No. 30 – “PARADING DISPUTES – IS THERE A BETTER FUTURE?”
Monday, 19th October, 1998
St. Columban’s College, Dalgan Park, Navan, Co. Meath
Cllr. Fergus McQuillan (SDLP, Fermanagh District Council)
Orla Maloney (Member of Drumcree Faith and Justice Group, and Garvaghy Road Residents Group)
Roger Bradley ((Member of Education Committee, Grand Orange Lodge)
John Hunter (Member of Orange Institution and UUP member)
Ernest Baird (Member of Orange Institution)
Michael Doherty (Authorised officer, Parades Commission)
Dominick Bryan (Research officer, Centre for the Study of Conflict)
Chaired by Fergus Finlay
Introduction (Michael Kane and Fergus Finlay)
Addresses of speakers
Chairman’s summing up
Questions and Comments
Closing words (Fergus Finlay and Julitta Clancy)
Michael Kane (Meath Peace Group) welcomed the speakers and thanked everyone for coming. “Our last talk in May was on the Belfast Agreement. While there was much hope and optimism expressed that night there were also concerns about the parading disputes and dissident republican groups. Sadly these concerns proved prophetic, but on a scale no-one could have believed. Over the last few months, 36 people including several young children and two unborn babies have been killed, hundreds have been injured and many people have been intimidated out of their homes. Most of these casualties occurred in the Real IRA bomb attack in Omagh, four deaths (the three Quinn children and RUC constable Frank O’Reilly) resulted from the parading dispute in Drumcree and one person, Andrew Kearney, was killed in an IRA punishment attack. Let us remember these people tonight and let us remember their grieving families.
“Last weekend I spent four days in Belfast at the Fourth EU Conference on Peace and Reconciliation. I was very touched principally by the people from Belfast. There were youth workers from East, West, North and South Belfast who had been involved in different sides of the conflict and who were now working together and they were talking about all the achievements that have taken place over the last few months. But what I learnt most was all the work that has been done over the years, all the small little initiatives that have been taken by people who have taken risks … in trying to bring peace….”
Chair (Fergus Finlay): opening the discussion, guest chair Fergus Finlay said:
“In the week when the Nobel Peace Prize came to Ireland there could hardly be a more fitting topic for discussion tonight. Because I think the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to two people who came to realise that peace was only possible if the concepts of victory and defeat were finally put aside …and the Agreement that they negotiated, and in which they were principal players, was an agreement which is built around that very concept and couldn’t have happened if either side or the other went into negotiations looking for a victory or prepared for defeat.
“But there are, I think, two areas – apart from the atrocities that Michael mentioned and apart from the small groups on the fringes who commit those atrocities – there are two areas where the concept of victory and defeat is an issue: these are the parades issue and decommissioning.
“To most of us who don’t live in Northern Ireland, both of these subjects contribute to the ongoing and, I suppose, permanent incomprehension. I find it impossible to understand how decommissioning is still an issue – who needs guns, bombs or semtex if they’re involved in the kind of political activity that the republicans are involved in now? I also find it impossible to understand why it is that parades cause such bitterness and why it is that two communities who can talk together about the highest political concepts can’t talk to each other about small areas of local space. I would hope that by the end of the night we will have a better understanding of why it is that passions run so high in relation to at least one of those subjects, i.e. the subject of parades.
“I would like the audience to acknowledge that the speakers have come a long way – there are people here tonight willing to speak, willing to explain, willing to communicate, and I think each in their own way are paying their own tribute to the many years of valuable work undertaken by the Meath Peace Group. I’m not sure if there are too many groups in Ireland who could attract such a panel from both sides of the divide to share themselves honestly with us. I think that’s possibly the greatest tribute I could pay to the Meath Peace Group. I’m going to start the proceedings now and I’ll call on Cllr. Fergus McQuillan:
1. Fergus McQuillan (SDLP, Newtownbutler)
“Thank you…. Just a little bit of background – I’ve been a schoolteacher in Newtownbutler since 1957. I’ve been on Fermanagh District Council since 1981. I fought the Assembly elections in 1973 (along with one of tonight’s speakers, Ernest Baird). However I lost to Harry West. There wouldn’t have been much of a career anyway in politics in Northern Ireland for 25 years. Luckily we got John Hume, Seamus Mallon and Eddie McGrady elected …
Parades issue: “I live in Newtownbutler which is about 60 miles north of here – it’s a small nationalist village. It’s been in the news since 1689 – one of the most important battles of the Williamite Wars was fought there and I think every century we’ve been having an odd battle ever since.
1996: “Since the last War … there have been Orange parades in Newtownbutler – the Sunday before the 12th July and the Sunday before the 12th August and the feeder marches on the morning of the 12th July and the 2nd Saturday of August. Those parades passed peacefully every year until Drumcree happened. I say that without fear or favour. There was grumbling always – people said “those so and so’s shouldn’t be allowed to march” – troublemakers had to be watched. At that time there was no Sunday opening and no congregation about the town – the parades were usually around 7 or 8 O’Clock on a Sunday evening … and there was no trouble. But Drumcree sparked something off which I cannot explain. I was asked after Drumcree to go and meet with the RUC Superintendent at Lisnakea, and with the parish priest of Newtownbutler and with two members of the Orange Order we arranged that meeting. But the resident’s association had been set up in the meantime.
“Now the resident’s association of Newtownbutler had been set up because on the first Sunday of Drumcree – when we saw the battle royal on our televisions – there was a stand off in Newtownbutler on that particular night. The traditional Sunday night parade had taken place. The parade was led by the Inver band from Roslea …and they played on the street for 45 minutes.
“I’ve had various contradictions to that, but I know. I was on the street. I owned a pub in the town, on the main street … and I was coming in [to the pub] and I couldn’t get in – I had to walk through a crowd of people who had completely blocked the main street. This blockage was assisted by the RUC. I was told to park my car , leave it there and if I tried to walk up, it was up to myself. My daughter who occupied a flat above the pub and had two small children, was somewhere behind in that queue of cars and she had to manhandle two infants, both in pushchairs, through the crowd as well. Many other people were hindered that night…. That caused a bad feeling in the village and as a result of that on the 12th of July, a couple of days later, a skirmish broke out and it got very serious and the special patrol group came in. These are RUC who come in dressed nearly like the way James Bond would be in the films – that’s the only way I can describe them, completely in black, flameproof jackets, visors, helmets etc. As a result of that we were not able to contain the people who decided they would protest. And protest they’ve been doing since.
1997: “Even last year, in 1997, when the local residents association informed the police they would be having a protest and told them where it would be … it would not be hindering the parade, it would be off the parade route – it would be in view of it all right but they would stand well back and would confine it to 50 people. … That night there were 50 police landrovers in town, 50 protestors and 50 marchers. As a result of that 27 people have been interviewed by the police – they were all got on video. 10 were summoned. Last week the first prosecution came up – for a man who’s 6ft 5. The deposition made by the policeman was he was 5ft 10 and red-haired. The fact is he’s 6ft 5 and bald. He was definitely there but he had no connections with the protesters. Everybody in the street was swept off. The village was closed down for those hours. That in my mind is unacceptable but it is not something I would protest about. I don’t protest – I know the danger of protest. I was a member of the Civil Rights Association – I remember many a time we went on civil rights marches in the town of Enniskillen but we were always careful to make sure we could keep the crowd small and keep it orderly. That is something that’s much more difficult to do nowadays than it was then. It only takes one or two troublemakers. It only takes one or two idiots to be fired up by a bit of bravado in the pub or whatever. The first year of the protest we closed the pubs – the pubs didn’t open at all on that particular Sunday night. This year I had sold mine and two other pubs had been sold … and I suppose they couldn’t afford to close the pubs.
Dialogue: “I was deeply disappointed with the Orange that they refused to communicate. They suggested a number of people of whom I was one, because I was a local councillor, the Parish Priest, because he was a nice quiet man, but PPs these days don’t lead their flocks the way they used to – they haven’t that influence. People will remember the days when the parish priest and the local schoolmaster in a small area would have had influence, but that is no longer the case.
1998: “.. This year when we did sit down to negotiate with the Parades Authority – and we got 5 minutes notice of the meeting – myself and another man who … had been acceptable to the Orange the previous year were called in. .. We said to the negotiator, “there’s no way we can stop people if they are going to demonstrate” and we then eventually got two Sinn Fein members to come in and they said “this is not about refusal to [allow a] march … this is about refusal to talk”. That if the Orange people would come in and talk to us “we will talk to them and we will be generous”. Now I’d got that promise also from Sinn Fein councillors in 1996 privately. But they couldn’t say it publicly and opportunities were lost.
“Now I cannot speak for the Garvaghy Road – it’s a bigger place than Newtownbutler. But the people who would be talking here were people who would be going to the same cattle marts every week, who would be going to the same shops, who meet each other every day, as farmers do. But there was a complete refusal to negotiate. There was a blatant refusal to talk to Sinn Fein. Now I don’t speak for Sinn Fein. I have fought elections against Sinn Fein all my life when they were running boycotts. That happened the first time I met Ernest [Baird] – a Sinn Fein boycott really caught me out . And I had been working with the very same people in the civil rights movement….
“The message needs to go out. The Parades Commission allowed a Church parade in August this year and I was very very annoyed at that situation, because it was dangerous. It is taking a toll on the people of Newtownbutler. And I know that the Protestant people of Newtownbutler miss the parades. I’d like to see those parades going through. As I said, for almost 50 years they went through without let or hindrance. They weren’t particularly liked by republicans. One objection I would have myself is .. playing “God Save the Queen” … in the middle of the main street. Now that holds up things and it is seen as victorious by the ordinary people of Newtownbutler. They are a political people. The first time the water cannon was used in Northern Ireland was used in 1954 in Newtownbutler to hose us off the streets. Now I’m glad we have no marching tradition – we didn’t have to participate in that line. But we would have been participating in the GAA – we have one of the oldest GAA clubs in Northern Ireland
Public holidays: “I believe there is another matter which has to be addressed: there are only two public holidays in Northern Ireland – on 12th and 13th July. 40% of the population cannot take part. The new Assembly will have to do something about this. I’m not a protesting person but I do feel that some recognition must be given to the nationalist people about that public holiday system. These holidays don’t suit everybody. Holidays are necessary and as a schoolteacher I enjoy the best of holidays but I do believe that is another issue that will have to be addressed, sooner rather than later. Hopefully it won’t be a matter of protest. Thank you.”
2. Orla Maloney (member of Drumcree Faith and Justice group, and Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition):
“Thank you… I was asked to talk as a mother, on what it’s like to live in Portadown. I’m from Dublin, my father is from Waterford, my mother from Mayo, but I’ve spent most of my life in Portadown. I was very happy when I met a man from Portadown and went to live there. All my life republican/nationalist undertones were in my house. My family were split over the Civil War. I thought this was my chance to really do something about the North – to go and live there, work there, have children there. Just to be part of it instead of being part of those in the 26 counties who just look up and say it’s terrible.
“Most people I knew had never crossed the border. When I drove into Portadown the first time I can remember my heart sinking. I felt an atmosphere as I drove in – it was awful.
Ghettoisation: “I sent my children to a mixed school. I did meet Protestants, but my first difficulty was hockey – hockey was my game and I was told I couldn’t play hockey in Portadown. I had to play on the other side of town. Very soon one was ghettoised on the Garvaghy Road – there wasn’t much room for manoeuvre. So, my escape was the road to Newry and Dublin and the road to Enniskillen and Mayo. Our holidays were spent like that. I remember the children’s early questions – driving through the town once the bunting went up and them asking me “what are these colours? why are they here? red, white and blue – what are they for?” The whole town was done and they thought it was a cause for celebration. But soon they learnt from their friends that these weren’t our colours. When they asked what were their colours they were told they weren’t allowed have their colours in Portadown. It was just that simple, you didn’t and you couldn’t.
“Regularly you would hear ‘so and so was attacked up the town, don’t go to the town late at night’. ‘Can we go to the pictures?‘ No, there was no picture house. Social life was confined to the couple of pubs up the Garvaghy Road end of the town. The same went with the children. Football matches might have been outside the town but the bus could be attacked on the way home. The boys went to Armagh to school and the bus was often attacked on the way home. The girls went to Dungannon, the same thing. So it wasn’t easy bringing up children where you had no outlet for them. I’d walk them out the country and just let them loose on the road. Now looking back, relatively speaking, I had loads of freedom in Portadown because now I can’t go into the town safely at all. People look at you, nudge, whisper. I have been to town I think three times since last June and that would be rushed and I haven’t been in on my own. So basically you’re confined to a one mile stretch of road with a concentrated population of people who are there because they were burned and intimidated out of their homes during the early 1970s.
Feelings of dispossession: “So nationalists have a feeling of dispossession . They would have it from the Plantation, from the foundation of the Orange Order, from the formation of the State and particularly from the early 70’s. Now 11 people were murdered in recent years in Portadown (including most recently RUC constable O’Reilly). Yet that’s a small part of the story. The amount of attacks that go unreported – they’re daily. Women have been spat on around the town, called names, faced with placards saying “No taigs around the town”. A Jewish friend of mine in Israel says it sounds and feels like Nazi Germany just before the war broke out. Your choice of things like education is limited. I have a son who goes to Armagh Tech simply because Portadown Tech isn’t safe.
Drumcree Faith and Justice: “ I was roped into a group called the Drumcree Faith and Justice Group by Brian Lennon. I didn’t know what I was getting in to. My early experiences with the children had caused resentment at the situation. I would say I’m a strong nationalist. I’m completely opposed to violence, any form of violence from wherever it comes, I can find no reason for it, even on television I can’t stomach it.
“So I had to find an outlet for the feelings of injustice, resentment and unfairness in my children …. So I started writing poetry and I encouraged the children to write poetry and to draw, so that their resentment would be channelled and they would see that there was somebody to listen to them. That was the only thing I could think of. So when Brian Lennon asked me to join the Faith and Justice group I consulted with the children and they thought it was a good idea. We did various things like having tea parties on the road and inviting the Orange men to have a cup of tea. We wrote to them every year asking them to meet us and to hear the feelings of people in the area about the march. The march was a symbol to them of all the unfairness and injustice that went on all year. The fact that they couldn’t go to town. The fact that we’re just over 20% of the population of Portadown yet we’re 45% of the unemployed. The fact that we don’t have access to schools, social activities, everything.
Parades in Portadown: “There are 44 marches in Portadown town centre from Easter on. Which means on a Friday night we can’t go shopping – you’re diverted. Now people don’t say anything about that, we don’t even talk about that amongst ourselves. The town is blocked off. We know we’re not safe in it, we don’t have access to it – they have their march in it. But the march that comes down the Garvaghy Road – onto the road where all the people are gathered who were intimidated out of the rest of the town – when that march comes, it comes when people are caged in for 48 hours, with a very heavy security presence. The security forces would face the people, not the marchers. They would search, bring dogs into the estates and several incidents would be reported.
“Our youths would normally have rioted the night before because of all the resentments and everything building up. They would stone a local empty factory. I’m part of a co-op – Drumcree Community Trust – we bought that factory and changed it into medium-sized business units which happened to coincide with the cease-fire and the joining of various people in the area into a coalition of local residents. I am the Faith and Justice representative on that Coalition of local residents. The rioting ceased, people then looked to the coalition of residents. They thought they had strong people speaking for them…
Dialogue: “.. Every effort was made for dialogue. I think I said that every year for 11 years we had written to the Orange Order and we had never received a reply. We have also repeatedly written to David Trimble and we haven’t had a reply. Our bottom line always was dialogue. No pre-conditions. It never said no march.. or anything like that. … We want to talk – we want to talk about the problem of the town and the problem of the march in relation to the town.
1995: “I think everybody knows what happened that year. There was a stand-off. The march was refused. I think it was Hugh Annesley said any body who would come in and would look at a map and ask what should they do, anyone would ask why would the Orangemen not take the equidistant route back the way they came? Why did they have to go down the Garvaghy Road? On one radio show this year… an Orangeman said “what’s the point of marching if you don’t go through a nationalist area?”
“That’s the way it feels as a Nationalist watching the march go through and being sealed in beforehand. To go back to the stand-off – the Mediation Network came in. An agreement was struck and then the agreement was broken when David Trimble and Ian Paisley danced down the road and subsequently medals were given out to celebrate the siege of Drumcree. Nationalists couldn’t believe that. They felt the ruling had been in their favour – the Orangemen had a stand-off, had thrown a tantrum… they had worked out an agreement and then the agreement was broken. Dialogue was agreed – that was part of the agreement – but dialogue never happened.
