down that bottom end of the street. Now that’s what it could actually come to.”
John Clancy: “If in the event they did talk to you might you eventually let them walk down your road?”
Brendan: “We had petitions all this year – it was decided by the people beforehand, and we had the petitions with all the names gathered, voluntarily gathered… 95% of the people in the area didn’t want it – the people of the area don’t want the Orange parades.”
Eamon: “If there wasn’t an alternative route then we’d feel more obliged to address that issue, but because there is an alternative route then it would just seem wrong to tolerate the present situation because we believe it’s wrong, what they’re doing is wrong. So the analogy sometimes used is that it’s like beating someone – if they say to you we’ll only beat you twice a week, instead of 5 times, that is a compromise. It’s not right to compromise when things are wrong – there is an alternative route.”
Q. 11 Bill Willis [Wilkinstown, Navan resident, originally from Co. Down]: “This is mainly addressed to Fr Stack who’s having problems understanding the Orange Order. Now I grew up in a home not many miles from Portadown, in a Protestant home incidentally… I have come across very few Orangemen who have the slightest knowledge what the Orange Order is about… As to these hired bands, the centre in the country for the young people was the band. The great evil of the thing is that they’ve been hijacked by evil politicians and this has been made into a tribal thing, and what we’ve got to get rid of is this idea of Catholic against Protestant – that is not correct, this is tribalism .. they’ve been brainwashed in a most disgusting manner … and I’ve come across unionists who basically were decent fellows, but put a sash on them and they go to the field and they hear the most outrageous lies, and they just believe it and that’s what you’ve got to get over.”
Q. 12 – “Returning to the religious freedom aspect, would you consider giving the nationalists also the right to organise a march through all the Orange areas… Have they tried to organise a St. Patrick’s Day march through Portadown?”
Brendan: “1985 St. Patrick’s Day would actually probably have brought this whole thing to the forefront as regards Obins Street. The local nationalist band, St. Patrick’s Accordion Band, was holding its parade and attempted to march down one street. The route had been agreed to beforehand by the RUC. On St. Patrick’s morning a crowd of loyalists gathered, local elected councillors and what not. That St. Patrick’s Day parade was rerouted. Now up till then there had been no real attempts by nationalists to parade in the town. Going back to the 1970s was the last time there was a nationalist parade in the town – it would have been a People’s Democracy protest at the beginning of the Civil Rights. They were literally beaten out of the town centre. Even back to the last century nationalists were almost exclusively confined to Obins Street. … Excursions of local school children to the then railway station would have been attacked. All these instances are recorded in the newspapers. Even the Faith and Justice Group a couple of years ago attempted to march into the town and because of threats etc. they were confined to the Garvaghy Road.”
Eamon: “There are two issues in terms of rights that we might identify – one has got to do with the dignity of the nationalists and the other is equality. Now in Portadown there is absolutely no equality. There is no question of a nationalist march in the centre of the town at the moment – the paramilitaries have made that very clear. But that’s a secondary issue.”
Q. 13 – Roy Garland (UUP, Belfast, Co-Chair, Guild of Uriel in Louth): “I’m a unionist. I’m a former member of the Orange Order, about 25 years ago. I’ve got friends in the Orange Order. I’m very glad I came here and I think it’s very sad to hear some of the things you’ve said. In a sense it’s a very bad picture because I can see both sides of the situation. One of the things that concerns me about it, and I put this to Sinn Fein at a meeting quite some time ago, is that this is such an emotive issue, that the implications and the possibilities are to be very brave. I was in England at the time of the Garvaghy Road thing, and the thing that shocked me was Ian Paisley (by the way Ian Paisley is a member of the Apprentice Boys, and that’s where the collarette comes from). He said that it was a matter of “life or death” to march down Garvaghy Road, which to my mind is idolatry of the most extreme kind. The difficulty is, and I don’t know how to get this over, because what you seem to be saying is, and I understand it, and I think the Orangemen shouldn’t march down the Garvaghy Road; but in my understanding and what I’ve heard from them is that they feel it is almost a matter of life or death to march down that road, and you feel it is almost a matter of dignity that they don’t march down it….
