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.
No. 22 – “Parading Disputes in Northern Ireland”
Tuesday, 1st October, 1996
St. Columban’s College, Dalgan Park, Navan
Cllr. Brid Rogers (SDLP Constituency Representative for Upper Bann)
Richard Whitten (Education Committee, Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland)
James Tansley (First Secretary, British Embassy, Dublin)
Dominick Bryan (Researcher, University of Ulster; co-author of Parades and Protest)
Neil Jarman (Researcher, University of Ulster; co-author of Parades and Protest)
Chaired by John Clancy (Meath Peace Group)
Summary of main points
Addresses of speakers
Questions and Comments
Editor’s note: This is the third public talk on the parading issue organised by the Group since 1993 – the previous two talks were held in Autumn of 1995 (Nos. 18 and 19).
SUMMARY OF MAIN POINTS
1. Brid Rogers (SDLP):
• Historical background – a divided State; two different allegiances
• Lack of consistency in dealing with the parades: “one law for one side”
• Conflict between two sets of rights: dialogue and understanding needed
• Rights carry responsibilities; they also require the recognition that other people have rights– “there is no such thing as an absolute right”
• Need for structures to facilitate dialogue – Parading commission
• Need for set of principles and criteria : not just a matter of policing
• Need for involvement of all local interests in a dispute as of right
• Need for consistency in dealing with rerouting decisions; such decisions must be made in time
2. Richard Whitten (Orange Order):
• Divided communities, but problem older than the N.I. State
• Right to peaceful procession and celebration of culture and traditions – entitlement of every citizen in a free society
• Intention of parades to be peaceful – it is“concerned residents groups who intend to create a breach of the peace”
• “Concerned residents groups” are following what Orange Order consider to be a “Sinn Fein agenda”: problems with talking to representatives nominated – no problem talking to elected representatives.
• Need for real parity of esteem – real respect and tolerance
• Orange Order has made some reforms – especially in relation to bands employed (contract for bands). Number of loyal order parades actually reduced – often confused with band parades
• Orange Order has made a submission to Independent Review Body – many positive points contained in it
3. James Tansley (British Embassy):
• Operational independence of the RUC
• Drumcree was a “disaster” – appalling effects on both communities
• Marching issue emphasises the difference between the two communities
• The tragedy arises from a conflict of right with right.
• Independent Review Body – terms of reference
4 and 5. Dominick Bryan and Neil Jarman (University of Ulster):
• Parading problem is the peace process at a local level – “ it needs to be explored and dealt with at the same time as the bigger peace process .”
• Central arguments – tradition and consent – trying to argue the same thing – trying to argue power – not good arguments.
• The right to political, cultural and religious expression and demonstration a very important human right and must be safeguarded .That right must be extended to both communities
• There are other rights – the right to live in peace, the right to live free from fear, the right not to be offended.
• Right to have a parade must be looked at in terms of a whole series of events: Northern Ireland an ethnically divided area. Need for balance – need to look at nature, content, size, number , frequency of parades, involvement of outsiders. Need also to look at the rights given to the minorities in those areas to have their own parades. Need to address the totality of rights and to recognise that rights bring responsibilities
•Mediation, compromise and dialogue.
•Responsible parading: guidelines and codes of practice; better stewarding; better management of parades; the way organisers and protestors deal with their symbols, deal with their attitudes, deal with their behaviour on the parades and on the protest. Improvement of information available on parades – better advance notice
• Need for framework – a parading commission which would coordinate and oversee, but would not give permission, sanction, stop or condemn the parades – a framework in which people can discuss the issue”
• Law: number of areas of the law not currently used . Changes in the law to set up a parading commission, to empower the guidelines and codes of conduct, to set the parameters of some of the parades. If an agreement is not reached the police will want to retain the power to make a decision based on public order .
ADDRESSES OF SPEAKERS: “Parading Disputes in Northern Ireland”
1. Cllr. Brid Rogers (SDLP Constituency representative for Upper Bann and Chair of SDLP Parades Committee):
Brid Rogers thanked the Meath Peace Group for the invitation to talk in Navan and said that it was very important that people in all parts of Ireland should strive to understand the complexities of the Northern Ireland problem.
SDLP position: “We in the SDLP fully appreciate the sensitivity and the complexity of the parades issue, both in political terms and in policing terms, and our concern has been not to exploit what is a very difficult and complex issue but to try and use our influence and our leadership in the interest of conciliation and accommodation, and to create a working norm of respect and being respected, and that is our position in the SDLP. None of us who are about today created the problem, but all of us are left to try and sort it out.
Historical background: “We tend to talk about the Orange Parades but they really are the parades of the loyal orders – there’s the Orange Order, the Black Preceptory and the Apprentice Boys, and they’re not really all the same – they have different structures of authority and so on. But the parades of the loyal orders – like all parades in Northern Ireland – have to be seen in the historical background of where they operate, and the historical background is the background of a State divided in that there are two communities living in N.I. with two different allegiances, and in a sense the N.I. State as set up represented one allegiance – the allegiance represented by the loyal orders and their parades. Therefore the parades of the loyal orders can’t be seen as “mardi-gras” type parades which they would be in a normal society where the State had the allegiance of all the people and I suppose the parade in Navan last night [all-Ireland Gaelic football celebrations] was a mardi-gras type of affair and everyone enjoyed it and it was a joyous occasion for Meath people…..”
Celebration of culture – one-sided approach: “Basically, the loyal parades are a celebration of their culture – they celebrate their unionism, their Britishness, their Orangeism and their Protestantism, and that’s perfectly ok – there isn’t a thing wrong with that. The problem about it is that the State in N.I. was also a State which was a State made for unionism and Protestantism and loyalism and the cultural expression and the parades of the other allegiance in N.I., represented by nationalists and republicans, were never held in such esteem by the powers that be, with the result that, whereas the celebration of the Orange culture historically in Northern Ireland has been looked on with favour by the State, the celebration of the other culture has been ghettoised and seen as something which “you can do in you own home but you mustn’t do it where we have to see it.”
“Given that there is a division about the State itself and the nature of the State, a celebration by one community is not smiled on by the other community.
Lack of consistency: “ there grew up a lack of consistency in dealing with the parades, and the historical tradition in N.I. has been that, whereas the loyal orders have been allowed to parade in their own areas and indeed in all town centres and cities, and indeed through nationalist areas, it has always been expected that the nationalist parades would remain in their own areas and would not go outside them and would celebrate their own culture in their own ghettoes . What happened in Portadown in 1984 is a concrete example of that.
Parading disputes in Portadown, 1984 : “In 1984, there was a lot of trouble in Portadown because of Orange marches which went up and down through the Tunnel area which is a 99% nationalist street. Because they represented the culture of the dominant community who ruled the State their very going through that area represented a symbol of that domination….It was a symbolic gesture of domination in the area – there was a lot of resentment. There were , I think, four marches on the Twelfth July through that particular street, a very narrow street. Resentment built up because … nationalist parades who wanted to march on St. Patrick’s Day [in Portadown] and who wanted to march around a circle, beginning at one point and finishing there, were always prevented from finishing the circle, because there was a little enclave where Protestants live. So instead of finishing the circle they had to go back the other way . This was seen as unevenhandedness – the same rule of law was not being applied . In 1984 a decision was made, after an application by St. Patrick’s Band (which didn’t carry flags, only its own banner) – they were given permission by the police to march through Park Road. They were about to go around when a mob gathered in the middle of the road with cudgels – the police said they could do nothing about them and the nationalist march had to turn back – the police, having known for three days that that was going to happen, they didn’t prevent the mob gathering, they made no attempt to let the march through. That was seen as the police being prepared to force an Orange march through Obins Street 4 times in one day, but not being prepared to make the same provision for a small nationalist band who jsut wanted to complete the circle. That created a great deal of resentment in Portadown.
