No. 30 – “PARADING DISPUTES – IS THERE A BETTER FUTURE?”
Monday, 19th October, 1998
St. Columban’s College, Dalgan Park, Navan, Co. Meath
Cllr. Fergus McQuillan (SDLP, Fermanagh District Council)
Orla Maloney (Member of Drumcree Faith and Justice Group, and Garvaghy Road Residents Group)
Roger Bradley ((Member of Education Committee, Grand Orange Lodge)
John Hunter (Member of Orange Institution and UUP member)
Ernest Baird (Member of Orange Institution)
Michael Doherty (Authorised officer, Parades Commission)
Dominick Bryan (Research officer, Centre for the Study of Conflict)
Chaired by Fergus Finlay
Introduction (Michael Kane and Fergus Finlay)
Addresses of speakers
Chairman’s summing up
Questions and Comments
Closing words (Fergus Finlay and Julitta Clancy)
Michael Kane (Meath Peace Group) welcomed the speakers and thanked everyone for coming. “Our last talk in May was on the Belfast Agreement. While there was much hope and optimism expressed that night there were also concerns about the parading disputes and dissident republican groups. Sadly these concerns proved prophetic, but on a scale no-one could have believed. Over the last few months, 36 people including several young children and two unborn babies have been killed, hundreds have been injured and many people have been intimidated out of their homes. Most of these casualties occurred in the Real IRA bomb attack in Omagh, four deaths (the three Quinn children and RUC constable Frank O’Reilly) resulted from the parading dispute in Drumcree and one person, Andrew Kearney, was killed in an IRA punishment attack. Let us remember these people tonight and let us remember their grieving families.
“Last weekend I spent four days in Belfast at the Fourth EU Conference on Peace and Reconciliation. I was very touched principally by the people from Belfast. There were youth workers from East, West, North and South Belfast who had been involved in different sides of the conflict and who were now working together and they were talking about all the achievements that have taken place over the last few months. But what I learnt most was all the work that has been done over the years, all the small little initiatives that have been taken by people who have taken risks … in trying to bring peace….”
Chair (Fergus Finlay): opening the discussion, guest chair Fergus Finlay said:
“In the week when the Nobel Peace Prize came to Ireland there could hardly be a more fitting topic for discussion tonight. Because I think the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to two people who came to realise that peace was only possible if the concepts of victory and defeat were finally put aside …and the Agreement that they negotiated, and in which they were principal players, was an agreement which is built around that very concept and couldn’t have happened if either side or the other went into negotiations looking for a victory or prepared for defeat.
“But there are, I think, two areas – apart from the atrocities that Michael mentioned and apart from the small groups on the fringes who commit those atrocities – there are two areas where the concept of victory and defeat is an issue: these are the parades issue and decommissioning.
“To most of us who don’t live in Northern Ireland, both of these subjects contribute to the ongoing and, I suppose, permanent incomprehension. I find it impossible to understand how decommissioning is still an issue – who needs guns, bombs or semtex if they’re involved in the kind of political activity that the republicans are involved in now? I also find it impossible to understand why it is that parades cause such bitterness and why it is that two communities who can talk together about the highest political concepts can’t talk to each other about small areas of local space. I would hope that by the end of the night we will have a better understanding of why it is that passions run so high in relation to at least one of those subjects, i.e. the subject of parades.
“I would like the audience to acknowledge that the speakers have come a long way – there are people here tonight willing to speak, willing to explain, willing to communicate, and I think each in their own way are paying their own tribute to the many years of valuable work undertaken by the Meath Peace Group. I’m not sure if there are too many groups in Ireland who could attract such a panel from both sides of the divide to share themselves honestly with us. I think that’s possibly the greatest tribute I could pay to the Meath Peace Group. I’m going to start the proceedings now and I’ll call on Cllr. Fergus McQuillan:
1. Fergus McQuillan (SDLP, Newtownbutler)
“Thank you…. Just a little bit of background – I’ve been a schoolteacher in Newtownbutler since 1957. I’ve been on Fermanagh District Council since 1981. I fought the Assembly elections in 1973 (along with one of tonight’s speakers, Ernest Baird). However I lost to Harry West. There wouldn’t have been much of a career anyway in politics in Northern Ireland for 25 years. Luckily we got John Hume, Seamus Mallon and Eddie McGrady elected …
Parades issue: “I live in Newtownbutler which is about 60 miles north of here – it’s a small nationalist village. It’s been in the news since 1689 – one of the most important battles of the Williamite Wars was fought there and I think every century we’ve been having an odd battle ever since.
1996: “Since the last War … there have been Orange parades in Newtownbutler – the Sunday before the 12th July and the Sunday before the 12th August and the feeder marches on the morning of the 12th July and the 2nd Saturday of August. Those parades passed peacefully every year until Drumcree happened. I say that without fear or favour. There was grumbling always – people said “those so and so’s shouldn’t be allowed to march” – troublemakers had to be watched. At that time there was no Sunday opening and no congregation about the town – the parades were usually around 7 or 8 O’Clock on a Sunday evening … and there was no trouble. But Drumcree sparked something off which I cannot explain. I was asked after Drumcree to go and meet with the RUC Superintendent at Lisnakea, and with the parish priest of Newtownbutler and with two members of the Orange Order we arranged that meeting. But the resident’s association had been set up in the meantime.
“Now the resident’s association of Newtownbutler had been set up because on the first Sunday of Drumcree – when we saw the battle royal on our televisions – there was a stand off in Newtownbutler on that particular night. The traditional Sunday night parade had taken place. The parade was led by the Inver band from Roslea …and they played on the street for 45 minutes.
“I’ve had various contradictions to that, but I know. I was on the street. I owned a pub in the town, on the main street … and I was coming in [to the pub] and I couldn’t get in – I had to walk through a crowd of people who had completely blocked the main street. This blockage was assisted by the RUC. I was told to park my car , leave it there and if I tried to walk up, it was up to myself. My daughter who occupied a flat above the pub and had two small children, was somewhere behind in that queue of cars and she had to manhandle two infants, both in pushchairs, through the crowd as well. Many other people were hindered that night…. That caused a bad feeling in the village and as a result of that on the 12th of July, a couple of days later, a skirmish broke out and it got very serious and the special patrol group came in. These are RUC who come in dressed nearly like the way James Bond would be in the films – that’s the only way I can describe them, completely in black, flameproof jackets, visors, helmets etc. As a result of that we were not able to contain the people who decided they would protest. And protest they’ve been doing since.
1997: “Even last year, in 1997, when the local residents association informed the police they would be having a protest and told them where it would be … it would not be hindering the parade, it would be off the parade route – it would be in view of it all right but they would stand well back and would confine it to 50 people. … That night there were 50 police landrovers in town, 50 protestors and 50 marchers. As a result of that 27 people have been interviewed by the police – they were all got on video. 10 were summoned. Last week the first prosecution came up – for a man who’s 6ft 5. The deposition made by the policeman was he was 5ft 10 and red-haired. The fact is he’s 6ft 5 and bald. He was definitely there but he had no connections with the protesters. Everybody in the street was swept off. The village was closed down for those hours. That in my mind is unacceptable but it is not something I would protest about. I don’t protest – I know the danger of protest. I was a member of the Civil Rights Association – I remember many a time we went on civil rights marches in the town of Enniskillen but we were always careful to make sure we could keep the crowd small and keep it orderly. That is something that’s much more difficult to do nowadays than it was then. It only takes one or two troublemakers. It only takes one or two idiots to be fired up by a bit of bravado in the pub or whatever. The first year of the protest we closed the pubs – the pubs didn’t open at all on that particular Sunday night. This year I had sold mine and two other pubs had been sold … and I suppose they couldn’t afford to close the pubs.
Dialogue: “I was deeply disappointed with the Orange that they refused to communicate. They suggested a number of people of whom I was one, because I was a local councillor, the Parish Priest, because he was a nice quiet man, but PPs these days don’t lead their flocks the way they used to – they haven’t that influence. People will remember the days when the parish priest and the local schoolmaster in a small area would have had influence, but that is no longer the case.
1998: “.. This year when we did sit down to negotiate with the Parades Authority – and we got 5 minutes notice of the meeting – myself and another man who … had been acceptable to the Orange the previous year were called in. .. We said to the negotiator, “there’s no way we can stop people if they are going to demonstrate” and we then eventually got two Sinn Fein members to come in and they said “this is not about refusal to [allow a] march … this is about refusal to talk”. That if the Orange people would come in and talk to us “we will talk to them and we will be generous”. Now I’d got that promise also from Sinn Fein councillors in 1996 privately. But they couldn’t say it publicly and opportunities were lost.
“Now I cannot speak for the Garvaghy Road – it’s a bigger place than Newtownbutler. But the people who would be talking here were people who would be going to the same cattle marts every week, who would be going to the same shops, who meet each other every day, as farmers do. But there was a complete refusal to negotiate. There was a blatant refusal to talk to Sinn Fein. Now I don’t speak for Sinn Fein. I have fought elections against Sinn Fein all my life when they were running boycotts. That happened the first time I met Ernest [Baird] – a Sinn Fein boycott really caught me out . And I had been working with the very same people in the civil rights movement….
