CAIN: Democratic Dialogue: Politics in Public - Freedom of Assembly and the right to Protest (Report No. 8)

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Politics in Public

Freedom of Assembly and the Right to Protest


PART ONE

Northern Ireland

The disputes over parades in 1995 raised particular issues around the rights of public 3 political expression but 1996 crystalised those issues and forced the British Government to act. Until the stand-off at Drumcree, (Drumcree II), between 7-11 July the government had resisted calls for an inquiry into the issue of disputed parades and sustained the argument that it was a policing issue. Drumcree II saw major disturbances all over Northern Ireland, initially by loyalists whilst the parade was held from proceeding on its traditional route, and later by nationalists after the police used violence to force the parade down the road. Some estimated the financial cost to be in the region of £50 million pounds and it also cost the life of a Catholic taxi driver in Lurgan shot by loyalist paramilitaries and a young man in Derry run over by a British army vehicle. On 15 July 1996 the Secretary of State Sir Patrick Mayhew announced the setting up of The Independent Review into Parades and Marches, made up of Dr Peter North (chair), Fr. Oliver Crilly and the Very Revd. John Dunlop.


Parades and Protests in 1996 and 1997

Figures produced by the RUC revealed that there were 3,161 parades in 1996, 2,405 were caregorised as loyalist, 229 as republican and 527 as others. Of these 8 loyalist and 11 republican parades were deemed to be illegal. As Table I shows there was a slight fall in numbers from the previous year, although there appears to have been an increase in the number of parades since the mid 1980s (Jarman & Bryan 1996:35-41).

Table 1

.
Loyalist
Republican
Other
Total
1994
2520
272
----
2792
1995
2581
302
617
3500
1996
2405
229
527
3161
1997 (to 28 Sept)
2349
185
297
2831
(Source: RUC Chief Constables Report)

The RUC figures indicate the extensive use of parades in Northern Ireland and the clear differences between communities in the organising of processions. The total also puts into perspective the number of disputes that actually take place. These statistics also indicated that in 1996 6 loyalist and 1 republican parade had conditions placed upon them whilst there was disorder at 15 loyalist parades. This compares with the previous year when there were 13 parades at which the RUC dealt with disorder, 11 loyalist and 2 republican.

Yet clearly these figures give little sense of the effect of parades disputes on community relations. The Drumcree dispute, of course, only counted as one parade in the figures. The statistics also give little indication of the chaos caused by the parades organised by the Orange Order in the week starting Monday 8 July, in protest at the stopping of the Drumcree parade, which were clearly designed to stretch the RUC and inevitably to leave disorder in their wake, even if the parades continued down their notified route. Indeed, the organisation of the parades on a nightly basis in Belfast during that week provides a striking example of when the right to public political protest can threaten serious disruption to the life of communities (Jarman 1997).

We recorded 52 disputed parades at 22 different locations in 1996 and 59 disputed parades in 21 different locations (Tables 2 & 3 See page 25). Some of the locations that had been problematic in 1996 were not disputed in 1997, sometimes due to parades not taking place every year. Problems also developed in areas in which we are unaware of previous disputes in recent years, such as Dromore (Co. Tyrone) and Ballycastle. These statistics compare with 1995 where we calculated 41 disputes in 12 different locations.


'Croppies lie down or Sinn Fein Conspiracy?

The problems over parades has been driven by the dynamic of events surrounding the disputes, by political pressure, and by the external pressures of the peace process. Contrasting experiences within the two communities can help to explain the growing intensity of the disputes. Within the nationalist community the events at Drumcree and on the Ormeau in 1996 were felt to be very important. Prior to these events, issues over rights of public political expression were important but attitudes towards the parades were still somewhat divided. Moderate nationalists and republicans were prepared to accept a degree of compromise in some areas whereby a limited number of parades could have taken place. Many nationalists felt that the RUC had taken a stand to protect their community when the Drumcree church parade was stopped in 1996. However, the RUC actions created such a reaction within the Orange Order and within loyalism generally, that the Chief Constable, Hugh Annesley, reversed his original decision and the parade was given access to the Garvaghy Road and residents forcibly removed. Later that same day the RUC judged, amid warnings that all the Orange Districts on the Belfast Twelfth parade would descend on the Ormeau Road, that the security situation was such that Ballynafeigh District should be allowed down the length of the Ormeau Road. To facilitate this they moved into the lower Ormeau area the evening before and effectively trapped residents into their streets for almost twenty-four hours. All this was done in the full glare of the worlds media to allow a parade to pass at around 9.00am the following day. For many nationalists these were the clearest examples of majoritarian control of Northern Ireland since the Ulster Worker's Strike in 1974. The RUC appeared either unprepared, or unable, to stand up to intimidation from the Orange Order. Anger and disillusionment were common emotions for many at that time. Soon afterwards boycotts of Protestant owned businesses started in some areas and the bitterness was expressed in Derry when the nationalist council voted to rake away the privileges of the UUP Mayor of the city Richard Dallas because he had been present at a blockade during the Drumcree stand-off. For many nationalists, the first two weeks in July 1996 were a classic case of the Orange Order wielding power to make 'the croppies lie down'.

Unionists viewed the development of these disputes quite differently. For many within the Protestant community the role of the residents groups in trying to stop loyal order parades on traditional routes has been orchestrated by Sinn Fein as an attack on Protestant culture. For those in the loyalist community the evidence was clear. A number of the residents groups had republicans or ex-prisoners as spokesperson. The demands of residents groups seemed to serve the purposes of Sinn Fein who were demanding their right to be involved in all-inclusive peace talks and the disbanding of the RUC. Finally, as 1996 progressed, it became obvious that residents groups were working more closely together. During the dispute over the Apprentice Boys' August parade the talks between the Bogside Residents Group (BRG) and Apprentice Boys' leaders seemed to hinge on the insistence by the BRG that the Apprentice Boys stop their feeder parades in other areas such as the lower Ormeau and Dunloy. For Unionists, their suspicions were confirmed when it was reported by RTE that Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams had congratulated republicans for the hard work they had done in particular areas.


