The Twelfth: ‘it ain’t all burger vans and bouncy castles’

Lyra McKee, Justin Cartwright, Ted Leddy, Barton Creeth, Colin McCusker, Brian John Spencer

Lyra McKee, Justin Cartwright, Ted Leddy, Barton Creeth, Colin McCusker, Brian John Spencer

On Saturday I attended one of the flagship Twelfth demonstrations in Markethill, County Armagh, at the invitation of Orangeman and Ulster Unionist mayor of Craigavon, Colin McCusker. The day was arranged through a friend of mine who comes from a Catholic background in North Belfast. Our intention was no greater than to enjoy a day out with friends and to learn a bit more about Orange culture. I joined commentator and cartoonist, Brian John Spencer; investigative journalist, Lyra McKee; the Fine Gael deputy mayor of Fingal, Ted Leddy; and Australian-born SDLP activist and recent council candidate, Justin Cartwright. While all of us are outsiders to the Orange institutions in some form or another, we were all made to feel incredibly welcomed and included in the day’s events.

If you’ve never attended a country parade, I’ll describe the atmosphere. The streets are lined with people relaxing in lawn chairs, drinking tea and tins of beer, and eating sarnies and crisps. Kids run about and give parents a chance to chat and catch up. Guitarists play pop songs, stands sell coffee and tray bakes. The only explicitly political stand I saw was Willie Frazer and FAIR set up under a banner that read, “OTR: Only Terrorists Run.” Then, of course, the town is bedecked in red, white and blue. Union flags, bunting and Northern Ireland flags cover every corner of every street. It’s not a beacon of inclusiveness—if by inclusiveness you mean culturally neutral. But by no means is it the “hate fest” some would like to mischaracterise the Twelfth as.

The feeling in town is pleasant, celebratory and family-oriented. Bands from all over Northern Ireland and Scotland join with different Orange lodges and parade down the high street towards a field where bouncy castles, burger vans, a stage and a podium await them. As they march, the lodges carry banners that are intricately painted and tell different stories of history and religious events. The men wear immaculate suits beneath their orange collarettes. Each collarette is then decorated in personalised pins which tell the story of each Orange member’s life and beliefs, making each collarette remarkably personal: RAF, Bible, regional lodge, etc.

The music is markedly different than in Belfast Twelfth demonstrations. Belfast parades usually never contain brass, pipe or accordion bands. Rather, Belfast bands are almost entirely flute bands. The tune selection is different too. Without trying to stereotype, there are some Belfast bands that don’t ever seem to learn more than “The Sash,” “Billy Boys,” and “God Save the Queen.” Country bands, on the other hand, play a collection of sacred and traditional tunes, of which I heard “It’s a long way to Tipperary” and “Tell me Ma.” My experience of Blood and Thunder bands is that the music is secondary to the experience of marching. The bands at Markethill, however, took pride in their collective discipline and trained musicianship. The pipe bands play with a solemn dignity and precision I would almost associate with high liturgy. Then there are the Lambeg players. These traditionally-crafted drums are loud and heavy, and some of the older players were assisted by friends who carried the drums from the front to share the burden of the weight.

I didn’t catch what was said at the podium because I was being treated to lunch and tea by Colin’s family, and didn’t pay much attention, which, to be fair, seems to be the norm. While sitting and chatting, UUP DRD Minister Danny Kennedy came by for a chat. He met our Fine Gael and SDLP friends then hurried off to catch up with his lodge. The short chats and brief reunions of people meeting in the field are an important part of the day.

The Twelfth means something different to each participant. Some enjoy the camaraderie experienced by playing music with others. Some enjoy the connection the day gives them to history and their family heritage. For some, marching is a sacred rite. Some want to assert their Britishness and, sadly, antagonise their neighbours. But most seem to simply enjoy the day as a family event. Not all of what happens on the Twelfth is nice. Some engage in heavy drinking. And in some parts of Northern Ireland recently, there were instances that indicate there are deep problems with sectarianism, racism, and a fear-based hatred within loyalist communities. This must be condemned outright. That said, Justin Cartwright had his SDLP election poster burned on a Sandy Row bonfire. That did not prevent him from feeling welcomed and comfortable in Markethill.