“The message needs to go out. The Parades Commission allowed a Church parade in August this year and I was very very annoyed at that situation, because it was dangerous. It is taking a toll on the people of Newtownbutler. And I know that the Protestant people of Newtownbutler miss the parades. I’d like to see those parades going through. As I said, for almost 50 years they went through without let or hindrance. They weren’t particularly liked by republicans. One objection I would have myself is .. playing “God Save the Queen” … in the middle of the main street. Now that holds up things and it is seen as victorious by the ordinary people of Newtownbutler. They are a political people. The first time the water cannon was used in Northern Ireland was used in 1954 in Newtownbutler to hose us off the streets. Now I’m glad we have no marching tradition – we didn’t have to participate in that line. But we would have been participating in the GAA – we have one of the oldest GAA clubs in Northern Ireland
Public holidays: “I believe there is another matter which has to be addressed: there are only two public holidays in Northern Ireland – on 12th and 13th July. 40% of the population cannot take part. The new Assembly will have to do something about this. I’m not a protesting person but I do feel that some recognition must be given to the nationalist people about that public holiday system. These holidays don’t suit everybody. Holidays are necessary and as a schoolteacher I enjoy the best of holidays but I do believe that is another issue that will have to be addressed, sooner rather than later. Hopefully it won’t be a matter of protest. Thank you.”
2. Orla Maloney (member of Drumcree Faith and Justice group, and Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition):
“Thank you… I was asked to talk as a mother, on what it’s like to live in Portadown. I’m from Dublin, my father is from Waterford, my mother from Mayo, but I’ve spent most of my life in Portadown. I was very happy when I met a man from Portadown and went to live there. All my life republican/nationalist undertones were in my house. My family were split over the Civil War. I thought this was my chance to really do something about the North – to go and live there, work there, have children there. Just to be part of it instead of being part of those in the 26 counties who just look up and say it’s terrible.
“Most people I knew had never crossed the border. When I drove into Portadown the first time I can remember my heart sinking. I felt an atmosphere as I drove in – it was awful.
Ghettoisation: “I sent my children to a mixed school. I did meet Protestants, but my first difficulty was hockey – hockey was my game and I was told I couldn’t play hockey in Portadown. I had to play on the other side of town. Very soon one was ghettoised on the Garvaghy Road – there wasn’t much room for manoeuvre. So, my escape was the road to Newry and Dublin and the road to Enniskillen and Mayo. Our holidays were spent like that. I remember the children’s early questions – driving through the town once the bunting went up and them asking me “what are these colours? why are they here? red, white and blue – what are they for?” The whole town was done and they thought it was a cause for celebration. But soon they learnt from their friends that these weren’t our colours. When they asked what were their colours they were told they weren’t allowed have their colours in Portadown. It was just that simple, you didn’t and you couldn’t.
“Regularly you would hear ‘so and so was attacked up the town, don’t go to the town late at night’. ‘Can we go to the pictures?‘ No, there was no picture house. Social life was confined to the couple of pubs up the Garvaghy Road end of the town. The same went with the children. Football matches might have been outside the town but the bus could be attacked on the way home. The boys went to Armagh to school and the bus was often attacked on the way home. The girls went to Dungannon, the same thing. So it wasn’t easy bringing up children where you had no outlet for them. I’d walk them out the country and just let them loose on the road. Now looking back, relatively speaking, I had loads of freedom in Portadown because now I can’t go into the town safely at all. People look at you, nudge, whisper. I have been to town I think three times since last June and that would be rushed and I haven’t been in on my own. So basically you’re confined to a one mile stretch of road with a concentrated population of people who are there because they were burned and intimidated out of their homes during the early 1970s.
Feelings of dispossession: “So nationalists have a feeling of dispossession . They would have it from the Plantation, from the foundation of the Orange Order, from the formation of the State and particularly from the early 70’s. Now 11 people were murdered in recent years in Portadown (including most recently RUC constable O’Reilly). Yet that’s a small part of the story. The amount of attacks that go unreported – they’re daily. Women have been spat on around the town, called names, faced with placards saying “No taigs around the town”. A Jewish friend of mine in Israel says it sounds and feels like Nazi Germany just before the war broke out. Your choice of things like education is limited. I have a son who goes to Armagh Tech simply because Portadown Tech isn’t safe.
Drumcree Faith and Justice: “ I was roped into a group called the Drumcree Faith and Justice Group by Brian Lennon. I didn’t know what I was getting in to. My early experiences with the children had caused resentment at the situation. I would say I’m a strong nationalist. I’m completely opposed to violence, any form of violence from wherever it comes, I can find no reason for it, even on television I can’t stomach it.
“So I had to find an outlet for the feelings of injustice, resentment and unfairness in my children …. So I started writing poetry and I encouraged the children to write poetry and to draw, so that their resentment would be channelled and they would see that there was somebody to listen to them. That was the only thing I could think of. So when Brian Lennon asked me to join the Faith and Justice group I consulted with the children and they thought it was a good idea. We did various things like having tea parties on the road and inviting the Orange men to have a cup of tea. We wrote to them every year asking them to meet us and to hear the feelings of people in the area about the march. The march was a symbol to them of all the unfairness and injustice that went on all year. The fact that they couldn’t go to town. The fact that we’re just over 20% of the population of Portadown yet we’re 45% of the unemployed. The fact that we don’t have access to schools, social activities, everything.
Parades in Portadown: “There are 44 marches in Portadown town centre from Easter on. Which means on a Friday night we can’t go shopping – you’re diverted. Now people don’t say anything about that, we don’t even talk about that amongst ourselves. The town is blocked off. We know we’re not safe in it, we don’t have access to it – they have their march in it. But the march that comes down the Garvaghy Road – onto the road where all the people are gathered who were intimidated out of the rest of the town – when that march comes, it comes when people are caged in for 48 hours, with a very heavy security presence. The security forces would face the people, not the marchers. They would search, bring dogs into the estates and several incidents would be reported.
“Our youths would normally have rioted the night before because of all the resentments and everything building up. They would stone a local empty factory. I’m part of a co-op – Drumcree Community Trust – we bought that factory and changed it into medium-sized business units which happened to coincide with the cease-fire and the joining of various people in the area into a coalition of local residents. I am the Faith and Justice representative on that Coalition of local residents. The rioting ceased, people then looked to the coalition of residents. They thought they had strong people speaking for them…
Dialogue: “.. Every effort was made for dialogue. I think I said that every year for 11 years we had written to the Orange Order and we had never received a reply. We have also repeatedly written to David Trimble and we haven’t had a reply. Our bottom line always was dialogue. No pre-conditions. It never said no march.. or anything like that. … We want to talk – we want to talk about the problem of the town and the problem of the march in relation to the town.
1995: “I think everybody knows what happened that year. There was a stand-off. The march was refused. I think it was Hugh Annesley said any body who would come in and would look at a map and ask what should they do, anyone would ask why would the Orangemen not take the equidistant route back the way they came? Why did they have to go down the Garvaghy Road? On one radio show this year… an Orangeman said “what’s the point of marching if you don’t go through a nationalist area?”
“That’s the way it feels as a Nationalist watching the march go through and being sealed in beforehand. To go back to the stand-off – the Mediation Network came in. An agreement was struck and then the agreement was broken when David Trimble and Ian Paisley danced down the road and subsequently medals were given out to celebrate the siege of Drumcree. Nationalists couldn’t believe that. They felt the ruling had been in their favour – the Orangemen had a stand-off, had thrown a tantrum… they had worked out an agreement and then the agreement was broken. Dialogue was agreed – that was part of the agreement – but dialogue never happened.
1996: “ 1996 came along and again it was ruled that the march should not go down the road and there was another standoff. Fergus [Finlay] said at the beginning that he didn’t understand why it happened – why Drumcree had this effect. I think everybody was in a certain mode of thinking. I couldn’t understand myself how it was done in front of the world’s cameras. I could never believe that – how they did it. Very quickly word came through that the march was getting pushed through and people assembled on the road and people sat down and the riot police lined up. I went to plead with them – they pulled their batons and they went to beat. There were children, women, grandmothers – every age group – sitting on the road.
“I was just pushed away and a police-man raised his baton at me and my husband pulled me out from under the baton. There was no talking to the police, obviously they had been instructed to get these people out of the road, the march was getting pushed through. So the whole world saw unarmed people sitting on the road – they’d worked out an agreement the year before, the agreement had been broken and here was the march getting pushed through again and it was their skulls that got the batons. I think very quickly everybody picked their side.
Boycotts: “People afterwards talked about orchestrated boycotts. There was nothing orchestrated. Person after person that day on the road said to me … “We have got some power we’ve got our purses”. They thought at first the Catholic Church had sold them out and the first thing they were saying is “there’s not a penny going back into the basket”. Subsequently the boycott seemed to be against Protestant businesses but initially they thought the Cardinal had sold them out at the talks down at the carpet factory – which had not been done – but they were going to keep their money away from the Church. So people nursed their bruises.
“We went again for peaceful dialogue and met every Church leader, and every politician and every person that we could think of from ‘96 to ‘97…
1997: “…At five o’clock on the Saturday evening we still had had no decision. At midnight the reporters told us it looked like the wire was going up and it looked like the march was not going to be allowed through. So hence the dismay when at three in the morning thousands upon thousands of troops were silently coming in, in the middle of the night. My ten year old still has nightmares about it. My husband had to take my two little ones and try and get down through the estates and away from Garvaghy Road. My ten year old said to me recently during a nightmare “did you not know that I was afraid?” Would you not have been afraid if you were eight and you were taken out in the middle of the night?