One law for one side: “I tell that story to show that from a nationalist perspective it is seen as one law for one side and another law for the other – it had historical roots because of the nature of the State but it didn’t take away from the resentment. So, when I say that we’re coming from different perspectives, I think that the Orange/loyalist way of looking at is that “we have the right to march” – and of course in a normal society everyone should have the right to march. But no right is absolute. So from their perspective they are being denied the right to march where they like when they like, but from a nationalist perspective, if the Orangemen are allowed to march where they like and when they like, even through nationalist areas where they are not welcome, then that is interfering with the rights of nationalists to be left alone to live in peace and not to be disrupted…
Conflict between two sets of rights: need for dialogue: “So there are two sets of rights, and there is also a lack of consistency. The problem is not a clash of right and wrong, it is a conflict really between two rights – in a sense, on a smaller level, it is like the conflict in N.I. as a whole, which is a conflict between two sets of legitimate rights and when you seek a solution to something like that, there’s only one way of finding a solution, and that’s by getting the two conflicting rights and those who represent the two conflicting rights together in dialogue to try and work out an accommodation between them on the basis of understanding. Now that dialogue did not happen in Portadown – that dialogue was refused, and I have to be honest and say that the Orange Order in Portadown refused for a whole year to talk to the residents’ committee in Portadown. Because of that refusal and that failure of dialogue we had what became known as Drumcree and the stand-off and the unfortunate consequences of that…. I have never seen in my 25 years in N.I. politics such division within the community and such total lack of confidence in the police as I have seen since Drumcree amongst nationalists. I think it shows that there is a very thin veil over the latent sectarianism in N.I. and until we deal with the basic causes of that and try to come to terms with finding structures at all levels, including on the marching issue, to deal with it, we are not going to solve it.
Derry: “Derry on the other hand this year could have been another conflagration, and the reason that it wasn’t was because reason prevailed. Now it hasn’t been resolved in Derry – it still remains to be resolved because the Apprentice Boys didn’t walk on the walls. And by the way, I want to say here that I would defend the right of the Apprentice Boys to walk the walls of Derry, because it is a tradition of theirs, it is a very important part of their history”
“I think that a proper resolution in Derry would see the Apprentice Boys marching along the walls in peace and with the agreement of the people of the city. … But what happened this year, because of Drumcree and the other issues, it became more difficult, and people were more divided than ever. After Drumcree Derry looked bad – yet dialogue happened. John Hume, being the public representative in that area, intervened; the local churches, local businessmen, the chamber of commerce became involved, as well as the residents and the Apprentice Boys. In fact what happened is I think the ideal and what should happen in future – because the whole community became involved in the issue. The issue of divisive marches doesn’t just affect the people in the street through which the marchers want to march, or the marchers . – it affects the wider community as well. It affects the business community, it disrupts the whole community, it causes friction.
“ Resolution of these problems can only be done at a local level and it can only be done by all local interests becoming involved in the dialogue – and I have to hand it to all the interests in Derry … who sat down together and avoided confrontation, and I think that is the way forward.
Independent Review Body on Parades (North Committee): “We welcome the North Committee – we think it’s a terrible pity that something wasn’t done a year ago after the first Drumcree problem, after the first stand-off, which, you will remember, was resolved by compromise – and I’m not going into the history of that because that was a disaster afterwards and made compromise more difficult this year – but it was resolved by dialogue and compromise at that stage. But then the whole thing blew up in our faces and it was obvious that something would need to be done, but unfortunately. and I have to blame the ultimate power – the government, because nothing was done by the government – it was pushed onto the police, and with all due respect there is no way that the police can be expected to resolve what is a symptom of our deepest problem in Northern Ireland – which is a problem of division and conflict – that’s what the parades represent in many ways. The police were in a “no-win” situation no matter what they did. It is not just a matter of policing – it is much more than that. The North Committee will be looking at the issue and trying to come up with some kind of proposals – we will certainly be proposing that some kind of a process should be established to facilitate dialogue. There are only about 12, maybe 20, parades which are actually contentious, and if this isn’t resolved it will get worse. Most marches go on without any problem – there are about 3, 000 in all every year – c. 300 of them republican/nationalist, and the others belonging to the loyal orders . Some sort of process should be set up where dialogue can be facilitated.”
Suggestions for resolution of local disputes: “A commission could be set up which would be a facilitator for dialogue – it might have executive powers. Structures must be put in place to facilitate the dialogue which is so necessary to resolve the problem. Also we do need a set of principles and criteria – there is no such thing as an absolute right. Rights carry responsibilities and they also require the recognition that other people have rights.
Traditional argument: “if you’re talking about a traditional right of an Orange march which has always for a hundred years gone down this road, you have to recognise, 1), that times change, and 2), that the tradition was based on the dominance of one community over the other, on the right of that community to dominate the other, and therefore to the nationalists it represents a tradition of keeping them in their place. Therefore the traditional argument doesn’t wear. But what has to happen is that criteria and principles have to be laid down – there has to be consistency in dealing with rerouting decisions, and those decisions have to be made in time, by whoever is making them, so that people know, so that there isn’t a build-up of tension – that people know in advance.
Involvement of all local interests: “I think the most important thing that I would see is that when it comes to resolving a local march that all the local interests should be involved as of right in the dialogue – at Portadown for example, it should be representatives of the Orange Order, representatives of the residents association, elected local representatives on both sides and business representatives who are also affected, and the churches. That would have the effect of broadening it out and making it the responsibility of the whole community in the area to get involved. That would go a long way towards resolving it. But basically it is a complex issue – it is seen from different perspectives, depending on which side you’re standing on, and it’s very important that it should be resolved by dialogue. Most importantly, something must be done between this and the next marching season and people have to start talking now so that we do not have a repeat of Drumcree and the Ormeau Road because that has led to such a disastrous situation in Northern Ireland and which has set back not just the issues of the parading and the policing problem, but the whole political situation in Northern Ireland has been affected and the divisions have been strengthened and that is not good for the body politic.”
2. Richard Whitten (Education Committee, Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland):
Richard Whitten thanked the Meath Peace Group for the invitation to come and put the Orange Order’s point of view. “A lot of what I am going to say is personal but we will be making a submission to the Commission on parades, and I have tried to be of assistance to the Grand Master in drawing that up. I hope that the Commission will be pleasantly surprised when they receive our submission, because we have tried not to be totally negative and we do actually make some some recommendations for some changes which I think will be acceptable to both communities.
Divided communities: “I could agree with quite a lot of what Brid Rogers has just said – the problem of course is one of two divided communities. One point of disagreement – the problem is older than the N.I. State. Orangeism and Orange Order parades go back to the very first parade, in 1796, when Ireland was most definitely all one state. Indeed, right up to the First World War there were parades in Dublin , right back to the division of the State, there was a huge Orange rally in Ballsbridge, just outside Dublin, to try and keep all Ireland within the Union …..”
He recalled an incident in his own district (Tanderagee, Co. Armagh), when an Orange hall in a small village was burned down “as part of the Sinn Fein action showing respect for the two communities”. At considerable expense to the local lodge, and after a long struggle, they reopened the new hall. A parade was held and a busload of Orangemen came up from the Wicklow district – “I happened to be standing behind two of these Orangemen – quite elderly gentlemen. Behind the platform was the Union Jack fluttering in the breeze … one of the Wicklow Orangemen turned to the other and said – “isn’t it wonderful just to stand beneath that flag once again?”. That affected me deeply…….”
“Brid mentioned the Tunnel incident in Portadown – it reminded me of another tunnel incident in another divided society (Israel) which happened only recently – we’ve all seen the trouble that caused from the reaction of the Palestinian community. There’s another part of the world where divided communities can so easily produce violent reactions…..”
“The problem is older than the N.I. State …One thinks of the “Battle of Dolly’s Brae” in 1849 as a result of which Orange Parades were banned for some 16 years, the ban being broken by the famous William Johnston of Ballykilbeg, when he walked from Bangor to Newtownards.
