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A Discussion of Parading Disputes in Northern Ireland
There are four main players involved in organising loyalist parades:
2. 1 The Orange Institution
In terms of both the size of the Institution and its political status, the Orange is the most important of the loyal orders. At its peak during the earlier part of this century it could probably boast 100,000 members, although in recent years membership has probably shrunk to nearer 40,000. There is scarcely a townland or village in Northern Ireland with a significant Protestant population that does not have an Orange lodge. Most villages have at least one Orange hall, and many have more than one.
The Orange Institution was formed in 1795 during sectarian clashes in County Armagh. To begin with it struggled to gain 'respectability', with the parades reflecting localised sectarian politics and frequently ending in civil disturbances. Those gentry that were involved in the Institution often failed to control the lower class membership. Only during the second half of the nineteenth century, as the threat of Home Rule grew, did substantial sections of the Protestant middle and upper classes become involved in Orangeism. With a few notable exceptions nearly all senior Unionist politicians since the 1870s have been members of the Institution. The Institution also has support from a significant number of the clergy in the larger Protestant churches and, until recently, was patronised by employers and large landowners. The Orange Institution has played a considerable role in the social, political and economic life of Northern Ireland.
The basic organisational structure was strongly influenced by Freemasonry (Dewar, Brown and Long 1967). Each member joins a local lodge at the invitation of members in that lodge. They are asked to meet the standards set by the 'Qualifications of an Orangeman'. These state that an Orangeman should have ' sincere love and veneration for his Heavenly Father ... a humble and steadfast faith in Jesus Christ ... believing him to be the only Mediator between God and man'. An Orangeman should Q cultivate truth and justice, brotherly kindliness and charity, devotion and piety, concord and unity, and obedience to the laws; his deportment should be gentle and compassionate kind and virtuous'. He should 'diligently study the Holy Scriptures ... love, uphold and defend the Protestant religion' and 'strenuously oppose the fatal errors and doctrines of the Church of Rome, and scrupulously avoid countenancing (by his presence or otherwise) any act or ceremony of Popish worship'. An Orangeman should 'by all lawful means, resist the ascendancy of that Church ... ever abstaining from all uncharitable words, actions, or sentiments, towards his Roman Catholic brethren'. His conduct should be guided 'by wisdom and prudence, and marked by honesty temperance and sobriety: the glory of God and the welfare of man, the honour of his Sovereign, and the good of his country, should be the motive of his actions' (Kennedy 1990, 1995).
To an extent then the Orange Institution can be seen as religious. However, in Northern Ireland joining the Institution is a political decision, as well as a religious one, and for most Orangemen parading in public is the focus of their membership. Indeed, many Orangemen would not regularly attend church or their Orange lodge meetings. Parades are therefore quite clearly political expressions and are understood in that way by the majority of participants. The Orange Institution is political.
There are about 1400 private lodges in Ireland, each with its own warrant number, its own particular history and to an extent its own character. Some lodges are based upon location, a particular village or district, or even upon an area where members used to live, such as lodges in Belfast that connect to the counties of Fermanagh, Tyrone or Donegal. Others are based upon occupations or even specific places of work, although such specific lodges are now less common. Some lodges are based upon a church, a bible class or perhaps a temperance or abstinence group, while others are named after and commemorate individuals, events or groups that have significant local historical bearing. There are also some, such as Eldon LOL No. 7 in Belfast, which are seen as elite lodges. Many members remain in their original lodges even though they now live some distance away, this can allow them to continue to identify with the area where they grew up. Each member is expected to pay annual dues and most lodges have regular monthly meetings which are often poorly attended. For many members their only involvement with a lodge is at the major parades.
Every lodge elects a number of officers annually. The most important are the Master, Deputy Master, Secretary, Treasurer and Chaplain. They are charged with looking after the social, financial and spiritual welfare of the Lodge. This includes organising local parades and church services, the transport and catering at the Twelfth and other major events, and the hiring of a band. A lodge may well have a close relationship with a particular band although some lodges find it difficult to hire the sort of band they would like and therefore parade without one. The hiring of a band, the transport to parades, and especially the replacement of the lodge banner, can all impose great expense upon private lodges which generally have relatively little money.