Stress: “That’s part of the problem – we’re living with so much stress. You check under your car in the morning, you watch every move and every strange sound during the night, many people have death threats. .. I don’t feel I can operate with my family unless I do something about the situation in which I brought them to live. Basically as a Christian if you see something that’s unfair – it’s not easy in Portadown to talk out against it, but I think it’s your moral duty. If you see something that you think is wrong you try and channel people away from being violent and you talk about it.
“Repeatedly we’re told the Orange Order can’t meet Breandan MacCionnaith because he did a prison sentence some years ago. That’s another red herring. They did not talk to Faith and Justice group for all these years – never acknowledged a letter. If we’re to go on about what people have done wrong – we have to look to the Gospel – “who can throw the first stone?” Nobody I believe.
Recent months: “Julitta asked me to talk about the recent months. It’s been hell since July – for 10 weeks we had the demonstrations at Corcrain – nightly abuse. Just enclosed in this mile long stretch of road. I was there when the policeman [Constable O’Reilly] was hurt – what was most painful was the women chanting “cheerio” as the ambulance was pulling out. No human feeling towards the man who had been injured. Those protests have been withdrawn since that injury. But the atmosphere in Portadown remains the same – there’s no movement, nothing happening and we’re in our little ghetto.
Good Friday Agreement: “My hope for the future lies in the Agreement and the implementation of the Agreement. That’s about equality and justice for everybody. That doesn’t mean taking away anybody’s rights. Everybody benefits from justice. Thank you.”
3. Roger Bradley (Member of Education Committee, Grand Orange Lodge):
“Thank you. I’m a member of the Education Committee of Grand Lodge, but I’m here in a private capacity – I have no authority to speak for the Order. I’m also a Worshipful Master of the Cross of St. Patrick LOL. My particular purpose here is to introduce Ernest Baird and John Hunter who will speak on different aspects. I should also say that had there been a member of Sinn Fein at this table, I could not have been here; I could not have shared a platform with Sinn Fein as they are one and the same as the IRA, and that is the position of the Order and that is my position.
Parades issue a symptom of underlying problem: “The issue of parades has become much more contentious in recent years. As earlier speakers have pointed out, there’s been parades for years and they haven’t caused any bother and all of a sudden it’s become an issue. I work alongside a young Catholic …who as a child used to go to watch parades along with her parents. Obviously she didn’t have a problem with it, her parents didn’t have a problem with it. All of a sudden now it’s an issue. We need to ask why is this? … It’s also useful to look at the work of Dominick Bryan who has done a lot of research in this area, and perhaps he is more objective than certainly nationalists and indeed Orangemen as well – he would perhaps have an objective view as to why it has become an issue. However I want to assert that parades have become an issue, not because it’s an Orange parade – it just happens to be a symptom of an underlying cause, and it’s the underlying cause that we should be looking at.
“To distill this down simply – it’s a battle between republicanism and unionism – that’s what it boils down to, in the final analysis.
Spiritual warfare: “In today’s Newsletter, there was a letter from a Church of Ireland minister, the Rev. Bill Hoey, who supports the Rev. Pickering, the Rector of Drumcree. In the letter he says [re the Catalyst group]: “… I believe these people have lost their way. They are so wrapped up in a false ecumenism that they’ve forsaken the teaching of the Word of God, upon which the doctrines and teaching of the Church of Ireland is based. I would ask these clerics in the group to read again the Ordination Service and the vows they made, together with Ezekiel 33 and 34 to see what the Lord says about false shepherds… The Church of Ireland seems to be terminally ill and one has only to read the nonsense of the Catalyst group to see where the cancer really is”. This is really a spiritual warfare – focusing on the Reformed Faith, actually wanting to reverse the Reformation. That in my mind is what this is all about, and the problem that you see in the parading issue is just but one symptom of that. There are many other symptoms but that is one focus that is being latched upon.
“After all, it was Gerry Adams who said (at Athboy) that the Drumcree standoff did not come about by accident, and he was absolutely right. It did not come about by accident. The protests that we have seen throughout the country have not come about by accident.
Misinformation: “There’s a great deal of misinformation and propaganda about. What I hope with both John and Ernest speaking to you is that it will help dispel some of that misinformation and help to clear away some of the propaganda so that you all will have a clearer understanding of what the position of Orangemen is. .. Thank you very much.
Chair: “I call on John Hunter now, who is a barrister, and a member of the Orange Order and the UUP. Like the other speakers he is here in an individual capacity.
4. John Hunter (barrister; member of Orange Order and UUP): “Thank you Fergus. I was going to say that I hold no brief for the Orange Institution – I’m here just expressing my own opinions.
Understanding the significance of parades: “First of all, in terms of the whole issue of parades and parading, I don’t think that people in this country can really appreciate or understand the significance of parades and parading and processions in the culture of the Ulster Protestant. I don’t think you understand it. I can remember on one occasion seeing a man saying on television that he “liked to walk”. I was speaking to someone from outside Northern Ireland and he hadn’t a clue what the man was talking about. It’s struck with me ever since.
“Frankly, there isn’t an understanding of the issue.
Ulster Protestants – a community under siege: “You’ve also got to understand, that from the perspective of an Ulster Protestant, we’re a community that still perceives our community to be under siege – to be under siege from the forces of Irish republicanism for many many years. In the border areas of Northern Ireland we have had, in effect, a campaign of genocide against Protestants. For example in South Fermanagh, there have been many, many Protestants murdered and the people responsible for those murders have never been caught. So, even from that perspective, you have a particular feeling of a constant encroachment, a campaign of genocide. When you hear Orla talk about the ghettoisation of the republican community in Portadown – I don’t see, for example, in areas of Northern Ireland a ghettoisation to that extent potentially of the Protestant population, but I see in large parts of Northern Ireland where Protestants have been forced to move out of their farms because the only son or the eldest son has been murdered, there’s that gradual movement back. It’s when you have a community under siege like that that we have the importance of the Orange Institution and the whole parading issue.
“Before going on, I just want to deal with one or two matters that earlier speakers referred to in passing..
Playing of “God Save the Queen”: “I’m glad that Fergus [McQuillan] has no objection to his Protestant neighbours celebrating their culture by walking to and from church in the main street of Newtownbutler. But .. the playing of “God Save the Queen” – That is the national anthem of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Traditionally at the end of an Orange meeting or at the end of an Orange parade they play the national anthem of the country. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I were in your country, and some function were taking place, that they played the national anthem of your country. I might expect that. You expect the same thing in Northern Ireland. That’s an important part of the identity of the country, and nobody is being triumphalist or offensive, standing and playing the national anthem outside their hall at the end of a parade before they go in. That is a normal part of the Orange culture and until people can actually understand and appreciate that, then I think we’ve got an awful long way to go.
Refusal to talk: “There’s this whole business here about communication and about refusal to talk. It comes back to what Roger said and something many Ulster Protestants picked up on – Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein/IRA, I believe at a meeting in Athboy, said that Drumcree had “not come about by accident”.
“There’s a widespread belief within the unionist community that this whole issue – Drumcree, the Ormeau Road, all these other issues – are essentially set up by Sinn Fein/IRA. You look at the position in Portadown – you may disagree, but that’s the belief, that’s the perception, that’s the understanding. Brendan McKenna is a convicted IRA terrorist who was convicted and jailed for the bombing of the Royal British Legion in Portadown. Because he is a convicted terrorist, because he blew up the Royal British Legion premises in Portadown, that’s one of the primary reasons why Orangemen do not want to talk to him. They see this man as an unreconstructed terrorist. That is the attitude and perception – whether you like it or not – of the Orange and unionist people in Portadown. That is their belief. That’s something that you’ve got to look at and understand.
Historical baggage: “… I listened to Orla talking about this alienation back from the time of the Plantation, which was about the beginning of the 17th century. I suppose we might as well take the blame at this stage for Brian Boru not getting on so well back a few centuries before that, or for Strongbow coming across to help out Dermot [MacMurrough] in Leinster. Those are some of the things again – if you’re sitting grumbling in Portadown about the Plantation and lots and lots of evil Protestants coming across a couple of hundred years ago, you’re going to find it very difficult to come back into this century to sit down and talk with your neighbours. If you’re coming with that sort of historical baggage, and they are aware that you’ve got that sort of historical baggage, I would be highly surprised if the Orangemen of Portadown would want to sit down and talk to those people on the Garvaghy Road. That is reality. If you want to whinge about the Plantation and about the foundation of the Orange Order, then you’re really not facing up to reality. There’s one of the problems – there’s so much baggage here.
Dialogue and Sinn Fein generosity: “There’s this whole business about dialogue and “if you come and talk to us, we will be generous”. The two Provo councillors in South Fermanagh, for example, saying privately to Fergus [McQuillan] “you’d be surprised at our generosity.” There’s no way on the face of the earth that you’re going to get Orangemen and unionists coming to talk to people they perceive as terrorists, as murderers. There’s no way that they are going to come and talk to those people to ask them where they will or will not parade along the Queen’s Highway in the United Kingdom. That simply is not going to happen, and until you remove that illusion – that these people are going to come “cap in hand” to talk to you, to have this generosity handed out to them, then we really have got an awful long way to go.