It’s unfair, I believe, to characterise the entirety of a culture based on the deviant and hateful behaviour of a minority within that culture. Indeed, this form of reductivism is sectarian. Yet there are serious issues that need to be addressed. “It ain’t all burger vans and bouncy castles!” as one respondent cautioned on Twitter in response to tweets Justin put out about his experience. It is important for those who love the traditions and culture associated with the Twelfth to interrogate why in some parades, some bands do seem intent on stoking sectarian tensions; and why some people put racist and hateful paraphernalia onto the bonfires. But I believe that the “nicer bits” of the Twelfth aren’t just gloss over the “nasty bits”—the history of domination, triumphalism, sectarianism, and bigotry that many commentators point to. What I witnessed was an open, gracious, and welcoming culture proud of its unique traditions, if not somewhat wary of the future of its survival.

Religious diversity remains a cause of tension and violence not just here in Northern Ireland, but all across the world. The solution isn’t to eradicate religion from public life. In the case of the Twelfth, I would like, as the catholic priest Fr. Magill recently said in the Irish News, to see more Protestantism demonstrated on the Twelfth. What’s needed is more religious humility.

The Calvinist theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, says the solution to religious diversity

requires a very high form of religious commitment. It demands that each religion, or each version of a single faith, seek to proclaim its highest insights while yet preserving an humble and contrite recognition of the fact that all actual expressions of religious faith are subject to historical contingency and relativity. Such a recognition creates a spirit of tolerance and makes any religious or cultural movement hesitant to claim official validity for its form of religion or to demand an official monopoly for its cult.

A pluralist, multi-cultural society in Northern Ireland must include a protected place for Orange traditions. Without trying to deny the history of violence, harm, intimidation and fear caused to many Catholics and Nationalists by those that participate in the Twelfth, I would also say that many people need to reevaluate their attitudes towards Orange culture. While there is more than burger vans and bouncy castles, there is likewise more than the instances of bigotry and triumphalism.

At the same time, as the Orange Order seeks to find a place for itself in the new Northern Ireland, I would advocate it show more religious humility. “Religious humility,” Niebuhr says, “is in perfect accord with the presuppositions of a democratic society… Faith ought to be a constant fount of humility; for it ought to encourage men to moderate their natural pride and to achieve some decent consciousness of the relativity of their own statement of even the most ultimate truth.” For the rest of us, instead of judging a religious and cultural tradition by its worst elements, we should seek to see those traditions live into and promote the highest form of its ideals. In the case of Orangism, this is the promotion of religious and civil liberties for all.


  • Big Yellow Crane

    Wow. I think I’ve got something in my eye. Please send this to the people at “The Journal”, Barton. See if they can add it as an opinion piece.

  • Conor Conneally

    There may be a difference between the marches in rural places and Belfast but it doesn’t change the fact that the orange order is an explicitly sectarian organisation that is discriminatory, supremacist and entrenches division. It may be more subtle but the anti catholic hatred is still present in rural lodges. The orange order should be consigned to the pages of history.

  • Perhaps Quincey Dougan could add something of an insider’s view to this conversation. Isn’t this adjacent to his home territory? Here are two links: Markethill District website and Facebook page.

    Flagship is a new term to me. Does it represent the merger of several annual demonstrations? Up in north Antrim, five districts take it in turn to host the demonstration in five local towns and villages whereas there were eleven districts gathered together in Markethill. Some of these centres will have a mainly unionist population, others a mainly nationalist one.

    IIRC mid-Armagh would have encompassed Irish, English and Scottish traditions yet the Markethill events appear to give undue precedence to the Scottish ones. Some of the participants may have a strong aversion to dancing but why shouldn’t there be Irish and English traditional dancing as well as traditional dances from other cultural groups in that part of the country. Isn’t variety supposed to be the spice of life?

    “the history of domination, triumphalism, sectarianism, and bigotry that many commentators point to”

    You’ll always find a commentator with an axe to grind but some be-grudgers are just old misery guts!

  • Clanky

    I disagree Connor and it is exactly that kind of view which gives fuel to the likes of Willie Frazer and co. when they claim that the entire unionist culture is under attack.

    Rather than calling for the abolition of the orange order unionists should be made to see that it is OK to celebrate their faith and culture so long as there is not an anti catholic agenda included in that, I agree that this requires massive change within the OO, but if unionists can accept Sinn Fein having renounced violence then surely nationalists could accept an Orange Order which celebrates the protestant faith without being anti catholic or anti Irish.

