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
Tuesday, 28th February 1995
St. Columban’s College, Dalgan Park, Navan
James Tansley (First Secretary, British Embassy)
Eamonn O Cuiv, TD (Fianna Fail)
Andrew Boylan, TD (Fine Gael)
Brian Fitzgerald, TD (Labour Party)
Joyce MacCartan (Women’s Information Network, Belfast)
David Tower (Community worker, N. Belfast)
Chaired by: John Clancy (Meath Peace Group)
Summary of main points and extracts from speeches:
Questions and comments
1. James Tansley, First Secretary, British Embassy, Dublin:
Mr. Tansley explained the principal features of the Framework Documents:
1. The Strand One document incorporates the British Government’s ideas for restoring local democracy in Northern Ireland.
“What is needed is a structure of government that combines democratic legitimacy with a system of checks and balances“. He described the suggestions for a new assembly in Northern Ireland having legislative powers, but no tax-raising powers.
2. The principles behind the Strand 2 document were consent, constitutional change to reflect consent, and self-determination. The North-South body envisaged would not give the Irish Government joint sovereignty over Ireland. There would be checks and balances and there must be agreement both North and South. Contrary to some opinion, there is no pre-determined list of functions to be allocated to this body, although suggestions are included in the document. There is no intention to impose ideas, he said.
3. The Strand 3 document outlines suggestions for addressing the relationship between both governments, replacing the Anglo-Irish Agreement. This is not intended to be a hard-and-fast blueprint, he said, but was very much a consultative document.
Only by addressing the 3 relationships will we find agreement on the island, he said.
To sum up, the Framework Documents allows for:
• The restoration of democratic accountability
• The enshrinement of the principle of consent
• The preservation of the existing birthrights
• The protection of civil, political, social and cultural rights.
He stated that the reaction to the document has been very variable, but he would like to make it clear that there is no intention on the part of the British Government to impose these ideas. They were interested in other ideas that might be presented, and he hoped that the parties would eventually come up with an agreed framework. Once agreement was reached the proposals would be put to the people in a referendum and then would go for approval to the Parliament at Westminster. He believed that the document should be read in its entirety. The many positions were hard to reconcile and there would have to be compromise, he concluded.
2. Eamon O Cuiv, TD (Fianna Fail):
Deputy O Cuiv stressed that we need to go back to the the background to the situation. We need to understand where we’re coming from. He would like to make two points on this:
1. People might want to get away from the notion of territory, but we all live under a government and under laws or a constitution. In Northern Ireland, there are different views:
(i) nationalist view – up to people of whole island
(ii) DUP history of N.I. – stresses there is a N.I. identity separate to rest of Ireland
(iii) British constitutional position – what happens in the island of Ireland is solely a matter for the British Parliament
2. Is there a territorial claim in our Constitution? In his belief, No. According to Article 1, the Irish nation can choose its own form of government; Article 2 is the traditional national claim; in Article 3 the laws will only apply to the 26 counties.
On the 3rd strand he said that government was not an issue in the UK or Republic, but it is an issue in N.I.
Nationalists feel very much part of the Irish nation, he said – all feel part of the one family. There was also a unionist family – they would like local democracy copperfastened by Westminster because they fear the rest of the people on the island, north or south.
On the Framework document he said that he would go along with most of its tenets. He believed it moves the situation forward, but it is not the final solution. It allows people to move into frameworks they can live with.
For nationalists – rather than dry words in a Constitution, this would allow them to start building things on a common ground.
For unionists, two elements are attractive: 1) local democracy; and 2) nationalist Ireland would reaffirm to unionists that we cannot arrive at solutions that didn’t find acquiescence with them.
But the status quo cannot be maintained, he said.
The effort in the Framework document is to get the balance right.
He understood the unionist position to some extent – a large part of N.I. is totally nationalist-dominated. N.I. isn’t simply divided – there are nationalist and unionist-dominated areas. Their fear is once an all-Ireland thing gets going the border would start to disappear – these weren’t natural borders.
“We have to constantly get across to unionists that we have no desire to visit on them what was visited on the nationalist community“, he said.
“They must also be persuaded by the British Govt that they can’t say “no” forever to the people of Britain and the people of the south – they can’t work out an agreement with the nationalists in N.I. without coming to an agreement with the south. “
Deputy O Cuiv stated that he believes there is very little difference between nationalists north and south. Unionists must realise they have to come to some accommodation.