Each private lodge sends six representatives to one of the 126 District Lodges in Ireland. The District Lodge also elects officers and is charged with the care of the private lodges within it, the upkeep of a District Orange Hall, and the organisation of parades at district level, particularly a mini-Twelfth. Most districts host the main Twelfth parade, and therefore entertain the surrounding Districts, on a regular cycle.
The District Lodge sends between 7 and 13 members to one of the 12 County Grand Lodges. As the next level of authority these can arbitrate on disputes and they help as general liaison in the organisation of the Twelfth parades within their area. Belfast, which has nine districts, has a single Twelfth parade which is organised by County officials. Districts also have their own character and often maintain a friendly rivalry as to which is the biggest, best, or smartest. There is, for example, a well known rivalry in Belfast between the two largest Districts, Sandy Row, District No. 5 and Ballymacarrett, District No. 6.
Finally the Grand Lodge of Ireland is made up of 250 representatives from the County Lodges and other elected Officers. According to a recent leaflet produced by the Grand Lodge, 86% of Districts are represented in some way in the Grand Lodge. All officers of the Grand Lodge are elected except for 2 Assistant Grand Masters, whose appointment is in the gift of the Grand Master, and 6 Deputy Grand Masters who are nominated by their County. Any major rule changes have to go through the Grand Lodge and they are the final arbiters of any disputes within the organisation, such as the disciplining of members. The Grand Lodge meets in full twice a year but also works through a number of committees, including the Education Committee, the Rules Revision Committee and the Press Committee. The Grand Lodge only organises parades occasionally, for anniversaries such as the Tercentenary of the Battle of the Boyne in 1990.
Historically, divisions between 'the rank and file membership' and the Grand Lodge are not uncommon and they can significantly influence Unionist politics in general. The Institution is a complex and disparate organisation with authority existing at numerous different levels and locations. To make sense of disputes over particular parades it is important to understand the role parades play in the internal politics of the Orange Institution. Central control over the other parts of the Institution is limited; County and District Lodges have a strong sense of local identity and will look to the Grand Lodge as the guardian of the Institution's image rather than for authority. This means that the Grand Master is often in the position of publicly defending the Institution over incidents and events over which, in truth, he has relatively little control. However, the nature of the hierarchy means that a Grand Master's position is a relatively safe one, his re-election often being rubber-stamped each year. Even in 1995 when there was clearly great dissatisfaction amongst a significant number of Orangemen with the role Martin Smyth played in the parading disputes, there was little chance of his not being re-elected.
It is important to recognise the relationship between the Orange institution and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP). The Orange Institution has a large representation on the Ulster Unionist Council, and many other delegates are also Orangemen. From 1921 to 1969 only three Cabinet members in Northern Ireland government's at Stormont were not at some point Orangemen. Of the Unionist MPs at Stormont that did not reach the Cabinet during that period, 87 out of 95 were in the Orange Institution (Harbinson 1973:90-91). The majority of the present Ulster Unionist MPs at Westminster are Orangemen. Whilst this relationship remained unproblematic for much of this century, the divisions within Unionism from the early 1960s onwards has made the relationship more complex. The significant overlap between senior members of the Orange Institution and the Ulster Unionist Party has meant that, at least at the top, the Institution has closely reflected the policies of the UUP. However, many Orangemen are supporters of Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Paisley himself left the Orange Institution in 1962 after a number of disputes, and in particular over the restriction on Free Presbyterian Church ministers from becoming chaplains within the Institution (Moloney and Pollock 1986). Paisley is at present a member of the Apprentice Boys of Derry and he regularly speaks at the twelfth organised by the Independent Orange Order. Nevertheless, he retains significant power within the Orange Institution. He is regularly invited to 'lodge' events such as the opening of arches and he has involved himself in some of the parading disputes that we will discuss. He effectively led the negotiations at Drumcree, he made the best received speech at the rally at Drumcree, and he was able to calm the crowd to some extent whilst negotiations proceeded. Whilst the Grand Master, Martin Smyth, left things to local Orange representatives and to the local MP David Trimble, Paisley was there in person. That situation said much about the Orange Institution and the dispersed authority structure within it.