Parades Commission: “One of the ways in which the Government decided that they would try and deal with the issue is setting up the Parades Commission. The Orange and unionist community do not accept the Parades Commission as being in some way neutral. The two people who were perceived to be from our community on it .. they’re off it, they’ve now got two nonentities from somewhere or other, and they’ve got people who are just seen as stooge- type figures of the NIO. That’s the way they are regarded within the unionist and Orange community. The Orange Order sees that in each and every time there’s any kind of a controversial parade, the Parades Commission finds against them. Again, they now have the perception that this is another body that is simply and purely against them.
“You’ve got to understand and appreciate that it’s not just the people on Garvaghy Road who are living in their self-imposed ghetto – there’s a mental state, a feeling of threat, that exists in the minds of the Ulster Protestants, in the minds of the Ulster British people, in the minds of Orangemen. That is a reality. And the sad thing is that the nationalist community within Northern Ireland on the whole don’t really appear to understand the importance of that aspect of their neighbours’ cultural history.
Triumphalism: “I come from West Tyrone, and I’ve often thought on a rainy 12th July day, as we dander along the country roads in a place like Fintona — how on earth can you be triumphalist on a wet road outside Fintona on a wet 12th July afternoon? There may be some people who have the idea that by walking from a church back to an Orange hall they are somehow being triumphalist over their neighbours. I’ve never seen it like that. I regard Orangeism and taking part in a parade like that as part of my culture, it’s an expression of my cultural identity. You may find that rather curious. But then, If find it rather curious that you go and watch the Gaelic Athletic Association on a Sunday afternoon when you might be at home enjoying your lunch, or walking your dog, or reading the Bible or your paper, or whatever you want to do. So again, I perceive that as a rather strange thing to do, or sitting playing what we regard as “diddly-dee” music. In the same way, you regard what I do in my culture as somehow strange. Until we can actually realise that, then we might in fact get somewhere.
“But frankly, you’re not going to get Orangemen to sit down and talk when they perceive these residents’ groups as nothing more thatn Sinn Fein/IRA fronts, when you have a body like the Parades Commission that basically is there to enforce the view of Mo Mowlam and others. You will not get them to sit down and cooperate when that is the sort of spirit they are expected to cooperate under.
“When Orangemen hear Irish republicans, like Gerry Adams or others, say “you’d be amazed how generous we’ll be” – from an Orangeman’s perspective it’s like a Jew saying that Adolf Hitler was generous when he told them to go to Madagascar early in 1941. That’s the same sort of reaction.
“Whether you like it or not, that’s the reality of the situation. Until we can understand that, there can be little or no move forward. It’s the gap that still exists in the perceptions of the two communities. I don’t believe the Belfast Agreement will do anything to heal the divisions.
“Even taking a minority position, like South Fermanagh. The fact that they are prevented from walking through the main street of what is their town as well, coming to or from Sunday church services, or going to a parade to celebrate their culture, that is another way whereby that small Protestant community feels isolated. Take the neighbouring village to Fergus’s – Rosslea: prior to 1969 and the outbreak of the current IRA violence, there was roughly 30% of the population in that area, around the town, Protestant. Now there’s less than 10%. The last Protestant to own a business there was, I understand, murdered. Those people by being prevented even walking on a Royal Black Preceptory parade service, or from a parade back to their hall, by people who are their neighbours, they do feel that’s a threat to their very existence. When you’re dealing with that type of situation, you cannot realistically expect dialogue to take place.
“We must address the realities before going any further. That’s something I think that we all must do. Thank you.
5. Ernest Baird (Member of the Orange Institution):
“I would like to thank the Meath Peace Group for the invitation – It’s my second time that I’ve had the pleasure of coming here. Last time I was in the audience and asked a question or two. This time I’ve been promoted to one of the speakers. Much to my surprise, I only learnt that coming down in the car. ..
“I want to approach this subject from a different angle. I feel we’re not going to get anywhere if we keep trotting out our grievances and paint a picture that Protestants are terrible, terrible people and we can’t live with them. I’m a Donegal man – I was born and lived there until I was a teenager when my family moved to the outskirts of Belfast, so I know what it’s like to be part of an insignificant minority having lived under those conditions for that marriage the first part of my life. I must say bad and all that the Ulster Protestants were, I found a lot more freedom in Northern Ireland than I did during the time I was living in Donegal – freedom of speech and freedom of thought, freedom of action within the law.
Underlying problem: “Now what I want to focus on or bring people’s attention this evening is to get below all these grievances and find out the underlying problem.
“Now all of our people – whatever their religious background or whatever their political background – all have tears. All those tears are equally sincere and sad. They all have love, and that love is expressed in whatever way is real. They all have ambition, they all feel pain. They all want to protect their families. They want to protect their way of life. They want to get on with things. I think really that the great problem in Ireland is a problem of trust.
Roman Catholic Church: “I don’t want to specifically point the finger too strongly but from my perspective – when I see a Church that, whenever it has what we call a mixed marriage that the progeny of that mixed marriage, has to grow up in one particular faith. That’s a great problem. I concede that it’s easier today. But when you find a Church that wants to monopolise Holy Communion, as was illustrated when the President [Mary McAleese] took Communion in another church. To find a church objecting to that you sort of get the impression – if you’re sitting where I’m sitting – that that church and the people that belong to it, not only that they want the progeny of the marriage but there would be a bit of difficulty in sharing openly and freely of another religion. I believe that that is the real problem underneath it all in this country.
“Because we as Protestants fear a domination from others that we ought not to fear and certainly maybe that fear as we look out throughout the land, and I think Fergus [McQuillan] made reference to it, is not as influential as it used to be or as it might have been. But nevertheless there is this concern that a Church – for example the former Cardinal, Cahal Daly in his earlier days would not have baptized children or brought them into full fellowship of the Church if they went to Protestant schools. What is that saying to Roman Catholics? It says that the church is saying that the progeny must be brought up here, we cannot have anything else, your children must be educated here. What that is saying is that Protestants are second class citizens as far as the whole of Ireland is concerned – that we’re not accepted in good faith for what we are.
Trust: “I’m trying to say that we’ve got to get to that place where full trust exists and where we’re open with each other and where people can employ anybody without asking their religion, where people can dispose of their farms or their businesses without asking the religion of the purchaser. But a Church which lays down these standards surely breeds a people that want to protect not only their progeny, but their property, their businesses, their land. We’ve only got to look at the south of Ireland and look at how successful the boycotts have been in the past. Now they may not be the same today. We experienced after the first Drumcree quite a lot of boycotts in areas where it was suggested that it was Orangemen who owned the businesses and who went to Drumcree. Therefore, they were being boycotted.
“Now until we can get away from that, until we can see people as people, until we can see people as ordinary individuals in need of spiritual relationship with God, in need of salvation through Jesus Christ, how can we possibly see them as equals if we feel that our faith is totally exclusive? How can we accept members of other faiths at any level – at a social level, at business level at any other level? This is the difficulty when this has been talked constantly, when this has been thumped into people. You’ve only got to read Bernadette Devlin’s book to realise what she was taught. These are things that make it very, very difficult.
Peace with each other: “I think we’ve got to get back to what it is that makes the people of Garvaghy road object and what makes the Orangemen wish to walk. It has been said … that if Christ were an Orangemen He would decide not to walk, and if Christ were a Garvaghy road resident He would let them walk. So don’t let anyone be holding up their hands in holy horror and claiming that Christianity is preventing some things that are happening in this world today. I believe that if all of us were looking to Christ and were at peace and at one with God in Christ Jesus and, as our Lord suggested to Nichodenus, he had to be born again before he could enter the Kingdom of God. I think if we got to that stage then our only desire would be to get our fellow human beings, our fellow Irishmen and Ulstermen – we’d want them into that position where we have peace with God and then we’d automatically be at peace with one another. The reason we’re not at peace with each other is we haven’t got a right relationship with God.
Fellowship: “I go down, incidentally, now and again, to a home in Dublin. That gentlemen in his home has a weekly meeting to which he invites people. I have been there and I have spoken at that meeting. When I was at that meeting I told them that I was a Northern Protestant and “if I say something out of place don’t be offended” because it would be through ignorance. Now at that meeting every single person there had a Roman Catholic background. I was able in my speech to talk about my Lord and my Saviour and to talk about my total confidence that at the end of the day if I have an accident on the way home, I’ll go straight up to heaven, because I can say like Paul “I know in whom I have believed and keep that which I have committed unto him against that day”. Now that is where I’m coming from as a believer and as a Christian. I’ll go down there with these men and I chat with them and we have the most delightful fellowship together. I know that the man of the house – who’s a prominent business man in Dublin – is a strong Nationalist. I’m a strong Unionist but we’re united in Christ Jesus.
Christianity: “When he tells me something he would like to see I sort of say “Oh well that’s all right” and when I tell him something I would like to see, it’s the same. That’s how it is. We have something that’s far stronger. When I hear people talking about Christianity and saying “Christians would do this” and “Christians would do that” – I see very little Christianity in politics or in nationalism or in republicanism or in any of these. In fact I see none in them. Because scriptures say “Thou shalt not kill” and there are killings. I’m not going to go comparing this killing or that tragedy. We could do that but I don’t think that’s beneficial.