1996: “ 1996 came along and again it was ruled that the march should not go down the road and there was another standoff. Fergus [Finlay] said at the beginning that he didn’t understand why it happened – why Drumcree had this effect. I think everybody was in a certain mode of thinking. I couldn’t understand myself how it was done in front of the world’s cameras. I could never believe that – how they did it. Very quickly word came through that the march was getting pushed through and people assembled on the road and people sat down and the riot police lined up. I went to plead with them – they pulled their batons and they went to beat. There were children, women, grandmothers – every age group – sitting on the road.
“I was just pushed away and a police-man raised his baton at me and my husband pulled me out from under the baton. There was no talking to the police, obviously they had been instructed to get these people out of the road, the march was getting pushed through. So the whole world saw unarmed people sitting on the road – they’d worked out an agreement the year before, the agreement had been broken and here was the march getting pushed through again and it was their skulls that got the batons. I think very quickly everybody picked their side.
Boycotts: “People afterwards talked about orchestrated boycotts. There was nothing orchestrated. Person after person that day on the road said to me … “We have got some power we’ve got our purses”. They thought at first the Catholic Church had sold them out and the first thing they were saying is “there’s not a penny going back into the basket”. Subsequently the boycott seemed to be against Protestant businesses but initially they thought the Cardinal had sold them out at the talks down at the carpet factory – which had not been done – but they were going to keep their money away from the Church. So people nursed their bruises.
“We went again for peaceful dialogue and met every Church leader, and every politician and every person that we could think of from ‘96 to ‘97…
1997: “…At five o’clock on the Saturday evening we still had had no decision. At midnight the reporters told us it looked like the wire was going up and it looked like the march was not going to be allowed through. So hence the dismay when at three in the morning thousands upon thousands of troops were silently coming in, in the middle of the night. My ten year old still has nightmares about it. My husband had to take my two little ones and try and get down through the estates and away from Garvaghy Road. My ten year old said to me recently during a nightmare “did you not know that I was afraid?” Would you not have been afraid if you were eight and you were taken out in the middle of the night?
Stress: “That’s part of the problem – we’re living with so much stress. You check under your car in the morning, you watch every move and every strange sound during the night, many people have death threats. .. I don’t feel I can operate with my family unless I do something about the situation in which I brought them to live. Basically as a Christian if you see something that’s unfair – it’s not easy in Portadown to talk out against it, but I think it’s your moral duty. If you see something that you think is wrong you try and channel people away from being violent and you talk about it.
“Repeatedly we’re told the Orange Order can’t meet Breandan MacCionnaith because he did a prison sentence some years ago. That’s another red herring. They did not talk to Faith and Justice group for all these years – never acknowledged a letter. If we’re to go on about what people have done wrong – we have to look to the Gospel – “who can throw the first stone?” Nobody I believe.
Recent months: “Julitta asked me to talk about the recent months. It’s been hell since July – for 10 weeks we had the demonstrations at Corcrain – nightly abuse. Just enclosed in this mile long stretch of road. I was there when the policeman [Constable O’Reilly] was hurt – what was most painful was the women chanting “cheerio” as the ambulance was pulling out. No human feeling towards the man who had been injured. Those protests have been withdrawn since that injury. But the atmosphere in Portadown remains the same – there’s no movement, nothing happening and we’re in our little ghetto.
Good Friday Agreement: “My hope for the future lies in the Agreement and the implementation of the Agreement. That’s about equality and justice for everybody. That doesn’t mean taking away anybody’s rights. Everybody benefits from justice. Thank you.”
3. Roger Bradley (Member of Education Committee, Grand Orange Lodge):
“Thank you. I’m a member of the Education Committee of Grand Lodge, but I’m here in a private capacity – I have no authority to speak for the Order. I’m also a Worshipful Master of the Cross of St. Patrick LOL. My particular purpose here is to introduce Ernest Baird and John Hunter who will speak on different aspects. I should also say that had there been a member of Sinn Fein at this table, I could not have been here; I could not have shared a platform with Sinn Fein as they are one and the same as the IRA, and that is the position of the Order and that is my position.
Parades issue a symptom of underlying problem: “The issue of parades has become much more contentious in recent years. As earlier speakers have pointed out, there’s been parades for years and they haven’t caused any bother and all of a sudden it’s become an issue. I work alongside a young Catholic …who as a child used to go to watch parades along with her parents. Obviously she didn’t have a problem with it, her parents didn’t have a problem with it. All of a sudden now it’s an issue. We need to ask why is this? … It’s also useful to look at the work of Dominick Bryan who has done a lot of research in this area, and perhaps he is more objective than certainly nationalists and indeed Orangemen as well – he would perhaps have an objective view as to why it has become an issue. However I want to assert that parades have become an issue, not because it’s an Orange parade – it just happens to be a symptom of an underlying cause, and it’s the underlying cause that we should be looking at.
“To distill this down simply – it’s a battle between republicanism and unionism – that’s what it boils down to, in the final analysis.
Spiritual warfare: “In today’s Newsletter, there was a letter from a Church of Ireland minister, the Rev. Bill Hoey, who supports the Rev. Pickering, the Rector of Drumcree. In the letter he says [re the Catalyst group]: “… I believe these people have lost their way. They are so wrapped up in a false ecumenism that they’ve forsaken the teaching of the Word of God, upon which the doctrines and teaching of the Church of Ireland is based. I would ask these clerics in the group to read again the Ordination Service and the vows they made, together with Ezekiel 33 and 34 to see what the Lord says about false shepherds… The Church of Ireland seems to be terminally ill and one has only to read the nonsense of the Catalyst group to see where the cancer really is”. This is really a spiritual warfare – focusing on the Reformed Faith, actually wanting to reverse the Reformation. That in my mind is what this is all about, and the problem that you see in the parading issue is just but one symptom of that. There are many other symptoms but that is one focus that is being latched upon.
“After all, it was Gerry Adams who said (at Athboy) that the Drumcree standoff did not come about by accident, and he was absolutely right. It did not come about by accident. The protests that we have seen throughout the country have not come about by accident.
Misinformation: “There’s a great deal of misinformation and propaganda about. What I hope with both John and Ernest speaking to you is that it will help dispel some of that misinformation and help to clear away some of the propaganda so that you all will have a clearer understanding of what the position of Orangemen is. .. Thank you very much.
Chair: “I call on John Hunter now, who is a barrister, and a member of the Orange Order and the UUP. Like the other speakers he is here in an individual capacity.
4. John Hunter (barrister; member of Orange Order and UUP): “Thank you Fergus. I was going to say that I hold no brief for the Orange Institution – I’m here just expressing my own opinions.
Understanding the significance of parades: “First of all, in terms of the whole issue of parades and parading, I don’t think that people in this country can really appreciate or understand the significance of parades and parading and processions in the culture of the Ulster Protestant. I don’t think you understand it. I can remember on one occasion seeing a man saying on television that he “liked to walk”. I was speaking to someone from outside Northern Ireland and he hadn’t a clue what the man was talking about. It’s struck with me ever since.
“Frankly, there isn’t an understanding of the issue.
Ulster Protestants – a community under siege: “You’ve also got to understand, that from the perspective of an Ulster Protestant, we’re a community that still perceives our community to be under siege – to be under siege from the forces of Irish republicanism for many many years. In the border areas of Northern Ireland we have had, in effect, a campaign of genocide against Protestants. For example in South Fermanagh, there have been many, many Protestants murdered and the people responsible for those murders have never been caught. So, even from that perspective, you have a particular feeling of a constant encroachment, a campaign of genocide. When you hear Orla talk about the ghettoisation of the republican community in Portadown – I don’t see, for example, in areas of Northern Ireland a ghettoisation to that extent potentially of the Protestant population, but I see in large parts of Northern Ireland where Protestants have been forced to move out of their farms because the only son or the eldest son has been murdered, there’s that gradual movement back. It’s when you have a community under siege like that that we have the importance of the Orange Institution and the whole parading issue.
“Before going on, I just want to deal with one or two matters that earlier speakers referred to in passing..
Playing of “God Save the Queen”: “I’m glad that Fergus [McQuillan] has no objection to his Protestant neighbours celebrating their culture by walking to and from church in the main street of Newtownbutler. But .. the playing of “God Save the Queen” – That is the national anthem of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Traditionally at the end of an Orange meeting or at the end of an Orange parade they play the national anthem of the country. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I were in your country, and some function were taking place, that they played the national anthem of your country. I might expect that. You expect the same thing in Northern Ireland. That’s an important part of the identity of the country, and nobody is being triumphalist or offensive, standing and playing the national anthem outside their hall at the end of a parade before they go in. That is a normal part of the Orange culture and until people can actually understand and appreciate that, then I think we’ve got an awful long way to go.
Refusal to talk: “There’s this whole business here about communication and about refusal to talk. It comes back to what Roger said and something many Ulster Protestants picked up on – Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein/IRA, I believe at a meeting in Athboy, said that Drumcree had “not come about by accident”.
“There’s a widespread belief within the unionist community that this whole issue – Drumcree, the Ormeau Road, all these other issues – are essentially set up by Sinn Fein/IRA. You look at the position in Portadown – you may disagree, but that’s the belief, that’s the perception, that’s the understanding. Brendan McKenna is a convicted IRA terrorist who was convicted and jailed for the bombing of the Royal British Legion in Portadown. Because he is a convicted terrorist, because he blew up the Royal British Legion premises in Portadown, that’s one of the primary reasons why Orangemen do not want to talk to him. They see this man as an unreconstructed terrorist. That is the attitude and perception – whether you like it or not – of the Orange and unionist people in Portadown. That is their belief. That’s something that you’ve got to look at and understand.
Historical baggage: “… I listened to Orla talking about this alienation back from the time of the Plantation, which was about the beginning of the 17th century. I suppose we might as well take the blame at this stage for Brian Boru not getting on so well back a few centuries before that, or for Strongbow coming across to help out Dermot [MacMurrough] in Leinster. Those are some of the things again – if you’re sitting grumbling in Portadown about the Plantation and lots and lots of evil Protestants coming across a couple of hundred years ago, you’re going to find it very difficult to come back into this century to sit down and talk with your neighbours. If you’re coming with that sort of historical baggage, and they are aware that you’ve got that sort of historical baggage, I would be highly surprised if the Orangemen of Portadown would want to sit down and talk to those people on the Garvaghy Road. That is reality. If you want to whinge about the Plantation and about the foundation of the Orange Order, then you’re really not facing up to reality. There’s one of the problems – there’s so much baggage here.
Dialogue and Sinn Fein generosity: “There’s this whole business about dialogue and “if you come and talk to us, we will be generous”. The two Provo councillors in South Fermanagh, for example, saying privately to Fergus [McQuillan] “you’d be surprised at our generosity.” There’s no way on the face of the earth that you’re going to get Orangemen and unionists coming to talk to people they perceive as terrorists, as murderers. There’s no way that they are going to come and talk to those people to ask them where they will or will not parade along the Queen’s Highway in the United Kingdom. That simply is not going to happen, and until you remove that illusion – that these people are going to come “cap in hand” to talk to you, to have this generosity handed out to them, then we really have got an awful long way to go.
Parades Commission: “One of the ways in which the Government decided that they would try and deal with the issue is setting up the Parades Commission. The Orange and unionist community do not accept the Parades Commission as being in some way neutral. The two people who were perceived to be from our community on it .. they’re off it, they’ve now got two nonentities from somewhere or other, and they’ve got people who are just seen as stooge- type figures of the NIO. That’s the way they are regarded within the unionist and Orange community. The Orange Order sees that in each and every time there’s any kind of a controversial parade, the Parades Commission finds against them. Again, they now have the perception that this is another body that is simply and purely against them.
“You’ve got to understand and appreciate that it’s not just the people on Garvaghy Road who are living in their self-imposed ghetto – there’s a mental state, a feeling of threat, that exists in the minds of the Ulster Protestants, in the minds of the Ulster British people, in the minds of Orangemen. That is a reality. And the sad thing is that the nationalist community within Northern Ireland on the whole don’t really appear to understand the importance of that aspect of their neighbours’ cultural history.
Triumphalism: “I come from West Tyrone, and I’ve often thought on a rainy 12th July day, as we dander along the country roads in a place like Fintona — how on earth can you be triumphalist on a wet road outside Fintona on a wet 12th July afternoon? There may be some people who have the idea that by walking from a church back to an Orange hall they are somehow being triumphalist over their neighbours. I’ve never seen it like that. I regard Orangeism and taking part in a parade like that as part of my culture, it’s an expression of my cultural identity. You may find that rather curious. But then, If find it rather curious that you go and watch the Gaelic Athletic Association on a Sunday afternoon when you might be at home enjoying your lunch, or walking your dog, or reading the Bible or your paper, or whatever you want to do. So again, I perceive that as a rather strange thing to do, or sitting playing what we regard as “diddly-dee” music. In the same way, you regard what I do in my culture as somehow strange. Until we can actually realise that, then we might in fact get somewhere.
“But frankly, you’re not going to get Orangemen to sit down and talk when they perceive these residents’ groups as nothing more thatn Sinn Fein/IRA fronts, when you have a body like the Parades Commission that basically is there to enforce the view of Mo Mowlam and others. You will not get them to sit down and cooperate when that is the sort of spirit they are expected to cooperate under.
“When Orangemen hear Irish republicans, like Gerry Adams or others, say “you’d be amazed how generous we’ll be” – from an Orangeman’s perspective it’s like a Jew saying that Adolf Hitler was generous when he told them to go to Madagascar early in 1941. That’s the same sort of reaction.
“Whether you like it or not, that’s the reality of the situation. Until we can understand that, there can be little or no move forward. It’s the gap that still exists in the perceptions of the two communities. I don’t believe the Belfast Agreement will do anything to heal the divisions.
“Even taking a minority position, like South Fermanagh. The fact that they are prevented from walking through the main street of what is their town as well, coming to or from Sunday church services, or going to a parade to celebrate their culture, that is another way whereby that small Protestant community feels isolated. Take the neighbouring village to Fergus’s – Rosslea: prior to 1969 and the outbreak of the current IRA violence, there was roughly 30% of the population in that area, around the town, Protestant. Now there’s less than 10%. The last Protestant to own a business there was, I understand, murdered. Those people by being prevented even walking on a Royal Black Preceptory parade service, or from a parade back to their hall, by people who are their neighbours, they do feel that’s a threat to their very existence. When you’re dealing with that type of situation, you cannot realistically expect dialogue to take place.
“We must address the realities before going any further. That’s something I think that we all must do. Thank you.
5. Ernest Baird (Member of the Orange Institution):
“I would like to thank the Meath Peace Group for the invitation – It’s my second time that I’ve had the pleasure of coming here. Last time I was in the audience and asked a question or two. This time I’ve been promoted to one of the speakers. Much to my surprise, I only learnt that coming down in the car. ..
“I want to approach this subject from a different angle. I feel we’re not going to get anywhere if we keep trotting out our grievances and paint a picture that Protestants are terrible, terrible people and we can’t live with them. I’m a Donegal man – I was born and lived there until I was a teenager when my family moved to the outskirts of Belfast, so I know what it’s like to be part of an insignificant minority having lived under those conditions for that marriage the first part of my life. I must say bad and all that the Ulster Protestants were, I found a lot more freedom in Northern Ireland than I did during the time I was living in Donegal – freedom of speech and freedom of thought, freedom of action within the law.
Underlying problem: “Now what I want to focus on or bring people’s attention this evening is to get below all these grievances and find out the underlying problem.
“Now all of our people – whatever their religious background or whatever their political background – all have tears. All those tears are equally sincere and sad. They all have love, and that love is expressed in whatever way is real. They all have ambition, they all feel pain. They all want to protect their families. They want to protect their way of life. They want to get on with things. I think really that the great problem in Ireland is a problem of trust.
Roman Catholic Church: “I don’t want to specifically point the finger too strongly but from my perspective – when I see a Church that, whenever it has what we call a mixed marriage that the progeny of that mixed marriage, has to grow up in one particular faith. That’s a great problem. I concede that it’s easier today. But when you find a Church that wants to monopolise Holy Communion, as was illustrated when the President [Mary McAleese] took Communion in another church. To find a church objecting to that you sort of get the impression – if you’re sitting where I’m sitting – that that church and the people that belong to it, not only that they want the progeny of the marriage but there would be a bit of difficulty in sharing openly and freely of another religion. I believe that that is the real problem underneath it all in this country.
“Because we as Protestants fear a domination from others that we ought not to fear and certainly maybe that fear as we look out throughout the land, and I think Fergus [McQuillan] made reference to it, is not as influential as it used to be or as it might have been. But nevertheless there is this concern that a Church – for example the former Cardinal, Cahal Daly in his earlier days would not have baptized children or brought them into full fellowship of the Church if they went to Protestant schools. What is that saying to Roman Catholics? It says that the church is saying that the progeny must be brought up here, we cannot have anything else, your children must be educated here. What that is saying is that Protestants are second class citizens as far as the whole of Ireland is concerned – that we’re not accepted in good faith for what we are.
