Memorandum submitted by Portadown District
Loyal Orange Lodge No 1
I have been asked by the District Officers of
the above District Lodge to respond to your invitation to make
a written submission to this inquiry.
Firstly, I would advise that Portadown District
is a member of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland and as such we
are sure that their submission to the inquiry reflects the views
of the wider membership of the Institution including those of
We are also aware that our District's Legal
Representative, Mr Richard Monteith LLB has also provided the
inquiry with a written submission and is better qualified to deal
with the legislative side of the Parades Commission.
Portadown District therefore intends to restrict
their comments on the Parades Commission to our experiences of
the Commission in dealing with parades organised by our own District
Lodge and in particular our Annual Parade to and Service at Drumcree
The Parades Commission was set up following
the Independent Review of Parades and Marches chaired by Professor
Peter North. Portadown together with other strands of the Loyal
Orders participated fully in this review, even though we had our
doubts as to the real agenda behind it, given that it talked about
the parade conflict only. Bearing in mind that only one side of
the community parades to express its history and culture, it is
easy to understand why we felt that any review was designed to
focus on only one side of a divided community. We would contend
that history has proved us right.
Prior to the Parades Commission, the police
were responsible for overseeing parades. Those making decisions
did so with the knowledge of the history of the parade in question,
the people or body organising it and the reaction of the local
community to it. That cannot be said of the Parades Commission.
Generally speaking, the Parades Commission was
appointed to undertake two tasks:
1. to mediate between opposing parties;
2. where consensus was not possible, to adjudicate
on whether a parade should proceed or not.
The Parades Commission has to date failed to
deliver on this part of its remit. It has instead opted to focus
all its energies on adjudicating. It has consistently refused
to recognise the valuable contribution made by Portadown District
in trying to reach a just, honourable and lasting solution to
this dispute during the many processes we have been engaged in,
a contribution recognised by the Prime Minister both publicly
Portadown District has for close on two hundred
years walked to Drumcree Parish Church in July to participate
in Morning Worship. In 1995 as a result of an illegal street protest,
the return walk to Portadown Town Centre was delayed for three
days. Regrettably in 1996 as a result of a threat of public disorder
by nationalist residents on one part of the route, the return
walk home was again delayed. The walk to and from Church in 1997
went ahead, albeit with a heavy police presence.
In 1998 the Parades Commission assumed responsibility
for parades and in its determination refused the District Lodge
permission to return to Portadown via its traditional route. The
District Lodge decided to remain at Drumcree until permission
was received and regrettably will mark the 1000th day at the "Hill"
in March of this year. Why was permission refused to Portadown
District? The Parades Commission decided to "break the cycle"
of this particular walk to and from Church. In subsequent determinations
relating to the Annual Service at Drumcree, the Commission has
dropped the idea of breaking the cycle and instead hung its hat
on the history of violence relating to this particular route.
They have never said from where the violence or threat of violence
has come. Although local Police Commanders can testify that the
District Lodge has never been involved in any violence or public
disorder when walking home from Morning Worship at Drumcree Parish
Church or indeed from any Church Service.
If the Commission was honest in its first adjudication
and simply vetoed the return walk home in 1998 to break the cycle,
then why did it not proceed in 1999? If the Commission wanted
to be seen as treating both sides equally, then why did the return
walk home not happen in 1999? The Commission has by its actions
confirmed the long held suspicions of the Orange Order, namely
that the Commission is a political instrument, put in place to
placate one side of the community at the expense of the other.
The Parades Commission continues to urge the
District Lodge to meet with them to explain our case. But prior
to the Commission taking over responsibility, members of Portadown
District did meet with the then Chairman Alister Graham and put
our case to him. This submission has never been recognised by
During the past three years, Portadown District
together with senior Officers of the Order and legal and political
representatives have actively participated in many processes designed
to resolve the Garvaghy Road impasse. All of these processes have
been implemented by the Prime Minister's Office. All have failed
because of the position adopted by the chairman of the residents'
association on the Garvaghy Road. His position remains that of
"no Orange feet on the Garvaghy Road", a position which
is shored up by the Parades Commission. The Parades Commission
has refused to recognise the validity of any of these processes.
On one occasion its own observers were not permitted (by the residents'
group) to sit in on a meeting of representatives of both sides
chaired by the Minister of Security, Adam Ingram MP, because the
residents did not recognise the meeting as part of a process.
The Commission once again demonstrated its unwillingness to treat
both sides of this dispute with fairness and equality; they refused
to accept that we were genuinely attempting to address the concerns
of the residents and so our attempts were not taken into account
prior to the next adjudication.
Portadown District remains suspicious of the
independence of the Parades Commission. We have already cited
one example of them siding with the residents' group during the
various processes aimed at finding a resolution. A second example
came about in June 2000. As arrangements were being made for our
Annual Service at Drumcree in July of that year, many individuals
and groups including members of the business community, church
leaders, political and legal representatives made representations
to the Parades Commission Chairman. The general feeling emanating
from all these meetings was that the Commission was seriously
considering the possibility of the parade proceeding. However,
at a given time, this seemingly positive approach disappeared
and those who had previously made optimistic soundings agreed
that the ground had apparently changed and the old negative atmosphere
was once again clear for all to see. What happened? Portadown
District is convinced that the Police Bill, which was going through
the House of Commons and the Lords at this time, was the reason
that a negative adjudication was forthcoming. In our opinion,
the Commission was told that a Parade along our traditional route
would be detrimental to the Bill receiving support from the Nationalist
community, particularly if the police had to remove demonstrators
from the route.
In our opinion and one which is gaining support
throughout the Province, the Parades Commission has, instead of
helping resolve local disputes, in fact escalated them. Community
relations in Portadown have never been worse, even during thirty
years of the "troubles". The Commission continually
fails to treat both sides of the dispute with evenhandedness.
It refuses to recognise the importance of parades as part of our
history, culture or an outward expression of our faith. It even
refuses to acknowledge that the annual Drumcree service is one
of the oldest Orange services of our Order and so is of special
The future success of the Parades Commission
depends entirely on its acceptance by the whole community and
the present Commission must start out to achieve this by addressing
the concerns of the Loyal Orders and showing some understanding
of our history and culture.
24 January 2001