Common denominator: “I was impressed with this group the last time I was here by how open-minded you all are and how ready you are to discuss things in a real friendly way. You listening to what I have to say without any aggro or unpleasantness and me listening to what you have to say as I do when I go and visit my friend in Dublin because he is a very strong nationalist. But we have one common denominator and that is the love for our Lord Jesus Christ. I believe, and I’m speaking here personally, if we were to concentrate on that and to become real Christians and have a relationship with God through Christ then I believe that a lot of our problems and all these arguments we have – I believe that nationalism would melt away. Again I have another group I’m involved with from the South. They come up to Belfast. There is one particular man in the group who I know is a very strong nationalist. I’m a very strong unionist and I’m not apologising for that but we have one common denominator in Christ Jesus. We have been assured both of us that whenever our last day comes it will be in glory. That’s more important than worrying whether we walk down Garvaghy Road. If we could trust each other – If we could come to the stage when we could say “there’s a decent fellow there ”.
I have just bought a business and during the negotiations I turned to him and I said “look are you a Protestant or are you a Catholic?” He turned to me and he said “You’ve paid me the best complement that could be paid to ask me that question. Because, he said I just want to treat everybody as equals, and he’s a great pal of mine. He said “I’m a Roman Catholic” and I said “that’s great – not a problem”. If I have a problem I can ring him up and trust him to give me the best possible advice and vice versa. Before I bought the business from him, he used to be on the phone to me every couple of months asking my advice and vice versa. I didn’t know what he was but he knew what I was because, and Fergus [McQuillan] will agree with me, I had a slightly higher Protestant profile. He’s a lovely chap – I haven’t talked to him in the deeper spiritual terms yet but I’ll be at him about that one of these fine days. Now that’s really all that I want to say.
Public holidays: “On the question of holidays, which Fergus [McQuillan] raised – the 12th and 13th of July aren’t the only holidays we have up there. We have Christmas, Easter, 17th March and May Day. Now if he’s going to argue for another holiday, that’s great, I’d be glad to get two more days off work!
6. Michael Doherty (Authorised Officer, Parades Commission)
“My name is Michael Doherty and I come from a lovely city called Derry. It’s a pleasure to be associated with someone who received the Nobel Prize along with David Trimble. He’s a fellow citizen of mine so it’s a pleasure to be here in this part of the world.
“I’m here to give my views as an authorised officer of the Parades commission. I come as a representative of the Parades commission, from the Authorised Officers Unit, and I don’t come as an individual, though I will give some views as an individual.
Impartiality: “You’re right about taking sides. It’s very hard for anyone in Northern Ireland not to have their own baggage. What we try to do in out work is to be impartial. Part of that impartiality is that we have to talk to people from both sides in the work that we do as authorised officers. I’ve been involved for eleven years in community relations work. I will speak to anyone anywhere morning, noon and night if it’s going to save another life. That’s how passionate I feel about the work that I do. Unfortunately not everybody wants to talk to me because I’m associated with an organisation that seemingly was set up by the government to do something that it wasn’t supposed to do in the first place.
Establishment of Parades Commission: “The Parades Commission was set up after a series of events that started in 1996 with the Drumcree issue… The cost of Drumcree was that there was massive public disorder across Northern Ireland, families had to be re-housed, the communities became more polarised – not just around the Portadown area – it spread right across Northern Ireland. The financial cost of the disturbances came to £30 million. I’m not here to tell you who did what. I’m here to tell you how it is and the way that it is. The Government’s response was not setting up a Parades Commission – the Government’s response was sending forth a Commission to see what can be done, and allowing the public to decide. What the public decided was this – the result was in the North report – 88% of those people who took part in the North survey wanted a negotiated accommodation on Parades; 79% said a binding decision should be taken in the absence of accommodation; 49% said an independent commission should be set up; 29% said the police should make a decision; 11% said the Secretary of State should make a decision; 6% said the judiciary should make a decision and 6% said others.
“In the North Report there were 43 recommendations and the principal recommendation was the establishment of a Parades Commission. So that was the Government’s response. The Government did not set up a Parades Commission, it was the people of Northern Ireland who set it up.
“The Parades Commission was established on the 26th March 1997. There was a chairman and 6 members which was increased by 2 by legislation. Now living in Northern Ireland, to get a body of people who are going to be totally independent is going to be difficult to begin with. It’s one of the things I wrote about before I got involved with the Parades Commission getting someone who is going to be impartial. They are courageous people who decided to put their heads on the chopping block to take up that post. Thankfully there have been some courageous people who have decided to do that.
Decision-making body: “Now within all of this the Parades Commission are now the legislative body that makes the decisions on Parades, whereas before it was the police who made the decisions, and they usually made the decisions on a public order issue. If you can think of the phrase that was used by Ronnie Flanagan whenever a march was pushed down the Garvaghy road. He said it was the lesser of two evils to let it down the road. When we talk about spirituality – what was he talking about?
Loyal institutions: “.. As far as the loyal institutions are concerned there is an Orange order, the Royal Black institution and the Apprentice boys of Derry. They would be the three main loyal areas that make up a number of people who have parades to celebrate their religious culture. Within that there is also another group of people that parade – they are bands and there are band parades nearly every week in some areas of Northern Ireland. There are also groups like the Saoirse group and other groups like the Ancient order of Hibernia and other institutions who have parades. And all those parades, whichever one it is, it is the Parades Commission who make the decisions.
Legislation: “Under the Public Processions Northern Ireland Act 1998, the key change would be that the Parades Commission takes decisions on parades rather than the RUC. They take additional factors in, not only public disorder but also disruption to the life of the community, the impact of the procession on relationships within the community, compliance with the Code of Conduct, the desirability of allowing a parade which has been customarily held on that route to continue to be allowed to do so.
“The Parades Commission is also required to publish guidelines and procedural rules, and a Code of Conduct for parade organisers.
Authorised Officers: “Part of my work is informing people on the decisions of the Parades Commission. I don’t actually take part in the decision making body. The Parades Commission is a separate body. In the Authorised Officers body we are responsible for gathering information and getting local agreements where we can. Now any of the areas that I have personally worked on will be the areas that I will personally speak on. I can safely say that we have gotten accommodations. The Orange Order has not spoken to us directly.
“The Apprentice boys in Derry have talked to us and in those areas where they have had their parades there has been accommodation. What I say is where we are in the business of having a difficult conversation with people around areas of parading, we can safely say that in those areas where people have talked there has been accommodation. Where no talk has taken place there has been no accommodation. When the parades commission are making a decision they gather that information and take an informed decision. They have to inform the public 5 days before the parade is going to take place to allow the people who may object to the decision of the parade to go for a judicial review . In any of the judicial reviews that have been taken place so far on a decision made on a parade, the Parades Commission have won the decision in the court.
Rights and relationships: “It’s not just controversy over parades. It’s an issue of rights and relationships. Nationalists want equal treatment and mutual respect and loyalists see concessions of traditional routes as surrendering territory. The conflict provides graphic evidence of the police providing unionist rights at the expense of nationalists’ rights. The RUC has been seen in the past by nationalist residents as a biased anti-nationalist force – blocking the route has become the most effective form of protest and the removal of the protesters through use of force has been a response by the police.
Banning/re-routing parades: “I want to just tell you that the Parades Commission do not and are not in the business of banning parades. The Parades Commission is in the position of trying to get parades ???through the areas at all times. On a factual account – 3250 parades have been notified to the Commission, because the Commission receives all notifications of parades in Northern Ireland. Very few of these parades are controversial.
“The local accommodation is the preferred option. The Parades Commission only re-routed 78 parades and, of those 78, the Drumcree re-route that takes place every Sunday night is part of that. So in actual fact there are very very few parades that have been re-routed if you look at the statistics, and it’s only a very small area where parades that are contentious have taken place – in about 10 areas in all. So they say parades are being banned all over the place by the Parades Commission. They have not ever banned a parade. They have re-routed them. The decision on Drumcree has been the most prominent and it’s still ongoing, and it may not be resolved in the near future. While people are deciding not to talk it is actually delaying the process as well. As I said there are more decisions reached in the city where I come from, where a loyalist group voluntarily decided to re-route a parade. So where people have decided to talk to people like me there have been decisions made and accommodation has been reached. As for me, I support anyone who asks me to speak to them about anything at anytime, anywhere, if it’s going to save another life. Thank you”
7. Dominick Bryan (researcher, Centre for the Study of Conflict, and author of four books on Parades and Parading Disputes):
“I’m going to be very brief … What I very quickly want to talk about is managing public order and dealing with disputes over rights which is what essentially we have to do in Northern Ireland. Back in the late 60s we failed to deal with disputes over rights. Civil right marches ended up in riots, riots ended up in “no-go” areas. No-go areas ended up in violent confrontations and we ended up with over 3, 000 deaths.
“The task this time round should be to manage public political expression in accordance with international standards to create an environment whereby communities do not resort to violence but rather they become more tolerant of a range of political positions.
“The Parades Commission will play a key role in that. Whether in it’s present form or in another form, but I’ll talk about that later.
“It is essential that whatever way we find in making decisions that it’s consistent and fair providing an institution which people feel they have a reasonable and proportionate access to their rights.
Access to public space: “This is not easy when there remains large inequalities in Northern Ireland in the access to public space. When one community attaches particular importance to parades, when the legal system in the UK remains totally inadequate for dealing with these disputes and when we as yet have no agreed political system up and running and when the police are perceived as a large part of the problem.
“In the next few years, however, in theory we will have new civil rights legislation, we will have a local democratic parliament, an executive, and we may have an agreed police service. The Parades Commission is going to have to negotiate it’s way through these developments and may get to a point where it is not required at all.