The closeness of the relationship between the Orange Institution
and political power, particularly during the Stormont era, is
still significant both in terms of the feelings many nationalists
have towards Orangeism and in terms of the large number of loyalist
The relationship between the Royal Black Institution and the Orange Institution is so close that it is debatable whether one can see them as separate organisations. The Black can trace its routes almost as far back as the Orange. The early Orange Institution developed within it a series of' degrees 'through which members could proceed. Some of these, such as 'the Arch Purple', were officially sanctioned by the Grand Lodge. But others degrees were banned, since membership of them effectively offered routes to power which those in the Grand Lodge found difficult to control. Nevertheless, these alternative degrees continued to exist in some areas. One such degree was 'the Black'. In the 1850s, after some debate, the Royal Black Institution was officially constituted in its own right (McClelland 1968).
Individual members group together in Preceptories and the organisational
structure in many ways mirrors that of the Orange Institution,
to such an extent that some lodges and Preceptories contain largely
the same personnel. Members of the Black are known as 'Sir Knights'
and to be able to join one must already be a member of the Orange
Institution. The Black is probably best differentiated from the
Orange by being more religious and more 'respectable' but the
Black, like the Orange, has also lost many of its professional
and middle class members. The Black Institution is less overtly
political and its banners and regalia reflect its religious bias,
particularly through displays of Old Testament imagery (Buckley
1985-86; Buckley and Kenney, 1995). The institution is strongest
in Counties Down and Armagh, but Black parades take place in all
six counties of Northern Ireland although there is no major Black
parade in Belfast. In general a Black parade has fewer 'blood
and thunder' bands and more kilty (kilted bagpipe), silver and
accordion bands. This is partly because the Institution has a
more rural base and, as a rule, county parades are generally not
as 'rough' as parades in Belfast. The Black Institution is therefore
best understood as reflecting the more middle class, rural, religious,
respectable, even elite, elements of Orangeism. It is the more
conservative face of the Orange and of Unionism.
The Apprentice Boys are the smallest of the three loyal orders and have an estimated 12,000 members; however it is the most important such group in Londonderry. The organisation is independent from the other loyal orders, although many Boys are also members of the Orange Institution. In the past the Apprentice Boys have had institutional connections with the Ulster Unionist Party but now they are independent of all political parties. A number of leading unionist politicians, of both main parties, are members. The main purpose of the Apprentice Boys is to hold parades to commemorate the two principal events of the Siege of Derry: the closing of the city gates by the apprentice boys in December 1688, and the relief of the siege with the arrival of the Mountjoy in August 1689. These two events have been commemorated in the city in some form since the late 17th century.
The heart of the organisation are the eight Parent Clubs which are based in the Memorial Hall in Londonderry. Six of these are named after leaders of the siege: Baker, Browning, Campsie, Mitchelburne, Murray and Walker, the other two being the Apprentice Boys of Derry Club and the No Surrender Club. The first Apprentice Boys club was established in 1714 but the present organisation dates to 1814. The Baker Club was formed in 1927, the Campsie Club as recently as 1950, while the other five clubs were founded in the 19th century (Tercentenary Committee 1989). Membership of each of the eight Parent Clubs varies in size but their total membership is estimated at between 4-500 men. The Apprentice Boys do not have a junior organisation and have no female members.
