The cost of democratic rights # 294

PARADE problems of a different kind, this time to do with the cost of policing them. The News Letter reports that a loyalist band parade to raise money for the tsunami appeal cost £29,444 to police – and only raised £500. Then a band parade was halted, not by the Parades Commission, but by the PSNI – because there weren’t enough officers to police the event. Marching is an expensive business…

…so when the Orange Order published the findings of a survey in February that suggested that “Orangemen and their supporters spent an estimated £6.3 million on The Twelfth last year”, I’m afraid I wasn’t in the least impressed – even if they did think that might only be half the true figure.

OK, I know the Order isn’t responsible for every parade that happens, but it does have influence over bands and, as the largest marching organiation here, sets the tone for others. And yes, I’m aware that there are some people opposed to marches that won’t accept parades in the area they live in (and sometimes don’t) and the results (no matter who started it) require a large security presence.

But what of the examples above?

Over the past decade, and even taking into account the Order’s ongoing fundraising for charity, parading has probably cost us much, much more. Not just in terms of security – the cost of the Army’s one day operation surrounding 2003’s peaceful Drumcree was half a million alone and 1999’s cost £14 million – but in terms of lost investment by wary Americans worried about ‘instability’ and tourists put off by selective foreign TV pictures.

I’m sure someone has done research on this, but since I keep hearing the same story every time I’m abroad, I’ll skip the surveys. An outsider might tactfully consider the cost of policing parades here a tad indulgent. A local might think it was rippin’ the pish a bit.

This might sound like an anti-Orange rant, but it isn’t. There’ll be plenty of that in the comments. It’s simply asking if taxpayers (and charities) get good value for money from parades. And if it’s not possible to put a price on expressions of culture, heritage and the right to do whatever – or to protest, for that matter – does that really mean it should still cost quite SO much?

The Order does now seem to be starting to grapple with the problem of its image and the effect it is having on the economy. It’s press release accompanying its February survey said:

The Order now plans to use the survey to persuade the tourist authorities to market the Twelfth as a major heritage and cultural event capable of attracting thousands of overseas visitors to the Province with particular emphasis on Ulster-Scots communities in other Orange Order jurisdictions such as Canada and the United States.

While some republican and Ulster-Scots readers will be less than impressed by those ideas, it must mark a major change in the Order if it is to succeed. The Twelfth will only attract more visitors from abroad if it can present a positive, peaceful image, in line with the unrealistic media-filtered expectations tourists always have (and I include myself there).

But the Order can only achieve that aim if parades are seen by tourists as something worth spending on and getting to. And right now the local police aren’t even sure if they’re worth going to. Even republicans must take some heart by considering that change might not come through the Order’s efforts, but through a subtle – or literal – lack of physical Force.

  • fair_deal

    On the Dromore example the police are trying to bully the band into changing the date. They have no powers to stop it.

  • davidbrew

    “Marching is an expensive business…”

    well yes, it ‘s bound to be if you create a complete infrastructure of Parades Commission, Parades Unit in the NIO, and then over-police any parade that the Commission deems technically illegal because one line on a form doesn’t meeet their requirements.
    How much overtime do plods get that they trouser £25k in one Sunday afternoon for a small city centre parade?

    Seriously, though a serious piece Gonzo, with points to ponder. And unlike most, the Orange is looking at this. We have been training marshalls,and providing-at our expense- things such as toilet facilities on parade routes. The picture is vastly improved from even ten years ago, and it’s getting better.But there are two absolutely inescapable facts which must start the discussion:
    1 Parades aren’t going to disappear.
    2 The Commission can never work in its present form.

    That’s it really. Now all the plastic paddies and provo posters can use this thread to their wee hearts’ content to demonise us all they want.

  • beano @ Everything Ulster

    The marshall training seems like a good idea, though I hope they have enough of them to control the mobs that occasionally latch on to parades, especially in ‘interface areas’.

