More on loyalism’s red, white and blue Paddy’s Day in Armagh

 With loyalists intent on upstaging the St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Armagh this year, I thought it appropriate to highlight some of the contributions on the subject by individuals associated with the controversial parade.

Let’s take a look at the parade organiser and some-time contributor to Slugger, Quincey Dougan.

In 2010, Quincey penned this article. In it, he claimed that a number of factors led to protestants ‘going off’ St Patrick’s Day celebrations, whilst other senior loyalist figures were also quoted.

Grand Orange Lodge Director of Services David Hume claimed that nationalists used St Patrick’s Day parades “as a weapon, effectively using the shield of Patrick to express obvious militant anti-British and therefore anti-unionist sentiment.”

Quincey argued that Unionist disenchantment with the St Patrick’s Day parades was also because of “…..the disjointed and casual nature of the (St Patrick’s Day) parades and the now integral alcohol element alien to PUL parading tradition and customs.” (my italics)

Without the slightest nod to irony, here’s Quincey on unashamedly Blood & Thunder loyalist bands and the aggressive use of flags by……nationalists :

With a few exceptions, such as the participation of an unashamedly Loyalist Blood and Thunder band  in the 2003 Limerick St Patrick’s Band competition, Unionism still does not feel comfortable taking part in the modern version of a St Patrick’s Day parade. Concerns still exist regarding the involvement of militant Republicanism in such events along with the aggressive use of flags and symbols…..”

More recently (in fact, on Mick’s thread put up earlier this week) here’s Quincey on why the loyalist bands won’t join any civic-sponsored St Patrick’s Day parades:

Two years ago an invitation was extended. Cormeen and two other bands accepted that offer. It became apparant (sic)very quickly however that that acceptance was not expected. A list of pre-conditions was then applied to any participation. It began with colour party’s and flags not being permitted, but then went on to want all badges on uniforms covered (usually 3 with most uniforms), drum insignia covered, bass drum insignia covered, and badges on hats covered. Then it was having to agree on a pre arranged list of music that could only be played.

Following those pre-conditions would not have resulted in the participation of the bands. All elements that physically and musically contribute to their identity and what they are was having to be removed. On that parade they would cease to be ulster bands.

Please remember that Ulster bands are a tradition ingrained in the Unionist psyche. There is no equivelent in Irish Nationlism today. Ulster bands are a package. Its uniform, performance, music. Its all of those. Removing one element changes the dynamic.

This form of ‘inclusion’ is a de-facto exclusion.

Quincey reiterated this line on Good Morning Ulster earlier today, when he also claimed that the loyalist parade was about ‘building bridges.’

Let’s be clear then. Loyalists went off St. Patrick’s Day because of the excessive alcohol and lack of discipline amongst revellers and band participants. The aggressive use of flags and symbols didn’t help either. And, the fact that the day evolved into a celebration of Irishness by people comfortable with an Irish identity was also a major factor.

Oh, and we won’t be marching along with anyone else because we can’t fly our flags, sport our symbols nor play whatever music we like.

Excessive alcohol, rowdy band participants and aggressive use of flags and symbols. Who are we talking about again, Quincey?

Of course, it is worth reiterating the point that unionists are entitled to celebrate their cultural identity, including their brand of Irishness. Indeed, that was the case when the parade was held in Killylea whilst those more comfortable with a differing Irish identity were more commonly to be found assembling elsewhere, includingArmagh.

It is the fact that Quincey and his bands have deliberately decided to ratchet up tensions in the town on the spurious grounds employed for relocating this parade which is objectionable to most people- including many protestants and unionists if my own personal soundings are correct.

After all, loyalists take to town centres likeArmaghto parade on innumerable occasions throughout the year, so the reasons for this shift in location are hard to justify beyond seeking to play a spoiler’s role.

Imagine the reaction of the Loyalist Band fraternity were republican parades to be organised to coincide with 12th July parades on Belfast’s Lisburn Road and elsewhere? No amount of reconciliatory rhetoric would deflect from the reality that such a development would bring with it the potential for violence and be little more than an antagonistic gesture.

The real source of the problem for Quincey and others would appear to be the refusal to recognise and afford legitimacy to the Irish nationalist tradition in the north ofIreland.