“The Framework will work and it will only work if it’s brought to us in its entirety. In that framework we are once again giving our assurances to the North, and we’re writing it into our Constitution if they want it; that we can reach no solution without their consent was never in doubt.”
Addressing the British Embassy official Deputy O Cuiv outlined his own understanding of the broad nationalist view on the island: To most nationalist people, the symbols of the Crown can be hurtful, he said. He had said in the past that he would have no objection to a united Ireland in the Commonwealth, but he had been criticised for that. We must realise that symbols are powerful to many people and there should be rapid moves in nationalist areas to address the problems.
Policing: Deputy O Cuiv said that it was time to change the police – “they must have no identification with one community or the other”.
There is a need for demilitarization of both the paramilitaries and the police. If we want peace to last, we must be sensitive to these issues.
Prisoners: this was an emotive issue, he said, and he outlined some of the problems faced by families of prisoners. He would beg that we move forward on the issue of prisoners – release the prisoners – this would be a token of good will. “The communities the prisoners come from are also the communities where most of the victims come from”.
“If prisoners are released, it would allow the compromises that nationalists will have to make much easier to bear, and those severed by history could go forward together and bring peace and prosperity in a united way to this island.”
3. Andrew Boylan, TD (Cavan/Monaghan), Member of Fine Gael delegation to Forum for Peace and Reconciliation
Deputy Boylan began by congratulating the members of the Meath Peace Group for the work they were doing. He was aware of what was being done in Meath and had heard very good reports of the talks from people in Cavan who had come to some of them. He said it was very important to continue with this work.
“Peace will last because people want it”, he said. He lived just 4 miles from the border and was very much aware of the savage killings that had been going on. The ordinary people want peace, he said, and the men of violence have been silenced. But fear was a big factor.
The Anglo-Irish Agreement and the International Fund for Ireland had brought about great developments. In all this we mustn’t forget the 6 border counties who had also suffered immensely. Many of the towns and villages in these areas had been totally devastated over the period. These areas must also benefit from the financial spin offs.
Turning to the Declaration he said that the underlying principle was consent and consent will only come about when people understand each other and trust each other. In his area people don’t talk about unionist or nationalist, but about Protestant and Catholic – people from both communities can work together, so why can’t they work together in N.I.? Fear was the biggest factor he said, and we all have a role to play in dispelling fear.
On the Framework Document, Deputy Boylan said : “lasting peace and stability on this island requires that three sets of relationships be addressed: the relationship between the two communities in Northern Ireland, the relationship between both parts of this island, and the relationship between the sovereign governments in Dublin and London.
“In the documents published last week the two Governments have set out their shared view of the points that need to be met if the three relationships are to be satisfactorily accommodated.
“May I briefly say what the Framework document is not. It is not a prescription for an unpalatable dose of medicine. It is not a blue print rigidly to be imposed on the people of Northern Ireland. It is not a cage within which their political leaders will have their dialogue confined. It is not an Irish nationalist agenda. It is not a British agenda. What is it? It is a view, shared by two governments, as to what might most usefully be done to deal with the three, fraught and difficult, sets of relationships.
“It represents an assessment by the two governments of what we think might be an agreed outcome from future talks involving the governments and the Northern Ireland political parties. We believe we have got it right. We are open to persuasion by anyone who believes otherwise.”
“It is now a matter for the people of Northern Ireland, and also for the people in this part of Ireland, and in Britain, to study the document, and I recommend that they do so in a constructive and calm way.”
“No party will regard this document as meeting all their requirements and aspirations. The document represents balance and compromise. If its main elements become the basis for new institutions and political arrangements, I believe that they will ultimately command the widespread support necessary to ensure a fair and effective arrangement for the three sets of relationships to which I referred.”
He said that the Framework Document was founded on four guiding principles:
(i) The principle of self-determination as set out in the December, 1993 Downing Street Joint Declaration;
(ii) The principle that the consent of the governed is an essential ingredient for stability in any political arrangement;
(iii) The principle that agreement must be pursued and established by exclusively democratic peaceful means without resort to violence or coercion;
(iv) and, finally, the principle that any new political arrangements must be based on full respect for, and protection of the expression of, the rights and identities of both traditions in Ireland and must, in an even handed way, afford both communities in Northern Ireland parity of esteem, including equality of opportunity.
In conclusion, Deputy Boylan proposed the setting up of a Peace Bursary for the arts, “to encourage our talented young people, North and South, and which in its first year would be devoted towards composing an anthem incorporating the best of both traditions in this country.”