Besides the Parent Clubs the organisation consists of around 200 Branch Clubs across Northern Ireland, in Scotland, England, the Republic and three in Canada. Each Branch Club is established through, and affiliated to, a Parent Club. Branch Clubs in each area are also linked together by Amalgamated Committees which function as sub-committees of the main organisation. There are eight Amalgamated Committees in Northern Ireland, one in Scotland and one in England. The Northern Irish Amalgamated Committees organise a parade on Easter Monday, the English and Scottish Amalgamated Committees also hold annual parades.
Overall organisation and management of the Apprentice Boys is
controlled through the General Committee. This has 44 members
in total and meets five times a year. Each of the eight Parent
Clubs has four representatives on the General Committee, usually
drawn from their officers. The remaining members of the General
Committee are representatives of the Branch Clubs acting as officers
of the Amalgamated Committee. All officers are elected annually,
but retiring officers may be re-elected. The officer posts and
their responsibilities are similar to those of the Orange Order.
The General Committee also has a Chief Marshall and each Parent
Club and each Branch Club is responsible for providing two marshals
for parades. The overall structure means that the membership based
in the city of Londonderry always has ultimate control over any
decisions that are made, even though most Apprentice Boys live
The common factor to all parades is the presence of marching bands. Historically most parades have had some sort of musical accompaniment. In the middle of the last century music was provided by informal 'drumming parties' involving large Lambeg-style drums and fifes. After the legalisation of parades in 1872 organised accordion, flute, and silver bands became prominent. Some bands, particularly in Belfast, were funded by factories and were of high quality, but drumming parties and rougher local bands always played a part in events, even if they were not approved of by senior Orangemen. From the end of the nineteenth century bands began to travel over from Scotland and these often had a reputation for being loud and enthusiastic. During the sectarian riots in Belfast in 1934, it was a Scottish band that was implicated in a number of incidents in the Docks area (Hepburn 1990). Accordion bands were for a long time the most popular style but since the war flute bands have grown in number.
Bands have always been a vital part of the parades and they play a central role in creating the mood of the event. This has been particularly obvious since the middle of the 1960s when what are known as 'blood and thunder' or 'kick the pope' bands have emerged (Bell 1990). These bands areoftenbasedinaparticularstreet,districtorvillageandtheirmembership is predominately working class. Some bands have their own hall where they practice while others use Orange halls or other local facilities. Managing, and in particular financing, a band involves considerable organisation and most bands have a formalised organising committee with elected officers such as band captain, secretary and treasurer. Major decisions, on such matters as new uniforms, are taken by vote among the entire band.
The majority of bands have no formal allegiance to any of the
loyal orders although individual members may often belong to one
or more organisation, and in country areas there are still some
bands that are formed out of orange lodges. The majority of bands
are independent, self-organising, bodies. At the same time a number
indicate support for the loyalist paramilitary groups. This is
often revealed through style of dress, and paramilitary symbols
displayed on the uniforms, the bass drum and on flags. The loyal
orders have made some efforts to control which sort of flags appear
on their parades but the prominence given to the historical UVF
in unionist sympathies means that UVF flags commonly appear at
Orange parades. While the popularity of the Orange Institution,
particularly amongst the young, and in Belfast, has declined,
the popularity of bands has increased. The bands offer an alternative,
less official, social network, and their involvement in parades
is in many senses more 'active', and therefore more attractive,
to younger and more alienated groups.
a. The Independent Orange Institution
The significance of the Independent Orange institution was, and
still remains, that it is not affiliated to any particular unionist
party. This has meant that it can attract those who are disenchanted
with the Ulster Unionist Party. In recent years, Ian Paisley,
who is a member of neither institution, has always given a speech
at the Independent Orange Twelfth. This allows him to remain distant
form the Unionist Party yet still symbolically appear close to
Orangeism. There has been a small growth of new Independent lodges
in recent years, most significantly in Portadown in 1976 as a
result of a disagreement with officers of the Grand Orange Lodge.
Whilst they are not strong in numbers they do organise regular
parades and they can be outspoken on the parading issue in general.
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