McNarry’s exit suggests deeper divisions…

BBC Radio Ulster’s Seven Days doesn’t appear to be online, but you can take my word for it that there was a blazing row on it yesterday, resulting in Ulster Unionist politician David McNarry walking out of the studio.McNarry’s premature exit from Broadcasting House was prompted by a debate over the Orangeman David Burrows appointment (not election, as McNarry rightly pointed out) to the Parades Commission – a quango McNarry wants abolished.

But in the course of the discussion, a former senior Orange Order member – the more liberal Rev Brian Kennaway – referred to a newspaper claim (which I can’t find online) that McNarry had once applied to be the chairman of the same Commission.

McNarry – formerly an advisor to Nobel peace prize winner David Trimble – vehemently denied the allegation, describing it as “crap”, if I remember right, and left the studio.

While I’m sure there’s no reason to disbelieve McNarry, it does raise the question of where the Orange Order now stands on the Parades Commission.

There are reports of grassroots disapproval of Burrows – a central figure on the Orange side of the Drumcree marching dispute – but with DUP hardliner David Simpson refusing to condemn Burrows, perhaps it marks a shift of tactics in the ‘culture war’ over controversial marches.

If the DUP is now ready to lay down political cover for Burrows, no wonder the UUP feels touchy. They may well suspect that their influence on the parades issue is being whipped from under their marching feet. After all, Sir Reg said it would be key to his leadership of the UUP, but after official finalisation of the divorce between his party and the Orange Order, perhaps the DUP has spotted an opportunity… after all, if DUP sympathisers can engineer a Garvaghy Road march after so many years being banned, it won’t reflect badly on people like Mr Simpson, who is MP for the area, a seat he took from David Trimble at the last election.

But there is more to this than just party political divisions, as Burrows hasn’t always been popular with the Orange Grand Master, Robert Saulters, a DUP supporter. There are still questions to be answered by the Order itself, starting with Burrows’ membership of the organisation, as he is possibly acting outside Orange policy by talking to the Parades Commission without authorisation. And how can he, in future, talk to residents groups fronted by convicted republican terrorists and remain a member? It remains to be seen. This is new territory.

On the other side of the tribal fence, republicans aren’t happy at all with the appointment of Burrows and another Orangeman to the Commission (Don McKay, Portadown Orangeman and DUP activist).

Republicans see this as a sop to unionists and will question if two Orange Order members will rule against ‘their own’ parades, particularly Drumcree.

But what do they fear? Dialogue – and the prospect of Orange feet on the Garvaghy Road? Are some unionists prepared to call the republican bluff by doing the one thing they never expected – being reasonable?

And indeed, Burrows has a lot to prove, with such major baggage always going to raise many questions about conflicts of interest.

But with DUP support from a party increasingly ‘playing’ the political game, senior Portadown Orangemen on the inside and a Parades Commission anxious to take a fresh ‘on the ground’ approach, there are some interesting times ahead…

  • Gonzo,

    All it proves is that Mr McNarry is incapable of effective mature discussion – something anyone who has ever encountered him would be all to aware!

  • fair_deal

    “Are some unionists prepared to call the republican bluff by doing the one thing they never expected – being reasonable?”

    The one flaw in an otherwise thorough blog.

    This ignores that direct dialogue with residents groups has been tried on a number of occassions and it went nowhere. On the Ormeau Road they wouldn’t move, on the Springfield Road they wouldn’t move and in Ardoyne they offered a deal and couldn’t/wouldn’t deliver it.

    The only successful models of mediated parades have been Newry and Londonderry, in both the broadening of the process to include a range of interests e.g. churches and the business sector helped to get Loyal Order involvement and to achieve an agreement. Although it has to be said this was about parades accessing the commercial centre of the town/city.

    It also overlooks the fact on a number of occassions Loyal Orders have voluntarily re-routed. Gestures that were never reciprocated. Was that not being reasonable?

  • Ivor Dewdney

    I’d venture to suggest that being incapable of effective mature discussion doesn’t single Mr McNarry out as being an exception to the norm for politicians here.

  • steve48

    Apart from the two Orangemen’s assciation with the DUP can I suggest that people take a close look at some of the other new members and their relationships past or present with senior DUP members. Make no mistake this is the DUP parades commission.
    The DUP are being coy at the minute but this set up is intended to give them the big win with reports that an application for the Whiterock parade to be held in January with be tabled shortly after the new year.

  • Mick Fealty

    I’m afraid there’s another one Gonzo. Kennaway is still a member of the Orange Order, and is by no means liberal in every sense of that word – though the word has become incredibly elastic in the last ten years, it’s always subject to opinion.

    Here’s that story with the application claim in it:

    ***********

    Trimble threat to go ‘in a week’

    Liam Clarke, Sunday Times, Sunday January 30, 2000

    – Tony Holland, a financial services ombudsman, has been selected as the new chairman of Northern Ireland’s **Parades** Commission. An announcement will be made in about 10 days time.

    The position attracted about 45 applications, including some from unexpected quarters. Last night **David** **McNarry**, a key Trimble
    supporter within the Orange Order, refused to confirm or deny that he had applied. “Everything I do is confidential,” said McNarry, though sources close to the commission and other candidates said he had been interviewed.

    McNarry last year said the **Parades** Commission was “pernicious” and that it had been “an enormous blunder conceived in bad taste” to introduce it.

    The post of chairman, which is part time, carries a Pounds 70,000 a year salary. Alastair Graham, the last man to hold it, did not accept the money personally.

    Holland, 62, has been the Personal Investment Authority chairman since 1997. Last November he was appointed to act as head of the investment division in the Financial Services Ombudsman scheme.

  • fair_deal

    “Apart from the two Orangemen’s association with the DUP”

    First to deal with your inaccuracy. McCay has an association with the DUP (and formerly the UUP). While David Burrows was the main point of contact for the UUP’s David McNarry with Portadown District.

    Joe Hendron has links to the SDLP.
    Anne Monaghan is a well-known NIWC activist (and a nationalist leaning one at that).
    I would wonder how strong a relationship a mainland based trade union official would have with the DUP so I don’t think you are referring to the chair. So you must be referring to Vilma Patterson and Alison Scott McKinlay.

    Any evidence to offer to substantiate your claim against these two women as being DUP stooges?

    “with reports that an application for the Whiterock parade to be held in January with be tabled shortly after the new year.”

    This is about the fourth time the claim of another whiterock has been doing the rounds.

  • Northern FF

    One more thing from the exchange.

    When Kennaway quoted the article Mick details above and asked McNarry whether it was true, McNarry asked him back:

    [pause] “What kind of creep are you?”

    Wendy wasn’t pleased.

  • Brendan, Belfast

    in the course of McNarry’s outburst and walkout, he didn’t actually deny having applied to join the Commission way abck when. I think he did – that was the talk around 2000.

    he speaks with forked tounge.

  • jim

    “This is about the fourth time the claim of another whiterock has been doing the rounds.”

    It will be interesting to see if the uvf influence on the whiterock parade will be as strong this time round.

    uvf bands, banners and members seemed to be the order of the day during the last parade.