  • sk

    Great read. Were the Belfast lodges to emulate places like Markethill in tone and spirit, there would be very little to take issue with on the twelfth of July. Sadly, with people like George Chittick and Mervyn Gibson running the show in the capital, cultural detente is as far away as ever. I don’t know why the rural brethren put up with it.

  • Mirrorballman

    “Rather than calling for the abolition of the orange order unionists should be made to see that it is OK to celebrate their faith and culture so long as there is not an anti catholic agenda included in that, I agree that this requires massive change within the OO, but if unionists can accept Sinn Fein having renounced violence then surely nationalists could accept an Orange Order which celebrates the protestant faith without being anti catholic or anti Irish.”

    Could not agree more Clanky. That change however will need to come from within the unionist family. If they are told “it’s ok to celebrate as long as you do it like this” it wont work.

  • Mirrorballman,

    ” That change however will need to come from within the unionist family.”
    That is exactly the point I made over on my own blog which touches on similar themes to Barton above. My question is- which Orange Order is the real one?

  • Tacapall

    The change that needs to come needs to come from within the British establishment. What happens in this part of Ireland would not be tolerated in England. The annual turning a blind eye to the desecration of the environment and public and private property needs to end just like the turning a blind eye to the public displays of hatred directed at the Catholic church, Irish people and now any group or individual who happens not to be classed as British. Why should the majority have to pay through taxes the ever rising cost of not only policing these ever increasing thousands of parades but the clean up costs of a tradition thats incompatible with the 21st century.

  • turquoise_unionist

    Generally agree with this article. I live in a loyalist area of north Belfast. There are many parades (lodge and/or band) in my area throughout the year, i don’t bother with any of them. However, on the 12th July i would tend to go to one of the country parades to watch the return march; this year i went to Ballinderry. It is much more laid back and it’s without the tension and (growing) anger you find in parts of Belfast. Much less of the ‘blue bag’ brigade as well.

    I also enjoyed the atmosphere at the pageant in Carrickfergus on the 13th, which included a re-enactment of the siege of Carrick castle, traditional 17th century crafts & musicians and the landing of King William. It was also enjoyable to see the historical regimental flags planted around the ‘camp’… ironically the ones that looked most like loyalist flags (a large red hand of Ulster one with ‘For King & Country’ written in Latin, and an orange flag with a crown) in fact belonged to regiments fighting on the side of James II.

  • Comrade Stalin

    This is an excellent article. I agree with about 99% of it. I strongly disagree with 1% of it.

    The 12th out in the country is a different experience from Belfast and friends with relatives in the OO have given me, over the years, a similar picture of what it’s like. Many, in fact I’d agree that most, Orangemen are innately decent and in no way would intend any ill-will on any of their neighbours (RC or otherwise). They’re just out for a traditional day out, and nobody fair could object to that.

    It will take a lot, though, to disabuse me of my opinion of the Orange Order. Firstly, I’m well aware that the organization claims to promote peace, the law, and tolerance for diverse views. However, a person would struggle to find evidence of the Order making good on this promise during the course of its 300 year history. My knowledge of the Order’s intervention in civic society has been that it uses its influence as a bulwark against progress, against equality, and against political compromise. I’d quite happily accept evidence showing otherwise.

    Moreover, my earliest political memories involve the 12th or the period running up to it, and the serious political instability that occurred at the behest of the Order. I was a teenager when Drumcree was happening. I remember senior unionist politicians, people like Martyn Smyth, who went on TV and in full public view said that breaking the law, blocking roads and other actions were the correct tactic to use in order for the Order to secure its traditional route down Garvaghy Road (I still find it amazing that politicians can make such comments without being arrested).

    Orangemen were asked to converge on the area in Portadown and it was widely put about that the 12th July (due to happen about a week after the date of the parade) was on hold until the Drumcree parade went ahead. David Trimble, well known Orangeman, could be seen wagging his finger at police officers trying to contain the situation, while he went off to meet with Billy Wright, whose organization threatened to start shooting Catholics until the parade went ahead. At one point, a tanker was driven behind the lines of soldiers who were blocking the road and a story was circulated that it contained petrol which would be sprayed on the soldiers and set alight.