Trust: “I’m trying to say that we’ve got to get to that place where full trust exists and where we’re open with each other and where people can employ anybody without asking their religion, where people can dispose of their farms or their businesses without asking the religion of the purchaser. But a Church which lays down these standards surely breeds a people that want to protect not only their progeny, but their property, their businesses, their land. We’ve only got to look at the south of Ireland and look at how successful the boycotts have been in the past. Now they may not be the same today. We experienced after the first Drumcree quite a lot of boycotts in areas where it was suggested that it was Orangemen who owned the businesses and who went to Drumcree. Therefore, they were being boycotted.
“Now until we can get away from that, until we can see people as people, until we can see people as ordinary individuals in need of spiritual relationship with God, in need of salvation through Jesus Christ, how can we possibly see them as equals if we feel that our faith is totally exclusive? How can we accept members of other faiths at any level – at a social level, at business level at any other level? This is the difficulty when this has been talked constantly, when this has been thumped into people. You’ve only got to read Bernadette Devlin’s book to realise what she was taught. These are things that make it very, very difficult.
Peace with each other: “I think we’ve got to get back to what it is that makes the people of Garvaghy road object and what makes the Orangemen wish to walk. It has been said … that if Christ were an Orangemen He would decide not to walk, and if Christ were a Garvaghy road resident He would let them walk. So don’t let anyone be holding up their hands in holy horror and claiming that Christianity is preventing some things that are happening in this world today. I believe that if all of us were looking to Christ and were at peace and at one with God in Christ Jesus and, as our Lord suggested to Nichodenus, he had to be born again before he could enter the Kingdom of God. I think if we got to that stage then our only desire would be to get our fellow human beings, our fellow Irishmen and Ulstermen – we’d want them into that position where we have peace with God and then we’d automatically be at peace with one another. The reason we’re not at peace with each other is we haven’t got a right relationship with God.
Fellowship: “I go down, incidentally, now and again, to a home in Dublin. That gentlemen in his home has a weekly meeting to which he invites people. I have been there and I have spoken at that meeting. When I was at that meeting I told them that I was a Northern Protestant and “if I say something out of place don’t be offended” because it would be through ignorance. Now at that meeting every single person there had a Roman Catholic background. I was able in my speech to talk about my Lord and my Saviour and to talk about my total confidence that at the end of the day if I have an accident on the way home, I’ll go straight up to heaven, because I can say like Paul “I know in whom I have believed and keep that which I have committed unto him against that day”. Now that is where I’m coming from as a believer and as a Christian. I’ll go down there with these men and I chat with them and we have the most delightful fellowship together. I know that the man of the house – who’s a prominent business man in Dublin – is a strong Nationalist. I’m a strong Unionist but we’re united in Christ Jesus.
Christianity: “When he tells me something he would like to see I sort of say “Oh well that’s all right” and when I tell him something I would like to see, it’s the same. That’s how it is. We have something that’s far stronger. When I hear people talking about Christianity and saying “Christians would do this” and “Christians would do that” – I see very little Christianity in politics or in nationalism or in republicanism or in any of these. In fact I see none in them. Because scriptures say “Thou shalt not kill” and there are killings. I’m not going to go comparing this killing or that tragedy. We could do that but I don’t think that’s beneficial.
Common denominator: “I was impressed with this group the last time I was here by how open-minded you all are and how ready you are to discuss things in a real friendly way. You listening to what I have to say without any aggro or unpleasantness and me listening to what you have to say as I do when I go and visit my friend in Dublin because he is a very strong nationalist. But we have one common denominator and that is the love for our Lord Jesus Christ. I believe, and I’m speaking here personally, if we were to concentrate on that and to become real Christians and have a relationship with God through Christ then I believe that a lot of our problems and all these arguments we have – I believe that nationalism would melt away. Again I have another group I’m involved with from the South. They come up to Belfast. There is one particular man in the group who I know is a very strong nationalist. I’m a very strong unionist and I’m not apologising for that but we have one common denominator in Christ Jesus. We have been assured both of us that whenever our last day comes it will be in glory. That’s more important than worrying whether we walk down Garvaghy Road. If we could trust each other – If we could come to the stage when we could say “there’s a decent fellow there ”.
I have just bought a business and during the negotiations I turned to him and I said “look are you a Protestant or are you a Catholic?” He turned to me and he said “You’ve paid me the best complement that could be paid to ask me that question. Because, he said I just want to treat everybody as equals, and he’s a great pal of mine. He said “I’m a Roman Catholic” and I said “that’s great – not a problem”. If I have a problem I can ring him up and trust him to give me the best possible advice and vice versa. Before I bought the business from him, he used to be on the phone to me every couple of months asking my advice and vice versa. I didn’t know what he was but he knew what I was because, and Fergus [McQuillan] will agree with me, I had a slightly higher Protestant profile. He’s a lovely chap – I haven’t talked to him in the deeper spiritual terms yet but I’ll be at him about that one of these fine days. Now that’s really all that I want to say.
Public holidays: “On the question of holidays, which Fergus [McQuillan] raised – the 12th and 13th of July aren’t the only holidays we have up there. We have Christmas, Easter, 17th March and May Day. Now if he’s going to argue for another holiday, that’s great, I’d be glad to get two more days off work!
6. Michael Doherty (Authorised Officer, Parades Commission)
“My name is Michael Doherty and I come from a lovely city called Derry. It’s a pleasure to be associated with someone who received the Nobel Prize along with David Trimble. He’s a fellow citizen of mine so it’s a pleasure to be here in this part of the world.
“I’m here to give my views as an authorised officer of the Parades commission. I come as a representative of the Parades commission, from the Authorised Officers Unit, and I don’t come as an individual, though I will give some views as an individual.
Impartiality: “You’re right about taking sides. It’s very hard for anyone in Northern Ireland not to have their own baggage. What we try to do in out work is to be impartial. Part of that impartiality is that we have to talk to people from both sides in the work that we do as authorised officers. I’ve been involved for eleven years in community relations work. I will speak to anyone anywhere morning, noon and night if it’s going to save another life. That’s how passionate I feel about the work that I do. Unfortunately not everybody wants to talk to me because I’m associated with an organisation that seemingly was set up by the government to do something that it wasn’t supposed to do in the first place.
Establishment of Parades Commission: “The Parades Commission was set up after a series of events that started in 1996 with the Drumcree issue… The cost of Drumcree was that there was massive public disorder across Northern Ireland, families had to be re-housed, the communities became more polarised – not just around the Portadown area – it spread right across Northern Ireland. The financial cost of the disturbances came to £30 million. I’m not here to tell you who did what. I’m here to tell you how it is and the way that it is. The Government’s response was not setting up a Parades Commission – the Government’s response was sending forth a Commission to see what can be done, and allowing the public to decide. What the public decided was this – the result was in the North report – 88% of those people who took part in the North survey wanted a negotiated accommodation on Parades; 79% said a binding decision should be taken in the absence of accommodation; 49% said an independent commission should be set up; 29% said the police should make a decision; 11% said the Secretary of State should make a decision; 6% said the judiciary should make a decision and 6% said others.
“In the North Report there were 43 recommendations and the principal recommendation was the establishment of a Parades Commission. So that was the Government’s response. The Government did not set up a Parades Commission, it was the people of Northern Ireland who set it up.
“The Parades Commission was established on the 26th March 1997. There was a chairman and 6 members which was increased by 2 by legislation. Now living in Northern Ireland, to get a body of people who are going to be totally independent is going to be difficult to begin with. It’s one of the things I wrote about before I got involved with the Parades Commission getting someone who is going to be impartial. They are courageous people who decided to put their heads on the chopping block to take up that post. Thankfully there have been some courageous people who have decided to do that.
Decision-making body: “Now within all of this the Parades Commission are now the legislative body that makes the decisions on Parades, whereas before it was the police who made the decisions, and they usually made the decisions on a public order issue. If you can think of the phrase that was used by Ronnie Flanagan whenever a march was pushed down the Garvaghy road. He said it was the lesser of two evils to let it down the road. When we talk about spirituality – what was he talking about?
Loyal institutions: “.. As far as the loyal institutions are concerned there is an Orange order, the Royal Black institution and the Apprentice boys of Derry. They would be the three main loyal areas that make up a number of people who have parades to celebrate their religious culture. Within that there is also another group of people that parade – they are bands and there are band parades nearly every week in some areas of Northern Ireland. There are also groups like the Saoirse group and other groups like the Ancient order of Hibernia and other institutions who have parades. And all those parades, whichever one it is, it is the Parades Commission who make the decisions.
Legislation: “Under the Public Processions Northern Ireland Act 1998, the key change would be that the Parades Commission takes decisions on parades rather than the RUC. They take additional factors in, not only public disorder but also disruption to the life of the community, the impact of the procession on relationships within the community, compliance with the Code of Conduct, the desirability of allowing a parade which has been customarily held on that route to continue to be allowed to do so.
“The Parades Commission is also required to publish guidelines and procedural rules, and a Code of Conduct for parade organisers.
Authorised Officers: “Part of my work is informing people on the decisions of the Parades Commission. I don’t actually take part in the decision making body. The Parades Commission is a separate body. In the Authorised Officers body we are responsible for gathering information and getting local agreements where we can. Now any of the areas that I have personally worked on will be the areas that I will personally speak on. I can safely say that we have gotten accommodations. The Orange Order has not spoken to us directly.
“The Apprentice boys in Derry have talked to us and in those areas where they have had their parades there has been accommodation. What I say is where we are in the business of having a difficult conversation with people around areas of parading, we can safely say that in those areas where people have talked there has been accommodation. Where no talk has taken place there has been no accommodation. When the parades commission are making a decision they gather that information and take an informed decision. They have to inform the public 5 days before the parade is going to take place to allow the people who may object to the decision of the parade to go for a judicial review . In any of the judicial reviews that have been taken place so far on a decision made on a parade, the Parades Commission have won the decision in the court.
Rights and relationships: “It’s not just controversy over parades. It’s an issue of rights and relationships. Nationalists want equal treatment and mutual respect and loyalists see concessions of traditional routes as surrendering territory. The conflict provides graphic evidence of the police providing unionist rights at the expense of nationalists’ rights. The RUC has been seen in the past by nationalist residents as a biased anti-nationalist force – blocking the route has become the most effective form of protest and the removal of the protesters through use of force has been a response by the police.
Banning/re-routing parades: “I want to just tell you that the Parades Commission do not and are not in the business of banning parades. The Parades Commission is in the position of trying to get parades ???through the areas at all times. On a factual account – 3250 parades have been notified to the Commission, because the Commission receives all notifications of parades in Northern Ireland. Very few of these parades are controversial.
“The local accommodation is the preferred option. The Parades Commission only re-routed 78 parades and, of those 78, the Drumcree re-route that takes place every Sunday night is part of that. So in actual fact there are very very few parades that have been re-routed if you look at the statistics, and it’s only a very small area where parades that are contentious have taken place – in about 10 areas in all. So they say parades are being banned all over the place by the Parades Commission. They have not ever banned a parade. They have re-routed them. The decision on Drumcree has been the most prominent and it’s still ongoing, and it may not be resolved in the near future. While people are deciding not to talk it is actually delaying the process as well. As I said there are more decisions reached in the city where I come from, where a loyalist group voluntarily decided to re-route a parade. So where people have decided to talk to people like me there have been decisions made and accommodation has been reached. As for me, I support anyone who asks me to speak to them about anything at anytime, anywhere, if it’s going to save another life. Thank you”
7. Dominick Bryan (researcher, Centre for the Study of Conflict, and author of four books on Parades and Parading Disputes):
“I’m going to be very brief … What I very quickly want to talk about is managing public order and dealing with disputes over rights which is what essentially we have to do in Northern Ireland. Back in the late 60s we failed to deal with disputes over rights. Civil right marches ended up in riots, riots ended up in “no-go” areas. No-go areas ended up in violent confrontations and we ended up with over 3, 000 deaths.
“The task this time round should be to manage public political expression in accordance with international standards to create an environment whereby communities do not resort to violence but rather they become more tolerant of a range of political positions.
“The Parades Commission will play a key role in that. Whether in it’s present form or in another form, but I’ll talk about that later.
“It is essential that whatever way we find in making decisions that it’s consistent and fair providing an institution which people feel they have a reasonable and proportionate access to their rights.
Access to public space: “This is not easy when there remains large inequalities in Northern Ireland in the access to public space. When one community attaches particular importance to parades, when the legal system in the UK remains totally inadequate for dealing with these disputes and when we as yet have no agreed political system up and running and when the police are perceived as a large part of the problem.
“In the next few years, however, in theory we will have new civil rights legislation, we will have a local democratic parliament, an executive, and we may have an agreed police service. The Parades Commission is going to have to negotiate it’s way through these developments and may get to a point where it is not required at all.
International comparisons: “The managing of public political expression in public space is a common problem for all societies but particularly those who hold dear democratic principles. In the main the task of facilitating and defining the rights of event organisers falls to three institutions in society – local and national political representatives i.e. local authorities or parliaments, the judiciary and the police.
South Africa: “In South Africa event organisers, police and local authorities form what is known as the “Golden Triangle”. … Put simply the local council in South Africa gives decisions on who should have the right to parade where, the police enforce the decision and they do so arranging things with the organisers. The judiciary take the appeals from people if they don’t agree with what the decision is. The power lies heavily with the democratically elected local authority and with the judiciary.
THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE [Diagram]
“Many other countries have a similar system – Belgium has a system like that. In actual fact Scotland has a similar system also. Unfortunately in England, Wales and Northern Ireland the system has been historically different – local authorities had no power whatsoever. Instead most of the decisions were made by the police. And it’s difficult to find anywhere in the world which has a poorer legal system dealing with the sorts of problems we have, than the British legal system.
Parades Commission: “In Northern Ireland where we have ethnic conflict it came under all sorts of strain that couldn’t be coped with. So what was born was the Parades Commission. The Parades Commission find it very difficult to find legitimacy and popularity and the reason I suspect is this, it is not democratically elected, nor is it fully judicial so it’s a “bit of a mongrel”. It doesn’t carry quite the weight of a judicial body. If it were judicial, the Orange Order would have been forced to go along and deal with it.
Criticisms of Parades Commission: “People claim that it doesn’t represent them in any sort of way. So it’s been heavily criticised. It’s interesting to note where different groups have placed themselves with regard to the Parades Commission. The Orange Order has chiefly accused the Commission of being an un-elected quango that is not quite democratic enough like a local authority would be and have threatened to take decisions to court, although interestingly as yet they haven’t done so and I wonder why not if they’re so determined.
“What I find very bizarre about the unionist position is that despite claiming that the Parades Commission has all these problems, they still want decisions to be made by the police, yet the police are not elected and it is quite obvious the decision the police would have made at Drumcree this year.
“On the other hand residents’ groups have said the Parades Commission is not representative enough and have argued with some evidence that there is too much political interference.
It begs the question – what sort of decision-making process do people want in a society?
“I think that’s the question that needs to be asked over the parading dispute.
We know the systems that don’t work and with the Parades Commission we are trying a new system and in the main is the best so far.
“But we have to ask what sort of system do we want? Does one want local authorities or democratically elected bodies? If you want that then the Parades Commission could be more closely connected to the new Assembly. Personally I don’t think the new Assembly is up to making those decisions yet. Alternatively, make it a judicial body and forget about having three green people and three orange people and an Englishman in the middle trying to make the decision because we’re not very good at doing that.
“What I’m suggesting is that when people think of the sort of issues that we talked about this evening, I think people should ask themselves – what do they want in their society? What are the ways that they would like these decisions made? I know everybody’s been listening very patiently so I’m not going to say more than that.
SUMMING UP BY CHAIR (Fergus Finlay):
“We’re not going to have an awful lot of questions as we’ve run over time. Each speaker spoke openly and honestly .. My job now is to put what each of the speakers said into one sentence just to remind and stimulate you.
- Fergus McQuillan started by talking about his own experience and he boiled down the issue into one about a refusal to talk rather than a refusal to march. He also made the intriguing point that there are only 2 public holidays and both of them, he seemed to be saying, are Protestant.
- Orla Maloney talked from the heart of her experiences and that of her family, living as what she called a prisoner on one mile of road. She finished by saying that justice hurts nobody.
- Roger Bradley when introducing other Orange speakers talked about the parades issue as a symptom of spiritual warfare, and about the struggle for Catholic or Protestant supremacy.