” The problem for me is I’ve been trying to put together some positive ideas to try to move the Protestant community forward where this sort of thing doesn’t happen. It actually was this position, as you said, that put David Trimble into the position in the Unionist Party, and it’s created a new movement within the Orange Order which is actually moving the Orange Order backwards instead of forwards as far as I can see…. I’m just throwing out ideas, I don’t know.
“That new booklet we have, A New Beginning, [Shankill Think Tank], and this is from people from the Shankill Road, former paramilitaries and so on, who are saying that what we need in this community is cross-community dialogue at all levels. The difficulty is that the Orange Order appears not to be prepared to talk. My understanding of their reason for this is that they feel, and this might seem crazy to you, that they are part of a community that is on their way out, that they’re in decline, and in that situation it’s very difficult to be generous. I certainly feel that Ireland as a whole has something to give to Orangemen, in some way to try and make them feel that they have a place here. The problem with this sort of situation is, and I can’t talk to these people and convince them yet I come from the same background… but I wonder have you thought about any other way that can diffuse the situation? Can you not get talking to them? Will they not talk to you? Is there not some way forward?
Brendan: “As I say, we have made attempts time and time again to meet with the Orange Order. We don’t get a response from them. Now we’ve brought in the Mediation Network in the hope that they can open some sort of dialogue and arrange some sort of contact between ourselves and the Orange Order. Now if they can’t do it who else is going to do it? They’ve already said, time and time again, that they will not speak to this committee… …As I said earlier we sent letters to them, they didn’t even acknowledge the letters.
“They’re just a closed shop and we have no way into that. Now hopefully the Mediation Network may be able to arrange a meeting between our committee and the district officers in Portadown. I don’t know what’s going to happen this week following the “Spirit of Drumcree” meeting – what kind of changes are going to take place within the Orange Order. Obviously Martin Smyth seems to be on his way out for the simple reason that he didn’t come to Portadown during the summer, and I would think anyone who has taken that stance or who is supporting Martin Smyth’s position is going out the door too.
You were saying about the seriousness of the situation – now I stated this before July, in connection with the ceasefires…. back in 1972 there was another parade in Portadown which led to the breakdown of the ceasefire several hours before it was broken in Belfast that afternoon, and I said to people that we have to be very sure of what we are going to do here, that we could be responsible for these ceasefires being broken. Obviously we weren’t going out to break them but we knew the possible consequences of our action. It seems, when I refer to that entire pan-Unionist front, that other people also were aware of the possible consequences, especially if it went on to the 11th July night… there could have been dead bodies on the Garvaghy Road, there could have been houses burned out, we could have had a repeat of 1969 all over again.”
Roy Garland: “Is it not possible, under any circumstances, to let the Orangemen go down this road?”
Joe Duffy: “No it’s not. We don’t want them, we’ve had enough.”
Roy Garland: “Are you not taking the same attitude as the Orangemen who are saying “no way”?”
Joe Duffy: “What do you want? They’ve beat us into one wee corner, all summer they’ll be coming round the town playing the bands. We can do nothing about it, so we don’t try, we let them go on ahead, and at the end of the day they want to march through the middle of us. It’s triumphalism, they want to just beat us into the ground.”
Roy: “They feel exactly the same. Yes, they really do…”
Brendan: “To go back to the previous person and the Donegal situation – depoliticise the Orange Order, do away with all the trappings and the provocation; do away with insulting your nationalist neighbours; you could then come down the Garvaghy Road, but that’s not going to happen this year, next year or the following year, that’s going to take time. It’s going to take what you talked about – cross-community dialogue, it’s going to take two communities understanding one another. I can see that day happening but not for many years yet.”