    The Orange Order, at that point, was the fulcrum of a larger movement to subvert and overthrow the state and the rule of law. It was a partial coup; it held the ordinary people of this country to ransom in order to make the point that it would not allow its power and influence to be trampled upon.

    So, while I absolutely agree that the 12th and most of the things associated with it are an important aspect of our society, and must be tolerated and preserved (with public money if needs be) it’s asking too much for me to accept the OO as some sort of a bastion of tolerance and decency. I agree that it is very hard to square the gap between the OO’s history and the many extremely decent and law abiding people who make up the Order’s ranks, although the Order’s shrinking numbers over the years, especially post-Drumcree, suggest to me that there are quite a few Protestants having the same problem.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Great article Barton.
    I’d like to hear Joe Hoggs’ opinion on this.
    We can see from the responses below that most people accept that there is a decent face to the OO that many/most (?) people don’t have a problem with.
    Does this not serve to highlight that when people are criticising the antics of the urban OO (and their hangers-on) that they are in general doing so because there is something wrong with it?
    Every time we criticise the likes of Twaddell some one tries to highlight how decent the OO can be, as if this somehow offsets the trouble in Belfast.
    Well, highlight no longer, Barton Creeth has done it for you.
    But, ardoyne, the bonfires and such like are still a problem.
    Why can’t the OO enforce some sort of code of conduct in Belfast?
    Why not just boot the Belfast districts out of the OO? They could be the OO of Belfast.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    If it can be like this, then why not force Belfast to ‘toe the line’?

  • Megatron

    “Kids run about and give parents a chance to chat and catch up. Guitarists play pop songs, stands sell coffee and tray bakes.”

    As a father of four you lost me with that line! Running about != giving parents a chance to catch up

  • “I was a teenager when Drumcree was happening.”

    CS, I presume that you, as well as members of the OO and others, react to what you see and what you read and interpret these things through a prism of prejudice.

    Events might have turned out quite differently had the BBC continued not only to broadcast the Dick Spring briefing‘the British Government advised by the security forces’ – but also had educated its audience about the covert relationships that existed between the two governments and the SDLP and others post-1985. As it was, the police got blamed for decisions taken by politicians. A little bit of investigative journalism would also have revealed the nature of the Athboy conspiracy.

    The Irish civil servant who generously provided me with the Spring transcript is now ambassador in Seoul, South Korea.

  • babyface finlayson

    Am Ghobsmacht
    A galloping man on a blind horse can see that the bulk (though not all) of the problems relate to the Belfast districts.
    But anyone disposed to showing any goodwill to the Orange must wonder why the rest of the Irish Orders allow the tail to wag the dog.
    The sooner they put their house in order the better as our politicians lack the will to tackle problem.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Nevin, this is pure whataboutery. It’s like someone blaming the old Stormont regime for the La Mon bombing.

    Problems with parades in Portadown date back to the 1980s. But what’s the point, you’re not listening.

  • “Nevin, this is pure whataboutery.”

    CS, you asked for some evidence so I provided it. You probably don’t even appreciate the irony in ‘ not listening’ 🙂

    I do have some knowledge of north Armagh’s long troubled past so that’s partly why I do some background research rather than just wade in with big boots on. You’ll not find that illuminating briefing in the BBC or CAIN archives. I did offer it to both but they refused the offer. I also doubt very much if you’ll find any examination of the briefing in academic studies.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I’m not getting bogged down in your nonsense again Nevin. You didn’t supply any evidence at all. You repeated your conspiracy theory based on your carefully and selectively interpreted version of events.

  • CS, the briefing clearly shows that the first decision attributed to the Chief Constable was taken by a Government minister following a partisan intervention by the Irish government. That’s not my idea of responsible governance – or media reporting.

    Why the silly ‘theory’ diversionary tactic when the conspiracy was acknowledged by Gerry Adams amongst a gathering of friends?

  • Comrade Stalin

    What has any of that got to do with any of what I was talking about concerning the nature of the OO and its conduct during Drumcree ?

    You’re deliberately dragging the discussion off topic.

  • “For the rest of us, instead of judging a religious and cultural tradition by its worst elements”

    Barton, there may be an element of misinterpretation. It’s my understanding that the OO became the focus of SF attrition post-1994 because of its pro-UK stance, not because of any religious or cultural issues. AFAIK there are usually three resolutions [youtube] proposed and seconded at Twelfth demonstrations – Faith [Protestant], Loyalty [Queen] and State [UK] – and this year there was also an emergency resolution.

