Memorandum submitted by the Loyal Orange
Institution of Ireland
In every democratic society the State has a
responsibility to protect certain fundamental rights including,
freedom of religious belief, free speech, freedom of assembly,
the right of free association, the right to live in peace and
the right of cultural expression.
In many countries these rights are enshrined
in either the Constitution of the country or a Bill of Rights.
The right of free association and right of assembly
underpin the right to parade.
Parades are very much part of the Orange tradition
and heritage as over 200 years ago the founding fathers decided
that parades were an appropriate medium to witness for their faith
and to celebrate their cultural heritage. However the concept
of parades by the community that gave birth to the Orange Institution
was well established long before the first Orange Order parade
in 1796. It is a matter of historical record that parades were
a feature of the community for many years prior to the formation
of the Orange Institution.
We therefore welcome the opportunity to register
our views on the workings of the Parades Commission since its
THE CASE AGAINST THE PARADES COMMISSION
The Parades Commission has its roots in the
Independent Review of Parades and Marches as established by Her
Majesty's Government in August 1996. The North Report, as it became
known, was completed in January 1997.
The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland both in an
initial submission to the Review body and in a response to their
Report detailed our views on parades and the way forward. Regrettably
the points we made in both instances were largely ignored.
The independent Parades Commission was established
on 26 March 1997. The Commission initially had an informal role.
On 17 October 1997 the Public Processions (Northern
Ireland) Bill was proposed by the then Secretary of State, Dr
M Mowlam, to formalise the remit of the Commission, including
granting it authority to determine on parades.
Grand Lodge again put forward its views and
expressed to Government concerns at the impact of the proposed
On 27 October 1997 the Parades Commission produced
draft proposals in respect of Public Processions and Parades in
the form of three bookletsa Code of Conduct, Procedural
Rules and Guidelines.
It is interesting to note that on 25 April 1997
the Parades Commission had written to Grand Lodge seeking a nomination
from the Institution to provide expert advice on a Code of Conduct.
Grand Lodge confirmed on 2 June of that year that it was willing
to nominate two representatives to meet with the Parades Commission
on this specific issue.
The original letter from the Parades Commission
stated "The Commission is keen to ensure that in drafting
the code, we should seek to build upon the expertise of those
with most experience in organising parades and processions in
order to produce a practical and sensible working document".
Despite this our representatives were never invited to a meeting
with the Parades Commission.
Upon becoming aware that the draft Code of Conduct
was almost ready for publication we wrote on 13 October to the
Parades Commission expressing surprise at this given the non involvement
of our representatives. In a letter of 15 October from the Parades
Commission we were advised that after publication of the draft
our two representatives would be among those consulted. That never
On 16 February 1998 the Public Processions (Northern
Ireland) Act 1998 received Royal Assent.
(a) The Parades Commission is an unelected
quango allegedly accountable to no one for the decisions it makes.
We are deeply disappointed that the creation of another quango
is considered in any way an adequate or even a realistic answer
to the problems facing our society.
(b) The apparatus it operates within, the
Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act is legislation which
in our opinion fundamentally undermines basic human rights of
freedom of assembly and freedom of movement. As an organisation
committed to civil and religious liberty for all it would be hypocritical
of us to support the Commission.
(c) The work of the Commission legitimises
the concept of apartheid. By accepting the view that the public
highway cannot be traversed by certain groups because people of
another tradition may live on or near part of the route is to
give credibility to an apartheid system based on cultural, racial
or religious grounds. The Orange Institution in South Africa could
not operate in the apartheid era because we could not accept the
restrictions it imposed. We cannot accept apartheid within Northern
(d) The Commission is incapable of abiding
by its own procedural rules in that it has not announced the determinations
(e) The Commission and the legislation provides
for a "law breakers charter". The North Report stressed
that legislation must "provide no encouragement for those
who seek to promote disorder". Inevitably, however, the Commission
will issue determinations based on the possible violent reaction
of others to parades.
It is a fact that many people in Northern Ireland
including members of the Orange Institution see the Parades Commission
as part of the problem rather than part of the solution as was
predicted in May 1997, by Ken Maginnis, MP.