St Patrick’s Day is a time when Irish people throughout the country and across the globe celebrate their Irish heritage and identity. For rather obvious reasons, many unionists do not identify with such celebrations whilst others feel able to, perhaps more confident in their own British/ Irish identity than the parading loyalists ofArmagh.

All the claptrap about aggressive use of symbols and anti-unionist St Patrick’s Day parades really is simply a rather poor attempt to deflect attention from that fact. Complaining that the evolution of St Patrick’s Day into a celebration of Irishness is historically ironic would carry more weight were it not for the fact that the Loyalist marching tradition is sustained by dubious historical narratives including that which seeks to brush under the carpet Papal support for the beloved William of Orange in order to maintain the simple narrative which plays out every July.

Ironically, the excuse for the change of venue from Killylea to Armagh is one which should interest nationalist groups in towns forced to host sizeable contingents of loyalist bands annually. If this parade was deemed no longer suitable for a village due to the number of bands involved, then why should villages like Rasharkin be forced into hosting band parades?


  • andnowwhat

    Just what the hell are these loyalists at? As well as last night’s parade we also had the sickening attempt by them (and unionists) to hijack the anniversary commemoration of the Corporals deaths in Antrim.

    Like their dissident republican counterparts, they seem to want to keep the fires burning.

    I wish both would take a long march of a short peer and leave the rest of us alone

  • Nevin. I’m not aware of the ‘scouts doing their thing on a twelfth march which is the relevant comparison to this. There’s no tradition of loyalists marching to celebrate a Catholic saint’s feast day, never mind one which is marked as an irish celebration round the globe.

  • ardmajel55, March 17 is a holy day for the Catholic and the Church of Ireland churches; I don’t think any other Christian denominations mark it but I could be wrong. Also note that Patrick was long gone by the time of the Reformation.

    I think the nearest parallel to the OO July 12 parades would be those held by the AOH on August 15.

    The parallel between the scouts and Cormeen is that both carried flags and this set them apart from the main parade.

    Perhaps this event is part of a larger movement. Protestant identification with the Irish label has long been in decline so perhaps this marks a sea-change in that decline. It might even be reflected in future NILT surveys, a softening of the British/Irish boundary.

  • sdelaneys

    Can’t help smiling at andnowwhat’s advice to loyalists that they should take a ‘…long march of a short peer.’ and I’m wondering which of Ken McGuinness or John Taylor would be the shortest peer.

  • sdelanys, if it’s a paper pier then a forty-foot barge pole comes to mind!

  • between the bridges

    andnowhat ‘to hijack the anniversary’ strange that there was no event to mark the anniversary until the cultural bands proposed it, one can hardly hi-jack one’s own event…anyone that attended cormeen s.o.w st patricks parade would have seen the discipline, the music and the energy that makes the cultural bands the most vibrant participatints in the community arts sector…

  • Submariner

    Btb are you serious ? Cultural bands, community arts sector. It is nothing more than sectarian bigotry in fancy dress.

  • between the bridges

    submariner yes i am serious just ask the nice sf culture minister who issues grants to the cultural bands in recognition of their role in the community arts sector…

  • andnowwhat

    Oops, pier not peer but at least it gave sdelaney a chance to make me laugh.

  • Quincey Dougan

    For reference. I had a long discussion with several Armagh orange order members and bands last night. We would like to say without fear of any objection from the rest of our community, any Irish nationalist or republican group that wants to parade in Armagh on the 12th fire away. We don’t care one iota. When our parade is over its over. You can have one within the next 5 minutes if you wish. We will be at social nights, some will be in the pub, and most will be at home with the shoes and socks off and feet in a tub of boiling salt water. Work away.

  • andnowwhat

    Nah Quincey.

    That would create a prod parade and a taig parade.

    That’s division when the rest of us are trying to work together in a very scary time for the world, the UK and Ireland.

    You keep your wee retrograde games for yourself.

  • andnowwhat

    Hey Quincey, are you going to reimburse the pubs and shops of Armagh for the money they lost in comparison to last year?

    I hear you did a survey but how honest id someone going to be when confronted with a loyalist? Seriously

  • “That would create a prod parade and a taig parade.”

    But, as has already been pointed out, there was a ‘prod’ parade and a ‘taig’ parade. andnowwhat. Variety is the spice of life so, perhaps, we just need a bit more variety.