  • CS, you make the mistake of looking at one of the players in isolation whereas any attempt at understanding events would look at the various actions of the key players, including the media. As I pointed out to start with, neither you nor members of the OO were privy to the whole picture.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    I would agree with some of the
    article (probably 65%), however I think while the author touches on some key
    issues others are glossed over.

    Personally from a Fermanagh perspective I would question the discipline of some of the Brethren within the ranks and their appearance. This article suggests that in Markethill they were immaculate which I would struggle to believe. In Fermanagh while 80% were 20% were dressed very inappropriately for a public parade e.g. not dressed in suits etc. A lack of co-ordination made many lodges look embarrassing, it seems to be too easy to jump into and out of the ranks and lodges really need to take
    ownership of this – nothing worse than uneven rows – is it so hard to have six
    men on one side and six on the other rather than three on one side and nine on
    the other?

    Alcohol is a severe issue at the Twelfth but it is worse at Scarva. There were actually
    no go areas this year with the entire forest walk leading into the field awash
    with intoxicated and extremely dangerous hanger-ons. Police turned a blind eye
    to this and allowed people to bring their own alcohol into the small village.
    In fact in relation to Scarva, the event has now become too big for this small
    village and something is going to go very wrong here. This year the parade was
    plagued with stoppages as people were left stranded on the road with nowhere to
    stand on the sides. Scarva also creates an educational problem with many
    thinking James actually got killed here by William and there is of course no literature
    available to the contrary. I would say that in relation to Scarva that this is
    a much more disciplined and better parade than any Orange parade.

    It’s also time to remove the street preachers at these events whom are unnecessary and whom nobody listens to, there is a religious service at the field and this is more than adequate, unfortunately not too many people venture towards the field on the Twelfth.

    Public conveniences are non-existent and many Brethren and band members are left to publically expose themselves in order to relieve themselves – action is needed here.

    I have to say the Fermanagh parade was significantly larger this year with increased numbers on parade which was a welcome change but the Orange needs to do more to educate people at the Twelfth as to what they’re about and to recruit new members into their ranks.

  • Comrade Stalin

    In what way does being privy, or not, to the whole picture explain or excuse the conduct of the OO?

  • Zeno

    “Why can’t the OO enforce some sort of code of conduct in Belfast?
    Why not just boot the Belfast districts out of the OO? They could be the OO of Belfast.”

    Sectarianism has been visiting Belfast since the early 1600’s. Obviously the fact that over 1800 people were murdered in North and West Belfast during the “Troubles” didn’t help.

  • Those who are not privy to the whole picture are quite likely to blame the wrong people when matters get out of hand and that weakens the position of more moderate voices. In many communities, paramilitaries determine not only who passes through certain areas but who lives there. The Athboy debacle strengthened the hand of loyalist and republican paramilitaries and weakened the influence of the OO and other groups across Northern Ireland. When the British government reversed its decision the Irish government went ballistic but the whole affair really set back community relations, for example, in places like the north coast.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Exactly how did the Athboy debacle, as you call it, strengthen the hand of paramilitaries ? How did it set back community relations ?

  • Nick Smith

    I wonder if you’ve ever been at the Notting Hill Festival? Or many other parties that happen throughout the UK which desecrate the environement and public and private property in just the same way?

  • Tacapall

    Really Nick ! Do they burn tyres and shit out in the middle of the main road or close to hospitals blocking entrances or better still does any festival other than this place give council grants to pollute the environment with toxic fumes, allow images or posters of Black or Muslim MPs, councillors, clerics, ill children, religious icons from the Muslim community on these council funded bonfires. If you could post us some proof of this happening annually anywhere else in the UK it would be helpful.

  • Nick Smith

    Toilet in the road? Yup – toilet (lack of) facilities at Notting Hill festival are a perennial problem. Burning tyres – generally yes, certainly on Guy Fawkes, Notting Hill probably not. The racist stuff, no – you’ll note I didn’t comment on ‘public displays of hatred’ in your statement. But – community parades are messy things, whether in Ulster or anywhere else

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Am Ghobsmacht,
    Tuppence worth added above.