“Dolly’s Brae was a legal parade – it was protected by military at the front and rear because the supporters of O’Connell had threatened to disrupt that parade…. they were fired on on the way back … the military cleared the hill. Eight people were killed – following the inquiry the Orange Order got the blame and as a result it was banned for 16 years. “
Right to peaceful procession: “We would base our right to traditional parades to the simple human and civic right to peaceful procession and celebration of our culture and traditions .”
“In every civilised society (I’m taking this from a recent newspaper article), there are certain fundamental freedoms, rights and liberties, protected by the State. They range from the right to live in peace, to the right of freedom of belief and speech, to the right of free association and the right of cultural expression. These rights form basic human rights which are the entitlement of every citizen in a free society. Collectively the observance of these rights entitles us to consider ourselves as free men and women who can enjoy liberty in a just society . Once one component within this convention of human rights is denied then our very free existence and liberty is to be questioned.
“Now one can trace the right to peaceful procession to the 2nd Amendment of the US Consitution , through the Charter of the United Nations, International Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, International Covenant of Civil and Politicial Rights, European Convention for the Protection of Human rights and Freedoms, European Social Charter – there’s a considerable body of international law dealing with the right of peaceful procession and the peaceful expression of your culture.
Peaceful intent: “The definition of course is in the intent. Now the Orange Order would maintain that in its traditional parades, such as the Ormeau Road, Garvaghy, Pomeroy etc., that the intention of the parades is to be peaceful, that the parade is not threatening violence – it is not threatening to break the law. Our contention is that it is the “concerned residents groups” who sit down on the road, who block the highway, intend to create a breach of the peace – and our quarrel with the decision of the Chief Constable in the matter of Garvaghy Road is that he elevated a threat from a residents’ group to deliberately break the law higher than the peaceful intentions of the parade, and that therefore because of a threat to break the law, a peaceful parade was denied its rights.
Sinn Fein agenda: “This problem is extremely difficult – but what makes the problem worse, from the Orange Order perspective, is that these concerned groups are following what we perceive to be a Sinn Fein agenda. The Orange Order did not promise last year that we would have a “long hot summer “- that was promised by Mr Maskey, one of the leading figures in Sinn Fein. It seems to us that since the IRA ceasefire, Sinn Fein have turned to street politics quite deliberately, as a deliberate strategy, to polarise, divide, Balkanise, ghettoise the two communities. It seems to me that they would love to create a situation where the Catholics live in one particular area, the Protestants live in another particular area. They tried this for 27 years and it’s coming a lot closer after the events in Garvaghy, with the economic boycott, particularly in the west of the province.
Diverse society: “We would argue that it is not in the interests of the Orange Order, or anybody’s interest in N.I., to drive both communities to such a polarised state where they live in exclusive ghettoes. I want to live in a diverse society – I want to see Catholics and Protestants still mixed – I want to go back to the days before the Troubles when the tradition in country areas always was, that, on the 12th July, a Catholic neighbour would do the milking for a Protestant dairy farmer so that he could get away and celebrate his day.
“In August, The favour would be returned so that the Hibernian could celebrate his day, and the Protestant would do the milking for him.
“I would like to get back to those days – I know a lot of my Catholic neighbours came out and watched Orange parades for the wonderful display of pageantry – where would you see the like of it all over Europe? If this was properly handled it should be a marvellous boost for tourism north and south. You just do not see an Orange procession anywhere around the world. But this bitterness, this hatred, this serious lack of toleration, grieves us deeply We are conscious of De Valera’s pledge about the Irish tricolour – the green and the orange – the white being the symbol of peace between the two traditions.
Parity of esteem: “We hear a lot about respect for the two traditions – parity of esteem, another phrase used very glibly by people like Mr Adams, Mr Maskey and Mr Macguinness. We would ask for real parity of esteem. Now if people cannot tolerate a church parade – not a 12th July parade – behind an accordion band consisting mainly of teenage girls playing hymn tunes – no party tunes on a church parade. If they cannot tolerate that for 5 minutes in a year what hope do we have for living together in tolerance and mutual respect? Those are the things that really do grieve us very very much.
“I have here a book by John Dunlop – one of the commissioners on the parades issue. I can’t say that the appointment of John Dunlop particularly pleased the Orange Order because his views are well known – he was one of the senators in Queen’s University responsible for taking the decision to stop playing the national anthem . In this book, John Dunlop writes –
“unionists need to know that they are recognised and honoured by nationalists. This is a responsibility which devolves upon nationalists. Unionists cannot do this for themselves . This means that nationalists in both parts of the island need to be heard and seen to be concerned about the wellbeing of unionists as well as nationalists. This is not the case at present.”.
“…Traditional and peaceful Orange parades have been going down certain streets for 187 years – and for most of the 187 years, even during the height of the “troubles” when the bombs were going up, they weren’t disrupted . Suddenly these last 3 years they have become a problem – I would suggest that we really do need to take heed of John Dunlop’s words – and we do need to see some geinuine respect and some genuine tolerance, and I’m sorry to say that it is lacking very much in our present situation.
Dialogue and consent: “Brid mentioned “dialogue”, “consent of the local people” – now quite frankly these two things cause us a lot of problems – for starters, who do the “concerned residents” groups put up to negotiate with the Orange Order? If they put up Brid Rogers, an elected SDLP councillor in the Portadown area there would be no problem. I am quite happy to appear tonight with Brid. If they put up Alastair McDonnell, the elected SDLP councillor for the Ormeau Road area, the Markets area of Belfast, we would have no problem. As a matter of fact we already have had quite a considerable dialogue with him. He’s been given copies of all the Orange Order literature on parades which he appreciated very much. But he is ignored by certain people in the so-called “Lower Ormeau Road Concerned Residents” Group. They ignore the elected SDLP councillor! Because they are interested in pushing the SF agenda of division , of hatred, of polarisation .
Garvaghy Road: “Brendan McKenna, Garvaghy Road Residents Group, was sentenced to 14 years in prison for IRA terrorism – he blew up the British Legion Hall in Portadown. Now, like it or not, the Orange District in Portadown is not going to sit and talk with that man – they are not going to do it….
Apprentice Boys’ march in Derry: “Donnchadha MacNiallais, of the Bogside Residents’ Group, served 16 years for IRA terrorist activity – a leading member of Sinn Fein in the Londonderry area.- This is the guy they put up to speak for them. Brid claimed that John Hume had performed a wonderful piece of work in Londonderry – well, far be it for me to disagree. John Hume is a local MP, carried out his duty and brought both sides together, the Apprentice Boys and the Bogside Residents Group . But I want you to understand that Mac Niallais wrecked an agreement which John Hume had brokered. And the agreement was that a very small number of the Apprentice Boys, representative of the parent clubs just in the Londonderry area, would walk the wall – that the large number of Aprentice Boys who wanted to walk the wall would not in fact walk that wall. It had been agreed – a very small number, representative of the parent clubs, would actually walk the wall.
“Brid has eloquently explained the importance of the Siege of Derry to most Protestants, whether within the Orange Order or not. The Siege of Derry is a very very important event . John Hume had brokered that deal, but MacNiallais, at the last minute, wrecked it by trying to insist that any agreement would have to be inclusive of the Ormeau Road and Garvaghy and all the other contentious areas. So he wrecked it, virtually at the very last moment – now why? Now I would contend that that is because he is following the Sinn Fein agenda .
Hatred and bigotry: “We have had some terrible incidents since – a busload of Orange women, some of them quite elderly, visited the museum attached to the Apprentice Boys Hall in Londonderry , which has items from the siege – original weapons etc all on display …. After visiting, they went out shopping and were stoned – some of them ended up needing hospital treatment. The Grand Master of the Orange District in Londonderry, who tried to protect them, got beaten up for his trouble. And all the time the concerned residents group was monitoring these women – monitoring them in case they tried to have a parade without giving 7 days notice! So this is the kind of hatred, bigotry, that we’re up against. The Orange Order , Lord knows, has been accused of those things often enough, but we see it and it grieves us…..