Q. 14 – Dominic Bryan (researcher, University of Ulster, speaker at previous month’s talk): “A couple of quick points… the people up here have suggested a way of looking at these things; in the long run it has to be how nationalists are allowed to express themselves in Portadown.
“It seems to me that it’s hard for them to allow Orangemen to walk down the road when nationalists themselves do not feel at home in their own town, so in the long term those are the sort of issues, and I know Eamon’s group has looked at these sort of things, and these are the sort of issues that should be looked at. One very small thing which I think is worth mentioning – though I don’t want to underestimate the threat that the loyalist paramilitaries pose to the nationalist community – I think we all know that, but what I saw happen on that morning was that in fact certain members of the loyalist paramilitaries were trying to keep a cap on what was going on. … I could only see a tiny little bit, I was at the Church, so I could only see a small amount of what was going on so I couldn’t tell you what was going on in other parts.”
Brendan: “It was senior loyalist paramilitary figures who led that crowd into the junction of Obins Street and Park Road.”
Dominic: “Ok, but certainly what I saw were people down at the bend trying to stop them, and I believe that Billy Hutchinson was involved, and I have also seen him trying to sort things out at parades in W. Belfast and also in Downpatrick, and there is a strain within the P.U.P. who are not particularly pro-Orange and they are making some efforts to try and alter the situation. It’s not quite that black-and-white – I’m sure there were loyalists involved in various things, but I saw certain elements trying to calm the situation down.”
Brendan: “Yes.. and I know members of the Combined Loyalist Military Command who were actually inciting people to violence, inciting people to invade the Obins Street area of Portadown.”
Q. 15 – Cllr. Christy Gorman (DL, Meath Co. Council): “What would the speakers’ view be of an entire ban on parades? The marches and parades are not just marches and parades – they are symbolic, they are triumphalism, they are the dominance, they are a monster brought together by many component parts of religious and political tradition, and generations of feeling in N.I., on both sides, and the monster seems to want to dominate and interfere with smaller weaker sections of the community… Now perhaps it’s a simplistic view to ban all parades … from what I’m hearing it’s a very entrenched position on both sides and I don’t know how it could be addressed to diffuse it in any way to make it any way acceptable.”
Brendan: “In ’69, ’70 and ’71 there was an outright ban on parades in the North and it never solved anything either.”
Christy Gorman: “Under the present circumstances, we’re trying to see the development of perhaps a more peaceful period in Ireland – would the people consider that it was more important to have the civil right to march, regardless of the consequences, of the effect that is having on the communities that they march through…”
Eamon: “You’re talking from the perspective of the Republic. It seems that these marches are really significant for the Orange and for that tradition, not particularly for the nationalists. No we don’t have a strong tradition of marching… If you look at the history, during the last century, bans weren’t effective, and the Orange become more militant when they’re banned… But what seems to be possible is to integrate the right to march into some other political settlement whereby there’s a certain amount of give and take, so that those marches that are offensive can be eliminated if it’s seen that there is something gained in return for that. I can’t see any other possibility.”
Brendan: “There are about 2, 400 marches each year by the Orange Order, there’s only about 6 that are contentious. Do you make them sacrifice 2394 parades just for the sake of 6? Have they to quit everything? We don’t want them to have to stop everything. We’re not trying to prevent them from marching in Portadown – they have suitable alternative routes – they have the entire town to walk through. All we are saying is that 2 of those marches we can do without…”
Q. 16 – Cllr. Phil Cantwell (Ind., Trim UDC): “My question is something like Cllr. Gorman’s. I too put to the Orangemen, why did they have to march through Portadown? And this was their answer, and I’d like you to tell me what I should have said to them – they said this was “the Queen’s highway”, they had done this for hundreds of years, it was a tradition and the fact that Catholics had over the years come to live in the area should not hinder their established tradition. Now that’s what they said to me, and we see parades here in the south, we would resent maybe having to change. .. Also, I’ve seen parades in N.I., if they want to have their parades, how could they be modified …
…What could be done to allow them to have the tradition, that would be acceptable to the nationalists?”
