Examination of Witnesses (Questions 76
WEDNESDAY 15 NOVEMBER 2000
WATSON, MLA AND
76. We are very grateful to you for coming to
give evidence to us. We are particularly grateful, because this
is the first time we have had an opportunity of taking evidence
in this room, which is rather more modern and more elegant, and
possibly more efficient, than the rooms in which we have met historically;
so we are grateful to you for that opportunity. The ground rules,
which we operate and which will be familiar from any previous
transcript of ours which you have seen, are, first, that we will
try to make our questions follow a logical order, but that means
that we may move around the horseshoe to different people in order
to ask those questions. Secondly, that you should feel absolutely
free, either during this session, this oral session, or later,
in writing, to gloss any answer you have given, if you actually
want to change the nature of what you have said, upon reflection.
And that, of course, also provides you with an opportunity if
there is an answer which you cannot give, you are just not able
to give, in oral session, you can follow up afterwards in writing
and you do not actually have to say it for the record today. By
contradistinction, if there is a question which occurs to us that
we should, in fact, have asked you but failed to, which we appreciate
when we have read the full transcript, we reserve the right to
put a supplementary question to you in writing thereafter. Before
I ask you, in addition to welcoming you, if there is anything
else you would like to say, beyond the memorandum which we have
already received, let me say that when we set up this inquiry,
and I say this for the record, my colleagues Mr Beggs and Mr Hunter
both declared non-pecuniary interests as members of the Orange
Order, and I say that so that it is on the record, the record
which goes out with this transcript, that those interests were
declared. Now is there anything you would like to say to us before
we get down to asking you questions?
(Mr Saulters) Chairman, members of the
Committee, first of all I would like to thank you for the opportunity
of meeting with you all, and I also welcome the opportunity briefly
to expand on some of the points in our written submission. At
the outset, I would wish to emphasise the importance of parades
to the Orange Order, and, indeed, the wider Protestant community.
Parades have for centuries provided a medium for our community
to publicly express its faith and culture; other peoples use different
mediums to do the same thing. The important point must be that
all legitimate expressions of faith and culture should be respected,
and no-one should take the view that a particular expression is
less valuable than the other. Regrettably, given the relevant
importance of parades to the communities of Northern Ireland,
this is exactly the implication of the establishment and outworking
of the Parades Commission. Since our written submission, we have,
of course, witnessed an incredible situation, where the Parades
Commission released the names and addresses of band secretaries
to Sinn Fein IRA; this was an amazing breach of security, particularly
when one considers that militant Republicans are still engaged
in terrorist activity, and no decommissioning has taken place.
The record of the Parades Commission clearly shows that it has
been inconsistent in its determinations and it has issued contradictory
statements, has displayed an absence of understanding of the situation
on the ground and, most seriously, has bowed to a threat of violence.
Inevitably, the number of so-called contentious parades has grown
as the Parades Commission, by its very existence, has endorsed
the view that expressions of our faith and culture, through the
medium of parades, are somehow illegitimate. Community relations
have deteriorated dramatically, and thus we have a situation where,
in areas like Portadown, relations within the community are at
a lower ebb now than during the worst years of the Troubles. The
Parades Commission has fallen into the trap of accepting and promoting
the concept of ghettos within Northern Ireland. We do not believe
that the roads and public places of our country are owned by Loyalists
or Nationalists, nor should they be, yet the Parades Commission
has allowed this to develop and given weight to those who desire
apartheid and who are not prepared to tolerate, as we do, the
manifestation of another faith or culture. If this were an academic
situation, I do not think that the headmaster's report would even
carry an indictment "Must do better". It has now reached
the point where the Parades Commission has become part of the
problem rather than part of the solution. We take the view that
the Parades Commission has failed, and it is imperative that preferably
it is abolished, or at the very least made accountable for its
specific decisions. Chairman and Members, today I have with me
Mr Denis Watson, the Grand Secretary, Mr William Bingham, County
Armagh Grand Chaplain, and Mr George Patton, the Executive Officer
of the Orange Institution in Ireland, and all four of us are here
to answer questions that may be asked of us. Mr Watson and Mr
Bingham have attended many meetings in support of the Portadown
District, which, of course, is better known to you as the Drumcree
situation. I myself have been more involved with the City of Belfast
parades, and Mr Patton, from his post, is generally involved with
all correspondence and parades negotiations, etc. Since our submission
to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, a number of determinations
have been made by the Parades Commission, and their second Annual
Report has been published, that is this one, 1999-2000, with the
Chairman's Foreword having been signed by Mr J Anthony Holland.
It is interesting to note that the material within this report
is all written around Loyal Orders, particularly the Loyal Orange
Institution, and there are 14 photographs contained therein, one
of Mr Holland himself, one of three of a Nationalist pipe band
being confronted by a protester in Kilkeel, which has been particularly
discussed here in a previous meeting, one of a reflection in a
mirror of a Loyalist band and 11 of Orangemen or Orangewomen on
parade. This report would verify for us that this Parades Commission
has been put in place to deal with the Orange parades specifically;
this was our fear when we first heard it suggested.
77. Thank you very much indeed for that expansion
of your original submission. Let me ask a couple of ground-clearing
questions, to start off with. How many Lodges and how many members
fall under the jurisdiction of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland?
Then I have got another question thereafter.
(Mr Saulters) We have round about 1,350 Lodges; now
we do not centralise the figures, but we are in the region of
around 60,000 to 70,000 membership.
78. Thank you very much indeed. What is the
relationship, if any, between the Loyal Orange Institution of
Ireland and other Loyal Orders?
(Mr Saulters) We would be more in connection with
the Black Institution; within the Black Institution, you have
to be first of all an Orangeman, so that is the only connection;
there are two different units, with different officers in charge.
The Apprentice Boys is completely out on its own.
79. And, therefore, those are quite in addition
to the 60,000 to 70,000 which you quoted?
(Mr Saulters) The 60,000 to 70,000, the Black Institution
would be within that number; well they would not have as many
in the Black Institution, but they are the same members serving.