Number of parades: “It is not true to say that the Orange Order has anything like 3,500 parades a year…. I think a lot of them are getting confused with band parades which have nothing to do with the Orange Order – some bands are linked with lodges but most stand independently and have their parades to raise money in many towns and villages . A lot of the money is actually given to charity. The Orange Order is not responsible for band parades and band parades should not be counted as part of the Orange Order. Some people do not know the difference between an Apprentice Boys parade, a Black Preceptory parade and an Orange Order parade – they’re all just called Orange Order parades. I’m afraid we get blamed for things for which we have no responsibility….
“In actual fact, the number of parades in recent years has been greatly reduced. One of the traditions, a very long tradition, in Orangeism in Belfast, was that just before the 12th, the lodge would go out to the Worshipful Master’s house and get tea, put up the banner, and then walk to the centre of town. When the Troubles began that became impossible – that couldn’t be continued. The Orange Order scrapped what must have been hundreds of separate little parades in Belfast and replaced them with the tradition of the “mini-twelfth”, where usually the Saturday before the Twelfth each district has a little parade of its own.
“So actually we could say the number of parades has been reduced – even on the Garvaghy Road . The Portadown District tell me there used to be 7 Orange parades down the Garvaghy Road – that included of course the parade of country lodges down the Garvaghy Road on the 12th July. All of those have been given up, on police advice, some I have to admit with a bit of arm-twisting, but most voluntarily – all but one, the one church parade that has caused all the difficulty. So actually the Orange Order has given up 6 parades on the Garvaghy Road and replaced them with one.
Garvaghy Road: “Inspector Jackson, retired from the RUC, wrote a very interesting letter regarding the whole issue of the Garvaghy Road in which he went on the record as saying that as a replacement for the parade on Obins Street – that’s the Tunnel area referred to earlier – … they suggested that the Orange Order should go down the Garvaghy Road, that in their eyes that was ok – they more or less gave an assurance to the Orange Order that there was no problem from their point of view with the Garvaghy Road. Then of course we find that that assurance given to Portadown Orange District was broken. Mr Jack Hermon , retired Chief Inspector of the RUC, went on record as saying that the original decision of the Chief Constable to reroute the church parade down Garvaghy Road, was a serious mistake . That he should have known from the previous year. He described it in terms that I’m sure an Orangeman would disagree with – he described Portadown as the “Orangeman’s Vatican”, and that any attempt to seriously reroute or ban parades in Portadown would cause great trouble. So, the Orange Order has reduced the number of parades – both in Portadown and elsewhere.
Contract for bands: “The Orange Order also has tried to tidy up its act with regard to parades – we are conscious – I don’t want to come here before you and say that everything’s perfect under the sun – it’s not. Some years ago, conscious of criticism about the behaviour of bands attached to Orange lodges the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland introduced a conditions of engagement contract that all bands are required to sign , and if bands break this agreement they are forbidden to walk in an Orange demonstration anywhere around the world…. we are not allowed to hire that band. We have for instance:
“all members of a band must maintain uniformity of dress to a standard reflecting the dignity and decorum of the institution with whom they are on parade. Shouting in an unseemly manner for emphasis of certain tunes is strictly forbidden…..”
“We must distinguish between a Twelfth parade and a church parade – hymn tunes are only played in a church parade – on the 12th July of course it is a celebration of the Boyne and we get all the traditional Orange tunes.
“Bands will employ regulation step only in parade – drumming or twin drumming, dancing or jig time stepping by a member of the band is prohibited. In the case of church parades , recognisable hymn tunes or sacred marches only can be played.”
Bands taking part in church parades must also attend the church service – and not be seen to be hanging around outside smoking.
“ It goes on to talk about the flags that are permitted to be carried by bands. That contract is not there for decoration … [Mr Whitten went on to describe an incident in Armagh District where a band was prohibited from carrying a flag bearing the letters “UVF”, even though they protested that the letters referred to the historic l UVF of Carson and Craig… ]
“We have done something about bands – we are prepared to take action . We are attempting at any rate, in the matter of the band contract, to clean up our act and make sure that our demonstrations are peaceful.
Civil war: “It’s been a very difficult summer, for everyone in Northern Ireland. I don’t want to minimise it – I personally think we were extremely close to a civil war. I refer to the example, which might seem very simple, of the opening of a tunnel causing all that violence in Jerusalem this past week . An event which may seem to be silly to people on the outside – such as the rerouting of a church parade – can very often spark something in a community where you have tensions, where you have fears, where you have people saying that ‘the ceasefire’s a sham’, that ‘Sinn Fein are winning’.
“All it takes is a silly little incident to spark off a terrible confrontation.”
Hatred and intolerance: “I want to end with something which I find personally shocking. I read this to illustrate the kind of thing we’re up against – the hatred and intolerance that we’re up against. This is Conor Cruise O’Brien’s book States of Ireland. I recommend this book to everyone … It was written just at the beginning of the Troubles. This story is when Conor Cruise was a member of the government and he was sent up to the North to meet leaders of the Catholic community – not just politicians – to try to get them to co-operate and to interrelate with their Protestant neighbours – that was the policy of the Dublin Government in those days. He said of a meeting with Catholics:
“most of them heard me with resignation but without manifest dissent – a typical comment was “though Frank Aiken [the Minister who sent Conor Cruise up there] was born in Armagh he had been away for a very long time”. There was one man however, a local chieftain in a remote village in a desolate and hilly part of South Armagh who made no reply at all to my message. He was sitting in front of his little shop looking out across the glen in the stillness of a summer evening. Uneasily, to break the silence, I asked him whether there were many Protestants in the district. Then he spoke quietly: “there’s only one Protestant in this townland and with the help of God we’ll have him out of it by Christmas”.
Now unfortunately that attitude is all too present in parts of Northern Ireland, and as I say, let’s have some toleration. Let’s tolerate a church parade for 5 minutes in one day in a year. Let us get to true respect – to true parity of esteem between those two colours either side of the white of peace on the Irish Tricolour. Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen.”
3. James Tansley (First Secretary, British Embassy, Dublin)
“There has been a lot of talk this evening about the parade in Drumcree and the way it was handled. Questions have been raised about the operational independence of the RUC – the role of the Northern Ireland Secretary in the approval or otherwise of parades, and the attitude of the RUC towards parades organised by unionists and nationalists. I’d like to dwell briefly on each of those issues as I feel it puts in context the whole review of parades which was announced by the Northern Secretary in July.
The operational independence of the RUC: “It is true that the wider power to impose a ban on a public procession or an open-air meeting in Northern Ireland rests in law with the Northern Secretary. But in practice such decisions are made only on the basis given by the Chief Constable. This is precisely what happened when the decision was taken for the Apprentice Boys in Londonderry in August this year. The responsibility for evaluating a proposed parade against the statutory criteria rests with the RUC, specifically the Chief Constable. In making such decisions as to whether a parade may follow a particular route, the RUC must decide as to whether that proposed route is likely to cause serious disorder , serious disruption to the life of the community or serious damage to property, or whether the purpose of the organisers is to intimidate others – if so the RUC alone have the right to impose conditions on the parade.
Drumcree: “Many commentators have wrongly assumed that Drumcree took the RUC by surprise. This was not the case – unprecedented efforts had been made – by the government, through the Northern Ireland Office, by church leaders, by the RUC, and by many others, including groups, residents groups and others in Portadown as far back as January this year. I should stress that from a government perspective there was an alternative non-contentious route available to the Orange Lodge from Portadown but they decided not to take it. The RUC had also served a lawful notice on the Orange Order which ordered the return stage of the parade at Portadown to be rerouted away from the Garvaghy Road. Following that decision, which had the full support of the British Government, there was serious public disorder at Drumcree and many other parts of Northern Ireland and there was a clear aim to overstretch the capacity of the RUC. Throughout those four days, following the original decision not to allow the parade to go down the Garvaghy Road , there were continuing efforts to reach an agreement within Drumcree. When these failed, and in the light of the circumstances, and the Chief Constable made clear that the situation was getting out of control, there was the danger that some 60-70,000 Orange marchers would be invited to converge on Drumcree, and that there was a serious threat to life in the vicinity, he took the decision to allow the parade to go ahead.