  • HeinzGuderian

    Mick,could you please point out the comments above that added to the ‘serious discussion’ ?
    Because I must be missing it.

  • Mick Fealty

    Brian Feeney, the week before last:

    “Look there isn’t going to be cohesion or integration. If there were, then we wouldn’t be talking about a politico-ethnic conflict. What the executive needs to be doing is addressing sectarianism and that doesn’t mean abolishing diversity as the Alliance party wants or trying to wish away the two communities as the Peace Monitoring Report seems to have as its ideal.

    “On the contrary it means enhancing diversity. Let’s face it, a substantial proportion of the population doesn’t even recognise the legitimacy of Norn Irn, so for the report to pose the question ‘One Northern Ireland?’ is fatuous and redundant. What the report’s statistics show is that the Catholic community, particularly educated Catholic women, are at last taking their rightful place in the north’s society.

    “The questions the report’s authors should be asking are how to ensure Protestants feel secure and not threatened by this phenomenon. Instead they talk gibberish about cohesion and integration and one society, which only makes the Protestant community feel it is going to be swamped in a Fenian tide.”

  • Mick Fealty


    Try making a contribution that has impact on the general discussion?

  • “What the executive needs to be doing is addressing sectarianism and that doesn’t mean abolishing diversity .. or trying to wish away the two communities”

    Is Brian an enthusiastic supporter of the ‘two community’ scenario? Does he not realise that sectarianism is its love-child? I take it that he means Unionist and Nationalist – or to put it a little differently, Catholics and the rest. Statistics are mostly only provided for Catholics, the largest Christian sect in our society. How are Methodists, agnostics, atheists, Poles and Chinese performing in the allocation of jobs and housing or on the poverty ladder?

    Brian only appears to be concerned about the fate of Catholics – never mind the rest of society. He talks about enhancing diversity but he’s firmly hooked on the ‘Prods/Taigs’ breakdown.

    I grew up in a mostly Presbyterian setting. The Catholic and CoI concept of parish was alien to me; my Presbyterian neighbours mostly went to different churches – if you didn’t like the new minister or you fell out with someone you moved on. My interest in genealogy has brought the parish more to the fore.

    When I went to QUB in ’62 – sure it’s only 50 years ago 🙂 – I arrived in an era of relative liberalism – if there was a division it was more between the Medics and the Engineers – for me the novelty of Catholics and Methodists soon wore off. My chaplain was Ray Davey who I got to know much later in his inspirational role in Corrymeela – the ‘open village’. The Glee Club in the old Union with Phil Coulter, Dan Farmer and the late Sean Armstrong was the highlight of my social life at QUB; it was a well I drew on later at Corrymeela and in JCSS, the Coleraine and district inter-schools group.

    I got involved in Corrymeela and JCSS in 1971 at a time when Ian Paisley and John Hume headed up the confrontations between the ‘Prods’ and the ‘Taigs’, confrontations which even by that stage had led to a lot of blood on the streets. To some it might seem strange that whilst the hatches were being battened down we were almost but not quite carrying on regardless. The crack that I’d experienced in QUB took root and flourished in JCSS. We were very fortunate to have an opportunity to display our ‘talents’ at Corrymeela – just 20 miles down the road. Even the apparently mundane business of door-to-door collecting produced great camaraderie as they headed off in pairs and returned for tea, biscuits and chat.

    JCSS was nothing if not diverse. Back in the 70s there were boarders from different parts of the world and JCSS was a great opportunity for them to escape boarding school routine. I’ve mentioned Ann Travers previously. Amongst the group that night (about 15) there was a boy whose father had been murdered by the IRA, a boy in a frock who became a Church of Ireland clergyman, a boy who became Young Citizen of Ireland, a girl whose father became a SF councillor and a girl whose father became an SDLP minister.

    As Brian from an earlier era – and now rapidly approaching 50 – put it on my Facebook page a while back, “JCSS – four letters that changed my life”. He didn’t say if it was for the better or for the worse 🙂

    I’ve tried to encourage my Moyle councillor friends to be more inclusive but it’s a bit of an uphill struggle 🙂 As one put it recently about one of his colleagues it’s all very well taking a stance but sometimes it will lead to a brick through the window – or a death threat. The dark side hasn’t gone away for councillors.