Brendan: “The Queen’s Highway. I would answer that in the words of another Orangeman, David McNarry, a very senior member. In an interview he gave during the summer he said that if the Orangemen deviate from their traditional route at any time, they lose the right to walk that route. In 1987, by their own decision, they did not march the Garvaghy Road, they broke that tradition themselves. How do you make them acceptable? … If you look at all the parades, be they loyalist, republican, nationalist or whatever, there’s only about 20-30 of them coming into dispute.
“To ask Orangemen to do away with all their regalia just for the sake of 6 routes, to ask nationalists to do away with all their shamrocks and tricolours just because in another 6 areas they cause offence. It has to be looked at on the merits of each parade – out of 2, 900 how many are causing offence? You have Ormeau Road, Portadown, Bellaghy, Dunloy, Derry and the city walls this year – we’re talking about 6 or 7 parades. There’s no question of anybody having to change their whole way… One of the things I noticed recently… is that the RUC have changed tack on the whole issue… In Lurgan, which is 5 miles from Portadown, nationalists have been trying to march into Lurgan and they have been stopped since the summer, and on the second occasion the RUC issued a statement afterwards and said that unless the community leaders can come together and decide themselves what’s acceptable in an area and what’s not, then they’re going to stop such marches. It’s a pity they hadn’t made that policy change before the summer.”
Q.17. Isobel Hylands [Lurgan resident]: “In Lurgan there have been 4 or 5 republican marches over the last 4 or 5 weeks… I actually walked into one the week before last and asked some of the young people who were involved to come away and not get themselves into hassle. They did come away, they didn’t become involved… and I don’t know whether there were some people who were actually arrested, there were scuffles with the police. The problem in Lurgan is that the…”
Brendan: “The only reason I mentioned Lurgan, and I don’t want to get into the Lurgan thing with you, is that the obvious change of policy which has come from the RUC in relation to the parades. The first parade, and I’m talking about an actual march of approx. 1000 people into Lurgan, was halted under the Public Order legislation. The RUC also used the same legislation the second time but in their press statements they gave the reasons why they changed tack completely, saying that if the communities can’t agree to what takes place in the town centre, they’ll put a stop to it. … Now why didn’t they put a complete halt to the marches in Portadown?”
Isobel: “One of the things in Lurgan each year, which gives “ownership” of the town centre to everyone, is the Day of Friendship which takes place on the Sunday before Christmas, and has done for the past 5 years – the two communities come together in friendship and meet in the town centre. The two communities come together to demonstrate their wish to live together in peace. Maybe that’s something that should be done in every town, bringing the two communities together in their town centres, rather than the provocative, divisive, triumphalist marches of whatever size by either side.”
Brendan: “Just in case people think we’re all rabid republicans or something up here, we do have contact across the so-called divide… I have organised nights in the town that have been cross-community, I have been involved in the running of them, but I think if you ask anybody in our town, anybody who’s been involved in cross-community work, they’ll tell you that come July everything comes to a dead stop – all the work that has been done in the previous 10/11 months goes out the window when it comes to July and in August/September they have to start from scratch again.”
Isobel: “I would agree that some of it does stop over July but not all. We actually happen to work with a cross-community group from Portadown which includes some kids from your own area, and that work does not stop over July – it has been ongoing for 3 years now.”
Brendan: “The majority of it does come to a halt.”
Q. 18 – Cllr. Phil Cantwell: “They didn’t address the point that I asked. That apparently in these traditional routes over the years Catholics have come into the areas and what were traditional routes are no longer acceptable… There’s only 6 or 7 marches that are a problem – is it because the routes are going through the Catholic areas, is this the problem?”
Brendan: “That was the traditional route in Portadown – that there [map]. Obins Street is the route they marched for 188 years. Obins Street was there when they started marching.. the Garvaghy Road came into existence afterwards. If they were wrong marching through Obins Street and we got them rerouted from Obins Street, then it must be equally wrong to allow them to march the Garvaghy Road.”