International comparisons: “The managing of public political expression in public space is a common problem for all societies but particularly those who hold dear democratic principles. In the main the task of facilitating and defining the rights of event organisers falls to three institutions in society – local and national political representatives i.e. local authorities or parliaments, the judiciary and the police.
South Africa: “In South Africa event organisers, police and local authorities form what is known as the “Golden Triangle”. … Put simply the local council in South Africa gives decisions on who should have the right to parade where, the police enforce the decision and they do so arranging things with the organisers. The judiciary take the appeals from people if they don’t agree with what the decision is. The power lies heavily with the democratically elected local authority and with the judiciary.
THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE [Diagram]
“Many other countries have a similar system – Belgium has a system like that. In actual fact Scotland has a similar system also. Unfortunately in England, Wales and Northern Ireland the system has been historically different – local authorities had no power whatsoever. Instead most of the decisions were made by the police. And it’s difficult to find anywhere in the world which has a poorer legal system dealing with the sorts of problems we have, than the British legal system.
Parades Commission: “In Northern Ireland where we have ethnic conflict it came under all sorts of strain that couldn’t be coped with. So what was born was the Parades Commission. The Parades Commission find it very difficult to find legitimacy and popularity and the reason I suspect is this, it is not democratically elected, nor is it fully judicial so it’s a “bit of a mongrel”. It doesn’t carry quite the weight of a judicial body. If it were judicial, the Orange Order would have been forced to go along and deal with it.
Criticisms of Parades Commission: “People claim that it doesn’t represent them in any sort of way. So it’s been heavily criticised. It’s interesting to note where different groups have placed themselves with regard to the Parades Commission. The Orange Order has chiefly accused the Commission of being an un-elected quango that is not quite democratic enough like a local authority would be and have threatened to take decisions to court, although interestingly as yet they haven’t done so and I wonder why not if they’re so determined.
“What I find very bizarre about the unionist position is that despite claiming that the Parades Commission has all these problems, they still want decisions to be made by the police, yet the police are not elected and it is quite obvious the decision the police would have made at Drumcree this year.
“On the other hand residents’ groups have said the Parades Commission is not representative enough and have argued with some evidence that there is too much political interference.
It begs the question – what sort of decision-making process do people want in a society?
“I think that’s the question that needs to be asked over the parading dispute.
We know the systems that don’t work and with the Parades Commission we are trying a new system and in the main is the best so far.
“But we have to ask what sort of system do we want? Does one want local authorities or democratically elected bodies? If you want that then the Parades Commission could be more closely connected to the new Assembly. Personally I don’t think the new Assembly is up to making those decisions yet. Alternatively, make it a judicial body and forget about having three green people and three orange people and an Englishman in the middle trying to make the decision because we’re not very good at doing that.
“What I’m suggesting is that when people think of the sort of issues that we talked about this evening, I think people should ask themselves – what do they want in their society? What are the ways that they would like these decisions made? I know everybody’s been listening very patiently so I’m not going to say more than that.
SUMMING UP BY CHAIR (Fergus Finlay):
“We’re not going to have an awful lot of questions as we’ve run over time. Each speaker spoke openly and honestly .. My job now is to put what each of the speakers said into one sentence just to remind and stimulate you.
- Fergus McQuillan started by talking about his own experience and he boiled down the issue into one about a refusal to talk rather than a refusal to march. He also made the intriguing point that there are only 2 public holidays and both of them, he seemed to be saying, are Protestant.
- Orla Maloney talked from the heart of her experiences and that of her family, living as what she called a prisoner on one mile of road. She finished by saying that justice hurts nobody.
- Roger Bradley when introducing other Orange speakers talked about the parades issue as a symptom of spiritual warfare, and about the struggle for Catholic or Protestant supremacy.
- John Hunter then spoke trenchantly and very correctly to tell us that part of the problem in our understanding is that we simply don’t understand the importance of marching in the culture of the Ulster Protestant – a tradition which in his view is very much under siege and that’s something that exasperates the problem even further.
- Ernest Baird described the issue as a problem of trust, and outlined a Protestant perception that this problem of trust is caused at least to some degree by the monopoly position and aspiration of the Catholic Church and it’s influence on it’s own people.
- Michael Doherty then gave a passionate overview of the work of the Parades commission and emphasised the value of talking to the Commission in terms of reaching accommodations.
- Dominick Bryan was perhaps less sanguine than Michael about the potential for success of the Parades Commission, although he did say it was an improvement on what had gone on in the past. His essential point I think was to establish a difference between the past and possible future structures and to pose the question – what sort of decision-making system do people want and will people respect?
Bearing in mind these thumbnail sketches, I’m going to throw the meeting open to the floor for questions.
QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS (edited summary):
Q1. [Garvaghy Road resident] – To John Hunter: “ I live in Garvaghy Road. You called us all republicans… I object to that. I’m not a republican, I’m a nationalist. I’m a mother and a grandmother. ..
CHAIR: “I think that was more a statement than a question. We’ll wait until you get a direct question and then you can respond to that as well.”
Q.2. [Ratoath resident]: “I would like to welcome the 3 Orangemen who came tonight. But I felt a sense of anger at Mr. Hunter’s remarks, in spite of myself. I come from a West of Ireland nationalist background. I’ve worked for a number of years trying to bring people together and yet I found John Hunter’s analysis very depressing. I found the religious analysis more in tune. I would accept the criticisms of the Catholic Church. But the siege mentality of the Protestant religion, especially those involved in the Orange Order, is the other side of that coin, if you like. If you read the oath of the Orange Order it is very offensive to Catholics and seeking domination. Both of those must go – then we might have a little Christianity.
Q.3. [Nuala McGuinness, Nobber resident]: “I would like to speak as someone who was brought up as a Northern Catholic and have spent half of my life there and the other half in the South. I have the advantage of having third level education both in the south and in a British university. I don’t take sides – I grew up with Ulster Protestants and found friendships with both communities. …
“I would suggest each community tries to get into the skin of the other community and I would refer you to the Derry poet who wrote “Behold the Sons of Ulster Marching to the Somme…”I went to that play two years ago. It covers a lot of points and the two points that struck me were that, 1) the young soldiers were from Fermanagh, and 2) they were from both Orange and Green. The fear of the two was common, the fear of battle, the fear of death and the trust in God were common to both religions. I think there is not enough understanding in the South of the Ulster Protestant culture. Take James Galway. I don’t think anyone could point a finger at James Galway but to my understanding I believe he started his musical career in an Orange band.
“Mr. Baird spoke of driving home from Dublin and having an accident and if the Lord decided to take him he knew where he was going. The other day Bishop Magee, the former private secretary to Pope John Paul II, told a story on radio of how, after being shot, the Pope was lying there in blood and he said he wasn’t afraid – that he knew where he was going. We all have a common humanity. I’d like to compliment all the people here tonight – they’re all very sincere. As an Ulsterwoman, I see it from both sides.
CHAIR (Fergus Finlay): “Ernest, this is probably the first time you’ve been told of what you share with the Pope..”
Ernest Baird: “I certainly don’t share it with you, Mr. Chairman. You said that this is the first time you’ve heard anyone saying they’re sure of where they’re going. I’m certainly sure. If you were talking to thousands of Protestants in the North they could tell you they were sure as well, because that is the one great comfort of my faith, that I am in fact sure of where I’m going when the Lord calls me, irrespective of where I am. That is the end result. In the meantime, I have a concern for everybody. I would like everybody to have faith in Christ Jesus but as far as that’s concerned I find that my assurance is not necessarily a common denominator between people who describe themselves as being Christian. I won’t embarrass people in asking for a show of hands.
CHAIR: “I have just discovered the difference between a Protestant and a Socialist – as a socialist, I have my doubts on where I am going.
John Hunter: [In answer to the first question] “First of all, I have always regarded Irish nationalism and Irish republicanism as the same thing. They both seek a common goal. That’s the belief of Ulster unionists. I’m sorry my analysis made you angry, but if it makes you think – I’m glad. But I’m sorry if it depressed you.”
Q.4. Andrew Park [member of Orange Order]: “I have met Orla before and I can sympathise with her but I think the demonisation of Orangeism is not the way out of this. It seems to me that the Orange men have taken the blame for the last 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland whereas my community has been under siege by the IRA. Michael said that the Parades Commission came out of the North Report and was the result of an exercise of consultation. They didn’t consult with the Protestants. I’m chairman of Lisburn Community Forum. I’ve never been consulted .
“There is a play on words – banning and rerouting are the same thing. Take the Ormeau Road – on 12th July the Orange Order get down the road, on 12th August the Apprentice Boys didn’t get down – a smaller parade, 7.30 in the morning, why?….. Dominick talks about certain aspects of international law. I think one of the highlights of that is a right to assemble – we have been denied that right to assemble. There are a lot of things that angered me here tonight but I’m glad that people came out here to talk.
“Getting back to Garvaghy Road – I don’t think the Orange position is getting across. Orla talked about 40 parades from Easter to August – was it not true that 12 parades went through nationalist areas [in Portadown] in 1985? Today there is only one parade asked for to go down the Garvaghy Road – we feel as a community totally under siege.
“Some of the issues Orla brought up are social issues – I could highlight other areas within Portadown with these same social problems. She talked about high unemployment – but look at Brownstown and Kilicomain. That is something the Orange Order is not responsible for and that is something it cannot address. You’re putting all this baggage on the Orange Order, but I’m glad to be here tonight.