Civil liberties have been denied. Community
relations have deteriorated and the threat of violence by protest
groups has been rewarded.
Within the framework of the existing legislation,
the Parades Commission because of its power to issue determinations
has effectively destroyed any possibility of it facilitating mediation.
The News Letter of 20 December 1997 stated that the Rev Roy Magee
had resigned from the Commission "to use his mediation skills"but
on the ground rather than as part of a body being given the clout
to ban and re-route contentious parades.
This power to issue determinations on parades
means that the legislation is perceived as being one sided. Parades
are much more important to the Protestant/Unionist community as
an expression of their culture and identity than to the Nationalist
community. The Commission would have at least started from a "level
playing field" if it had been established as a cultural commission
with the ability to consider all aspects of culture and how they
impact upon the community.
It would also have been more effective if it
had been established as an advisory committee as suggested by
the General Board of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland in June
It is our opinion that the Commission has incorrectly
interpreted the legislation in regard to Section 7 of the Public
Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 and specifically with
regard to "any public disorder or damage to property which
may result from the procession".
Logic surely dictates that only if those on
parade are involved in public disorder or damage to property should
their civil liberties be infringed. The reality however is that
numerous parades have had conditions imposed upon them because
of the threat of public disorder etc from another source. The
Independent Review of Parades and Marches stresses in Paragraph
50, Point V, of the Executive Summary that legislation must "provide
no encouragement for those who seek to promote disorder".
Regretfully that is precisely what has happened.
The Parades Commission has to have regard to
any impact which the procession may have on relationships within
the community. With one notable exception (Ormeau Road July 1998)
the Commission have assumed that relationships are only affected
if a "disputed" Orange parade proceeds. It would appear
that the feelings of protesters are viewed with more compassion
than those engaging in a peaceful witness for their faith or expression
of their culture.
It is quite astounding that the Parades Commission
have singularly failed to recognise the fact that opposition to
Orange parades has been orchestrated for political purposes by
It is well documented how this campaign was
established by convicted terrorists to increase tension within
the community and not because there was a difficulty per se
with Orange parades.
The words of Gerry Adams speaking at a Republican
Conference in County Meath (Republic of Ireland) in 1997 stated
"Ask any activist in the North did Drumcree happen by accident,
and they will tell you `no' . . . three years of work on the Lower
Ormeau Road, Portadown and parts of Fermanagh and Newry, Armagh
and Bellaghy and up in Derry". "Three years work went
into creating that situation, and fair play to those people who
put the work in".
Statements like this and other documented evidence
clearly show the political nature of opposition to Orange parades,
and it is a dangerous fallacy to believe that such opposition
can be placated through adjustments made by those on parade. There
is a well orchestrated campaign to destroy our cultural expression
and our civil rights.
In their determination to date the Parades Commission
(i) Issued contradictory statements.
(ii) Been inaccurate.
(iii) Shown little evidence of research.
(iv) Taken decisions because of perceived threats
(v) Been inconsistent in their determinations.
(vi) Shown an obvious lack of accountability.
There are many examples of these but in the
interests of brevity we intend to highlight only a few.
(a) Contradictory statements
i. In the determination pertaining to Crumlin
on 13 July 1998 it states "There will be disruption to the
life of the community which is an inevitable aspect of a parade
on this scale". However in determinations where parades have
conditions imposed it invariably cites disruption to the life
of the community as a reason.
ii. In relation to parades on the Ormeau
Road a determination of 28 June 1998 stated that conditions still
did not exist to enable a parade to take place. However a determination
of 6 July 1998 (a mere eight days later) approved a parade on
the Ormeau Road on 13 July.
iii. The 12 July 1999 Orange parade in Newtownhamilton
was restricted "because of the impact on community relations
of this traditional parade proceeding along the entirety of the
notified route". On 17 March 2000 a Nationalist parade in
Kilkeel was allowed to parade its full route along the mainly
Unionist Greencastle Streetsomething that had not happened
for over 25 years.