Consequences of Drumcree: “ In the light of that, we are under no illusions of the consequences – the Secretary of State has described what happened at Drumcree that day as a disaster. It is a disaster in terms of polarising the community , and Brid and Richard have said that the events in the aftermath of Drumcree have left an appalling impression on both sides of the community . The question now is not to look back but to look forward. It wasn’t the intention of the British Government to offend one side or the other , but as Brid has pointed out, the marching issue perhaps as much as any other issue in Northern Ireland emphasises the difference between the two communities:
Unionist side: “On the unionist side, the inability to parade to and from a church service along a route sanctified by tradition is symbolic of a threat they perceive exist to their culture and sense of identity. I think it might at this time go deeper than that, in view of the current political situation. By their own interpretation of political developments the curtailment of the Orangemen’s freedom to parade is evidence to unionists that the government is following a pro-nationalist agenda. I also feel that these changes are indicative of possible future attitudes to Protestant or unionist culture should there be any change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland.
Nationalist side: “On the nationalist side, as Brid very eloquently made clear, the right of the Orange Order to march is fully recognised and accepted but it is qualified by an insistence that marches should not go through areas where they are not welcome and where offence could be caused by displays of triumphalism. Nationalists maintain that if they are to be citizens of Northern Ireland their status should be recognised as being fully equal to that of unionists. Such recognition in their eyes does not include being obliged to allow Orangemen to march in areas because they have always done so where the residents in those areas do not want them to march.
Conflict of rights: “In a nutshell, nationalists see the prevention or rerouting traditional marches as an indication of the extent to which things have moved on politically, while many unionists see it as an indicator of how much there is to be regained. As Brid made clear, the tragedy arises from a conflict of right with right.
Independent Review Body on Parades: “It was against this background that the Northern Ireland Secretary announced in July a review – an independent review of the whole issue of parades. I will just read out the precise terms of reference of that review:
It is to review, in the light of evidence received from any interested party, and having regard to the particular experience of 1996, the current arrangements for handling public processions and open-air public meetings and associated public order issues in Northern Ireland, including
Firstly, the adequacy of the current legal provisions and particularly the adequacy of the statutory criteria used in making decisions on public processions and open-air meetings;
Secondly, the powers and responsibilities of the Northern Ireland Secretary, the police and others;
Thirdly, the possible need for new machinery, formal and informal, to play a part in determining whether and how certain public processions and open-air public meetings should take place;
Fourthly, the possible role for, and composition of, codes of practice for organisers and participants in public processions and open-air public meetings;
Finally, to make recommendations by the end of January 1997.
“The review has started. Neil and Dominick have already been speaking to Professor North and Rev. John Dunlop in recent days. The British Government has no preconceived idea of the outcome of that review. It wishes to see a set of recommendations coming forth which gain acceptance across the community. We realise we are not going to solve the problems without a formula which does receive widespread or widescale acceptance. Will the changes lead to changes in legislation ? Again I’m not going to prejudge the question. All I can say is that one of the purposes in having a review completed by January 1997 is that it provides sufficient time if that were needed for any new legislation to be in place before next year’s marching season begins. Thank you very much.”
4. Dominick Bryan (researcher, University of Ulster, co-author of Parades and Protest, June 1996):
“There are many points we can take up from what has already been said. What I intend to do is tell you a bit about the background of what Neil and I have been doing and tell you what we are doing at the moment. Then, between us we will offer a range of possibilities that we have been thinking about in trying to move this problem on. I’m going to talk about some of the voluntary constraints, the codes of conduct, and Neil will talk about some of the other issues.
“Neil and I have both been working in the area of parades for 5 and 6 years. It’s only in recent years that we’ve started to look specifically at the problems. We’ve had a couple of reports that have been published looking at the parading disputes, and what we are attempting to do at the moment is to try and talk to as many people and circulate as many people as we possibly can to try to move some of the debate forward. It is complicated – it isn’t going to be an easy thing to solve. One thing I think everyone can agree on is that we cannot go through another summer such as we have just gone through – it’s too horrendous to contemplate.
Central arguments: “You’ve heard some of the arguments. I’m going to discuss very briefly two central arguments that will be used over the coming weeks – one is the argument of tradition, and one is the argument of consent, very briefly I’m going to suggest that they are trying to argue the same thing – they are trying to argue power.
Tradition : “Describing parades as traditional parades as having some special category is not going to solve any problems. Why? Because, though traditions are important to people, traditions have been based on power.
“The ability to parade in Northern Ireland has in general been based on the fact that the power situation which the Orange institution and the other institutions were in has meant that they have had greater parading rights than have nationalists. The number of parades – you just have to look through the history books to see the amount of nationalist parades that have been banned during the Stormont era in comparison to Orange parades.
“In fact ironically I would suggest that Ian Paisley could have written the book on stopping parades in 1968 and 1969 – stopping nationalist parades what Ian Paisley seemed to be doing every weekend, and he could have probably written the book that the residents groups are now using.
How do you judge a parade is traditional? “That’s very difficult. Parades have changed over the years and many of the symbols and things that go on in parades are very different from what went on twenty or thirty years ago. I haven’t yet heard a reasonable argument to suggest that because something is traditional it is necessarily right. You could make an argument that a 100 years ago Catholics traditionally threw stones at Orange parades – I don’t think that would make that tradition correct either. So I think tradition is not a good argument for allowing a parade.
Consent: “I think consent is a pretty rotten argument as well. How does one judge whether an area is going to give consent or not? What percentage are you going to take – how are you going to take some sort of poll – some sort of judgment over that? It seems to me, as Mary Holland very recently described it, as ending up turning up Northern Ireland into a lot of little cantons. Interestingly of course the consent argument is exactly the same argument which the Orange Order used in 1920 for arguing that Northern Ireland should have been portioned off in the first place – that’s the same argument that the residents groups are using. It’s about control of a particular area. It seems to me that if we spend our time arguing on those two issues alone then we are not going to get anywhere – they are an argument over power, past power and future power. So we must find other ways. The options are not going to be easy – they’re not going to solve the problems.
Responsible parading: “Some of the options that we’re going to have in the future is to draw up guidelines or codes of conduct which all parades would have to utilise.
“ By guidelines, I’m talking about a framework within which decisions over the right to parade should take place – I’m treating the right to parade as a very important human right. What was said about it being a human right is true – where I think the Orange Order have a problem in claiming that is that it is not a right that they found very easy to give generally to others, and we could go on about the cases in Lurgan where nationalist and republican parades have been stopped.
“By a code of conduct I mean specific criteria to which organisers of events might work to. The aim of doing this would be to empower those in authority, both organising and policing the parade. I do think that the Orange institutions have had and still have a problem with the way they control parades – and between the image that they give of parades and what actually takes place there is still a very large gap.
“ I know Richard is addressing the problem, but they have a very long way to go to solve that problem – the use of UVF flags is a good example – if you started banning UVF flags in the Belfast Twelfth you’d have a pretty short parade. The other thing is to develop lines of responsibility in the way parades are controlled. There are many current guidelines laid down by the organisations already, and Richard has read some of them out. I think those should be looked at seriously and also the organisations themselves should look seriously at how they implement those guidelines.
“There are existing guidelines on the form which paraders have to put in to get permission for their parade. There is much British legislation which incidentally is not in force in Northern Ireland at present regarding control of major events, which I expect is the sort of thing the Review Body will be looking at. There are very well-written up guidelines on how large events such as pop concerts and sports events should be stewarded, and I think stewarding must really be looked at. This is not going to solve Portadown or the Ormeau Road dispute – let’s not be fooled about that – but this would create a better environment in which these events take place.