- John Hunter then spoke trenchantly and very correctly to tell us that part of the problem in our understanding is that we simply don’t understand the importance of marching in the culture of the Ulster Protestant – a tradition which in his view is very much under siege and that’s something that exasperates the problem even further.
- Ernest Baird described the issue as a problem of trust, and outlined a Protestant perception that this problem of trust is caused at least to some degree by the monopoly position and aspiration of the Catholic Church and it’s influence on it’s own people.
- Michael Doherty then gave a passionate overview of the work of the Parades commission and emphasised the value of talking to the Commission in terms of reaching accommodations.
- Dominick Bryan was perhaps less sanguine than Michael about the potential for success of the Parades Commission, although he did say it was an improvement on what had gone on in the past. His essential point I think was to establish a difference between the past and possible future structures and to pose the question – what sort of decision-making system do people want and will people respect?
Bearing in mind these thumbnail sketches, I’m going to throw the meeting open to the floor for questions.
QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS (edited summary):
Q1. [Garvaghy Road resident] – To John Hunter: “ I live in Garvaghy Road. You called us all republicans… I object to that. I’m not a republican, I’m a nationalist. I’m a mother and a grandmother. ..
CHAIR: “I think that was more a statement than a question. We’ll wait until you get a direct question and then you can respond to that as well.”
Q.2. [Ratoath resident]: “I would like to welcome the 3 Orangemen who came tonight. But I felt a sense of anger at Mr. Hunter’s remarks, in spite of myself. I come from a West of Ireland nationalist background. I’ve worked for a number of years trying to bring people together and yet I found John Hunter’s analysis very depressing. I found the religious analysis more in tune. I would accept the criticisms of the Catholic Church. But the siege mentality of the Protestant religion, especially those involved in the Orange Order, is the other side of that coin, if you like. If you read the oath of the Orange Order it is very offensive to Catholics and seeking domination. Both of those must go – then we might have a little Christianity.
Q.3. [Nuala McGuinness, Nobber resident]: “I would like to speak as someone who was brought up as a Northern Catholic and have spent half of my life there and the other half in the South. I have the advantage of having third level education both in the south and in a British university. I don’t take sides – I grew up with Ulster Protestants and found friendships with both communities. …
“I would suggest each community tries to get into the skin of the other community and I would refer you to the Derry poet who wrote “Behold the Sons of Ulster Marching to the Somme…”I went to that play two years ago. It covers a lot of points and the two points that struck me were that, 1) the young soldiers were from Fermanagh, and 2) they were from both Orange and Green. The fear of the two was common, the fear of battle, the fear of death and the trust in God were common to both religions. I think there is not enough understanding in the South of the Ulster Protestant culture. Take James Galway. I don’t think anyone could point a finger at James Galway but to my understanding I believe he started his musical career in an Orange band.
“Mr. Baird spoke of driving home from Dublin and having an accident and if the Lord decided to take him he knew where he was going. The other day Bishop Magee, the former private secretary to Pope John Paul II, told a story on radio of how, after being shot, the Pope was lying there in blood and he said he wasn’t afraid – that he knew where he was going. We all have a common humanity. I’d like to compliment all the people here tonight – they’re all very sincere. As an Ulsterwoman, I see it from both sides.
CHAIR (Fergus Finlay): “Ernest, this is probably the first time you’ve been told of what you share with the Pope..”
Ernest Baird: “I certainly don’t share it with you, Mr. Chairman. You said that this is the first time you’ve heard anyone saying they’re sure of where they’re going. I’m certainly sure. If you were talking to thousands of Protestants in the North they could tell you they were sure as well, because that is the one great comfort of my faith, that I am in fact sure of where I’m going when the Lord calls me, irrespective of where I am. That is the end result. In the meantime, I have a concern for everybody. I would like everybody to have faith in Christ Jesus but as far as that’s concerned I find that my assurance is not necessarily a common denominator between people who describe themselves as being Christian. I won’t embarrass people in asking for a show of hands.
CHAIR: “I have just discovered the difference between a Protestant and a Socialist – as a socialist, I have my doubts on where I am going.
John Hunter: [In answer to the first question] “First of all, I have always regarded Irish nationalism and Irish republicanism as the same thing. They both seek a common goal. That’s the belief of Ulster unionists. I’m sorry my analysis made you angry, but if it makes you think – I’m glad. But I’m sorry if it depressed you.”
Q.4. Andrew Park [member of Orange Order]: “I have met Orla before and I can sympathise with her but I think the demonisation of Orangeism is not the way out of this. It seems to me that the Orange men have taken the blame for the last 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland whereas my community has been under siege by the IRA. Michael said that the Parades Commission came out of the North Report and was the result of an exercise of consultation. They didn’t consult with the Protestants. I’m chairman of Lisburn Community Forum. I’ve never been consulted .
“There is a play on words – banning and rerouting are the same thing. Take the Ormeau Road – on 12th July the Orange Order get down the road, on 12th August the Apprentice Boys didn’t get down – a smaller parade, 7.30 in the morning, why?….. Dominick talks about certain aspects of international law. I think one of the highlights of that is a right to assemble – we have been denied that right to assemble. There are a lot of things that angered me here tonight but I’m glad that people came out here to talk.
“Getting back to Garvaghy Road – I don’t think the Orange position is getting across. Orla talked about 40 parades from Easter to August – was it not true that 12 parades went through nationalist areas [in Portadown] in 1985? Today there is only one parade asked for to go down the Garvaghy Road – we feel as a community totally under siege.
“Some of the issues Orla brought up are social issues – I could highlight other areas within Portadown with these same social problems. She talked about high unemployment – but look at Brownstown and Kilicomain. That is something the Orange Order is not responsible for and that is something it cannot address. You’re putting all this baggage on the Orange Order, but I’m glad to be here tonight.
Q. 5. [Ratoath resident]: “I am an English Protestant, married to an Irish Catholic for 25 years. I’ve travelled the world. I’m absolutely appalled. I’m a very committed Christian. At the moment I have 1000 signatures for Jubilee 2000 to reduce the Third World Debt. There are people all over the world dying. And we fight and bicker in this country… my heart nearly breaks. We really have gone very wrong in this country. There is so much hate – if we could forget the past and draw a line under it and start again .. I know it sounds simplistic but where are our priorities, for God’s sake? And I mean for God’s sake.
Q. 6. [member of Irish Association]: “It is disturbing that the Orange Order is not talking to the Parades Commission. It’s alarming. I would hope that the nationalists who for so long were not listened to would have the openness to listen to what the Orange Order wants. The unionists are in a majority in the North, obviously not in the whole of Ireland, and we know that leads to the siege mentality, but it is alarming. I would ask the question – what kind of decision-making authority would you like to see regarding parades in the North? I’m directing this to John.
John Hunter: The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland has taken the decision not to talk to the Parades Commission. It was established by acts of parliament, by government. It was not established by the people. The people on the Parades Commission are seen by the Orange and unionist community as NIO quango people, not representing particularly anybody, certainly not their tradition. If you had some sort of quasi judicial-type body that Dominick was talking about you could have forced the Orange men to go along and deal with it. You are not going to get people anywhere by trying to force something down their throats. There’s going to be no real progress in terms of this Parades Commission issue until it ceases to be a question of trying to force one person or another to either talk or not talk. Before you start getting any type of body to deal with the issue, you’ve got to get away from the idea of forcing the Orangemen to talk to a particular body. They are not going to do it. That’s quite clear from the Portadown situation. That’s the reality. We can’t get away from that point. Now we’ve got an assembly. We’ll have to wait and see if that body will work. If that body starts to work there may be some possibility that that body may be able to deal with it more realistically. At this stage we’ll just have to wait and see.
CHAIR: Just on a factual note, you do accept that the Assembly comes from the people of Northern Ireland?
John Hunter: Well there was an election in Northern Ireland at the end of June and the people elected the representatives onto that Assembly. That’s a legal fact.
Q. 7. [Navan trade unionist]: “First of all I would like to welcome our brothers and sisters from Northern Ireland very sincerely. I march once a year in Belfast – I march with Protestants and Catholics on May Day to celebrate Labour day – I don’t know who is what. As a trade unionist I don’t need to know what religion people are. The same work problems come up in both communities. They’re suffering from health and safety problems, they’re suffering from stress, all the issues we have to deal with here. Ernest spoke of doing a business deal and he had to find out the person’s religion. I’m not too sure what the relevance of knowing the religion of the other person is. I certainly would have no interest in what religion the other person was.
“I sympathise and share the sentiments of my sister over here who is concerned with the worldwide problems. There are great issues out there. There are issues which we can be jointly united on. There is a way forward. Certainly there is hope for the North of Ireland. I have my fingers crossed. I see unity in lots of other areas.
Q. 8. “I would also like to welcome all the people from Northern Ireland, especially the Orangemen, because it’s not often that people in the south get a chance to talk to Orangemen. But I was disappointed. I was looking for a chink of light, some hope from this meeting tonight that there is some way forward. John spoke about the realities as he saw it in regard to the Protestant perspective on parades, and we all have to agree.
”It is very difficult for people from a different community to understand. Let’s look at the realities of what happened in Northern Ireland on the ground this year. … You spoke about Gerry Adams and the statement he made in Athboy, but he didn’t dance outside Sean Graham’s booking office. That to me was one of the biggest catalysts in this whole deplorable situation. As Patrick Mayhew described it “it would have shamed a tribe of cannibals in Africa”. Obviously not very politically correct. The communities are not going to accept these marches – that’s apparent from this year. The British governments have shown a different resolve this year as well.
“The reality we saw on the ground in Drumcree is people skulking around shooting at the RUC. We saw the deaths of the Quinn children and the RUC constable. John, you spoke about the Assembly as a possible way forward – that’s the only chink you’re offering us. What is the reality for next summer? I’d like you to talk about that.
John Hunter: The Orange Order is not responsible for the deaths of the Quinn children or Constable O’Reilly.
Questioner: “I didn’t say they were. I certainly don’t believe that.”
John Hunter: “I didn’t find it particularly attractive to see people dancing or making signals to people standing on the Ormeau Road outside Sean Graham’s. I don’t find that particularly useful or attractive. The reality is that come next July the Orangemen in Portadown will want to walk down the Garvaghy Road and the Orangemen on the Ormeau road will want to walk back down the Ormeau Road. I doubt very much if residents associations on these roads are going to change their minds. So we’re back to square one. That’s the reality. I think that’s the only thing I can say with certainty what will happen next summer. I’m sorry that that’s not a chink of hope or whatever, I have to accept the reality. Over the rest of Northern Ireland, the vast majority of parades will go on as they always did, in a relaxed manner, with nobody passing any remarks, as a celebration of culture and nothing more.
CHAIR: Is it reasonable to infer from that, that you don’t see a role for the Assembly if you think we’ll be back to square one in the summer?
John Hunter: I don’t think people in those localised areas will really see beyond their own areas.
Q. 9 [Trim resident]: “I think scoring points off each other is not going to solve anything. Mr. Hunter is a barrister – has he anything to offer? Would he defend Mr. McKenna as a barrister?
John Hunter: “The position is the same in Northern Ireland as it is here. If you are a barrister and you’re given a brief, then you work on that case. If a client wants me to defend them, then it’s my duty to defend them to the best of my ability. I leave my politics outside the court. I don’t prosecute in criminal trials, I only work for the defence. I’m proud I can separate the two in my own mind when I’m working. I am not a supporter of the Belfast agreement with, I have to say, the majority of the unionist community in Northern Ireland. My personal view is that it won’t work and nothing is going to change my mind about that. I don’t think that fundamentally it’s going to work. Then you say what have I got to offer? I don’t know.
Questioner: “I thought you were a bit hard on Mr. McKenna [Brendan MacCionnaith]. Whatever he did he has done time for it.”
CHAIR: I have to make the point that Mr. Mckenna is not facing any criminal charges. It would of course be a matter for Mr. McKenna if he were to choose Mr. Hunter as his barrister.
Q.10 : [To Orla Maloney]: “In an open letter, the Garvaghy Road residents asked that Orange Parades be stopped for a certain amount of time. …. I’d just like to ask her does she ever envisage a time when the Orange parades and an Orange culture could be welcome into the Garvaghy Road?
Orla Maloney: Our bottom line has always been dialogue and that means that there are no preconditions. Nobody knows what’s going to happen. The results of the Assembly this year are testing.. Nobody would have believed that David Trimble and John Hume could have been standing on a table with Bono. All we want is to communicate, to dialogue, and we’ll see from there.
Q.11: Would Dominick elaborate on the origin of parading disputes?
Dominick Bryan: It is a civil rights dispute. The Orange Order has dominated public space – throughout Stormont it dominated public space. .. In Portadown for instance, my friend Andrew at the back talks about how they never had the right to a free assembly. There is only one community in Portadown that has never had the right to free assembly. That’s the Catholic community. For 150 years any demonstration or parade they tried in Portadown was stopped. Fundamentally there is inequality of rights to parade and demonstrate in Northern Ireland. Now I believe the way out of that is not to stop people parading but to try and develop a situation where everyone has equal rights. If everyone in Portadown has equal rights I would stand beside the Orange Order and say that they should go down that road, because if everybody had equal rights then there wouldn’t be power differentials between communities.
“I am equally concerned that Protestants in Derry retain their right to have demonstrations in their town. That is an equal concern to me.
“What happened was that people formed in residents groups felt confident enough to protest about something that in general they had felt quite unhappy about for a long time. I don’t think that people like Gerard Rice or Brendan are so brilliant that they can create this problem. Frankly I think that Gerry Adams – I’m not denying Sinn Fein’s involvement in things – but Gerry Adams is a politician and he made claims for his supporters, but Gerry Adams couldn’t create residents’ groups out of thin air either. I think it’s the result of a long-term process of disadvantage. The way out is to produce a system which justly treats everybody in the community to their rights of political expression.
Q. 12. [member of Drogheda Ecumenical Peace Group]: “I see both traditions have two sets of allegiances and a very heavy amount of baggage to bring with them, and I see a huge degree of orchestration of both traditions in the Drumcree situation. I don’t think it will inevitably be down to who is the best conductor of the set tradition. It has to come down to people being able to speak to one another. It has to come down to dialogue. I was taken aback to hear that if certain people were at the top table, we would not be allowed to speak. I feel that setting preconditions like that and setting obstacles is not the way, it’s not the way forward. I know John is in the hot seat tonight but I appreciate him talking.
CHAIR: I think he’s enjoying it!
Q.13 [Garvaghy Road resident]: “I have a question for John and Roger. First of all I would like to say that I am a woman who lives on the Garvaghy Road. I don’t want to put on the label of nationalist. Dominick touched on the inequality of parading, and I myself have witnessed Orangemen using umbrellas to hit people on the Garvaghy Road…That’s a misuse of a privilege, when even a Catholic band can’t get to march into Portadown. As to what Andy said about the deprivation in Portadown. There are areas which have deprivation. But the Corcrain ward is a designated deprived area that is part of Portadown. The statistics of unemployment etc. are much higher in the Corcrain Ward than anywhere in Portadown. They’re twice of what they are in Brownstown and three times what they are in Kilcomain. So that’s the situation, and it’s on top of what I just mentioned on parades.
“All of that is giving the message to me, and giving the message to my children, of what I am and who I am in Portadown. The question I want to ask is, of all that picture that I painted there, how can I as a Catholic woman living in Portadown tell you how your actions are affecting me if you won’t listen to me, if you won’t have dialogue with me? To actually build trust we have to have a relationship. How do I get a relationship with Orange men? I’d like to do what that lady said about drawing a line and getting on with our lives. I want to build trust. How do I do that if I’m not going to be listened to or I’m going to be dismissed as a republican or even a nationalist?
“You’ve got to tell me how you feel and I I tell you how I feel, and listen to how you feel, because I feel that Orangemen are in the situation this year that I have been in for several years.
Roger Bradley: “I don’t approve of the things you mentioned. All I can say as an Orangeman is that I’ve never witnessed that, but then I’m not in Portadown. In the parades that I have attended I have never witnessed that behaviour. But there’s no such thing as Protestant roads or Catholic roads. Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom. We have public highways. I’m not talking about going through a housing estate. I’m talking about the main arterial routes that are open to everybody. We shouldn’t have to ask permission from different groups – “can we go down this road or that road?”. I take the point about going through housing estates. There is no mileage in the Orange Order actually routing its parade to go through Roman Catholic housing estates. Let us get that clear.
Irishness and Britishness: “The other thing is that I belong to a lodge that’s called the Cross of St Patrick. Our lodge reveres the heritage of St. Patrick. I’m not afraid to regard myself as Irish because I wouldn’t see Irishness and Britishness as being in conflict. I would see them as being inclusive. I don’t see why nationalism or republicanism has to be exclusive. Why can’t it be inclusive?