  • Tacapall

    Like I said Nick when you post up evidence.

    By the way over here they are not community parades they are supposedly religious demonstrations.

  • During the course of a confrontation or a tug-of-war the limp-lettuce garden-centre types might be useful fools but they really don’t cut much ice with the muscular elements in society, CS. The deterioration in community relationships now appears to be worse on the north coast than it was during the height of the Troubles. AFAIK there is only one APNI councillor in the new 40-member Causeway Coast and Glens super council.

  • Comrade Stalin

    You didn’t answer my question (again). How, exactly, did the Athboy conspiracy as you call it effect community relations ?

  • Comrade Stalin

    You’re actually more negative than I would have been 🙂

    People taking a leak in public is a problem and not one exclusive to 12th related events. I’d support having the council fund some portaloos along the major route(s) within its jurisdiction to deal with this problem.

    Fix that, and the public drinking (an agreed enforcement strategy with the police would probably help) and you’re well on the way to solving a lot of those issues. I wonder if there’s a way that a tent could be set up for people to bring and consume their carryouts, with strict enforcement outside.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Loyalty to the state means upholding the rulings of the police and the Parades Commission, which during the 1990s the Orange Order did not do.

  • Maureen O’Brien

    I am so glad you and your friends enjoyed a lovely day in the country being entertained by members of the Orange Order. This comment is to remind you that many In the Nationalist community did not have a nice day (or week) at all. When the Orange Order begins to wake up and accept its responsibility to ensure that all UK citizens are treated with respect, then the Orange Order may find its cultural traditions similarly respected.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Tuppence worth noted Joe. Good man.

  • CS, I thought I’d already pointed out that it had strengthened the hand of paramilitaries, the people who determine who lives in or moves where in many parts of Northern Ireland. Susan McKay gives you a flavour of life in part of Coleraine in 2004. In the 70s and 80s our young people in JCSS could move around and live in most parts of Coleraine in relative safety whereas recent news stories from the town paint a very different picture.

    Moyle District Council has a Good Relations Officer but you’d hardly believe it when you sit in on a Council meeting. The recent attack on a disused OO hall in Ballycastle was followed by an attack on GAA premises, according to a local SF councillor.

  • CS, it seems that either you haven’t read or else you haven’t understood that Dick Spring briefing in so far as it affects decisions attributed to the police but not made by them. As for the Parades Commission, it appeared to be little more than a sop to republican paramilitaries in one of those quaint Blair side-deals, perhaps with a little partisan prompting in the style of Dick Spring. You might also note that there’s a separation between faith, loyalty and state and I suspect there’s some significance in the order of the three resolutions ie faith may well trump the other two.

  • Am Ghobsmacht


    “Scarva also creates an educational problem with many
    thinking James actually got killed here by William and there is of course no literature available to the contrary.

    I thought I’d remembered it that way but couldn’t be sure.
    I wonder how many people would be enraged if you told them that he wasn’t actually killed?

  • Comrade Stalin

    What evidence do you have that decisions made by the police were effected by comments made by the Irish government ?

    In exactly what way is the Parades Commission a sop to republican paramilitaries in a way that the previous legislative environment (where police were simply required to choose which decision would have a lower public order impact) was not ?

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Good suggestions Joe, unfortunately in Fermanagh the County use the Council funding to entertain special guests in the evening – usually by bringing them to a plush hotel. The guests are usually people from the ROI either elected or belonging to a Nationalist organisation.
    Improving discipline within the Orange ranks in Fermanagh also needs to be addressed.

  • Comrade Stalin

    You pointed out that it strengthened the hand of the paramilitaries. I asked you how exactly it did this. You still haven’t answered this.

  • The decision that Dick Spring referred to at the beginning of July 1996 was taken by the British government following a proposal from the Irish government. The detail, though rather poorly explained, is in that briefing. I heard the briefing in the morning but by lunchtime the BBC broadcast IIRC a statement from the SoS attributing the decision to the Chief Constable. The Chief Constable later claimed that he made the decision whereas the briefing merely indicates that his opinion would have been sought. I’d been in touch with the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin in 1995 whilst on a local history research jaunt so I rang DFA and asked for a transcript which they faxed through to me. I suspect the main reason the BBC was leant on was the light the briefing shed on the nature of communications between London and Dublin, not least Dublin’s role in day-to-day decision making here. I was already a little familiar with this covert role thanks to information provided by a member of the SDLP and by a UK civil servant.