4. Brian Fitzgerald, TD (Labour, Meath; Member of Labour Party Delegation to Forum for Peace and Reconciliation):
Deputy Fitzgerald welcomed his Oireachtas colleagues and the First Secretary of the British Embassy to the Meath constituency.
He said that we have to consider where we are and where we are likely to be.
” We have an opportunity not to make the same mistakes as were made over the last 70 years. We have an opportunity we should grasp.”
He asked us to consider what might happpen if we don’t. He explained how before the loyalist ceasefire he had met with some former paramilitaries – they were anxious for the ceasefire but were afraid the IRA ceasefire wouldn’t last – “If the ceasefire breaks down, Greysteel or Loughinisland would have nothing on what is likely to happen,” he was told. He said that he came away from the meeting feeling a deep responsibility to ensure that we have a lasting peace.
When the State was set up, both governments sat back and ignored N.I. – perhaps there were good reasons, economic or otherwise, through the thirties, forties and fifties, for this.
Then in the 1960s, we saw the education changes manifested themselves in the civil rights movement. We were all shocked when the violence started. Both governments were not prepared. Bitterness and hatred had built up over all those years.
What happened in the last 25 years changed the thinking of most people in the south – previously many people held a simplistic view of the problem. If Britain left, there would be no further difficulties. Most of us were not aware of the unionist sense of British identity.
“Over the last 25 years, people took up violence in our name. We have learned a lot, albeit at a terrible cost.”
“We can all feel guilty – we glamourised what was happening through song and verse. We may have incited young people with nothing to do, to join the republican movement”, he said.
“We must not make the same mistakes. We must see what we can do as individuals in the Republic to reconcile the two traditions“
We need to look at our Constitution and at our education system, he said. We should not be afraid – we need to use whatever programmes are available to outreach to the unionist community. The unionists are nervous – they feel Britain doesn’t want them and they don’t want us.
Churches: The churches have a major role to play, he said – and that includes all churches. Deputy Fitzgerald said that the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation has been accepted by most political parties on the island. Many people have made submissions – over 350 to date. He was very disappointed that the Catholic Church had not made a submission and he asked the audience to try and get the Church to make a submission, which other churches have already done. Trade unions too have a particular role to play and many have suffered abuse over the years. Women’s groups are playing a major role in the community also, he said.
Prisoners: Deputy Fitzgerald said that the Prisoners’ issue must be addressed – in a sensitive way. “We must also remember the victims. People who have suffered are often softer on the issue, than people who have not suffered. Resettlement programmes must be put in place. But there are differences of opinion here – one group wants all prisoners released and wants to look after them themselves; the other group wants resettlement programmes.”
These issues must be addressed and we have the opportunity now.
Forum for Peace and Reconciliation: he believed the Forum had a major role to play. Many issues are being addressed there, and a wide variety of views was being expressed. People in the south have changed considerably.
“The peace dividend will create an economic dividend that will benefit all”, he said. How much could have been done to address economic deprivation here with the money spent by both governments on security? he asked.
Mr. Fitzgerald ended with a quote from James Connolly, contained in the Labour Party’s document on the nature of the problem.“Ireland without her people is nothing to me”….
He said that the work of the Meath Peace Group clearly reflected the image of Connolly and hoped they would continue and that other counties would follow their example. For his part, he was glad to offer whatever help he could give.
5. Joyce McCartan (Women’s Information Network, Ormeau Rd., Belfast)
Joyce McCartan apologized for coming so late. She said we must remember there was a lot of hurt on both sides and a lot of healing to be done, especially for the women who have suffered so much for 25 years.
She would like to see an all-Ireland but it must be the wish of all. She herself had lost many good friends and family, and has worked for many years with women’s groups. She is hoping to set up a women’s lobby, to say to the men “get down and sit around the table”.
6. David Tower (community worker and P.U.P. member, North Belfast)
Mr Tower explained that he lived in a hard-line loyalist area, and was involved with the Progressive Unionist Party. The people in his area are frightened of nationalists, he said.
On the Framework Document, he said he believed that most people don’t understand it fully. It was far too complex. Politicians jump on the bandwagon – they’ve gone on too long, he said. People in the unionist community want to talk. The document does threaten a united Ireland but at least it has made the main unionist parties produce their own ideas. The British Govt. has put it up to them, he said. He knows the document is unpalatable to unionists.
“Most working-class Protestants want a fair Stormont”, he said. Mr Tower said that he is not opposed to talking to Sinn Fein. Nationalists have been frozen out for too long, he said. Though he is opposed to a united Ireland he believes in talking with each other. It was important to start at the bottom and tackle the economic issues first. Then, after perhaps 2 years, it would be possible to talk about constitutional matters.