John Hunter: “First of all, on the dialogue: the major problem that I would see is that the Portadown Orangemen will not speak to Brendan McKenna, for the reasons I’ve outlined. Their whole perception of the people on the Garvaghy road is that basically it’s a group of republican-orchestrated troublemakers. That is a common perception. It’s how 1), you could break down that belief, and 2) how you could start breaking down believing that they want to stick you in a small corner or a ghetto. Take the St. Patrick’s Day parade. You can’t argue that it was the Orangemen who stopped you parading. It was the police who stopped you 300 yards from the housing estates…
Dominick Bryan: The mayor of Craigavon was actually demonstrating while the police stopped them. There was an election coming up. The DUP and the UUP were competing against each other to see who could get the unionist votes so they went out there and stopped the parade
Q. 13: [Cavan resident]: “This is a follow-up to Roger’s remarks about the inclusiveness of Irishness. The tricolour flies very prominently on lamp-posts in Garvaghy Road. But do we understand what the tricolour symbolises? It symbolises an all inclusive nationality of Protestant, Catholic, Dissenter and those of no denomination. The 1916 Proclamation has as it’s first resolve that all the children of that particular nation will join that all-inclusive nationality and must be “cherished equally”.
“It seems to me therefore that there is an obligation on nationalist Ireland, the republican movement and the residents coalition to face up to the implications of that resolve of the 1916 proclamation in relation to their obstructing the right of the Portadown Orange men.
“Two wrongs don’t make a right. It seems to me that is the way forward – to be magnanimous and defend the Orangemen’s rights. That would be honoring the symbolism of the tricolour flying on the Garvaghy Road.
“Could I ask this hypothetical question – if the IRA were to disband and the republican movement were to declare that “cherishing all the children of the nation equally” meant that political persuasion, armed persuasion, was a thing of the past and the only way our country could be re-united would be through mutual respect and mutual understanding. Could that be considered a noble aspiration? I know it’s a legitimate aspiration. It’s hypothetical, I know because the IRA are still in business, as it were. But if the whole republican movement declared a permanent ceasefire, could a united Ireland be conceived as a noble aspiration for nationalists and republicans to hold?
CHAIR: “It seems a bit unfair to put that question to one of the speakers at this hour of the night, but I would ask Orla Maloney to respond to the point on magnanimity on the part of the residents suggested by the tricolour.
Orla Maloney: “I spoke very early on and I didn’t get the chance to answer a host of things in the night that were said about trouble-makers, republicans, control, hi-jacks. I want to refute all of that. Nobody controls me. I am my own person. I have not been hi-jacked or used by anybody. Gerry Adams may or may not think that he had something to do with the formation of the residents’ groups. I know in the Faith and Justice group, that year I started phoning the Ormeau road to see if I could organise a conference on parading, as there was a problem. When I did not succeed in organising that I met with a Sinn Fein councillor from Lurgan and asked him could we have a conference on nationalism. We were in a cease-fire situation and I wanted to create dialogue. Now in my meeting with Brendan Curran from Lurgan we talked about an umbrella group for the issue of the march. Gerry Adams did not plan my part in this whole thing and I am not a trouble-maker.
“To the two women who spoke – about May Day and about other issues in the world. Let me assure you that the Drumcree Faith and Justice group is debating whether President Clinton had the right to bomb Sudan and Afghanistan, issues of hunger, issues of women in Afghanistan. Kosova is keeping me awake at night. You cannot, as a Christian, be concerned about one issue of justice and not about another. My brothers and my sisters are everywhere whether it’s Africa or the other side of Portadown or wherever. Yes, the part of the tricolour that stands for me is the white part. The part for peace. The part that has no violence. The people who went before us were Catholic, Protestant and dissenter, and they wanted an island free from violence, for peace in Ireland. That is my wish. That is why I have taken a stand to show my children the way forward in a non-violent way.
CHAIR: “I think that is probably a suitable note on which to finish and I would like to ask one question on my own behalf, and I will address it to Roger in his capacity as a member of the Education Committee – If the Meath Peace Group wanted to continue this dialogue in an Orange hall in Northern Ireland and wanted to bring people from the Garvaghy road into that dialogue, would you be willing to consider it and issue an invitation? Do you think that would be educative?
Roger Bradley: “I have no authority to do that. I think these meetings in this location are useful. If they were brought to Northern Ireland in an Orange Hall I don’t know what construction would be made of it by others. I would be hesitant in saying that would be possible. As I say I consider that this type of meeting to be useful.
CHAIR (Fergus Finlay): “It’s been a very long evening. It’s established to my satisfaction that even though there is a chasm of misunderstanding – and we have a better idea of the width and the depth of that misunderstanding – nobody here at this table has two heads, and I think everyone at this table will agree that nobody sitting down there has two heads. I would like to think this is a first step, if not a continuing step, between Meath people and Orange people. … I want to thank you all for your patience and courtesy throughout the evening.”
Julitta Clancy: On behalf of the Meath Peace Group, Julitta Clancy thanked all the speakers for coming, for speaking sincerely and honestly, and for giving up so much of their time. She thanked the audience for listening so patiently and particular thanks were due to writer and commentator Fergus Finlay for chairing the discussion and to the Columban Fathers for again permitting the use of their facilities for the talks.
She said that this was the group’s 4th public talk on parading and parading disputes. “We became interested after a group of Garvaghy Road women told us about their difficulties when we first met them in early 1994, before ever a residents’ group was formed. We invited Rev. Martin Smyth [then Grand Master] to come to Navan and he came and he talked and he listened.” The group then held two talks on the subject in Autumn 1995 – one from the perspective of the Orange Order, and the other from the perspective of the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition. The 3rd talk was in 1996, and included speakers from the Orange Order and the SDLP. [Editor’s note: full reports for all three talks are available].
“Another area we have been involved in is monitoring parades for the past three years in Fermanagh, at the invitation of Enniskillen Together. We have seen some progress there, even though there hasn’t been dialogue. We have seen residents’ groups working hard to keep their protest dignified – we saw the work done by people like Fergus McQuillan particularly this summer. We met some members of dissident groups there – just a couple of weeks before the Omagh bombing. We saw the difficulty for residents’ groups in that situation, and we also saw the organisers of these parades keeping their parades orderly even though they knew there were dissident elements in the town.
“Again this summer we called up to our friends living off the Garvaghy Road, and we listened to their pain and their real fears. We also contacted people we had got to know in the Orange Order and we heard their concerns.. Andy Park said tonight that he was angry. ..We know he has sat through some very difficult and painful meetings, he has listened and he has talked to people who hold very different views to him. He has continued to come to meetings like this and put his point of view. There’s another acquaintance of ours in the Orange Order who felt so strongly that she actually camped in Drumcree this summer … Yet not long afterwards she came to a meeting in West Belfast organised by the NI Women’s Political Forum (a group of women from 7 different political parties in NI, who first came together in early 1996). At that meeting she and the other women from very different backgrounds – republican, unionist, loyalist and nationalist – felt able to talk frankly about their problems and concerns, including the parading issue. She recognised the value of dialogue, but she still felt she would have difficulties talking to someone like Brendan McKenna … “
“We have to move on. We saw all the pain that’s there, all the killings this summer. There are good people all over Northern Ireland who can provide a solution to this. I place my hope in the Belfast Agreement, for all its faults – and there are many faults and inadequacies in that Agreement. But it’s all we’ve got really. Let’s try and make it work….Thank you.”
MEATH PEACE GROUP REPORT. November 1998. © Meath Peace Group
Compiled by Sarah Clancy, edited by Juiltta Clancy. Talk videotaped by Anne Nolan.
MEATH PEACE GROUP contact names 1998 (all in Co. Meath): Julitta and John Clancy, Batterstown; Pauline Ryan, Navan; Anne Nolan, Slane; Philomena Boylan-Stewart, Longwood Michael Kane and Paschal Kearney, An Tobar, Ardbraccan
16th October, 1995
St. Columban’s College, Dalgan Park, Navan
Roger Bradley (Education Committee, Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland)
David Richardson (Lodge of Research, Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland)
Gordon Lucy (Chairman, Ulster Society)
Dominic Bryan (Researcher, University of Ulster)
Chaired by John Clancy (Meath Peace Group)
Roger Bradley: Introduction
Gordon Lucy: Historical aspects
David Richardson: Religious aspects
Dominick Bryan: Orange parades
Questions and comments
John Clancy welcomed everyone to the first Autumn talk of the Meath Peace Group for 1995, the 18th in the series. On behalf of the Meath Peace Group he thanked the speakers for coming to address the group on the subject of “The Orange Order Today”. He mentioned the fact that there are c. 3,000 marches a year in N.I. and well over two thirds of these are Orange marches. “I think it is very timely also to mention that it is 200 years this year since the founding of the Orange Order in Armagh… it is particularly brought out in this quarter’s issue of History Ireland by Jim Smyth where he discusses the origins of the Orange Order. One of the most telling points he makes is that at the time of the foundation of the Orange Order there was a lot of politicisation of the whole structure of Ireland as a result of the French Revolution, and we must look at the formation of all of those bodies at that time and the Orange Order in the context of a pan-European ferment as a result of the French Revolution. It is important to bear that in mind – though no doubt the longevity of the Orange Order is based much more in the roots of Ulster. ”
ADDRESSES OF SPEAKERS:
1. Roger Bradley (Education Commitee, Grand Orange Lodge): Introductory words
“First of all I’d just like to say that we’re very pleased to be here. Since we were asked to come down we have talked amongst ourselves and have been looking forward to coming. I should stress that we are here in an individual capacity – we’re not authorised to actually represent the voice of Orangeism itself, so I would stress that point. I’ll introduce the speakers that we have – Gordon Lucy is Chairman of the Ulster Society, a society that was formed 10 years ago to promote Ulster/British heritage and culture. He is a member of the University Shield of Refuge which is a reasonably new Orange Lodge, formed just a few years ago, which draws its candidates from the universities of Ireland and also a broader field as well. He is an historian and author and I think I should mention that he has a book coming out next week on the Great Convention of 1892, so that is the commercial over. Anyone interested in Unionism during the Home Rule period I think would find the book interesting. Then we have David Richardson, a former schoolteacher who recently gave up teaching temporarily to do a Ph.D. and he’s taking John Miller Andrews as his subject, who was the second P.M. of N.I.
“David’s a member of the Rising Sons of Killegar which is a Leitrim Lodge so we actually have a representative of Southern Orangeism, perhaps some would say a rare breed. He is a member of the Grand Lodge Education Committee and a member of the Lodge of Research. I’ll just make a few short comments about myself – I work as a public servant and have done so for the past 20 odd years. I’m a member of the Cross of St. Patrick which was formed in 1968 and the primary aim of the Lodge was to promote the heritage and teaching of St. Patrick, so he is a figure who, certainly in my lodge, we hold dear. I’m also a member of the Grand Lodge Education Committee and a member of the Lodge of Research.
“I just want to explain in brief the form that we will speak in – I am going to make some opening remarks in general terms about Orangeism and then Gordon Lucy will follow to speak about the history of Orangeism and how it has evolved up to the present time, and he’ll also speak about the developments of Orangeism and some notable members of the Order.
“David Richardson will speak then on the spiritual and religious aspects of the Orange Order. Usually the stereotyped image you would have of the Order is of a bunch of skinheads with a “blood and thunder” band and that is the image that everyone has of Orangeism – in fact that is very much a minority view. I apologize to Dominic Bryan – I have omitted to say what he will be speaking on. As you know, Dominic is a graduate of Coleraine, University of Ulster. He holds a Masters Degree from Cambridge University and is now currently doing his Ph. D. in anthropology. He will speak about the marching tradition of Orangeism – in fact the perceptions that are held within the group of Orangeism and outside the group – so a sort of insider/outsider view of Orangeism and the actual parading tradition, and after that we’re open for questions.”
Orangeism: “If I could just start by making some general comments about Orangeism. As I’ve said there is a stereotyped image of Orangeism which does give quite a false impression. I’ll just start by explaining the structure. There are actually 3 distinct organisations which are completely separate although linked: the Orange Order itself operates a 2 Degree system – the Degree of Orange and the Degree of Purple.
“When you advance to the Purple Degree, you can advance to the Royal Arch Purple Chapter, which is the second distinct organisation, and it is basically a passport organisation to the Royal Black Institution of which there are 11 Degrees. I’m not going to say anything about the degrees because that is going to be David’s territory, so I don’t want to steal his thunder.
“There are many types of Orange lodges – and again I want to emphasise that we’re not just the very narrow type of organisation which you would see represented on your TV screens when they’re out on parade. There are lodges which are associated with a particular trade or craft and many of these types of lodges have come out of particular industries such as aircraft, shipbuilding, linen etc., and quite often the images on the banners would give you a clue as to the origins of the lodge.
“For instance, a lodge formed from the shipyard would depict shipbuilding, and so forth. Also, lodges have grown out of individual churches, so you would have banners which would depict the church where the lodge was actually founded, and there would be a tradition that members of those lodges would come from these particular churches. There are of course many examples in Belfast of lodges of that nature. If you move outside Belfast, to the country and rural areas, you will find that there are lodges which have a particular tradition with a certain locality. There would be a tradition where farmers and their sons would actually join with a lodge in their district, whereas a lodge such as I am in draws its membership from a very wide geographical area. In fact, we even have members outside of Ireland who belong to my lodge, so you can get quite a varied set of Orange lodges.
“You can also have lodges that would be associated with a military tradition – you would have lodges that were actually formed from the 36th Ulster Division, from the Burma Star, Star of India. In fact, one of the founder members of my lodge actually was a founder member of the Star of the East which was a lodge set in Hong Kong, and as the regiment moved around the world, the lodge moved with it. Also, you find that there are lodges which could be described as having been set up for a particular purpose. I’ve mentioned that both David and myself are members of the Lodge of Research – that’s a lodge that undertakes research, undertakes to give lectures, present papers and to add to the knowledge which is held within Orangeism.
“Again, you would have lodges that would be actually formed to promote the Gospel. Orangeism is set for the defence and promotion of the Reformed Faith – you would have members who would be required to have a Christian testimony – in fact I know lodges where, in order to gain entry to those lodges, you have to actually give your Christian testimony in public. So you can see that there is a very broad representation of Orangeism – it’s not the narrow view that the press present – it’s much wider than that.
Meetings: “I think that’s really all that I want to say, but I’ll say something about the meetings, before I finish. I would imagine, and if I’m wrong you can say I’m wrong, that most people who don’t know very much about Orangeism would say that they meet in secret and they conspire and plot, and they’re anti-Catholic, but really if you want to examine the business of most Orange meetings – some of them can be quite boring – they discuss quite mundane routine matters such as finance, such as how much are we going to raise the dues by, such as if the roof leaks etc. – they have to maintain the hall, so there is a lot of routine business. In addition to that, and I can certainly speak of my own lodge, we invite guests along to speak to us. We have had Dominic, who has actually come to my lodge and addressed the members. We also have debates, we discuss all sorts of religious and political issues and we sometimes refer matters to senior lodges at District level. But really there’s no plotting, there’s no scheming, we are actually not anti-Catholic.
Qualifications of an Orangeman: “I brought with me, and I can leave these for anyone who wants them, the “qualifications of candidates”, and if anybody wants to find out what the qualifications of an Orangeman actually are, I have brought about 20 copies. I think at this point I have said enough. I want to pass over to Gordon who will speak about the development and history, and some notable personages who have been involved in Orangeism.”
2. Gordon Lucy: Historical aspects
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I would like to just echo what Roger has said in terms of our pleasure in being here tonight and accepting your very kind invitation. It’s very very difficult to talk about the history of the Orange Order, especially if you’re dealing with an organisation which has celebrated, or is celebrating, its bicentenary this year. It’s very difficult to summarise the history of 200 years in the amount of time that I have available to me. By its very nature I am being selective – I can’t be other than selective in picking out things to talk about, or themes – but I do hope I’m avoiding being tendentious.
“There are a number of points which Dr. William Smyth, the President of Maynooth, has made during this year about the history of the Orange Order during the last 200 years, and since I suspect that not everyone present was at the Oldbridge Summer School, perhaps it might be worthwhile to focus on those 3 points that he wished to emphasise.
Longevity: “First of all, the sheer longevity of the Orange Order. Very few organisations ever last or exist long enough to celebrate a bicentenary – he suggested the churches, Trinity College Dublin, and some of the public schools, e.g. my own – those are the sort of organisations that tend to exist long enough to celebrate a bicentenary. The Orange Order is one of that small select band of organisations that exist long enough to celebrate a bicentenary.