  • Davros

    Now all the plastic paddies and provo posters can use this thread to their wee hearts’ content to demonise us all they want.

    On the other hand David it’s a chance for the members of Sinn Féin and those reputable republicans to show they are sincere in their claims
    and to make sensible suggestions.

  • Alan2

    Figures plucked out of the air…..what would these people have been doing otherwise?
    Sitting with speed camera`s?
    Would they still be getting paid? You betcha.

  • spirit-level

    Perhaps “to celebrate your cultural heritage” unionists could March all year round, all the time, to work, to the pub, to the football matches , to the shops, to the laundrette.
    Even on holiday, in fact everywhere you go.
    That way you wouldn’t have to police it at all, and you can enjoy the Marching Season 24/7.

  • spirit-level

    Or maybe name a Hill in Belfast, called the Marching Hill, anytime any Unionists feels like being triumphant over Catholics, he/she can take a park n ride to the hill and March Up and Down until he feels he’s had a good Hate WorkOut.
    Better still have flood lights so it can go on permanently, all the time, every F*”!ing day and every F^&*ing night.
    Just keep a few coppers their on a 24/7 in case the dirty wee taigs try to pull a fast one.
    Simple.

  • Emmett

    “Now all the plastic paddies and provo posters can use this thread to their wee hearts’ content to demonise us all they want.”

    the orange order do an excellent job of that themselves….

  • spirit-level

    Seriously though why not have a game of cricket once a year between the two sides. It’d be a great laugh. You can cheer you’re own side on till yer hearts content. Good clean fun.

  • Davros

    Seriously though why not have a game of cricket once a year between the two sides.

    Can we play it in Croke park ? 😉

  • George

    Gonzo,
    do you consider the violent disorder perpetrated by the Orange Order at Drumcree a “democratic right”?

    Surely it is a case that the cost of policing is so high because so many are needed to protect democracy from the Orange Order in its current form.

    Davidbrew,
    what’s your definition of a plastic Paddy?

  • fair_deal

    Spirit-level

    “Seriously though why not have a game of cricket once a year between the two sides. It’d be a great laugh. You can cheer you’re own side on till yer hearts content. Good clean fun.”

    It doesn’t particularly work at football matches ;).

    Also i don’t tell you how to be you so please return the courtesy.

  • barney

    I..I…I’m ttttypinng as I…I…I…m…m…maaaarch!! T…T…Try it!

  • spirit-level

    Can we play it in Croke park ? 😉
    Stormont would do too, plenty of green lawns, rarely visited or walked on!!

    Fair-deal
    “Also i don’t tell you how to be you so please return the courtesy”, that just won’t do.
    Your annual Kristallnacht must be curtailed.

  • PatMcLarnon

    Unfortunatelty David the Orange Order marshals to date have been the likes of Billy Wright nad Mark Fulton at Drumcree amd Andre Shoukri and the rag bag of UDA members that march through Ardoyne on the 12th.
    Too little too late i’m afraid.

  • fair_deal

    Spirit level

    “just won’t do.”

    OK then if one community can dictate to the other about is identity then let’s go. The Irish tricolour should not be displayed in Northern Ireland (we even have the law already written, the Flags and emblems act an oldie but a goodie). The GAA matches I’ve watched seem to involve too much thuggery so better make that a proscribed organisation. Irish dancing looks risky too, you could take somebody’s eye out with those kicks, have to put a stop to that. Its a lot cheaper to have everyone speaking a single language so lets shut down irish medium sector. All this intolerant fun and I haven’t even got to round to those pesky minority ethnic groups. 😉

    “Kristallnacht”

    I have participated in numerous parades and I have never broken a single window, burned down a building, physically assaulted or murdered anyone. Or are you completely ignorant of German history?

    I always liked the line by P J O’Rourke. “The first person to call the other a nazi lost the argument.” Nice to see it work in real life.