Most hard-line unionists are not aware that the people in the Republic don’t want to take over, he said. Politicians have misrepresented them for too long. There won’t be agreement on the nationality issue, but maybe in time it will become irrelevant, with Europe etc.
The Irish Government should stay away from the talks table for the moment, he said. The British Government should put an ultimatum to the unionists – that they will start talking with whoever wants to talk. He believed the unionists would eventually come on board.
Closing words: On behalf of the Meath Peace Group, Anne Nolan (Slane) thanked the speakers for coming. She was encouraged by what several of the speakers had said about the importance of local groups. She explained that one of the suggestions in the Meath Peace Group’s submission to the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation was that this type of local forum be developed throughout the length and breadth of the island.
QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS: Summary of main questions only
Q.1. Cllr. Christy Gorman (Democratic Left, Meath County Council):
He congratulated the governments on the talks initiative. He would like to ask Deputy O Cuiv about his call for new policing – How did he see this being implemented?
Deputy O Cuiv referred to a recent discussion on Cursai on the policing issue, in which SF took part, and which featured a previously recorded interview with David Ervine of the Progressive Unionists. He pointed to the British police model which is based on different areas of the country. SF were agreeable to the idea of policing under different areas, but with the same police force covering the Falls and Shankill areas of Belfast, he said. The new police should not be called the “RUC” but should be based on the British system, he said. They would be cross-community in each area – with equal representation and with neutral symbols. The membership could, of course, comprise former members of the RUC.
Joyce McCartan (Belfast) pointed out that the reason why Catholics didn’t join the RUC was because of IRA intimidation. She wanted to point out that there were good policemen too.
Deputy Boylan: He wanted to bring up the question of punishment beatings. There was need for a reorganisation of the police force – the full answer to this would come when people started to trust each other. But “we cannot condone the brutal beatings that are taking place”. He urged members of the Meath Peace Group to travel to N.I. and meet as many people as possible.
Q. 2. (Slane resident): Questioner wanted to bring up the wording in the Document – he believed the idea of consent of the greater number of people in N.I. was in fact meaningless – if a majority wanted to vote for unification, there would still be a large number wanting to be in the UK. There were areas, particularly around Belfast, where there would be a large majority in favour of staying. However the present wording would imply that this large minority in the N.E. would be forced into a united Ireland. Also, if this side decides to abolish Arts. 2 and 3, have they the right to say to people in, say, Newry, that we don’t want you?
The real answer must be to give an opportunity to those who want to be transferred to be transferred, he said. A referendum should be held and a boundary commission set up – people should be allowed to transfer if a majority in an area wished for it. His ideal would be a united republic of Great Britain and Ireland.
Q. 3. (Slane resident): Question to Deputy Fitzgerald referring to latter’s statement that we must reach out to unionists. As the site of the Battle of the Boyne is in this area, had the deputy any ideas about how unionists might be helped to celebrate the Battle in its location.
Fitzgerald: He did not agree as he did not believe that re-playing battles is the way to reconcile the divisions. “We must remember and respect our dead but we mustn’t use a battle to do this”, he said.
Q. 4 (Primary school teacher, Ratoath): He was disappointed with O Cuiv’s talking about nationalism. How could he reconcile his pacifism with his talk about nationalism? He was glad to hear the loyalist interpretation of the document. What would be David Tower’s interpretation of the UDP defeat in the recent by-election at the time of the leak of the Framework Document? He hoped that the Progressive Unionists would gain ground but he was worried that fear can take away their support.
David Tower: Traditionally Orange people had put faith in what was put forward by their political leaders. During elections in N.I. it comes down to voting for who is wearing the Union Jack or the Tricolour. It was going to take years to break this down, he said. That is why the UDP were defeated recently. “At times of elections, the people resort back to old alliances and hard-line politicians”.
Joyce McCartan: “The loyalist people were too wise to elect the UDP candidate, she believed. The fringe parties stand for people who have murdered innocent people”, she said.
David Tower: “Many people connected with the fringe parties are ex-terrorists, but no member of those parties is currently a member of a paramilitary group. They are genuinely working now for their communities and must be given a chance. David Ervine and McMichael are grass-roots unionists”, he said, and it was not fair to hold their past against them.
Joyce McCartan: She meets many women through the Women’s Information Network, and they don’t want ex-terrorists representing them. They want people who will work on the real issues – poverty, unemployment etc.