International character: “Another interesting facet of the Orange Order is its worldwide spread. Roger alluded very briefly to a lodge in Hong Kong – it’s largely spread throughout the English-speaking world to some extent. I’ve suggested elsewhere that many of these lodges are military and their warrants, the authority by which an Orange lodge is set up, seems to have travelled in the knapsacks of individual soldiers. Certainly the origins of the Orange Order in Canada and Australia can be attributed to military lodges. It also exists in the French-speaking territory of Togo where Orange Lodge meetings are conducted in French rather than English.
Social inclusiveness: “The other interesting feature that Dr. Smyth thought of the Orange Order was its social inclusiveness – just the sheer range of people from different social groups that can be members of the Orange Order. I think that’s worth bearing in mind.
“I noticed in some of the papers during the summer that they tended to suggest that the Orange Order was a narrow working-class phenomenon – to some extent that’s true in Belfast but there’s great diversity in the Orange Order. Certainly, outside Belfast and a number of other urban centres, the Orange Order embraces people of all social classes. I think the social inclusiveness of the Orange Order is something that it would be silly to overlook.
Change and evolution: “An organisation which has existed for some 200 years does not remain fixed or static. There has been change and evolution – I don’t know how to address this exactly, but certainly the organisation which sprang into existence in 1795, in response to the attack on Dan Winter’s cottage in September of that year, is not exactly the same sort of organisation that exists in 1995. That, I suppose, is only to state the obvious. The Orange Order over that period of time has evolved – in different periods and different times there are different emphases, e.g. if one was just thinking in terms of the Orange Order at a number of years at the beginning of this century. I remember reading the Northern Whig accounts of the 12th July in the years 1910-1915. In 1910, the 12th July was a social occasion; in 1911-14 it was less of a social occasion – it was becoming more of a political occasion because of the impact of the Third Home Rule Crisis. Again, if you go to 1915, the Orange Order is essentially a religious organisation imploring God’s blessing on the Allied cause during the First World War. So you’ve got that change in that short time span – you’ve got change going on all the time.
Diversity: “The other thing I want to stress is this question of diversity – the image that you see of the Orange Order in Belfast, overwhelmingly a proletarian organisation. Outside Belfast, it is usually much more socially mixed and diverse. Very often when I was reading some of your papers during the summer, one noticed this focus or attention on “skinheads” and people carrying cider bottles and all the rest of it – these weren’t members of the Orange Order at all; they were, if you like, the “hangers-on”, they were there witnessing the thing, they weren’t actually Orangemen. Sometimes there’s confusion as well over some of our bandsmen – the bandsmen aren’t necessarily Orangemen either.
Origins of the Order: “Now this question of what exactly I’m supposed to concentrate on in the time allocated to me. I’m going, just very briefly, to tell you about the origins of the Orange Order.
“As you may know, especially if you’ve read History Ireland, the Orange Order was formed in the late 18th century against a background of sectarian conflict which was particularly intense in Co. Armagh. Now why the political and sectarian rivalry was particularly intense in Co. Armagh is something for historians to haggle over – it’s one of the interesting questions that there are many theories around. I don’t think anybody has come up with the exact explanation. One of the reasons undoubtedly was the fact that N. Armagh was one of the most densely populated areas in Western Europe, so there was, perhaps, this hunger over land.
” There’s also the explanation that a lot of the people at that time in North Armagh were comparably wealthy – they were almost the equivalent of “yuppies”. They had far more money and time on their hands then they knew what was good for them, but you know I don’t know really what the absolute explanation is – that’s for historians to argue over. In terms of the general detail – on 21st September 1795, approximately 400 “Defenders” (a Roman Catholic agrarian society) attacked Dan Winter’s cottage at The Diamond, near Loughgall, and they were confronted by much stiffer resistance than they had anticipated, with the result that the aggressors were repulsed by a dozen determined Protestants, at the cost of one Protestant casualty. Perhaps as many as 50 Defenders may have been killed in the assault, but, as the enemy carried away their dead and wounded, the total must remain uncertain. That evening, the victorious Protestants formed an Orange Society for the defence of Protestant interests and from those very, very humble beginnings sprang the Orange Society.
“Now at different times in its history the Orange Order has had greater importance than at others. In the first two decades of the 19th century I think it had considerable importance and enjoyed the support and interest of social elites. For much of the 19th century it lacked that support altogether. It even voluntarily dissolved – the Grand Lodge of Ireland voluntarily dissolved itself in 1836 – but despite the fact that the Grand Lodge didn’t exist, individual Orange lodges continued to exist, maintaining a very lively underground existence until the Grand Lodge reconstituted itself in 1846 under the leadership of the Earl of Enniskillen. Dolly’s Brae is the episode you are probably familiar with – I’ll not actually bother telling you the story of Dolly’s Brae but I’ll sort of deal to some extent on the “fall-out” from Dolly’s Brae.
Dolly’s Brae: “What happened at Dolly’s Brae was that the Orangemen were essentially ambushed by an agrarian secret society called the “Ribbonmen”, and, although the Orangemen, I think it would be fair to say, won the battle, their opponents contrived to win the propaganda war with the result that in 1850, there was the passage of the Party Processions Act which had the effect of banning Orange parades.
“Now much of the leadership of the Orange Order, at this time, was fairly aristocratic, and, while the aristocratic leadership didn’t exactly welcome the legislation, they were sufficiently cautious, and anxious to remain within the law, not to challenge it. The Order’s fortunes in the 1850s and the 1860s languished to the intense displeasure of the rank and file. Eventually, a minor Co. Down landowner, William Johnston of Ballykilbeg, who shared the frustration of the rank and file Orangemen, came forward to offer alternative leadership. In July 1866 he held an Orange Jamboree, within the law, on his own estate, to celebrate the 12th. In 1867 Johnston decided to challenge the legislation directly by appealing to the working-classes and organising a massive yet peaceful demonstration from Newtownards to Bangor. On its arrival Johnston delivered a speech in which he stated that Orangemen would no longer tolerate the situation whereby it was illegal for them to walk on the 12th, when nationalists could parade in Dublin with complete impunity.
“Contrary to the very shrewd advice of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who I think at that stage was the Earl of Mayo, the Government insisted on prosecuting Johnston and he was sentenced to 2 months in prison in Downpatrick Gaol. Imprisonment had the effect of conferring martyrdom and heroic status upon him, and in the General Election of 1888 Johnston contested the Belfast constituency, which at that time returned 2 Members of Parliament. It was the first election after Disraeli’s “leap in the dark” – huge sections of the working-class had been enfranchised for the first time and Johnston headed the poll and was returned to Parliament. During his stay in Parliament he had the very signal distinction of achieving the object for which he had been elected within the lifetime of a single Parliament. Most people enter, certainly our Parliament, and I’m sure your Parliament also, making all sorts of promises and they actually are able to honour very few of them. For securing the “right to march”, Johnston was to the people of Sandy Row, the Shankill and Ballymacarett, an Orange and Protestant folk hero second only to that other William of “glorious, pious and immortal memory”.
“A legend in his own lifetime, Johnston’s portrait continues to feature prominently on Orange banners, not only in recognition of his successful campaign to secure the repeal of the Party Processions Act, but also his sterling contribution to reviving the Orange Order’s fortunes and boosting its morale.
“That sort of revival that Johnston initiated was really the precursor of another revival which was to occur in the 1880’s. The Orange Order was incidentally initially quite sympathetic to the Home Rule movement – there was a by-election in Monaghan in 1871 and a lot of rather disgruntled Orangemen gave their support to a Home Rule candidate, Isaac Butt. In fact, Butt wasn’t the original preferred candidate – the original preferred candidate was a man called John Madden, but the Roman Catholic hierarchy, in the guise of the Bishop of Clogher, took very considerable exception to these Orangemen, and, I just throw it out as a suggestion, there may have been a possibility of Roman Catholics and Orangemen campaigning in Monaghan in 1871 for the same candidate, but that’s life. Anyway, the point was, the Home Rule movement ceased to be a vehicle for Protestant discontent and annoyance with the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, and instead started embracing a programme which Orangemen found repugnant and, as a consequence, Orange support for Home Rule disappeared, not to say evaporated, although there were one or two Protestants who obviously did continue to have an interest. So Home Rule was obviously a tremendous boost and filip to the Orange movement.
12th July: “Now maybe, without wanting to delve into too much history, I was just going to go forward and make a few remarks and observations about the “Twelfth”. If you feel unhappy about how I’m doing things, please feel free to ask plenty of searching and penetrating questions which I may, or may not, be able to answer afterwards. The 12th of July is the most important date and event in the Orange calendar, and this has been so since the first parades in 1796.
“Over the years fashions have changed – sashes have been replaced by collarettes, flags have been displaced by banners and the fife and drum have been displaced by a wider variety of musical instruments. But even allowing for all this evolution of the Orange Order in some respects, there would be aspects of these parades which I think would be familiar to the first Orangemen. Now how do we interpret the “Twelfth”?
“The historian A.T.Q. Stewart was cited in the Guardian of 5th October 1988 as observing “the BBC is quite wrong when it says with ill-conceived astonishment every 12th July that so many thousand Orangemen celebrated the victory of Protestant over Catholic in 1690. It is not about that at all. It is about the continued survival of Protestants against the unitary Catholic state.” Now I think there’s a lot of merit in that, but I think that the fact that people can debate and argue over that highlights the fact that the Twelfth is an event capable of many diverse interpretations. Some view the 12th July as an expression of triumphalism – a triumphalist and provocative occasion, others view the 12th as an expression of Protestant solidarity – a badge of identity in the face of a perceived threat, and even to participants themselves the 12th July has very many different meanings because the Orange Order embraces so many of the diverse strands of Ulster Protestant society. I suspect perhaps that Roman Catholics… because perhaps Roman Catholicism, though it may not be quite monolithic, it may not be quite homogenous, but if you are Roman Catholic I don’t think it’s necessarily all that easy to understand the complexity, the diversity and the vociferous character of Ulster Protestantism. As I said, I want to go back to this idea that the Twelfth is a multi-faceted event – it combines historical commemoration, political demonstration, religious service and carnival, and for many people involved in the 12th July it’s essentially a family day out for every stratum of Protestant society, it’s an opportunity to meet friends and renew old acquaintances, and an occasion to exchange news and to chat. In rural areas, especially when you have good weather, which fortuitously on the 12th July very often is the case, even in a bad year the 12 July frequently manages to be a good day, it’s really something in the nature of a picnic, a large-scale picnic. So those are just some general observations about the 12th July and I’d like you to take some of them at least seriously.
Marching season: “This question about the “marching season” – there are numerous church parades organised by the Order across the country, the most important of which, I suppose, is Reformation Sunday in October which commemorates the occasion on which Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the Cathedral. There are also a series of “mini-Twelfth” celebrations on the 1st July and the purpose of these is to commemorate the fact that so many Orangemen fell on the first and second days of the Battle of the Somme. The biggest of these demonstrations is in East Belfast. There are also Junior Orange celebrations – they tend to take place on Easter Tuesday, and Bangor very often is the principal venue.
“The marching season is just not confined to the Orange rder. Roger mentioned the fact that there was the Orange, the Arch Purple and the Black. The Black itself has its own calendar.
“The Black organisation does not have the same concentration on one particular date – in different parts of N.I. they celebrate their day on different dates, e.g. Fermanagh and S.W. Ulster, including Cavan, Monaghan and S. Donegal, they tend to commemorate their festivities on the Saturday nearest to the 12th August, and in doing that they’re commemorating the Battle of Newtownbutler. In much of N. Armagh and Co. Down they celebrate Black Day on 13th July in Scarva, and in the rest of N.I. they tend to celebrate their day on the last Saturday in August, hence the phrase “the last Saturday”. Then you have another organisation called the Apprentice Boys which is not, strictly speaking, linked in any way to the Orange or the Black at all and they have 2 principal demonstrations in December when they celebrate the closing of the gates of Londonderry in 1689, and they also celebrate the relief of the city in August. So that’s part of the marching season, that’s part of the rationale for it and I was just going to conclude my remarks by looking at Orangeism in N.I. today, just some general remarks which you can pick up on later.
Role of Orangeism: “Orangeism continues to play a significant role in the life of N.I. Much significance is attached to the fact that all 6 Prime Ministers of N.I., most Cabinet Ministers, most Unionist MPs, have been Orangemen. N.I. has been represented as the “Orange State”, the Cabinet has been viewed as a sub-committee of the Grand Lodge, and Stormont has been described, was described in the past, as a “glorified Orange lodge”. It is true that Sir James Craig once boasted that he “was an Orangeman first and a politician second”, but in practice James Craig and other politicians were politicians first and Orangemen afterwards. The fact that the Government at Stormont on more than one occasion was prepared to ban parades is a very clear illustration of this fact. For many, perhaps most, Orangemen the Order is primarily a religious organisation – something David will address in greater detail. As I’ve already hinted, Protestantism is institutionally divided and fragmented compared to the more unified structure which exists within Roman Catholicism.
“The Orange Order therefore affords Protestants of different denominations the opportunity to meet together to share their common Protestantism and to co-operate.
“In terms of its religious outlook the Orange Order is predominantly evangelical and it tends to be unsympathetic to ecumenism, as conventionally understood. The reason for this is quite simply that Orangemen are anxious to preserve a distinctive and undiluted Protestant and Reformed witness.
Social role: “The Orange Order has a social significance as well, despite the creation of community centres by the Government, which I imagine is a way of trying to minimise the Orange Order’s influence, but historically the Orange Hall has long occupied a central place in the social life of the community. Orange Halls serve as venues for a much wider range of gatherings than simply those that are strictly Orange. They are the venue for dances, concerts, cookery demonstrations, flower shows, meetings of young farmers and youth clubs – a wide range of events and activities take place in Orange Halls.
“I was just going to conclude by suggesting that the Orange Order may be a minority organisation in the sense that not all members of the Protestant community are members of it, but nevertheless it remains the most cohesive force in Protestant society and is an essential expression of the cultural heritage of the Ulster Protestant people. Thank you.”
3. David Richardson: Religious aspects
“Ladies and gentlemen, I’d just like to thank you very much indeed for the invitation here tonight. My own experiences are largely in the Province of Connaught, that’s where my mother comes from, and in actual fact I am a member of the Orange Order in the Province of Connaught, so this is a new province for me. I haven’t any Orange connections with Munster yet but maybe that will come.
Fundamental basis of Orange Order: “I’m not sure what experience many of you will actually have of the Orange Order and I’ve taken the liberty of bringing along a short video with me to give you some visual demonstration, if you like, of a 12th July parade [video shown]
“I’m sure you noticed several things about that video. For a start it wasn’t raining, which sometimes happens on 12th July despite all our protestations, and of course there was a very low police presence, but one thing does stand out perhaps more than most – all the marchers were black men and a very large number of women as well, and you may have noticed some children there at the beginning. Now you might well wonder what that was – that was actually the Grand Orange Lodge of Ghana in W. Africa. What on earth do the Orange men and women of Ghana have to do with the N.I. problem and the situation there? But that is to misunderstand the Orange Order completely.
“The Orange Order is not completely for Ulster, Irish or even European people – the Orange Order is for Protestants. That is the fundamental basis of the Orange Order, and if you don’t understand Protestantism you don’t understand the Orange Order.
“Now to many people Protestantism has a very negative image of protesting against, e.g. one aspect of Protestantism which is often portrayed …in N.I. is the aspect of how the Lord’s Day, Sunday, is observed. Many stories are told against that, many Borough Councils, for example, have strict laws as to how the Lord’s Day, Sabbath, Sunday is observed, and the story is told of what happened in one such borough in the north of Co. Antrim – a pilot was flying over the countryside, his aeroplane developed difficulties and the engine went on fire. He had no other option but to bale out, he got his parachute on, pressed the ejector seat button, flew out of the canopy and down towards earth, and no matter how hard he pulled on the parachute cord nothing happened. He finally landed crash into a haystack and the farmer came running up to see what was the problem. The pilot said “I’ve just had a dreadful experience. I was pulling my parachute cord and nothing happened.” The farmer said, “I’m not surprised, nothing round here opens on a Sunday!”
“Now that’s a story that’s told against us, but very often that’s the perception many people have of Protestantism – it is a negative “you can’t do this”, “you can’t do that”, “we won’t talk to them”, “they’re not for us” – that, as I say, is to misunderstand Protestantism.
What Orange Order stands for: “Protestantism comes from the Latin word “protestatio”, meaning “witness” – a stand for something. I just want to spend a few minutes’ time this evening concentrating on what the Orange Order stands for.