Q. 5. [Ratoath resident]: “I am an English Protestant, married to an Irish Catholic for 25 years. I’ve travelled the world. I’m absolutely appalled. I’m a very committed Christian. At the moment I have 1000 signatures for Jubilee 2000 to reduce the Third World Debt. There are people all over the world dying. And we fight and bicker in this country… my heart nearly breaks. We really have gone very wrong in this country. There is so much hate – if we could forget the past and draw a line under it and start again .. I know it sounds simplistic but where are our priorities, for God’s sake? And I mean for God’s sake.
Q. 6. [member of Irish Association]: “It is disturbing that the Orange Order is not talking to the Parades Commission. It’s alarming. I would hope that the nationalists who for so long were not listened to would have the openness to listen to what the Orange Order wants. The unionists are in a majority in the North, obviously not in the whole of Ireland, and we know that leads to the siege mentality, but it is alarming. I would ask the question – what kind of decision-making authority would you like to see regarding parades in the North? I’m directing this to John.
John Hunter: The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland has taken the decision not to talk to the Parades Commission. It was established by acts of parliament, by government. It was not established by the people. The people on the Parades Commission are seen by the Orange and unionist community as NIO quango people, not representing particularly anybody, certainly not their tradition. If you had some sort of quasi judicial-type body that Dominick was talking about you could have forced the Orange men to go along and deal with it. You are not going to get people anywhere by trying to force something down their throats. There’s going to be no real progress in terms of this Parades Commission issue until it ceases to be a question of trying to force one person or another to either talk or not talk. Before you start getting any type of body to deal with the issue, you’ve got to get away from the idea of forcing the Orangemen to talk to a particular body. They are not going to do it. That’s quite clear from the Portadown situation. That’s the reality. We can’t get away from that point. Now we’ve got an assembly. We’ll have to wait and see if that body will work. If that body starts to work there may be some possibility that that body may be able to deal with it more realistically. At this stage we’ll just have to wait and see.
CHAIR: Just on a factual note, you do accept that the Assembly comes from the people of Northern Ireland?
John Hunter: Well there was an election in Northern Ireland at the end of June and the people elected the representatives onto that Assembly. That’s a legal fact.
Q. 7. [Navan trade unionist]: “First of all I would like to welcome our brothers and sisters from Northern Ireland very sincerely. I march once a year in Belfast – I march with Protestants and Catholics on May Day to celebrate Labour day – I don’t know who is what. As a trade unionist I don’t need to know what religion people are. The same work problems come up in both communities. They’re suffering from health and safety problems, they’re suffering from stress, all the issues we have to deal with here. Ernest spoke of doing a business deal and he had to find out the person’s religion. I’m not too sure what the relevance of knowing the religion of the other person is. I certainly would have no interest in what religion the other person was.
“I sympathise and share the sentiments of my sister over here who is concerned with the worldwide problems. There are great issues out there. There are issues which we can be jointly united on. There is a way forward. Certainly there is hope for the North of Ireland. I have my fingers crossed. I see unity in lots of other areas.
Q. 8. “I would also like to welcome all the people from Northern Ireland, especially the Orangemen, because it’s not often that people in the south get a chance to talk to Orangemen. But I was disappointed. I was looking for a chink of light, some hope from this meeting tonight that there is some way forward. John spoke about the realities as he saw it in regard to the Protestant perspective on parades, and we all have to agree.
”It is very difficult for people from a different community to understand. Let’s look at the realities of what happened in Northern Ireland on the ground this year. … You spoke about Gerry Adams and the statement he made in Athboy, but he didn’t dance outside Sean Graham’s booking office. That to me was one of the biggest catalysts in this whole deplorable situation. As Patrick Mayhew described it “it would have shamed a tribe of cannibals in Africa”. Obviously not very politically correct. The communities are not going to accept these marches – that’s apparent from this year. The British governments have shown a different resolve this year as well.
“The reality we saw on the ground in Drumcree is people skulking around shooting at the RUC. We saw the deaths of the Quinn children and the RUC constable. John, you spoke about the Assembly as a possible way forward – that’s the only chink you’re offering us. What is the reality for next summer? I’d like you to talk about that.
John Hunter: The Orange Order is not responsible for the deaths of the Quinn children or Constable O’Reilly.
Questioner: “I didn’t say they were. I certainly don’t believe that.”
John Hunter: “I didn’t find it particularly attractive to see people dancing or making signals to people standing on the Ormeau Road outside Sean Graham’s. I don’t find that particularly useful or attractive. The reality is that come next July the Orangemen in Portadown will want to walk down the Garvaghy Road and the Orangemen on the Ormeau road will want to walk back down the Ormeau Road. I doubt very much if residents associations on these roads are going to change their minds. So we’re back to square one. That’s the reality. I think that’s the only thing I can say with certainty what will happen next summer. I’m sorry that that’s not a chink of hope or whatever, I have to accept the reality. Over the rest of Northern Ireland, the vast majority of parades will go on as they always did, in a relaxed manner, with nobody passing any remarks, as a celebration of culture and nothing more.
CHAIR: Is it reasonable to infer from that, that you don’t see a role for the Assembly if you think we’ll be back to square one in the summer?
John Hunter: I don’t think people in those localised areas will really see beyond their own areas.
Q. 9 [Trim resident]: “I think scoring points off each other is not going to solve anything. Mr. Hunter is a barrister – has he anything to offer? Would he defend Mr. McKenna as a barrister?
John Hunter: “The position is the same in Northern Ireland as it is here. If you are a barrister and you’re given a brief, then you work on that case. If a client wants me to defend them, then it’s my duty to defend them to the best of my ability. I leave my politics outside the court. I don’t prosecute in criminal trials, I only work for the defence. I’m proud I can separate the two in my own mind when I’m working. I am not a supporter of the Belfast agreement with, I have to say, the majority of the unionist community in Northern Ireland. My personal view is that it won’t work and nothing is going to change my mind about that. I don’t think that fundamentally it’s going to work. Then you say what have I got to offer? I don’t know.
Questioner: “I thought you were a bit hard on Mr. McKenna [Brendan MacCionnaith]. Whatever he did he has done time for it.”
CHAIR: I have to make the point that Mr. Mckenna is not facing any criminal charges. It would of course be a matter for Mr. McKenna if he were to choose Mr. Hunter as his barrister.
Q.10 : [To Orla Maloney]: “In an open letter, the Garvaghy Road residents asked that Orange Parades be stopped for a certain amount of time. …. I’d just like to ask her does she ever envisage a time when the Orange parades and an Orange culture could be welcome into the Garvaghy Road?
Orla Maloney: Our bottom line has always been dialogue and that means that there are no preconditions. Nobody knows what’s going to happen. The results of the Assembly this year are testing.. Nobody would have believed that David Trimble and John Hume could have been standing on a table with Bono. All we want is to communicate, to dialogue, and we’ll see from there.
Q.11: Would Dominick elaborate on the origin of parading disputes?
Dominick Bryan: It is a civil rights dispute. The Orange Order has dominated public space – throughout Stormont it dominated public space. .. In Portadown for instance, my friend Andrew at the back talks about how they never had the right to a free assembly. There is only one community in Portadown that has never had the right to free assembly. That’s the Catholic community. For 150 years any demonstration or parade they tried in Portadown was stopped. Fundamentally there is inequality of rights to parade and demonstrate in Northern Ireland. Now I believe the way out of that is not to stop people parading but to try and develop a situation where everyone has equal rights. If everyone in Portadown has equal rights I would stand beside the Orange Order and say that they should go down that road, because if everybody had equal rights then there wouldn’t be power differentials between communities.
“I am equally concerned that Protestants in Derry retain their right to have demonstrations in their town. That is an equal concern to me.
“What happened was that people formed in residents groups felt confident enough to protest about something that in general they had felt quite unhappy about for a long time. I don’t think that people like Gerard Rice or Brendan are so brilliant that they can create this problem. Frankly I think that Gerry Adams – I’m not denying Sinn Fein’s involvement in things – but Gerry Adams is a politician and he made claims for his supporters, but Gerry Adams couldn’t create residents’ groups out of thin air either. I think it’s the result of a long-term process of disadvantage. The way out is to produce a system which justly treats everybody in the community to their rights of political expression.
Q. 12. [member of Drogheda Ecumenical Peace Group]: “I see both traditions have two sets of allegiances and a very heavy amount of baggage to bring with them, and I see a huge degree of orchestration of both traditions in the Drumcree situation. I don’t think it will inevitably be down to who is the best conductor of the set tradition. It has to come down to people being able to speak to one another. It has to come down to dialogue. I was taken aback to hear that if certain people were at the top table, we would not be allowed to speak. I feel that setting preconditions like that and setting obstacles is not the way, it’s not the way forward. I know John is in the hot seat tonight but I appreciate him talking.
CHAIR: I think he’s enjoying it!
Q.13 [Garvaghy Road resident]: “I have a question for John and Roger. First of all I would like to say that I am a woman who lives on the Garvaghy Road. I don’t want to put on the label of nationalist. Dominick touched on the inequality of parading, and I myself have witnessed Orangemen using umbrellas to hit people on the Garvaghy Road…That’s a misuse of a privilege, when even a Catholic band can’t get to march into Portadown. As to what Andy said about the deprivation in Portadown. There are areas which have deprivation. But the Corcrain ward is a designated deprived area that is part of Portadown. The statistics of unemployment etc. are much higher in the Corcrain Ward than anywhere in Portadown. They’re twice of what they are in Brownstown and three times what they are in Kilcomain. So that’s the situation, and it’s on top of what I just mentioned on parades.