Joe Duffy: “There was a parade, the other side of Portadown, a hundred or something years. That parade all of a sudden this year stopped and went up to Drumcree…”
Phil: “The inference being?”
Joe: “It’s the siege mentality – Drumcree, they want to march the Garvaghy Road at all costs, at all costs to beat us into the ground. … And another point I want to put to you – the Orange Order marches out to the Church of Ireland church, with Archbishop Eames just a few miles down the road in Armagh, but they never make any comment, they never try to do anything, and they let this go on year after year. The Church of Ireland seems to wash their hands of it… and they have something to do with it because it’s their church they’re parading to.”
Q. 19 [Rev. John Clarke, C. of I. Rector]: “May I come in? I may not speak for Dr Eames but I’m quite sure he wouldn’t be very excited by the fact that they’re using the Church. I suspect it might be a situation where it might be even worse if he was to try to stop that. Somebody made the comment earlier on that the Orange Order was something to do with religion – I would have to deny that it has anything to do with my religion or indeed my perception of my denomination. I’m obviously a member of the Church of Ireland. I get by a full year perhaps never even thinking of the Orange Order and it does not have anything to do with my faith. Nothing whatsoever! It’s to do with tradition, it’s to do with bigotry, it’s to do with triumphalism. It has got nothing whatever to do with Anglicanism or the Church of Ireland as I perceive it.”
Joe Duffy: “But Bishop Eames could make his feelings known, could he not?”
Rev. John Clarke: “Perhaps he could, but I suspect there again it would make the position more entrenched. I would hope that he’s doing his part in some small way to move the situation forward.”
Joe Duffy: “That Church of Ireland minister wasn’t badly thought of in the Catholic community… yet whenever this so-called “medal” was presented, he was one of the men on the stage.”
Chair; John Clancy: “But there was a case, If I remember correctly about that time, where a minister refused to let them into the church.. there are cases like that, to be fair, there were cases where the Church of Ireland actually refused such celebrations….”
Rev. John Clarke : “Obviously certain clergy from both traditions accept the goings on of that tradition and some may fall into line with it…. perhaps it is their ministry to work within that, and to change the situation by being part of it. Perhaps I would be more effective if I were a member of the Orange Order. I shudder at the thought and dread the day that ever anything to do with the Order should come to a parish church that I had anything to do with…”
Q. 20 – Anne Nolan (Meath Peace Group): “Your coalition of groups – you represent 1200 families, and you’ve got 95% of the people who signed the petition – how many people during July actually took part in the protest?… The second question I’d like to ask is you were talking about 5 hours of rioting… and during the week leading up to the 12th there’s an awful lot of tension… I’d like to know where that tension comes from… You also mentioned that in the past people had been killed, and I’d like to know who was killed and where it happened.”
Brendan: “I would say between 500 and 700 people took part…. What you have to realise is.. that those people who are lucky enough to work have to go into loyalist areas to work. … There’s reasons why it wasn’t 95% of the population … these people are taking their lives in their hands by coming out and being seen at this protest… These people have to work in loyalist areas…. You asked re people who have been killed – we’re not just talking here about Catholics who have been killed. At a previous loyalist demonstration where you had Keith White from Lurgan killed by a plastic bullet… ..and Jack McCabe and one of his customers who was shot… You had one of the Beatties shot in Churchill Park… I don’t have all the facts and figures to hand…. In the 1930s people were shot dead in Obins Street… you can go right back. As regards the violence, as Eamon said it was a major thing not to have nationalists rioting in Portadown prior to an Orange parade, during an Orange parade or after an Orange parade. That didn’t happen this year you know….Joe can tell you about riots that went on for 2 – 3 days before an Orange parade. We have photographs at home… about the UDA being invited into Obins Street. We have had situations where gun battles have taken place…. “we’ve had situations where bombs have been planted to try and prevent Orange marches – the violence is there; what we’ve done this year was to ensure that that violence was channelled peacefully in a very disciplined fashion.”