David Tower: Ervine and McMichael etc. are only interested in bettering conditions for their own communities.
Deputy Fitzgerald: We have to be fair. There would not have been a ceasefire without Gusty Spence, Ervine, McMichael, Hutchinson, Mitchell and others. They are the guiding people behind the ceasefire and it is they who have the influence, he said.
Deputy Boylan agreed.
Deputy O Cuiv: Getting back to the question about the greater number theory. If by some chance it came to a day when 1 more nationalist in the North wanted a united Ireland, the questioner had asked, would unionists be irrelevant? This would be abhorrent to him – he feels there should be a guarantee that no change will come unless the consent of all sections is given. As for the previous question, re his pacifism. Yes he is a pacifist, and is opposed to all wars. He had always put the argument to SF that their legitimate aspirations would be put much better by laying down their arms. Many people are wishing away their nationalist feeling. But we all feel nationality. That is reality. We shouldn’t ignore it because it causes problems. “We must face up to diversity and not fudge it, then we can sit down and ask how can we start reconciling.”
He said he represented an area – Connemara – where there are Irish and English-speaking sections. He got elected by both parts by being up-front and showing that he was no threat to the other part.
“We must face the nationality problem … We must recognise it in a pacific way and come up with a formula that everybody feels at home with.”
Q. 5 – Nuala McGuinness (Nobber resident, originally from N. Ireland): She explained that she was brought up in Northern Ireland and had worked there for many years. Lately she had noticed two important and hopeful changes:
(1) a survey last year showed that a certain percentage of the Catholic population in N.I. would opt to stay with the union.
(2) parties like the PUP and UDP were unheard of in her day. The working-class were realising that they had a lot in common with each other.
She would hope that these 2 changes would help to break down the tribalism. It is the hearts and minds of the people in N.I. that matter, and she was hopeful for the future.
Q. 6 – Cllr. Phil Cantwell (Ind., Trim UDC): Deputy O Cuiv had referred to a united Ireland under the Commonwealth – perhaps this idea should be looked at? Maybe the unionists would not feel so alienated then. He was concerned that Deputy O Cuiv seemed only to have visited nationalist areas of N.I. and would agree with Deputy Fitzgerald that people like Ervine and Mitchell etc. should be encouraged. He referred to the background of people in the older generation – the belief that Catholics were superior etc. He believed that everything should be on the table. He was heartened by David Ervine saying that peace would continue despite their problems with the Framework document.
Deputy O Cuiv explained that his trips to N.I. were mostly on invitation. He had recently spent a weekend in Corrymeela with other TDs, meeting unionists, and this was a very fruitful weekend. If invited to an Orange parade, he would go in a flash, he said. He wants to reach out to both communities.
Q. 7: (Secondary school teacher, Nobber): He saw parallels with the 1880s when Parnell held the balance of power. The unionists could well hold the same leverage now, in Westminster and in the proposed north-south body. The power has moved to Brussels, very important decisions are being made there. Economics is a very powerful factor in bringing people together. In the proposed north-south body, there would be equal representation. From being an isolated community at the moment, N.I. could be propelled into a position of great leverage.
Q. 8: (Slane resident): He referred to his earlier question re weakness in the wording of the document and would like an answer.
Deputy Boylan: Decisions would be taken by majority vote. He wouldn’t like to see further fragmentation. At the moment there is fear and misunderstanding, but the cross-border development could have enormous potential. We must improve economic conditions, but we must remember that the world-wide goodwill will not last forever. We have to be prepared to bury our prejudices, he said.
Q. 9: (Duleek resident): Can we have a permanent peace with the British army in N.I.?
Deputy Fitzgerald reminded the audience why the British army were first brought in. We must be very sensitive in the language we use, he said.
Summing up the discussion, John Clancy said that one of the most important statements in the document was the recognition and regret expressed by both governments for the “mistakes of the past”. There was a groundswell of opinion wanting peace, but we shouldn’t rush ahead too fast, he said. This point was made in the Meath Peace Group’s submission to the Forum, and the group had also asked that local fora be initiated throughout the island to discuss ideas and listen to the fears, aspirations and ideas of others. On behalf of the Group he thanked the Columban Fathers for permitting the use of the facilities at Dalgan Park for the talks.
Meath Peace Group report – March 1995. Report compiled and edited by Julitta Clancy
Meath Peace Group – contact names 1995: Julitta Clancy, Parsonstown, Batterstown, Co. Meath; Anne Nolan, Gernonstown, Slane, Co. Meath