Stewarding: “There is a lot that can be done about stewarding – look at English football grounds 15 years ago and look at them now. Look at Glasgow Rangers football ground which used to have 400 policemen to look after a Glasgow-Celtic match. Now it only needs 40 – and that is because they’ve looked at how their stewarding is properly managed. There are ways to look at the events so that they can be better managed and to reduce the sort of confrontations that might take place.
Geographical nature: “We do have to look at the geographical nature – when I say that consent of itself is not something that should be looked at, I do not mean that the people in an area need to be disregarded. I do think it important to take into account that Northern Ireland is an ethnically divided area. We can’t disregard what residents think but it has to be balanced – we have to look at the nature of the parades, we have to look at the content of the parades , the size of a particular parade; we have to see how many outsiders are involved in a particular parade .
“In asking whether that particular parade is reasonable or not we have to look at how often those parades take place, to look at how many parades there are in an area and we have to look at the rights which are given to the minorities in those areas to have their own parades. Those are the sort of things that guidelines could look at.
Ability to control parades: “We need to look at the ability organisers have to control parades. There’s a lot that could be done by people who hold demonstrations. We have to take into account certain mitigating factors – events that take place which may make a parade difficult on occasions. I’m not talking about banning parades – I’m saying that the right to have a parade must be looked at in terms of a whole series of events. In principle people should not be banned from any road in the country. I could go on at length about guidelines and codes of practice, and it will come up in discussion, but what I am trying to say is that at that lower level, I think there are things that could be done. ”
5. Neil Jarman (researcher, University of Ulster; co-author of Parades and Protest)
Right to political, cultural and religious expression: “I want to re-iterate one thing that Dominick said , that,although there’s been problems over parades extensively over the last 2 years, and less extensively in the years leading up to that period, what I think has got to underpin an attempt to resolve the issue is a need to recognise that the right to political, cultural and religious expression and demonstration has got to be safeguarded and we ‘ve got to facilitate that. If people want to parade, and it’s an essential part of the social and political culture of Northern Ireland, we’ve got to allow it…..
“At the same time that right has got to be extended to both communities and that right – the right to political expression – has got to bring with it certain forms of responsibility.
Totality of rights: “There’s a lot of talk about the rights that people have – we have to balance those rights. There is no list saying which rights are first, second or third – they’re all-encompassing. A lot of rights are talked about, but there are other rights – the right to live in peace, the right to live free from fear, the right not to be offended. People talk about communities going out of their way to be offended. We need to address the totality of rights and to recognise that rights bring with them responsibilities.
Options: “So recognising that there’s a need to address the issue politically, there are a number of options that can be taken up. These are some of the ideas we published in June – before the North Review Body was announced. They are ideas we elaborated with various parties – over the last winter we talked to various residents groups and members of the loyal orders and political leaders. These are some of the options – to some extent they are not mutually exclusive. There’s no reason why we couldn’t and perhaps shouldn’t install all of these – We can move through voluntary constraints to more formal legal approach……..
Mediation, dialogue: “Mediation and forms of local dialogue and compromise have been going on – they haven’t worked all of the time, they have worked some of the time. One of the problems is a tendency to focus on the areas where the problems have not been resolved. There are some areas – for example, Bellaghy, where an agreement was reached this year. In Castlederg in 1995 there were disputes at a number of parades. Some form of accommodation was agreed – last year there were no disputes at Castlederg. So there are possible ways around the issue that can come through in local agreement – we need to look at those more so than at Drumcree. It’s not total doom and gloom. Mediation, compromise and discussion are things that most people agree need to be carried on .
Responsible parading – the way organisers and protestors deal with their symbols, deal with their attitudes, deal with their behaviour on the pardes and on the protest. Focussing on the paraders all the time tends to ignore the fact that there are protestors – if protestors are going to have the right to protest there are going to have to be guidelines and constraints for paraders and protestors at the same time . The thing has got to be managed and balanced.
Law: “Changing the law has been advocated – it was a central plank of the LOCC’s 6 principles for parading, and the Public Order Order has come in for widespread criticism. But I am wary of rushing down the line of changing the law and seeing that as a panacea for the problem. There are a number of areas of the law that are not currently used , for instance, there are a number of areas which the police find are all very well on the statute books but when it comes to the problems of the day they have problems in utilising them. Much of the law is unused at the moment, and perhaps we ought to move away from the formal law at the moment and push it back towards the mediation, the compromise and dialogue.
Tribunal: “One suggestion has been for a tribunal – a facilitatory body which would encourage dialogue, would manage dialogue and try and impose a series of structures that people should go through to encourage dialogue.
Information: “ Part of that process would be to improve the information that is available on parades. One of the things people object to is that they often don’t know about the parade in advance – they are quite surprised by it. Anybody living in Northern Ireland knows that sooner or later you could be driving out on a Sunday afternoon or a weekday evening in the summer, and you’re going to get held up by a parade you weren’t expecting. There is a case for better information management so that people could be aware of the parades more clearly. People need to be given time – to have a way of raising objections in a more orderly manner so that the protest is raised through dialogue rather than getting numbers of people out on the streets . By giving the information further in advance, that is one of the ways you can do that. When the Public Order Order was introduced (1987), there was a lot of fuss about the parades having to give 7 days notice in advance. Any attempt to extend that period of notice is obviously going to cause contention. If we go back and invoke the concept of tradition – the organisers know when the next round of parades will happen – they all know when they will be parading next year – so whynot tell everyone else and allow people to plan around that? Having advance notice gives people time to raise their protest in advance but it also gives you a longer period of time to discuss the problems, to engage in more structured forms of dialogue and mediation and hopefully come to a compromise. One of the problems with having 7 days notice of a parade is that it doesn’t give you very much time to discuss the issue, to find a resolution to any protest. You’re running up against deadlines – It’s not like an industrial dispute, you know that come Saturday that parade is either going to come through or its going to be stopped.
Derry: “ One of the advantages about the disputes concerning the Apprentice Boys Parade in August this year was that people knew about it 4 weeks in advance, or they were prepared to admit that they knew about it 4 weeks in advance, because people know these parades are coming up. but because they don’t have to give notice until 7 days in advance, people can say we’re not fully informed. The Apprentice Boys Parade was known about 4 weeks in advance, people focussed their minds, there was time to get the parties together, to engage in more structured dialogue and more focussed dialogue. And I take the point that was made – that it also allows time for people to be obstructive in this issue, and it also allows time for dialogue to break down.
Framework of coordination – Parading commission: “I think you need a framework around it, a framework of coordination which often doesn’t happen in these disputes; sometimes you have 2 or 3 parties trying to facilitate or mediate between the parties, of one side not knowing what the other hand is doing. … A parading commission [could be set up] …which would coordinate, would oversee, but would not give permission, would not sanction, would not condemn the parades, would not stop the parades but would be there to try and focus a framework in which people can discuss the issue.
Changes in the law: “You may still need changes in the law to set up a parading commission, to empower the guidelines and codes of conduct that you want to introduce, to set the parameters of some of the parades. But on the other hand we’re still going to have to recognise that at the end of the day if an agreement is not reached the police are going to have to make a decision based on public order – the police are going to want to retain that right, that power. A form of dialogue can encourage the decision one way or the other – but at the end of the day might will have to be addressed.
Need to address the issue: “ We have to create a temporary space in which dialogue is nurtured and built upon. There are a limited number of parades that cause problems …. It has a potential to be increasing year by year, but at the same time, as Brid Rogers said, if the issue were addressed last year, we could competently say that in a number of those areas the parades problem would not have arisen, if the problem had been addressed, and if it had been addressed on the issue of rights rather than the issue of might.