Anne: “Do you think there is anybody in the Garvaghy Road area… somebody that maybe the Orange Order would speak to? Maybe they see you as public figures now and they may not speak to you. Would you be prepared to stand down now and let some people from your own area negotiate?”
Brendan: “Then what happens if our people turn round… and say to the Orange Order: “Harold Gracey, you made the call for everyone to come to Portadown, we’ll not talk to you, Robert Wallace, you were the District Secretary, we’ll not talk to you – once you start saying who you’re not going to talk to you are getting into very dangerous water…”
Anne: “Would you allow some other people from your area to do the negotiations?”
Brendan: “The only thing I want to say about that is that it’s this committee, this group, that has the mandate. No one else in our area.”
Anne Nolan: “Where did you get the mandate?”
Brendan: “That mandate came through the public meetings, through the protest, through the petitions etc… To replace this committee you’re going to have to go through the whole procedure again.”
Eamon: “I just want to say that I certainly don’t want to be involved in this issue. In a sense it’s not something I’d choose… It’s an awful situation that’s been very well portrayed as being potentially apocalyptic because of the fanaticism of fundamentalist biblical people and unionists placing that tag on it. But it is a justice issue – in terms of the rights of the people. I’ve no problem standing down and letting other people take the negotiating table but we have to face up to the reality. Somebody has to talk and at the moment we are the people who have been working on the thing – to change us I don’t think is actually going to change the reality. The reality is there’s a huge gap between the two groups and there’s a grave reluctance on the part of the Orange tradition to change. So to change us I don’t think would really help, but I’m certainly open to it. I’ve no desire to be here.”
Brendan: “What happens if the Orange Order refuses to talk to the people who replace us?”
Anne: “I’m just trying to understand – what if there were some other people in the Orange Order who were prepared to speak to someone else from your area – maybe they have some objection to you?”
Brendan: “Who’s to say that they won’t make new objections… make new preconditions….?”
Q. 21 – Julitta Clancy (Meath Peace Group): “I just want to thank you particularly, because we were all very concerned this year and over the last couple of years we’ve met people from the Garvaghy Road; they’ve actually been down here staying and talking to the group. I just want to compliment you on the fact that there was no violence this year… you did show an example… and I can’t even begin to visualise the problems you’ve gone through. On the other hand, I’d also have to put it to you that there are these huge divisions, as Roy [Garland] brought up, there are huge problems that have been there for many centuries and these have been exacerbated by the last 25 years of violence. This summer, we all thought the ceasefires were going to lead to dialogue, to people getting down to the ground and showing hope, but unfortunately many politicians didn’t take that great opportunity which was given to them. We saw that in Portadown this summer, but we also saw the other thing – the “angry voices and marching feet” of the republican movement, at a time when they had made gestures, good gestures, but they could not also see the need for calm, for the building of trust and confidence, and that’s what’s got to be done. We can’t say to you “let them march through”, or anything like that, but we have to appeal to you to try and do as much as you can, to try and talk as much as you can, to try and understand as well. The Orangemen who were here last month did say that they didn’t want to tar the residents of Garvaghy Road with a label and they admitted they knew very little about the Portadown situation – they weren’t here to talk about that. We had invited them to talk about the history and traditions of the Order because we know very little about it, and, as Roy said, it’s very important that nationalists in the North, and we in the south, learn about what is so important to such a large number of people on this island.
“In the Downing Street Declaration and other documents we have accepted the equal rights and validity of both traditions, so we’re going to have to learn, and we’re going to have to understand, and they are equally going to have to come out of their tribalism and start to look at your problems. The men and women we have met are very decent people – but very few of them have understood the problems that you are having, and I found this a terrible shock – how they didn’t seem to understand.