“At its very root Protestantism is based on the Bible and the doctrine of the Reformers from the 16th century onwards, and in fact before that, from the time of Wycliffe, was “sole scripture” – scripture alone. This is the book on which we base our beliefs. We don’t actually worship the Bible itself as some people would hold that we do but we do believe that it is the word of God. Paul, in his 2nd Letter to Timothy, says that “all scripture is God breathed”. It’s the very word of God. These are the standards we hold and this Bible should be the yardstick by which we live our lives and conduct our worship. In fact we’ve got a very good example for that: our Lord Jesus Christ, whenever he was confronted by the Pharisees on a matter of doctrine, very often said, “it is written”. Very often that is the stand Protestants take – “it is written”.
“So I just want to spend some time looking at the fundamental message of the Bible that Protestants uphold. Now I realise that that’s a bit of a gargantuan task, and people have spent hundreds of years defining the essential message of the Bible but that is a certain core that I would like to concentrate on tonight and the aspect that Protestants wish to defend.
Sin: “First of all, from the Bible, we learn that man has a problem. In the early chapters of Genesis we read of God creating man in His own image in the Garden of Eden and then sin entered the world and man turned against God, and the problem that entered into the world was sin. Now we sometimes have a mistaken concept of sin – we think that sins are individual things such as stealing or murder – they are individual specific compartmentalised things in our lives.
“However it is much more widespread than that. Sin is an attitude of mind and can be summed up as love of self – notice the little letter in the middle of sin – “I” – sin is putting “I” in the middle, putting yourself first, and above all putting yourself before God. In Paul’s Letter to the Church at Rome we read these words – “people have become filled with every kind of wickedness, with greed and depravity; they are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice; they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil, they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” These words were written nearly 2 millennia ago yet they do not sum up the state of the world today.
“The human condition is the same now as it was in Paul’s day – all people have fallen short of God’s standard. It’s easy to be judgmental and say “I haven’t killed or murdered, I don’t steal, I’m not included in that, I’m not a sinner”. But the Bible tells us we are.
“The Bible cuts through our self-defence, our excuses, and again slightly later on in Paul’s Letter he says these words (Rom. 3, vv. 22-23): “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” God’s standards can be likened to an examination where the pass mark is 100%; you might get 10%, or you might get 80%, but you still fail. God’s standards are so high that we cannot possibly hope to reach up to them. We are naturally sinful and have turned our backs on God, everything we do, no matter how good it might seem to us, is tainted by that sin, if we do not love God.” Again, Paul says in his Letter: “those controlled by their sinful nature cannot please God” and one hymn often sung at Orange services expresses it this way:
“Not the labour of my hands can fulfill thy laws’ demands, Could my zeal no respite know, could my tears for ever flow, All for sin could not atone. Thou must save and Thou alone.”
Fundamentals – justification by faith: “So that’s the first thing Protestants learn from the Bible – that we have fallen short of God’s standards. But the Bible provides us with the answer, and I’m really working through Paul’s Letter to the Romans to try and draw out the fundamentals of the message that we as Orangemen believe in. In Rom. 5:6-8 we read these words: “At just the right time when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly; very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die, but God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
“We could not reach out to God because all of our actions, everything we do, is tainted by sin, but God reached out to us at a terrible cost to Himself. God is a loving God, but He’s also a holy God and He cannot overlook sin. That sin must be paid for before our relationship with God can be restored and God gave His only son to do just that. God is a holy God and cannot tolerate sin, God is angry with sin. Now our human anger is provoked by the most irrational things, it blazes up and is gone. God’s anger is a just anger…[tape ends]….a crime has been committed and someone has to pay the penalty.
“But the judge’s son, who hasn’t committed any crime, steps forward and takes our place, takes my place. We have earned punishment but Jesus takes our place and takes the punishment for us, and that is the central doctrine that the Orange Order defends – justification – that we can be made just in God’s sight because Jesus Christ died in our place.
Royal Black Institution: “Now Gordon has referred to the Royal Black Institution – I am actually a member of the Royal Black Institution in Co. Cavan, and this is a Royal Black collarette – this is what we wear on demonstrations and parades at various times in the year. Now you’ll see that…there’s a badge there which says “Killeshandra Dist. No. 1 Co. Cavan” and on the other side you’ll see something very simple – a red cross – that is the highest symbol that the R.B.I. has because it reminds us that Jesus died on the cross to save us.
“Protestantism is the theology of the cross and the doctrine that we as Orangemen defend is that everything was done on the Cross for us, we can’t contribute towards that. It is by grace we’ve been saved, and not by works – nothing we’ve done, but by grace… We have been made right with God because Jesus died on that Cross. And we as Orangemen believe that if you repent of your sins and place your faith in Christ, you will be saved. Your sins – they’ve been put behind you – God has wiped the slate clean. We can do nothing. Christ has done all for us.
“It’s been said that the difference between Christianity and other religions is 2 letters. Many other religions say “do this, do that, and you’ll be saved”. Christianity says “Jesus Christ has done it” and that is what we as Orangemen, I reiterate, defend. It’s such a precious truth that we want to stand for it. As the scripture says, “let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence”. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice in our place, we can approach God in prayer directly, we can speak to God directly as our heavenly Father. We believe as Protestants we have that privilege again, not because of anything we’ve done, but because Christ has done it for us. We can approach God in prayer and will spend eternity with Him; we don’t need any other mediator or intercessor because Christ has gone before us. As Paul wrote to Timothy – “there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”. Now that is a very short summary of the essential doctrine of the Protestant Faith – justification by faith – that by faith in Jesus’ death on the cross we can be made right with God, and if Orangeism stands for any one particular doctrine, it is that.
Degrees of Royal Black Institution: “Now very quickly I just want to take a brief look at some of the structures of the degrees, for example, that we undertake. The Royal Black Institution has more degrees than any other – it has 11 degrees, culminating in the Red Cross, as I have said. The Red Cross Degree informs us of Christ’s death on the cross and the fact that paradise is open to those who have a firm belief in Jesus’ blood shed for them. And the various degrees are essentially scripture lessons and they teach such things as charity and other Christian virtues. The degrees focus on the lives of various biblical figures such as Moses, Adam and Eve, Daniel and King David. The best analogy I can find for the degrees – I don’t know if you’ve ever been to York or any of the great English medieval cities where the mystery plays are acted out and where various stories from the Bible are dramatised and the fundamental message of these is brought home – and that’s what degrees essentially are, they’re like mystery plays where biblical stories are brought to life and the doctrines which we as Orangemen believe are brought home to us.
Orange banners: “These lessons are often visually emphasised on Orange banners, especially Black banners. As Roger and Gordon have both [mentioned], Orange banners very often reflect the origins of particular lodges e.g. “The Great Northern True Blues” Lodge in Belfast has a picture of a steam railway engine of the old Great Northern Railway because most of the Lodge members originally came from the railway officers and the railway staff. Other lodges might for example have political figures like Lord Carson or the Earl of Erne. They also have religious figures, and many of the banners depict Protestant martyrs such as Latimer, Ridley and Cranmer, and great Protestant spiritual leaders such as Wesley and Martin Luther. And in the Royal Black Institution what you tend to find is the banners are exclusively religious – they concentrate on biblical figures such as Noah releasing the doves from the Ark, Daniel in the lion’s den, which bring home the spiritual lessons we’ve learned through the degrees.
“I would just like to close what has been a very inadequate survey of some Protestant beliefs by telling you something about my own lodge’s banner. I’m with the Rising Sons of Killegar, Co. Leitrim, as you’ve got on your sheets there, and we’ve got a new banner this year – on one side you’ve the parish church, Killegar parish church, and on the other side we have a picture which to me encapsulates the essence of Protestantism and therefore Orangeism – it’s a picture of a cross, a bleak stone cross, nothing glamorous or romantic, on a rock lashed by waves and to that cross a prone figure is clinging saying “My faith looks up to thee”, clinging to the cross. And I think that’s an ideal summary of what we in the Order stand for. The “true Protestant”, not in name only, is someone who has accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. This is the Protestantism which the Orange Order espouses. There is far more to the Orange Order than wearing a sash and parading on the 12th July. Thank you very much.”
Chair: John Clancy thanked the speakers from the Orange Order and introduced the fourth speaker, Dominic Bryan, a researcher from Q.U.B. and co-author of a recent publication Political Rituals: Loyalist Parades in Portadown published by the University of Ulster.
4. Dominic Bryan: “Parading”
“Thanks very much. I’m going to show a little video from a programme…called “Blood and Belonging” because I think what this will do is perhaps show you images of the 12th Parades with which you are familiar – it will ring true with you. But before I talk, have a look at the images – it’ll take about 5 or 6 minutes….you’ll notice some rather ominous music played all the way through this to give it a particular image…you go to these bonfires, they’re actually very happy-go-lucky cheerful events…
“This is a little talk I gave at a meeting just before the 12th this year which was looking particularly at the Ormeau Road situation. I had individuals from both communities in the audience so you might notice that the little talk treads very carefully. I’d been looking for 4 or 5 years at parades particularly, not specifically about the Orange Order, but predominantly.. [tonight’s talk] is going to be about the Orange Order.
Change: “Parading has a complex history in Ireland. The institutions and political organisations that attempt to control these events have gone through a number of reforms and played a variety of roles at different points in history, and Gordon mentioned some of the changes the Orange Order has been through – the Orange Order is a case in point, it is not, and never has been, an unchanging monolith. Its development into one of the focuses of Protestant identity did not happen immediately and has been due to particular historical circumstances. Over the years it has been used by the British State and in turn has been suppressed by the British State – again Gordon mentioned some of these occasions. It has been an institution of economic and political patronage and also one that has at time served radical class and agrarian causes. It has been used by the aristocracy, by employers, by politicians, and has in turn been abandoned by them. During the Stormont years it was central to the State and patronised by a large majority of the Protestant classes. In recent years it has been going through changes and will, in my view, probably become more politically marginal and not the focus of unionism.
The problem: “[The Orange Order] has provided a sense of community and security but in doing so has at times provided good reasons for Roman Catholics to fear and even despise it. Thus we have a problem – that which has come to be seen by a significant amount of Protestants in the community as central to their identity is seen by many Catholics in the community as symbolic of historical oppression. How can these rival claims be negotiated? Have we any reason for optimism at all? The Orange Order is a disparate organisation and contains a variety of broadly unionist opinions. Its various local lodges, district lodges, county lodges, have their own localised identities and internal politics and you’ve been given a flavour of these identities tonight. Its members vary from being highly religious, almost non-politicial, to those involved fundamentally for political reasons. The supposedly united political line displayed on the streets often hides the internal politics of the Institution and the actions of members. Decisions which appear to outsiders to be directed at them are often more to do with the internal politics of Orangeism and Unionism, and we could discuss it later, but what happened at Drumcree was very much also to do with what was taking place inside unionism, and not only the opposition between the Green and the Orange.
Changes in parades: “The parades have undergone great changes; it is difficult to see them now as a celebration of the State of N.I. as many working-class Protestants feel themselves as alienated from that State as do the Roman Catholics. In recent years the parades have come to contain what are called “blood and thunder” or “kick the Pope” bands, and you saw some images of those on the video, which have no formal connection with the Orange Institution.
“Authority and control over the parades has become more diverse than the Institution would always care to admit – in other words it can find it difficult to control the events even though it wouldn’t always admit that it finds it difficult to do so.
Optimistic message: “To call events traditional as you heard on the video is therefore to hide the many changes which events have been through. He [the video presenter] is making that image there of it having always been like that – I just don’t think that is true. Indeed the past contains an optimistic message – the meaning and role of parades is not set in historical stone – when economic and political structures change so do the political groups that work within them. Now if you want an interesting example of that I set for you perhaps Guy Fawkes Day. My background is one of a Catholic from England, although I wouldn’t practise or be a believer now. I used to stuff this Guy, put him on top of a bonfire and burn him. Now essentially part of what is being done is burning a Catholic, and 100 years ago that would have been the reason, part of the understanding of Guy Fawkes in England, but to a great extent that, if you like, sectarian understanding of that event has completely gone from the English celebration of Guy Fawkes Night, so much so that people like myself never gave a second thought to the fact that we were supposedly burning our own. I offer that as an optimistic sign.
Cultural tradition: “Now we’ve seen one particular image of the “12th” – there is another image which will be found in the Belfast Telegraph, The Newsletter and on BBC and ITV highlights in the evening – that’s of a cultural tradition, of the coming together of a community to take part in one of Europe’s biggest folk festivals. I put it to you that the way rituals work is that they can be both of these things. Both these images can exist at the one time within one ritual. Clearly neither is totally right nor totally wrong.
Mistaken notion of territorialism: “There is one aspect that I want to make quite clear- that is the idea of “territorialism”. You’ll be aware of events such as have taken place in Portadown, on the Ormeau Road in Belfast, and in Derry, and you often have this image of a sort of territorialism, and you hear about “animals marking their territory”. Many journalists present Orangemen as marking their territory like animals, scaring their opponents…. I have recently seen Orangemen described as acting like cats, robins and dinosaurs as well. However the territorialism we are talking about here is not that sort of territorialism. To see it as some sort of primal instinct is to totally misunderstand what takes place.
Parades as an expression of identity: “The parades are a means through which people express their identity and by which people symbolise a political opinion, therefore to block an Orange parade is understood by those in the parade as an attack upon their identity. To ask someone to stop taking part in something that is viewed as central to their tradition, albeit often a recently-invented tradition, is to ask that person to reconsider their way of viewing the world. These parades therefore signify the wider complex political disputes over identities within a territory, not simple animal instincts whereby one male animal seeks to control access to resources and sexual partners. I think it will move the debate on a little bit if we start understanding what we’re talking about when we talk about territorialism.
Conclusion: “Just to conclude, I’ll put forward a few questions. It’s not to say that these things should not be approached critically since, for those outside, the parades act as a reminder of injustices and a barrier to the full expression of their own identity. But there are no easy solutions.
1) “Do we want, yet again, to enhance the ghettoes of Belfast by reinforcing boundaries? Because when we stop people parading in certain areas that is what we’re going to do. At the end of the day, nationalists have suffered more in that sort of situation than have unionists.
2) “Are those claiming the right to march prepared to publicly support the rights of all to express their opinions in a public space, no matter how unpalatable those views? These truly are a test for civil and religious liberties.
3) “Are those marching prepared to show respect for others’ rights by limiting inconveniences to the fewest possible occasions and by showing the utmost respect for neighbouring communities? Whatever the outcome of the Peace Process, it seems absolutely necessary that people’s identities should be respected and where are the deeds on all sides to show that these identities will be respected?
Governments need to face the issue: “Finally, and most importantly, both Governments must seriously address this issue. Both the British and Irish States need to examine some of the sectarianism within their own political structures and constitutions. Further, it is not acceptable for the British Government to leave it to the police to deal with – that’s been the general routine this summer – “it’s a police issue”, and the police have left it till about 10 minutes before the parade is going to take place before they’ve given a decision. To my mind that’s produced the sort of disastrous effects that we’ve had. Unless we face the problem we will yet again have working-class community facing working-class community, policed by predominantly working-class, albeit well-paid, police officers. Confrontation over the parades has in the past led to other forms of communal violence, and unless we face the issues now it may well lead to major communal violence again. Thank you.”
Chair: Thanking the speakers on behalf of the Meath Peace Group, John Clancy pointed to the fact that Orangeism started at a time when Jacobinism was very rampant in Europe – “many would contend that the early years of Orangeism was to do with the maintenance of the concept of monarchy in Europe and they were part of that movement, and it was particularly obviously focussed on the monarchy in England. I think it is interesting that it happened at the same time as the great changes that were coming over Europe. It is also important to realise that 200 years later the kind of issues that were faced then we are facing again, but maybe in a calmer atmosphere, and maybe at a time when both the Protestant and Catholic perspectives can.. prepare more focussed views of one another, in terms of developing respect for the intrinsic values of each ethos… ”
QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS (Summary only)
Q.1. Julitta Clancy [Meath Peace Group]: Re Drumcree situation: What happened at Drumcree – what went wrong, was there any dialogue?
Roger Bradley: It was his belief that issues like Drumcree and the Lower Ormeau Road have been politicised. “If you go back to the ’60s you had the Grand Master of the Orange Lodge, Sir George Clarke, actually meeting with the President of the A.O.H. and you had the “Green/Orange Talks” – you had a situation where Orange lodges would have lent banner poles to the A.O.H. for their parade on 15th August – you would have had bandsmen who would have played in each procession. If you compare that situation with the situation which existed in the summer, clearly things have changed. And what has changed is that Orangeism, or the actual parading tradition, has become politicised, whereas before it wasn’t politicised.” He said that he would prefer to talk about the Lower Ormeau Road situation because he knew it better than Drumcree. “If you look at that road you will find that there are virtually no residential houses located on that road – it is a commercial route in that the residential houses are confined to the side streets. You have a situation where people have come in from outside and politicised it.” He referred to allegations of intimidation, where people from the community had allegedly had their cars damaged and homes attacked because they refused to sign a petition. The whole situation had been politicised he said and he could only explain it in that way.