Parading issue a mirror of broader political problem: “In some senses the parading issue is a mirror of the broader political problem – people don’t sit down and engage in dialogue, people don’t trust each other, people are unwilling to make compromises, people are unwilling to set a deal until all the pieces are in place – nothing is agreed. The parading problem is the peace process at a local level – and it needs to be explored and dealt with at the same time as the bigger peace process
Chair: Thanking the speakers, and opening up the debate to questions from the floor, John Clancy said that “the issue, as has been described , is about two rights, two freedoms, and freedom has been described as knowing your responsibilities. Maybe this process that is going on now where after Drumcree, we all stared over the edge of an abyss and everybody was of the view that we saw a nightmare about to erupt – maybe it is the time to redefine and relook at our perception of freedom, our responsibilities to ourselves and to others:”
QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS (Summary only):
1. [Q. for Richard Whitten: re representatives of residents]: “You did say that if elected representatives were put forward to speak for the residents, then the Orange Order in those particular hot spots would have no problem speaking with them … would members of the Orange Order also speak to other residents within the area, who had no hidden political agenda?”
Richard Whitten: “Members of the Orange Order have met some of the residents of Garvaghy Road. Negotiations have taken place. I cannot reveal names – that was done on the basis of confidence and that has to be respected by both sides. The Portadown District does have a problem with the spokesman put forward – the fact that he was responsible for blowing up part of Portadown town centre. This is what has raised the temperature – the fact that Portadown now has only got back together again.
Lurgan: “Reference was made to Lurgan, to Protestants stopping republican parades in Lurgan. Lurgan was completely devastated by a massive car bomb. Where do the people come from who planted the bomb? Where do they go back to?
[Member of audience]: “They were stopped long before there was a car bomb”
Richard Whitten: “as far as I am aware the Orange Order itself is not stopping the parades from going through.. To us unfortunately it is mixed up with what we perceive to be a Sinn Fein agenda, and if somehow we could get the Sinn Fein agenda out of the equation then the Orange Order would have less of a problem talking to these groups – if we had that assurance, that the Sinn Fein agenda is not being advanced, then we would have less difficulty in talking to them.”
Brid Rogers: “…. I have to say that the picture of Orange marches presented by Richard , and which he probably believes, is very far from the picture that I have witnessed of Orange marches through the Tunnel. I have actually seen Orange marches going through the Tunnel and men stopping outside the parochial house to urinate just by way of insult.. I’ve seen bands thumping the drums – I have stood on the sidewalk and witnessed it. The picture of lovely little girls in accordion bands – I’m afraid it’s very far from the truth of what Orange parades have meant to nationalist areas. But I do have to ask a question – Richard asked why not let them down for a church parade lasting 5 minutes? Well the reality of what happened last year was, first of all, if it is a case of a church parade walking down an area for 5 minutes, they are not being prevented from coming from church, it’s just that they’re being prevented from that one particular route. There are other routes available – one route was offered by the RUC during the stand-off.”
“I can understand Richard’s feelings about talking to convicted IRA terrorists …. I have no time for convicted terrorists on any side. But from a nationalist perspective, watching the Drumcree stand-off, and watching Billy Wright, who parades around in a UVF T-shirt (a group which has murdered 42 people in the last 10 years alone …. women and children included). That man was parading around, in the churchyard – holding talks with the local representative of unionism. Yet you have problems talking with a man who was convicted 15 years ago and who, as far as I know, has not had a conviction since! … I can’t understand why you have difficulty talking to one and no difficulty talking to the other. …. I sat down today at Stormont beside a man who killed one of my colleagues .. I have to sit beside him because there is no other way of getting into dialogue to try and resolve our problems. … If we’re going to resolve the N.I. problem, whether it’s the marches, or whether it’s the bigger problem, we are going to have to talk, not just to the people that we pick, that we like. We are going to have to talk to the people we don’t like and that we have very great reservations about.”
Garvaghy Road: “As for the Garvaghy Road Residents Group – there was a big public meeting which I attended and spoke at a week before the parade. That meeting was made up of people right across the community and there was no dissension about how they felt about the parades going through their areas. So, although the spokesperson may be someone that we don’t like, there were other people on that committee too, and my understanding is that …. there was another man on that committee who was unacceptable to the Orangemen because he happened to be a Jesuit. “
Brid Rogers: “On the right to peaceful assembly – we all have the right to peaceful assembly, but we didn’t get it . I wasn’t allowed the right to peaceful assembly in 1969 [during the civil rights campaign] … but I’m not going to go in to all that..
Lurgan: “The situation in Lurgan is that it is not just the Sinn Fein march that couldn’t go through. The Foresters … who have a parade every year from one church to the other are not even allowed to go round the square – they have to go against the traffic. …… .. There is a great inconsistency. Yet loyalist bands … can go up and down at will – it happens about once a week from May to end of July, and they disrupt the whole community ….”
Dominick Bryan: Re dialogue: “… Alastair Simpson in Derry came out with more respect than when he went into it – it was MacNiallais who came out with less respect – it was he who was moving the goalposts and changing the rules. But it was the Apprentice Boys who claimed the high moral ground. If the Orange Order did talk to the people more regularly in public, they would be seen to be coming out of it in a better light.
Re disciplining of bands : “one of the problems with the Orange Order and the Apprentice Boys is that they do often make concessions but they don’t often publicise them and they don’t often get the credit. They expect people to recognise what they have done and they lose credibility for things they are doing. They don’t like to be seen to be compromising, to be making gestures – so that they don’t lose face in their own community. But they don’t gain respect in the other community.
Richard Whitten: “We would distinguish main roads as being different from walking through housing estates – Garvaghy Road and the Ormeau Road are main roads …. As far as I am aware the Orange Order does not walk through housing estates where they are not welcome. There are Protestants living at the end of Garvaghy Road and at the end of the Ormeau Road – are they to be denied the right to see their parade because people living off that main road don’t want it. The fact is that there is not one single main road in Northern Ireland which is exclusively Catholic or exclusively Protestant. We still live, despite 27 years of hell, in largely mixed communities. It is not the agenda of the Orange Order to separate people into religious ghettoes. It is the agenda of Sinn Fein – it saddens me when I see the SDLP going along with that agenda. I would like to see the SDLP standing apart from that agenda, and standing up to Sinn Fein.”
Brid Rogers: “I said at the beginning that this was a conflict which was in danger of being exploited , and it is being exploited on both sides , and to me that’s wrong…. But there is an inconsistency … nationalists are not allowed to parade down the Park Road in Portadown for instance – they have been stopped by Orangemen with cudgels and had to turn back … Surely if it’s right for one it’s right for the other ?”
Q. 2: [from Member of Orange Order in audience]: “… Emotive terms have been used – in particular the references to UVF flags being carried by Orange lodges … I’m disappointed with the use of emotive language when there is no necessity for it.”
Dominick Bryan: “I did mention UVF flags on the 12th on the Lisburn Road but I didn’t mention lodges carrying them. The bands carried them and that’s the point I was making. The Orange Order should ask themselves whose parade is it? Because some of those bands are making a symbolic point which is quite against the ethos of the Orange Order…. There is a problem here – how parades are perceived. I can see how people can feel threatened. I know the Orange Order is considering this, and it can make a difference”
Q. 3: [from Member of Orange Order in audience]: “First of all, may I say that I do not want to deny my Irishness – but my Irishness is not exclusive. I can be British and Irish the way a Scotsman can be Scottish and British. … What Brid said of the Orange marches does not reflect my experience, maybe that’s because of the area in which I parade. …
There is a lot of misinformation going around. Recently I took some visitors from Dublin to the Ormeau Road – they didn’t know it was a commercial road. But why are we becoming increasingly polarised? Why is there trouble in certain areas? … It is because there is an agenda. I can remember as a child watching Orange parades – local residents came out….There are never any problems in Donegal – it is perfectly peaceful. Why should there be problems in Portadown or anywhere else? Because there isn’t a political agenda at the Orange parade in Donegal, but there is a political agenda in the Ormeau Road, in Londonderry, in Bellaghy, in Garvaghy Road. What we have to get back to is acceptance of our different traditions – I can accept the non-exclusiveness of my Irishness – how can you be inclusive of my tradition. I don’t see it working the other way.”