“But they didn’t understand, you must allow that. Many did believe that you, well the leaders of your group anyway, were IRA people … that is the problem we’ve all got to address … [tape unclear] ……. The more you read the literature, the more you realise this, whether it’s being put in from the top or whatever, people are believing these things and we have to do all we can to try and get around that – ordinary people talking to ordinary people can do a lot, and there are decent ordinary people all over. And I’m not trying to take from the good work you’re trying to do, but I’m just saying that somehow or other we’ve got to make sure that peace is not wrecked by these situations, and that we do work to build trust and confidence.”
Brendan: “From May 10th last year we have been attempting to open dialogue with the Orange Order, we’re not the people who closed the door. We are still looking to open that dialogue, we’re using the Mediation Network, we’re using every means at our disposal, we are trying to understand them – but what we get is the door closed in our face each time…”
Q. 22 – Noel Weatherhead [Tullamore resident]: “Just a quick one on religion and the Orange Order. I have been told by a number of Protestant ministers that when the Orange Order marches to church they don’t have a special service – it’s the ordinary service that they come to. The only difference in it is that they all maintain that one of the things they give them is a “good tongue-lashing” as to where they were for the past year. Because the religion element of it only seems to come out for the Orange march – they’re not church attenders for the rest of the year, by and large….”
Evelyn: “Most of them that go up to Drumcree church, they don’t even go into the church. They stay outside because they’ve never been to church, just that one day they want to walk down the Garvaghy Road.”
Q. 23 – Cllr. James Holloway (FG, Navan UDC): “… I can’t see the problem being solved in the flashpoint of the parade. But some people seem to be saying, they’re suggesting to me in a sense that if you …. tackle the problem more circuitously, or by way of little bits, do you understand? Establish little bridges here and there without actually keeping the eye directly on this flashpoint on this particular day… kind of hard/soft approach. Now it’s easy to say that. I was reminded there as I was showing my students one of the Robert Keyes’ documentaries on the Troubles, and I recall one woman, and I forget exactly what she said, but it was something like “the noise of those bloody drums every year – it’s repetitive you know.” And of course I suppose the whole thing can be explained in terms of the degree to which we feel secure or otherwise. I can’t help thinking that right now really it’s a potentially dangerous time in many respects, although we must be grateful, as someone has said, that the guns have been silenced, although at the same time we’re in a state of flux… for those who seem to have so much to lose, or not enough to gain… So the present time is fraught. But I sometimes give the analogy of two identical twins walking down a busy street, people knocking into them and so on: the one on the inside just getting knocked about, and really he’s hurt. The difference is their reactions would be different now because one is hurt, one is fearful, the other is not. Or the two little children who go to the beach for the first time, one dives into the waves and the other one runs away…..
“It is a time of flux and it is fraught, but listening to those two people on my right – to go about it in a different way might create a difference in the long term, and whether it would actually result in fewer Orange parades, we don’t know, but it may perhaps allow the Orange people to see that they don’t need the same amount of parades every year at the same time. I’ll just finish by asking two questions: do you perceive that in fact parading has a worse effect, or are there more Orange parades in the last few years; and what are your thoughts on the suggestion that was made, not even a suggestion, just a thought?
Brendan: “In Portadown now, I’m actually talking about parades coming through nationalist areas. Protest and action such as ours has cut the number of marches through our area from 9 marches to 2 marches in the last 10 years. The Garvaghy Road is still the major issue, all the parades have been stopped in Obins Street. The bulk of the nationalist population lives along the Garvaghy Road and that area still continues to develop – there’s a new housing development all along it. The population’s going to grow bigger. So I don’t know.