Julitta: “…Can you see at all the problems that people like those in Garvaghy Road might have with Orange parades?”
Gordon: “The Garvaghy Road situation is very similar to the Ormeau Rd. situation, in the sense that the houses, by and large, do not look on to the road, so in order to be annoyed or offended you actually physically have to get out on to the road to be there.” He believed that some of those who spearheaded the protest were members of “Provisional Sinn Fein/IRA” amd many people also believed that leading Provos from E. Tyrone and S. Armagh were actively involved in stirring up the trouble in the Garvaghy Road. “It is significant I think, as well that the local parish priest in Portadown is not involved …in any shape or form in the protest.” He referred to the presence of the Jesuit Order in Portadown. “My understanding and knowledge of the Jesuit Order is that Jesuits are often highly politicised – they sometimes lead the politics of extreme left, sometimes the extreme right. … I regret to make this point, but it seems that in terms of chronology there seems to be a clear correlation between the participation and activities of the Jesuit Order in Portadown and these disturbances over parades…. I notice next month that you are actually having people from Garvaghy Road so I would be very interested if you would like to focus on those points….If the houses do not actually face on to the road, as they do not, and it’s a very short piece of road, it takes approximately 7 minutes to walk down that road, if people have to actively get out there to be upset or annoyed, I just really can’t understand…it’s not even exclusively a nationalist road, it’s the main road from the church into Portadown. You know, people do not actually own the road – and yet these are the same people who are demanding “parity of esteem”.
“Parity of esteem is something they claim obviously exclusively for themselves. They’re people who fly an Irish tricolor – the symbolism of the tricolor is Green, White and Orange – amity between the two traditions Orange and Green. They demand “inclusive talks” and yet they deny Orangemen what they consider to be their rights…” He referred to some of the graffitti on the walls – “I think there should be some focus and some attention on the political attitudes of those people who are orchestrating those protests. Incidentally, I don’t want to tar all the residents of Garvaghy Road with having those views. I’m not accusing them of being necessarily Sinn Fein. I am given to understand some of them are actually intimidated out of their houses to be there, so I think you know it would be interesting to put the people of Garvaghy Road on the spot and find out what they’re about – what their objections are? Certainly we, or some of us at least, would see it to be very politically motivated, and Sinn Fein simply orchestrating or organising confrontations.”
Q. 2. Bill Willis (Wilkinstown, Navan; originally from Co. Down): Referred to the amity between the Hibernians and the Orange Order in the ’60s, and this was borne out by his experiences as a child in Co. Down. “The perception now is that perchance the politicians and various other people seem to have an undue influence on the Orange Order…. are you doing anything to restore the image?” As for Home Rule, his own grandfather was actually Master of an Orange lodge and he was a Home Ruler. He said he had been living in Meath for 46 years and when he goes back he is shattered to see the changes… “I think you must return to that period you referred to, when there was an understanding and mixing.” He mentioned his belief that the Orange Order actually supported the ’98 Rebellion, “and that was one period when we were all together”.
Gordon Lucy: “The politics of late 18th century Ireland are so confused that you actually have cases of entire groups of United Irishmen going over to the Orange Order, but on the whole the Orange Order was not sympathetic to the ’98 Rebellion. Ironically enough the Order wasn’t actually sympathetic to the Act of Union in 1800 either”.
On being asked by David Richardson to expand on what he meant by his reference to the public perception of Orangeism, the questioner replied: “I refer to the triumphalism seen in the summer – Trimble and Paisley running down holding hands … that only harms the Orange Order”.
David: “…Ian Paisley is not a member of the Orange Order and we have no control over him.” As for how Orangemen get on with the other community, he mentioned that in Co. Fermanagh he has never seen any suggestion of trouble. “The community comes out and takes part…but unfortunately that’s not good news … the media cameras go where there is likely to be some friction, and very often the cameras would exacerbate that friction….In the vast majority of parades there is amity and real parity of esteem – it’s just unfortunate that the media don’t choose to present it.”
Roger Bradley said that he had recently attended a function in Royal Avenue, Belfast. There was a “peace parade” organised by members of the fringe unionist parties – and he felt a bit intimidated, although he is a unionist…”there they were with the battalion colours, flags, banners, in semi-paramilitary dress, some of them in all black T-shirts, actually looking quite intimidating.” Those political parties do not have a mandate, he said, and “those are the parties the Government is trying to bring into talks.
“Now that is alien to me… they don’t speak for the majority of unionist and loyalist opinion. They speak for their own paramilitary organisations and most people want nothing to do with them. …The people who are not really being consulted are the people who actually have a mandate.” He felt this experience illustrated the point made “that some parades can be intimidating and …give Orangeism a bad name”, but he stressed that this particular parade was nothing to do with the Orange Order.
Q. 3. [Slane resident]: She said that she would be classed as a “Dissenter” – “a very small minority on this island”. She always feels very frightened when she hears about religion “because it strikes me always again and again that once you make religion of it….it leads to bloodshed for somebody…People who claim to be religious on either side have to look very carefully at what they’re doing because I don’t believe that anybody has the right to say “I love peace and I love Christ and I’ve got the right to march by tradition” and I say this to both sides.” She referred to examples of “unthinkingness” both North and South – “and I would have to say that you are going to have to give a bit, and I’m a bit frightened because I haven’t seen much of it.” Then she asked -“where are the women?”
David: There is a large organisation for women in the Orange Order. “In the Orange Order we give them equal standing… we also have children involved as well… in the rural areas where I come from we have whole families involved in the Orange tradition and it brings people together.”
As for the religious question he said that he was a committed Christian… “I never had any religious hatred or division with people I worked with and I would like to see that applied across Northern Ireland”.
Q. 4. Cllr. Phil Cantwell (Trim UDC): “First of all, you’re very welcome, it’s good to see you coming down…please understand, I come from the Catholic tradition but I’m trying to understand the other side. …I’m very concerned about the Qualifications of an Orangeman.” Phil read the qualifications and referred to one of them which stated that an Orangeman “shall strenuously oppose the fatal errors and doctrines of the Church of Rome, and scrupulously avoid countenancing (by his presence or otherwise) any act of ceremony of Popish worship”. “I find that offensive…but maybe I’m missing something here because I’ve got so much religion here from the gentleman with the Bible”.
David: He said that this was a very sensitive issue. Protestants believed that Jesus Christ was the only mediator between God and man. “Unfortunately, over time, the Roman Catholic Church has drifted away from that”. He pointed out that the Qualifications of an Orangeman also stated that an Orangeman should abstain “from “all uncharitable words, actions or sentiments, towards his Roman Catholic brethren”. “We have no axe to grind with individual Catholics”, he said, ” and it grieves us when sectarian attacks are made, that is no part of our faith… Our quarrel is with the doctrines of the Church …but we seek to disagree in love. ..We believe in speaking the truth, rather than dodging the issues – I think that’s more helpful in the long run.”
Roger stated that there are fundamental differences between Protestantism and Romanism …”they’re there, we’re not going to remove those… but what is written here is consistent with the Westminster Confesssion of Faith of the Presbyterian Church, and the Thirty Nine Articles of the Anglican Church, and that is something that is not going to be removed.”
Q.5. Henry Mount Charles (Slane Castle): Referred to Roger’s remarks about the fringe loyalist parties and Mr Hutchinson’s remarks today that he could see circumstances where people who come from a “new emerging tradition of Protestantism” would be prepared to talk to Sinn Fein, would Mr Bryan comment on what he sees as an evolving situation – “while reference may be made to the size of their democratic base, in changing circumstances might that democratic base expand?”
Dominic: He had two reservations about this. Firstly, these sort of political parties had been around before, in the ’70s, and had withered away. Secondly, “like all politicians, people like Billy Hutchinson, Gary McMichael and David Ervine have become quite polished at talking one language to one group of people and one language to another group of people… it’s very difficult to tie in a lot of the quite remarkable material that the UDA has produced in its time…and at the same time that organisation was taking part in a fairly blatant sectarian murder campaign…. they have had to take a political track … they had to speak a language which was significantly different from the Ulster Unionist Party and the Orange Order… I must say I find some of their speeches very heartening…but there’s nothing historically which suggests to me that they will increase their mandate…. On a side issue, if they can add to the pressure… to separate the Unionist Party from the Orange Order, I think that would be a beneficial movement for almost everybody involved… I think Unionism would begin to be able to look for a broader political base than it’s had so far.”
Henry Mountcharles: Referring to earlier discussion re Qualifications of an Orangeman – “I am a Protestant, a member of the Church of Ireland, and … I am absolutely amazed that in this day and age that this is the type of language that belongs to the general body of Christianity…. I’ve always held that we must extend hands to each other, not this kind of language.. I’m sorry but that is how I feel.”
Gordon: “I think, as members of the Church of Ireland, that we could just agree to differ.”
Q.6. [Presbyterian minister]: As a minister, a Protestant and a Presbyterian, he wished to touch on the Reformation. One of the fundamental things is that “the Church is always under reformation”. He explained that he is “an unashamed ecumenist and I see nothing inconsistent in that..”. On the Scripture issue, he said that you cannot make the distinction that the Protestant churches are churches of the Bible and the Catholic Church is not a church of the Bible. “You cannot say that the Protestant Church is not a church which has a tradition – the Westminster Confession and the Thirty Nine Articles are traditions in the Protestant church but they are not set in concrete, which means they can be changed.” He pointed out that the General Synod of the Presbyterian Church in 1988 clarified its understanding of the Westminster Confession that identifies the Pope as the Anti-Christ, saying that the historical interpretation is not manifestly evident from the Scriptures. “Even a tradition can be reinterpreted… and we, as Protestants, are not free from tradition.. that doesn’t mean that there aren’t differences, that doesn’t mean those differences aren’t worth discussing.” He was not an Irishman, “but it seems to me that many of my brothers and sisters in the North are caught in a time warp back in the 1600s and 1700s, and don’t realise that tradition does change, it is interpretive, it needs to move on.”
David Richardson: He was very glad to be a member of the Church of Ireland. “We say that the Church has erred over time … and it is possible for churches over time to err.” The church is always reforming itself, he said… and in addressing the Reformed Faith we’re not just directing against the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, we’re directing against these strands of Protestantism and evangelical Protestantism which have drifted away from the standards which we see in Scripture. ” Looking at traditions, he said that they must be placed against the Scriptures – “if they don’t measure up, we must discard them… the Orange Order believes in Scripture… I am a true ecumenist as well, I want to see everyone coming in unity round the Gospel, but unity without the Gospel is not true unity…”
Q.7. Walter Kirwan (Dept of An Taoiseach and Forum for Peace and Reconciliation): Re the diversity of the Order: “David emphasised the religious dimension, but obviously going back to Dan Winter’s cottage and so on, there was obviously a political element, the element of protecting… the Ulster British cultural heritage… Which of these strands would our visitors see as the strongest within the Order?” Also, there were references in the Northern papers last week to a lot of dissatisfaction within the Order with respect to the Grand Lodge …”one would guess that the reason these people aren’t happy is prehaps that Martin Smyth not going to Drumcree wasn’t political enough… on the other hand, there are other people… who are proposing that the link will be cut between the Ulster Unionist Party and the Orange Order. What would be the predominant view within the Order as between these two poles…?”
Roger: “I would say that the emphasis within the Orange Order…has to go back on to the evangelical standpoint. That should be the focus of Orangeism, and yes, politics does cloud that issue at times.” Re the link between the Order and the Ulster Unionist Party, “it is probably fair to say that if that link were severed it might be better for Orangeism as well as better for Unionism, so that is an ongoing debate…. One point I would say…there are many Roman Catholics in N.I. who would aspire to be Unionists but cannot actually vote for the Unionist party because it is allied to the Orange Order… I think that is a very powerful argument to weigh in the balance when we come to take a decision as to whether the two bodies should be linked.”
Q. 8. Noel Weatherhead (Tullamore resident): “Does the Orange Order feel they have a responsibility to steward the parades and to control the lunatic fringe that associates with all parades, or do they rely on the RUC to do that for them?”
Roger: “The Orange Order has been concerned about bands and the behaviour of bands… and the Order does take steps to try and control bands… if they step out of line then they are banned from taking part in future parades.” There are also marshals, he said, who work along with the police. “We are also subject to the law in that we have to give notice, we have to have approval… yes, I would agree with you that we do have a responsibility and we do try to carry that out.”
Q. 9. John Keaveney (Kilbride teacher): He would like to be able to bring a group of children from all traditions to march in an Orange parade. What would the obstacles be? There would be girls – could girls march in an Orange parade; there would be Catholics – could Catholics march? Re women, “my impression of Orange parades is that there is a very severe lack of gender balance”.
Roger: “There is the Women’s Orange Institution and there are women’s lodges… In the past they have not paraded along with the men – that is now changing and you do now have women’s lodges coming out with the men to church parades and so forth… that happens more in the country than it does in the city.” Re a group coming up to take part – he said that only Orangemen and women could march, but such a group “would be welcome to watch and partake in the day”.
Questioner: “You consider it as a carnival… yet by that kind of regulation you are excluding a good percentage of the population of your area from participating… I’m trying to get away from the polarisation… for the sake of peace, for the sake of bringing people together… there must be some kind of way of catering for that…”
Roger: “In a sense you’re right in that it is a Protestant society and therefore it is exclusive to that degree… in the same way you have Roman Catholic societies that are exclusive to their own beliefs.”
Questioner: “Could I ask if there is not some way of bringing the two together – it would break an awful lot of the symbol of separateness.”
Roger: Referred to the situation in the ’60s when the Orange Order had talks with the AOH. “I would see that type of trend as being useful and positive .. we need to get back to that situation where we can live with everybody and each respect each other’s viewpoints…”
Gordon: There is no antipathy at all between the Orange Order and the AOH, “but the sort of people who are problems with Orangemen these days are not Hibernians, they tend to be militant republicans, members of Sinn Fein/IRA and their followers.”
Dominic: Re the participation of women in the parades. “I have a sneaking suspicion that people have started to feel that if we had more women in the parades that in fact it would change the nature of the parades.” He pointed out that in the “blood and thunder bands” – generally seen as the most sectarian element, the standards are often carried by women…. women are involved in the parades, they may not always march, but they’re the spectators, they’re the ones doing the dancing, they’re the ones doing a lot of drinking, they’re the ones dancing up and down in Union Jacks, so to that extent they are very much involved.”
Q. 10. [Columban missionary]: “This is not a question, it’s a statement. I just want to say that I’ve been very encouraged listening to the members of the Orange Order tonight, speaking for myself. Because I grew up in Co. Cavan, and as a child the Orange Halls were always pointed out to us and they always aroused a certain amount of fear in me because I was given to understand that something secretive occurred in there, which was a kind of a plot against Catholics, and now I hear the Orangemen tonight coming out and wanting to redeem themselves and say what they’re all about and I find that a very great change and it will certainly take a lot of fear out of me.”
Calling the proceedings to a close, John Clancy thanked the audience for being so attentive. On behalf of the group he thanked the Columban Fathers for the use of the hall and for their consistent generosity and encouragement. Thanking the speakers, he said that, like many others, he had a profound ignorance of the Orange Order – ” all my knowledge was the confrontations during the marching season… But what I have learned this evening .. is that the Orange Order, in a sense, is… an umbrella that holds the diversity of the Protestant ethos and those people who want to celebrate their diversity under that… And I just want to turn it another way…there are the two diversities of the Orange and the Green in the North, and if they can within their ranks have many different kinds of emphases in terms of the Protestant ethos under their umbrella, I think that somewhere within their 200 years they have mechanisms to understand the Catholics and what their concerns are, and in the same way the Catholics have to learn this very important fact, as I see it, this celebration of diversity…”
“What is clear to me, having heard about what happened in the ’50s and what happened in the ’30s, is that the last 25 years of violence… has done untold violence to the trust that grew up at various times during the last 200 years between the Catholic and Protestant or Protestant/Orange ethos. And this is the time now for us to redouble our efforts to put behind us the violence of the last 25 years which has done so much damage, and to build a respect, because in respect of the other’s point of view comes enhancement of your own position in terms of your society and what you stand for.”
©Meath Peace Group. Report compiled and edited by Julitta Clancy. Taped by Anne Nolan
Meath Peace Group contact names 1995: Julitta Clancy, Parsonstown, Batterstown, Co. Meath; Anne Nolan, Gernonstown, Slane; Pauline Ryan, Navan; Philomena Boylan-Stewart, Longwood; Michael Kane, Ardbraccan, Navan; Felicity Cuthbert, Kilcloon