Q. 4: [re triumphalism at parades, particularly after 1995 Drumcree dispute].
Richard Whitten: “I am aware that people saw David Trimble and Ian Paisley as being triumphalist in 1995 – but I believe it was the relief of tension … We have made mistakes. But we have occasions to deal with misperceptions and on occasions exaggerations and outright lies…..
Q. 5 [re Orange Order agenda]: “Richard has mentioned the Sinn Fein agenda, but I have attended some Orange marches and I didn’t find them very acceptable, so I am wondering what is the agenda of the Orange Order? Are you making a statement that to be Orange is to be British and to be British is to be top dog? I have good friends who are Orangemen but I don’t feel that Orangemen put themselves in the nationalists’ boots. … I travelled to several areas in Northern Ireland this summer (after Drumcree). I came home so depressed. Drumcree was a tragedy. What will happen next year? … I really wish the Orangemen would look at an Orange parade from a nationalist point of view – it’s not “mardi-gras”. What about the “kick the Pope” bands? I find them so offensive.”
Richard Whitten: “Orange parades could not be described as mardi-gras. It’s not a carnival atmosphere. It’s more dignified, with people walking in ranks, with the banner in front, with either a Lambeg drum, or a band if they can afford it, with the worshipful master in front, with a deputy and perhaps two swordsmen on either side. …. That precise form of Orange parade comes from the Irish Volunteers – At the Battle of the Diamond, many ex-Volunteers took part, and these are the people who actually formed the Orange Order. It’s a tradition.
“ The Orange Order was parading when Ireland had its own parliament, before the Act of Union – so the Orange Order predates the N.I. State by a long way and should not be confused with all the baggage that has been attached to N.I. over the years by nationalists and by Sinn Fein. Throwing discrimination at us, throwing “no jobs” at us is grossly unfair. I have even heard that one of the objections raised is that they wear dark suits, bowler hats and carry umbrellas! As to the agenda of the Orange parades – it is a cultural celebration – it is not meant to be triumphalist.
“It is a very big organisation – it encompasses people who rarely go to church. We try to encourage them to go to church. The Orange Order has seldom been given thanks for trying to show the correct way to young people, for trying to inculcate in young people some kind of discipline, and preventing young people from straying into paramilitary groups.
Q. 6: James Tansley: “The questioner asked what is going to happen next year? … What do both of you think should be done?”
Brid Rogers: “First I would like to ask Richard if he has any conception as to how the sectarian speeches made in the Field at the end of an Orange parade have affected nationalist perceptions of the Orange Order? … …
“As for remarks about a Sinn Fein agenda … it may well be that Sinn Fein have an agenda, but it isn’t our agenda, it isn’t my agenda. I have a constituency in Portadown who are very aggrieved at what has happened over the years, and at the inconsistency and unevenhandedness in the way marches are treated.. If you feel there is an agenda, then you should put forward your own agenda, and that agenda needs to be at the local level, at the macro-political level, an agenda where we enter into serious dialogue meant to resolve the problem, both the marching problem and the bigger problem.
“What has to be done between this and next year is that people have to sit down, the Orange Order, the residents, the community representatives, the elected representatives and the churches have all got to talk the issue through and listen to one another and find an accommodation which won’t be a victory for one side or the other. People who take great exception to talking to some people have to swallow their pride and talk to those people and others who represent the nationalist community. That is the only way it will be resolved – to sit down and talk about it. Derry was a good example – the Apprentice Boys took the high moral ground, and I have to hand it to them – they got in there and they talked, and I have to admire them, I think they came out of it well. Donnchada MacNiallais came out of it badly, because I saw him moving the goalposts, and a lot of nationalists saw him moving the goalposts. And that’s how you do it.”
Richard Whitten: “I would say, wait and see. The Grand Lodge of Ireland is making a submission and there are a lot of positive points – it’s not all going to be negative. I’m not at liberty to say what the Orange Order intends to do next year, but wait and see our submission to the Commission.”
Q. 7 Julitta Clancy [Meath Peace Group]: “… I feel there is a huge problem of understanding – many in the Orange Order, and in the unionist community generally are not putting themselves in the shoes of the nationalist community, as was mentioned earlier. Equally, many nationalists – and indeed most people in the south – do not understand unionists. After Drumcree, there was great polarisation – the 27 years of violence did not achieve such polarisation . If you’re talking about a Sinn Fein agenda … who is actually feeding that agenda? People who are not entering into dialogue, and not talking. And who is strengthened by that? It’s not the SDLP – it’s people who did not represent the nationalists through all those years of violence, and they are getting increased support now, through the hardline attitudes. The majority of people in Northern Ireland … do not want to go back to that violence, yet Drumcree put everyone on the edge. I feel it did more than the 27 years of violence to polarise the communities. The Apprentice Boys at Derry last August  did actually take the high moral ground, because they talked. But it’s all in front of us again next year – and are we going to have a Bosnia-type situation in a country that really doesn’t deserve it?”
[Member of Orange Order in audience]: “The point is that we have lived under pressure, since 1972 we have been ruled direct from London, and since 1985 we have been ruled by the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Every move has been a move by the South . The South, by sending up Dick Spring and others, are really causing the undercurrent and the reason for Drumcree. Drumcree was the loyalist and unionist and Orange people of Northern Ireland saying we’ve gone far enough. Every time we’re pushed from Dublin, pushed from London, that is the sort of reaction we’re going to have. If you are living in a country that is under siege at every level – pan-nationalist front, Dublin-London, America – we saw an opportunity to say “no” at Drumcree and we took that opportunity. If you think that the demonstration of Drumcree surpassed the 27 years of violence, murder and mayhem then you are not living in Northern Ireland .. …. We were driven to Drumcree…”
Julitta:: “I apologise if you got that impression – it was certainly not what I meant. All I meant to say was that extremists gained more from the situation than in all the 27 years of violence. I was not in any way trying to minimise the appalling suffering and killing. Unionists have told me that we don’t understand how much Drumcree meant to them, and that they feel that “Dublin is deciding everything”, but some have also said that they didn’t like what happened on the Ormeau Road, the way the people were treated subsequently, when they were locked up in their houses for 24 hours. .. If there is an agenda, let’s deal with it, and let’s not let extremists gain out of this.”
[Member of Orange Order]: “I appreciate the points you are making, and I understand them. . But the polarisation you talked about is going to continue . … . … I would say to the politicians, and those who are pushing for a united Ireland, and pushing to take over this state, that you will have to answer for it”
Brid Rogers: “Nobody is pushing you into a united Ireland – even Gerry Adams has said there won’t be a united Ireland in the foreseeable future. There won’t be a united Ireland unless unionists agree to it. It’s written in black and white in all the documents brought out by both governments. I don’t want a united Ireland that is imposed on you by blood – nobody wants that. It wouldn’t work anyway – so let’s get real here. What we’re talking about is finding structures which will accommodate me and my Irishness and you and your Britishness – if we don’t do that, then those people who are trying to impose a solution, not the government, they’re going to have the agenda themselves. There is no threat to the union – there’s more threat to the union by what happened at Drumcree than there is from the IRA because, as the Chief Constable said, it was an attempt to disrupt the State – it was not the IRA, it was the Orangemen who did that.”
[Member of Orange Order]: “Will you and your party dissociate yourselves from Sinn Fein/IRA and all their policies and all their actions – and you can start by condemning without reservation the boycott that is going on.”
Brid Rogers: “We have condemned organised boycotts without reservation. If there are individuals who have made a decision, because they saw their shopkeeper on the barricades, far be it for me to tell them what to do. An organised boycott is an evil thing and it affects both communities….. Everyone suffers. It poisons the atmosphere….”
Concluding the discussion and calling for dialogue, John Clancy said that “dialogue must happen – where there’s a willingness to reach out for a solution, solutions do occur – when you show your willingness to talk, people see that and respect it.” He thanked the speakers for giving so generously of their time, and he thanked the audience for their participation and for listening so well.
Meath Peace Group Report, November 1996. Taped by Anne Nolan. Compiled and edited by Julitta Clancy
(c)Meath Peace Group