“As to the second question, the circuitous route. Well Eamon could take you on to that, because this July, even on the Sunday of our protest, we had a Presbyterian minister who visited us – I think he was Presbyterian. He represents a group of about 20-30 Protestants who would have been willing to come out and support us. We went to the meeting with PACE, we had Catholics and Protestants there, more Protestants than Catholics. We explained a lot to those people that night – they weren’t even aware of what happened in their own town, they didn’t realise what went on. The people we were talking to don’t go to Orange parades, so they hadn’t a clue what was going on…. But now they do know, and as they said that night, they’ll try to explain to their circles of friends what’s going on, and hopefully that’ll grow. We are trying to make these steps, you know, we’re not turning away from dialogue with anybody as I keep saying. We will talk to anybody, and we’ll go anywhere to talk to them – I don’t care who they are – to get this problem resolved once and for all.”
Joe Duffy: “The only problem with what you’re saying is that the Orange Order has built the “Siege of Drumcree” up, it’s like the Battle of Waterloo; it’s been built up and up and this year coming in I would say would be a sorry tale. Because they have made it into a big thing – not us. They have. They have made it into the big picture. I would like to ask that man there who’s a unionist, what he thinks of what I said – has the Orange Order built what they call the Siege of Drumcree?”
Roy Garland: “I’m not very closely associated with or have any intimate knowledge of the thing. I understand that that sort of mentality was promoted by certain people at Drumcree and I understand that some people from Belfast received a telephone call from Drumcree that said the Orangemen were under siege in Drumcree. But the thing that I was worried about earlier is that the more hyped up the thing becomes, the more that sort of thing is increased.”
Joe: “But that’s what I’m saying to you – they have hyped it up, and they’re continuing to hype it up and will continue till next year.”
Brendan: “I think what Joe’s trying to say is that the Orange Order is going to find it very difficult to walk away from that parade. Let’s say 5 days beforehand we can get a ministerial ban slapped on the parade; if 5 days beforehand the RUC inform the Orange Order that they’re not going to get marching, and it’s not done at the last minute because of the hype centre around this, the Orange Order are going to find it very difficult to walk away, and that’s the fault of a small clique within them.”
Eamon: “We’ve had a very long night listening to all the viewpoints, and just to summarise: we are very grateful for the patience of everyone for listening to the story. Obviously it’s not the polished nice story you’d get from professional organisations or from intellectuals, but we are really just a community group who have found ourselves in this position. What I find within the nationalist community is a very significant change – the goodwill that was there throughout the whole incident. When people were pushed to great extremes, whose lives were endangered by the words of some of the senior politicians – there was no sense of bitterness in the nationalist community. All along there was a sense of “our cause is just and we want justice.” We don’t want to defeat anybody – we don’t want to walk on anybody, and we don’t feel bitter towards others who find themselves in this awful situation because they have created a bit of a mess themselves….” [tape ends, following comes from notes only]…”We want to understand what the Orange Order is about – there’s a listening time – and then we need to talk. Northern Ireland is British and Irish – unionists have to come to terms with that. [We hope for] some signs that the leadership will pull back and not make Portadown the last stand of unionism. There’s hope that things might change. It’s great to be balanced but sometimes you have to stand up for what is right and just. Sometimes we have to get off the wall and stand up for a just cause. We can’t be balanced and neutral always. “… [re danger to peace process and what people can do in the Republic] …”It’s never right to sacrifice the dignity of the nationalist people for a higher ideal. The Republic has to make a stand and not allow the dignity of people to be walked on.”
On behalf of the Meath Peace Group, John Clancy closed the proceedings and thanked the speakers for giving so much of their time. He also thanked the audience for being so patient in listening and for contributing so well to the question and answer session, and he thanked the Columban Fathers for their generosity in permitting the use of the facilities at Dalgan Park for the talks.
Meath Peace Group report – December 1995. Report compiled and edited by Julitta Clancy. Taped by Anne Nolan
(c)Meath Peace Group
Contact names 1995: Anne Nolan, Gernonstown, Slane, Co. Meath; Julitta and John Clancy, Parsonstown, Batterstown, Co. Meath; Pauline Ryan, Woodlands, Navan; Philomena Boylan-Stewart, Longwood; Michael Kane, An Tobar, Ardbraccan, Navan, Co. Meath