“All of that is giving the message to me, and giving the message to my children, of what I am and who I am in Portadown. The question I want to ask is, of all that picture that I painted there, how can I as a Catholic woman living in Portadown tell you how your actions are affecting me if you won’t listen to me, if you won’t have dialogue with me? To actually build trust we have to have a relationship. How do I get a relationship with Orange men? I’d like to do what that lady said about drawing a line and getting on with our lives. I want to build trust. How do I do that if I’m not going to be listened to or I’m going to be dismissed as a republican or even a nationalist?
“You’ve got to tell me how you feel and I I tell you how I feel, and listen to how you feel, because I feel that Orangemen are in the situation this year that I have been in for several years.
Roger Bradley: “I don’t approve of the things you mentioned. All I can say as an Orangeman is that I’ve never witnessed that, but then I’m not in Portadown. In the parades that I have attended I have never witnessed that behaviour. But there’s no such thing as Protestant roads or Catholic roads. Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom. We have public highways. I’m not talking about going through a housing estate. I’m talking about the main arterial routes that are open to everybody. We shouldn’t have to ask permission from different groups – “can we go down this road or that road?”. I take the point about going through housing estates. There is no mileage in the Orange Order actually routing its parade to go through Roman Catholic housing estates. Let us get that clear.
Irishness and Britishness: “The other thing is that I belong to a lodge that’s called the Cross of St Patrick. Our lodge reveres the heritage of St. Patrick. I’m not afraid to regard myself as Irish because I wouldn’t see Irishness and Britishness as being in conflict. I would see them as being inclusive. I don’t see why nationalism or republicanism has to be exclusive. Why can’t it be inclusive?
John Hunter: “First of all, on the dialogue: the major problem that I would see is that the Portadown Orangemen will not speak to Brendan McKenna, for the reasons I’ve outlined. Their whole perception of the people on the Garvaghy road is that basically it’s a group of republican-orchestrated troublemakers. That is a common perception. It’s how 1), you could break down that belief, and 2) how you could start breaking down believing that they want to stick you in a small corner or a ghetto. Take the St. Patrick’s Day parade. You can’t argue that it was the Orangemen who stopped you parading. It was the police who stopped you 300 yards from the housing estates…
Dominick Bryan: The mayor of Craigavon was actually demonstrating while the police stopped them. There was an election coming up. The DUP and the UUP were competing against each other to see who could get the unionist votes so they went out there and stopped the parade
Q. 13: [Cavan resident]: “This is a follow-up to Roger’s remarks about the inclusiveness of Irishness. The tricolour flies very prominently on lamp-posts in Garvaghy Road. But do we understand what the tricolour symbolises? It symbolises an all inclusive nationality of Protestant, Catholic, Dissenter and those of no denomination. The 1916 Proclamation has as it’s first resolve that all the children of that particular nation will join that all-inclusive nationality and must be “cherished equally”.
“It seems to me therefore that there is an obligation on nationalist Ireland, the republican movement and the residents coalition to face up to the implications of that resolve of the 1916 proclamation in relation to their obstructing the right of the Portadown Orange men.
“Two wrongs don’t make a right. It seems to me that is the way forward – to be magnanimous and defend the Orangemen’s rights. That would be honoring the symbolism of the tricolour flying on the Garvaghy Road.
“Could I ask this hypothetical question – if the IRA were to disband and the republican movement were to declare that “cherishing all the children of the nation equally” meant that political persuasion, armed persuasion, was a thing of the past and the only way our country could be re-united would be through mutual respect and mutual understanding. Could that be considered a noble aspiration? I know it’s a legitimate aspiration. It’s hypothetical, I know because the IRA are still in business, as it were. But if the whole republican movement declared a permanent ceasefire, could a united Ireland be conceived as a noble aspiration for nationalists and republicans to hold?
CHAIR: “It seems a bit unfair to put that question to one of the speakers at this hour of the night, but I would ask Orla Maloney to respond to the point on magnanimity on the part of the residents suggested by the tricolour.
Orla Maloney: “I spoke very early on and I didn’t get the chance to answer a host of things in the night that were said about trouble-makers, republicans, control, hi-jacks. I want to refute all of that. Nobody controls me. I am my own person. I have not been hi-jacked or used by anybody. Gerry Adams may or may not think that he had something to do with the formation of the residents’ groups. I know in the Faith and Justice group, that year I started phoning the Ormeau road to see if I could organise a conference on parading, as there was a problem. When I did not succeed in organising that I met with a Sinn Fein councillor from Lurgan and asked him could we have a conference on nationalism. We were in a cease-fire situation and I wanted to create dialogue. Now in my meeting with Brendan Curran from Lurgan we talked about an umbrella group for the issue of the march. Gerry Adams did not plan my part in this whole thing and I am not a trouble-maker.
“To the two women who spoke – about May Day and about other issues in the world. Let me assure you that the Drumcree Faith and Justice group is debating whether President Clinton had the right to bomb Sudan and Afghanistan, issues of hunger, issues of women in Afghanistan. Kosova is keeping me awake at night. You cannot, as a Christian, be concerned about one issue of justice and not about another. My brothers and my sisters are everywhere whether it’s Africa or the other side of Portadown or wherever. Yes, the part of the tricolour that stands for me is the white part. The part for peace. The part that has no violence. The people who went before us were Catholic, Protestant and dissenter, and they wanted an island free from violence, for peace in Ireland. That is my wish. That is why I have taken a stand to show my children the way forward in a non-violent way.
CHAIR: “I think that is probably a suitable note on which to finish and I would like to ask one question on my own behalf, and I will address it to Roger in his capacity as a member of the Education Committee – If the Meath Peace Group wanted to continue this dialogue in an Orange hall in Northern Ireland and wanted to bring people from the Garvaghy road into that dialogue, would you be willing to consider it and issue an invitation? Do you think that would be educative?
Roger Bradley: “I have no authority to do that. I think these meetings in this location are useful. If they were brought to Northern Ireland in an Orange Hall I don’t know what construction would be made of it by others. I would be hesitant in saying that would be possible. As I say I consider that this type of meeting to be useful.
CHAIR (Fergus Finlay): “It’s been a very long evening. It’s established to my satisfaction that even though there is a chasm of misunderstanding – and we have a better idea of the width and the depth of that misunderstanding – nobody here at this table has two heads, and I think everyone at this table will agree that nobody sitting down there has two heads. I would like to think this is a first step, if not a continuing step, between Meath people and Orange people. … I want to thank you all for your patience and courtesy throughout the evening.”
Julitta Clancy: On behalf of the Meath Peace Group, Julitta Clancy thanked all the speakers for coming, for speaking sincerely and honestly, and for giving up so much of their time. She thanked the audience for listening so patiently and particular thanks were due to writer and commentator Fergus Finlay for chairing the discussion and to the Columban Fathers for again permitting the use of their facilities for the talks.
She said that this was the group’s 4th public talk on parading and parading disputes. “We became interested after a group of Garvaghy Road women told us about their difficulties when we first met them in early 1994, before ever a residents’ group was formed. We invited Rev. Martin Smyth [then Grand Master] to come to Navan and he came and he talked and he listened.” The group then held two talks on the subject in Autumn 1995 – one from the perspective of the Orange Order, and the other from the perspective of the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition. The 3rd talk was in 1996, and included speakers from the Orange Order and the SDLP. [Editor’s note: full reports for all three talks are available].
“Another area we have been involved in is monitoring parades for the past three years in Fermanagh, at the invitation of Enniskillen Together. We have seen some progress there, even though there hasn’t been dialogue. We have seen residents’ groups working hard to keep their protest dignified – we saw the work done by people like Fergus McQuillan particularly this summer. We met some members of dissident groups there – just a couple of weeks before the Omagh bombing. We saw the difficulty for residents’ groups in that situation, and we also saw the organisers of these parades keeping their parades orderly even though they knew there were dissident elements in the town.
“Again this summer we called up to our friends living off the Garvaghy Road, and we listened to their pain and their real fears. We also contacted people we had got to know in the Orange Order and we heard their concerns.. Andy Park said tonight that he was angry. ..We know he has sat through some very difficult and painful meetings, he has listened and he has talked to people who hold very different views to him. He has continued to come to meetings like this and put his point of view. There’s another acquaintance of ours in the Orange Order who felt so strongly that she actually camped in Drumcree this summer … Yet not long afterwards she came to a meeting in West Belfast organised by the NI Women’s Political Forum (a group of women from 7 different political parties in NI, who first came together in early 1996). At that meeting she and the other women from very different backgrounds – republican, unionist, loyalist and nationalist – felt able to talk frankly about their problems and concerns, including the parading issue. She recognised the value of dialogue, but she still felt she would have difficulties talking to someone like Brendan McKenna … “
“We have to move on. We saw all the pain that’s there, all the killings this summer. There are good people all over Northern Ireland who can provide a solution to this. I place my hope in the Belfast Agreement, for all its faults – and there are many faults and inadequacies in that Agreement. But it’s all we’ve got really. Let’s try and make it work….Thank you.”
MEATH PEACE GROUP REPORT. November 1998. © Meath Peace Group
Compiled by Sarah Clancy, edited by Juiltta Clancy. Talk videotaped by Anne Nolan.