i. In relation to Ballynafeigh a preliminary
consideration claimed there is a lengthy history of opposition
to parades on the Ormeau Road but goes on to say that until the
early '70s the Ormeau Road was considered a Protestant area and
that there are no records of formal protests at the parades prior
to 1992. Where then is the lengthy opposition?
ii. In the 1998 Newry determination whilst
referring to the 12 July 1996 in Newry it states "Later in
the day a peaceful protest was mounted in Hill Street in opposition
to the main Twelfth Parade". In fact this was far from peaceful
with the marchers subject to sectarian abuse and the police had
difficulty in containing the so called "peaceful protesters".
iii. The 1998 Consideration of Contentious
Parades in Newry advised that Newry and Mourne District Council
had established a committee to discuss arrangements for dialogue
between nationalist residents and the loyal orders . . . However
we understand . . . the Loyal Orders have failed to respond to
this opportunity. Newry Orangemen in fact met several Unionist
Councillors together with the Clerk of Council and a number of
Council Officers. In addition, a written submission was made to
iv. In its consideration of the "Tour
of the North" parade in Belfast in June 1998 the Parades
Commission refers to the proposed route "passing close to
the Clifton Tavern the scene of a sectarian attack". Clifton
Tavern is not near the parade route. Aside from this the Orange
Order has always condemned sectarian attacks and it is despicable
to use such an attack as an excuse to deny our cultural expression.
(c) Lack of research
The Commission appears to have fallen into the
trap of accepting evidence at "face value".
i. In the context of Portadown the Parades
Commission appear to have concerned themselves with socio-economic
conditions as presented by the residents of the Garvaghy Road.
There is no evidence of the Commission having attempted to ascertain
ii. Determinations about Portadown have
consistently failed to take into account proximity talks etc had
iii. In the Ballynafeigh situation it is
noted that talks took place in 1995 and that agreement had not
been achieved. However there is no evidence of why this was. Simple
research would have shown that the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community
grouping backed out of the agreement.
iv. The Newry 1998 Determination states
"the residents group has challenged loyal order parades through
the main commercial centre of Newry"There are no residents
along the parade route in the "commercial centre".
v. In respect of the 12 July 1999 Newtownhamilton
determination the Commission states "Dundalk Street is perceived
to be nationalist and almost entirely residential in character".
In fact Dundalk Street is a mixed area with both Protestant residents
and Protestant businesses (it is accepted that the majority of
residents are Roman Catholic). Statements like this from the Parades
Commission only give credence to apartheid and given the record
of ethnic cleansing in South Armagh there is a grave danger of
such statements becoming accurate.
vi. In the determination for the 12 July
1999 parade in Lurgan the Commission stated "the potential
disruption to the life of the community . . . which it considers
would come about as a result of this parade". When challenged
the Commission suddenly realised that "there should be little
disruption to the life of the community at 8.15 am" on a
(d) Threats from others
i. Determinations for Castlewellan have
noted that those on parade have always behaved with dignity and
there is very little disruption to the life of the community but
the parades have had restrictions imposed because of the threat
of confrontation by those opposed to the parade.
ii. In Newry, it is recognised that there
is no evidence of public disorder brought about by the behaviour
of those on parade, but there have been incidents of disorder
where some engaged in protest action clashed with the police.
iii. In Bellaghy reference is made to the
disruption to the life of the community because of police action
necessitated by protest against the parade and subsequently the
parades have had restrictions imposed.
iv. The determination for an Orange parade
on 12 July 1999 in Strabane states that there has been "minimal
disruption to the life of the community" and that the proposed
parade "does not of itself constitute either a threat to
public order or to have an adverse impact upon community relations".
However, the parade had restrictions placed upon it because in
the view of the Commission there was "potential for serious
disorder and damage to property should the parade proceed . .
. at the same time as a notified protest is taking place".
v. In the June 1998 "Tour of the North"
determination the Commission states "we heard no evidence
of bad behaviour on the part of . . . participants in the parade.