    I don’t rule out SoS and Dublin invention in more recent contentious decisions whether it be in regard to policing or to parades.

  • Nick Smith

    Well, with regard to toilets it’s just a given –

    During my misspent youth in the countryside tire burning was a reasonably common pastime, which was severely frowned upon most of the year, not so much in November.

    Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting that Orange Order parades are a model of hygienic rectitude – just that having drunken youngsters behave badly/pee/poo/shag/throw fireworks/make noise is something that happens pretty much anywhere there are parades (of any sort, really). Assuming that it only happens in the North of Ireland is wishful thinking.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Nevin, that entire paragraph is speculation. What exactly makes you think that, had the Irish government not intervened (as you are speculating) that the British government and the Chief Constable would not have independently decided to reroute the parade anyway ?

    In 1985, a decision was made to reroute the St Patrick’s Accordion Band away from a section of Park Road where there was a majority Protestant community) after Arnold Hatch Ulster Unionist councillor and a group of loyalists staged a sit-down protest on the road which led to the police rerouting the parade away. If your contention is that parades don’t get rerouted without the intervention of external forces then can you explain why this happened ?

  • Comrade Stalin

    No answer to this one, Nevin.

  • carl marks

    Clanky is of
    course right, the question is can the OO change?

    Parts of it don’t really need to change as we can see in the many parades that take place (quite a few in areas with nationalist majorities) both they and their neighbours seem
    to have agreed to disagree.

    The OO in
    Belfast seems to be a lot closer to the corner boy /thug section of unionism than the OO in Armagh, the types of bands hired by the lodges would seem to be an indicator of the lodge’s attitude.

    E.g. the
    pride of Ardoyne band which has the names of loyalist terrorists on their backswould only be hired by a lodge with sympathy’s towards loyalist murder gangs (which may be a hint as to why the nationalist residents of the Crumlin Rd don’t want them passing their houses) and to be honest the behaviour of many Orangemen during parade leaves a lot to be desired, a couple of days ago the Irish Newsprinted pictures of a Orangeman in full regalia outside St Patricks Churchgiving the finger to residents while photographing them! Why would a Christian dothis and what action was taken by the OO (or indeed the police) over this.

    I agree that nationalists should (and in many places have) accept a OO that stops these outward displays of hate ( we
    cannot demand they change how they feel but we can demand they change how theybehave) but like all addicts those hooked on hate have to admit they have aproblem before they can be helped and the OO in Belfast doesn’t believe it’sdoing anything wrong.

  • CS, I observe it but I don’t comment on it in detail – for reasons that should be obvious.

  • CS, I’ve provided the evidence but you’re now asking me to speculate on what the SoS and CC might have done in the absence of a partisan intervention by the Irish government. I also didn’t speculate on any direct link between Spring’s rather less than covert intervention and the Athboy debacle. This wasn’t the only time I challenged the SoS’s assertions. A stronger MSM might produce more open and accountable governance as well as focusing blame, where appropriate, on the culprits as distinct from the scapegoats.

  • Joe_Hoggs
  • Comrade Stalin

    You’ve not provided any evidence at all Nevin. You are asserting that the intervention of the Irish government caused the British government/Chief Constable to make a particular decision on a parades route. In that light I don’t see why you would have a problem speculating what might have happened had the Irish government not commented.

    The “stronger MSM” stuff is a cop-out as it sounds like you are asserting that you know you’re right but the evidence that supports your argument hasn’t been found yet.

    So, in summary, your entire case is unsupported by any substantive evidence and you have offered nothing to explain why similar parades rerouting decisions were made in the 1980s many years before “Athboy”.

  • Why are you tying yourself up in knots, CS? The CC didn’t make the July 1996 decision he claimed to make and the BBC pulled the Spring briefing, presumably under pressure from the British government. It’s really not that complicated and references to other parades, on your part, are no more than an attempted diversion.

