Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 137 - 139)




  137. A warm welcome. Thank you very much indeed for coming at this hour. I am sorry the perspective is slightly skewed because of the geography of this room and the positioning of the shorthandwriter. In welcoming you, let me say that if there is any occasion either now or hereafter where you want to gloss any answer you have given because of subsequent reflection or because you think what you have said is capable of misunderstanding, please do not hesitate to do that—as I say, either now or in writing afterwards. We will feel free to come back with any supplementary questions that we feel we ought to have asked but failed to do so, but we will do that in writing afterwards too. We will try to make the questions follow a logical order, but it means that they may come from different quarters of the room and will not necessarily follow a logical pattern around the room. Is there anything you would like to add—and we are very grateful to you for having come to give evidence—before we embark?
  (Dr Bryan) Thank you very much for the invitation. There are three very quick things that I would like to flag up before we start. The first is simply to say that we are here partly due to our involvement with Democratic Dialogue, which is a think-tank in Northern Ireland, but it is important for us to point out that Democratic Dialogue does not of itself have a view on the parades issue; the views we represent are those of ourselves to the work we have done on parades and you might also find that the three of us do not necessarily always agree on some of the issues. That is the first thing I would like to flag up. The second thing is to say that we have had a variety of involvements. Neil and I have been watching parades for over 10 years and Michael has been looking specifically at the workings of the Parades Commission and determinations. I think it is reasonable for us to point out that we have worked on a consultancy basis on a couple of occasions for the Parades Commission. Neil and I were involved in developing the stewarding project with the Apprentice Boys of Derry and Michael and myself have been involved in looking at how monitoring the parades might take place. Both of those are occasions where we have worked as consultants to the Parades Commission. The third thing perhaps to say is that, as well as looking at the legal and political ramifications of the workings of the Parades Commission, we have spent an awful lot of time looking at the practicalities and realities of what takes place on the street during parades. For all three of us our work has been a relationship between the legal side of what takes place and actually looking to see what takes place in reality on the street.

  138. Thank you very much indeed for that. In view of the fact that you may wish to disagree among yourselves, I think we must leave the chairing of your submissions to you, and you must decide who is going to answer which particular questions or, indeed, more than one of you. If we can avoid all three of you giving answers to all the questions that are asked, it may have a beneficial effect on the timetable, but we would not want in any way to preclude the opportunity for dissension among you, and, indeed, dissension may well prompt supplementaries from the people around the table. In your written submission you comment that, "The present disputes [between Loyalists and Nationalists] must be seen within the context of inequalities of power between communities that are reflected in the parading `traditions'." What precisely do you mean by that?
  (Dr Bryan) Historically, the development of parading and demonstrating has gone through a number of phases over the last 200 years, but it was quite clear, particularly during the Stormont era, that the way all sorts of commemorative events were policed it meant that the Orange tradition had opportunities to hold parades and demonstrations in places that the Nationalist tradition would not have done, and for that reason the Nationalist tradition, in many of the types of parade it has, have been restricted to particular areas. It meant that the sort of events that the Orange Order and the other loyal orders and bands would have held went into areas where a Nationalist or Republican or even a Catholic event would not have gone into. So the idea of tradition itself could not be seen as being a neutral development; it has developed because of differing power relationships on the street in the way policing has worked.

  139. Data submitted by the Parades Commission reveals that in 1998-99 there were 2,012 Loyalist parades and 81 Nationalist parades, a ratio of nearly 25:1. Clearly the two traditions take a very different view at present of the role and value of parades. An immediate question arising out of the evidence you have just given is whether that ratio is a function of what you were describing in your last answer, in terms of the historical development, but, given the fact that you do have that ratio, is it surprising that Loyalists see Nationalist attempts to block parades as an attack on Loyalist traditions?
  (Dr Bryan) I think the answer to that is it is in part a function of those power differentials. It is partly to do with the fact that the Protestant community treats parading in some senses as a more important part of its culture than the Nationalist community might do. But, if you look at particular areas, if you look at Portadown as the most obvious example, there have been historically a number of attempts for Catholics and Nationalists to hold parades in that town which have never been allowed to take place. So the Nationalist tradition in that town has clearly, in terms of events that it would try to take part in, been restricted—indeed, the present round of disputes in 1985 started over a St Patrick's Day parade that was blocked by the police and some Unionist demonstrators. But I would not like to say that the parading tradition is of equal importance to the two communities. In answer to your second question, clearly there is no doubt that the block on parades of the Loyal Orders and other parades is perceived by some people within the Protestant community as an attack upon that community, and I think that has to be dealt with. So, yes, absolutely, it obviously appears as an attack on that community.
  (Dr Jarman) The disputes over parades and the antagonism between the communities over parades is not new. You can look back to the first Orange parade, you can look back before the Orange Order started parading, to see that parades were a function of power and an attempt to demonstrate strength between the two communities. There is a long history of conflict and antagonism between the two communities expressed through this medium—the fact that all parades were legally prohibited largely for 40 years in the 19th century; the disputes in Portadown can be traced back to the 1870s; disputes in Derry to the same period. I mean, it is not a new function between the two communities. I think the fact that there have been power differentials, differential relationships between access to the State and to the authorities, the police in particular, has enabled the Protestant tradition to expand while the Nationalist tradition has remained or contracted.

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