Indeed we were told of efforts made by Orangemen to ensure rigorous
stewarding of the parade and of the steps taken to control `hangers
on' . . . However the Commission concludes by noting the "potential
for public disorder arising not from the behaviour of the parade
participants but from the reaction the parade will provoke".
i. The 1998 Determinations regarding Portadown
and the Ormeau Road are inherently inconsistent. It is accepted
that in relation to Portadown "It is a Church Parade, it
has been demonstrated that it can take place in an orderly fashion
and the Garvaghy Road is an arterial route". The Ballynafeigh
determination refers to a history of parades being associated
with public disorder, considerable disruption to the life of the
community, a significant adverse impact on relationships within
the community and that some parades would not have measured up
to standards in the Code of Conduct. Yet the Portadown parade
had conditions imposed whilst the Ormeau Road parade proceeded
(NB we do not accept the statements ref Ballynafeigh as being
ii. As stated above the 1998 preliminary
consideration of parades on the Ormeau Road refers to a history
of parades being associated with public disorder . . . from the
behaviour of some parade participants. The 12 July 1999 determination
for the Ormeau Road states "there has been no recent history
of disorder or damage to property resulting from the behaviour
of members of the Orange Order".
iii. The Ballynafeigh determination approving
the parade states "there is now a clear emerging sense of
deep hurt amongst loyalists which arise from decisions to re-route.
This is in danger of spilling over into serious law and order
situation which is harmful to both communities. We therefore cannot
ignore the damaging effect that this will have on relationships
within the wider community". Is this not also true of Portadown
and a number of other areas?
iv. In relation to a parade in Mountfield
on 28 June the commission "noted the potential for disorder"
arising from a nationalist protest and "the likelihood of
significant disruption to the life of the community". The
determination goes on to state "these factors in isolation
do not justify a decision to impose conditions". In countless
other determinations these factors are used to justify the imposition
v. The determination for a church parade
in Pomeroy on 11 July 1999 states "we would generally see
Church parades which are on a smaller scale, as least likely either
to cause disruption or to impact adversely on relationships within
the community provided they are limited to processing from their
normal starting point to the Church in question". The truth
of the matter however is that numerous small Church parades, most
notably in Dunloy and on the Ormeau Road, Belfast, have had restrictions
(f) Lack of accountability
The Parades Commission has in the past adopted
a dogmatic and condescending approach without fear of rebuke or
correction. It has long been our opinion that the Parades Commission
should have been made accountable to parliamentary scrutiny, possibly
through the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee and we suggested
this to Her Majesty's Government at the time of the recent review.
A considered view of the work of the Parades
Commission must conclude that it has failed to meet its objectives.
The Orange Institution would contend that this was inevitable.
Even more seriously however the outworking of
the Parades Commission has moved beyond this through its alienation
of a large section of the people and its perceived bias against
the parading tradition of the Protestant community.
A detailed examination of Parade Commission
determinations will prove that there is little consistency applied
and even less logic.
It appears that any excuse will be used to impose
conditions on a parade even though it may directly contradict
other statements by the Commission.
The most obvious example of a facetious reason
occurred in the 1998 determination for Portadown District LOL
No.1's Church parade to Drumcree Parish Church when the Commission
stated ". . . it is a Church parade, it has been demonstrated
that it can take place in an orderly fashion, and the Garvaghy
Road is an arterial route. However we see the need to break the
cycle . . .".
This has even been carried to the extent that
responsible leadership by the Orange Institution in relation to
parades has subsequently been used against it. For example Orangemen
in Armagh on 12 July 1997 voluntarily curtailed their parade route
in response to a deteriorating security situation and the Parades
Commission reaction in a determination for 12 July 1999 imposed
route restrictions "which reflected the voluntary curtailment
of traditional parades in 1997".
As previously stated we do not believe that
the Parades Commission as it is presently constituted can deal
with the issues and it should be abolished.
In the absence of this it most certainly must
be made accountable and the interpretation of the legislation
must be logical and unbiased. In particular the provisions of
human rights legislation must be applied whereby the threat of
others cannot be allowed to interfere with the legitimate right
of a people to express their faith or culture.