  • Morpheus

    Joe, I respect your honesty so I was wondering what your thoughts were on this article in today’s Belfast Telegraph…

    “Shankill Butcher steward as Orange march passed a Catholic church”

    The fact that he was a steward in the first place means little but what is interesting is that 35 years after he was convicted for his part in the Shankill Butchers gang that killed 19 Catholics and Protestants, he is still a fully paid up collerette wearing member. The article reads:

    “A spokesman for the Orange Order DEFENDED the Shankill Butcher’s role in the organisation, saying:

    “I can confirm that Eddie McIlwaine is a member of that lodge and in good standing — meaning he is fully paid up. Mr McIlwaine was not |convicted of murder. He served his prison term and was not |released under the (Good Friday) Agreement. There are people of varying political persuasions who have done things other people would find abhorrent, not all of whom served their prison sentences. As long as Mr McIlwaine |upholds the principle of the |institution and has paid his debt to society he has done nothing wrong.”

    Does this mark the end of the OO passing comment on the pasts of Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness, Gerry Kelly etc?

    I know this is not the OO you signed up to, I honestly do feel for you

  • “As long as Mr McIlwaine |upholds the principle of the |institution and has paid his debt to society he has done nothing wrong.”

    This looks like a straight lift from Ireland Click 22 July 2003:

    As long as Mr McIlwaine upholds the principle of the institution and has paid his debt to society he has done nothing wrong, not like the allegations against the MP for Mid-Ulster (Martin McGuinness).

    The OO ought to be confronted again with the same questions.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    I’m not comfortable with him being a member but the OO is partially about rehabilitation in that members are often steered away from a life of crime or are at least given a second chance via membership of the institution.
    I do think that it’s something that needs to be looked at though.

  • Morpheus

    What about Gerry Adam’s rehabilitation taking them down the path of peace for the past few decades? McGuinesses? Kelly?

    To confirm, a Shankill Butcher – a gang who randomly selected innocent people for murder and mutilation, including the murder of a 10 year old boy – is to this day a fully paid up member despite his convictions, used as an OO steward on the 12th.

    In case you don’t know the full horror of what his gang did, here is a 4-part documentary from Stephen Nolan:


    I think the days of the OO talking about SF’s past are gone, don’t you think?

  • Morpheus

    2003? So this has been in the public domain for over a decade?


  • Joe_Hoggs

    Gerry and Martin have never confessed to their sins, been tried for them or spent any meaningful time in jail.

  • Morpheus

    Excuse me? I think you will find that both did time for the offenses which they were found guilty of – Adams in fact did time without even being charged so I think he might even be in credit as far as the prison service goes. As for their sins, then they, like all of us, will take that up with the man upstairs when the time comes – as will your Brother (or is it Brethren?) in the OO.

    Surely Joe, you can see the blatant hypocrisy in all this?

    Gerry Adam, SF – never confessed to his sins, been tried for them or spent any meaningful time in jail = BAD

    Eddie McIlwaine,OO member, Shankill Butcher – part of a gang which abducted, tortured, murdered and mutilated people for no other reason than their religion but he’s OK because he has been “rehabilitated” and is a fully paid up member.

    Let me take the OO statement and make a few changes

    “Mr Adams was not convicted of murder. He served his prison term and was not released under the (Good Friday) Agreement. There are people of varying political persuasions who have done things other people would find abhorrent, not all of whom served their prison sentences. As long as Mr Adams upholds the principle of peace and has paid his debt to society he has done nothing wrong.”

    How does that sit with you?

  • Joe_Hoggs

    I have no option but to accept Mr. Adams as something resembling a messiah as one of the most powerful men in the country.

  • Morpheus

    Messiah? Hardly. He too will meet his maker someday and will answer for what he has done and what he has failed to.

    What is your view on McIlwaine – should he be expelled?

  • Joe_Hoggs


  • Morpheus

    Appreciate your honesty.

    Is the selective, expedient application of the rules frustrating?

  • Comrade Stalin

    The CC didn’t make the July 1996 decision he claimed to make

    You’ve no evidence for this.

    the BBC pulled the Spring briefing, presumably under pressure from the British government.

    You’ve no evidence for this either, and “presumably” doesn’t get you out of it.

    It’s really not that complicated and references to other parades, on your part, are no more than an attempted diversion.

    Earlier in this discussion you said it was necessary to look at the wider context to understand the matter properly. Now you are complaining because I think the context has to include previous parades in exactly the same area. It sounds like you want to include only wider context that supports your speculation and exclude context that undermines it. This is plain old confirmation bias. Nothing complicated about that.