Historical and Political Context

Whilst there can be no doubt that parades have always played a part in the politics of the north of Ireland, there have been various reasons for disputes developing in the mid-1990s.

  • The way in which public space was controlled both before and since the partition of Ireland has meant that the Protestant community has developed a large number of 'traditional' parades whereas the Catholic community has been restricted in its political expression to predominantly Catholic areas (Jarman & Bryan 1998).

  • An awareness of inequalities over public political expression became particularly significant during the period of the civil rights movement.

  • The nature of the conflict since the mid-1960s has increased the sense of territoriality that many communities feel.

  • The nature of the conflict since the mid-1960s has increased the assertiveness and numbers of parades and demonstrations held by Protestant and Catholic communities.

  • There has long been significant resentment within the nationalist community over loyal order parades, due both to the role of the Orange Order during the Stormont era and to the perceived sectarian nature of the Orange Institution itself and elements of their public events.

  • The IRA cease-fire in August 1994 allowed moderate nationalists to feel more at ease working with republicans on single-issue campaigns.

  • The loyalist cease-fire allowed people to feel safer in publicly expressing political feelings in such a campaign.

  • Due to concerns over the more assertive nature of some parades; due to efforts to improve community policing; and due in some measure to legal and political pressures that have been present since the mid-1980s the RUC have been less willing to facilitate loyal order parades than done in the past.

  • There has been a clear change in the campaign forged by the republican movement. A greater emphasis has been place upon conducting politics in a way that develops electoral success. The parades issue is one that allows republicans to garner broad based nationalist support by empowering local nationalist communities in a cause which highlights some fundamental problems with the RUC and exposes the unwillingness of unionists to engage in dialogue.

  • Disputes prospered within an inadequate British legal and policing system in which public order appears to define what is right and what is wrong. Decisions by the police, in this case the RUC, leave everyone with the impression that 'might is right'.

  • Within the above political context the parade disputes have assumed a dynamic of their own, with both the loyal orders and residents groups being driven by the growing symbolic importance of the issue.

In Northern Ireland parade have always tended to be a function of public order, or communal power, nor of rights. Parade routes and parade 'traditions' have been dependent upon local population balance and communal deterrence, on the attitudes of the police to specific political movements, on specific legislation, and on the tolerance of communities at particular times (Jarman & Bryan 1998). This situation can only be improved if the relations between communities and the state are altered. Fundamental to this must be that rights are based upon equality, nor upon the local dominance of one community over another. Ar issue therefore is the role that the state should play in making judgements on rights of public political expression, having regard to the fear and mistrust that exists between communities. Of vital importance is that the majority population extends the same rights to a minority community as it would claim for itself.


The North Report

The report of The Independent Review of Parades and Marches, published on 30 January 1997, made 43 main recommendations, including:

  • new arrangements should assist the search for accommodation and reinforce the rule of law, new arrangements should allow for the right of marchers, residents and the wider community to be accommodated,

  • roles and responsibilities should be clarified, providing greater transparency,

  • proposals should be proportionate to the problem, avoiding unnecessary restrictions and costly, bureaucratic processes,

  • proposals should have the objective of achieving greater consistency in decision-making and, where practical, an accommodation in individual locations over a longer time.

The report also identified a number of principles:

  • the right to peaceful free assembly should (subject to certain qualifications) be protected,

  • the exercise of that right brings with it certain responsibilities; those seeking to exercise that right should take account of the likely effect on the relationships with other parts of the community and be prepared to temper their approach accordingly,

  • all those involved should work towards resolution of difficulties through local accommodation,

  • in the exercise of their rights and responsibilities, those involved must not condone criminal acts or offensive behaviour,

  • the legislation and its application must comply with the Government's obligations under international law, and provide no encouragement for those who seek to promote disorder,

  • the structure for and process of adjudication of disputes over individual parades should be clear and applied consistently with as much openness as possible,

  • any procedures for handling disputes over parades and the enforcement of subsequent decisions should be proportional to the issues at stake.

The most fundamental of the proposals was to set up an independent body, which has become known as the Parades Commission, to make 'determinations' on contentious parades. However, the Chief Constable would have the power to ask the Secretary of State to review and reverse a determination. A key finding, and the one which in many ways is the hardest to interpret, is that the basis upon which decisions on parades could have conditions placed upon them would be extended to give 'consideration to the wider impact of the parade on the relationships within the community' (North 12.94). It was also recommended that the Parades Commission should issue procedures on how it might work, guidelines on the factors which would help the commissioners make these determinations and a code of conduct for those organising processions. The Parades Commission was also to facilitate mediation, work for greater understanding and arrange for monitoring of contentious parades. The North Review team felt strongly that 'rights carry responsibilities, and are not absolute', that the exercise of rights involved 'both restraint and responsibility, with respect to the well-being of others in the community' and that there was a need to work together to create a society 'that not merely tolerates but positively celebrates cultural diversity' (North 1.52).


Post-North

The reaction of residents groups to the North Report could best be described as being a cautious welcome whilst the SDLP were quick to endorse the findings. But the Report came in for immediate criticism from unionists, which described irs proposals 'as a charter for grievances'. Many of the criticisms were voiced through the Northern Ireland Forum whose Standing Committee on Public Order Issues produced a report, which recommended:

  • implementation of a programme explaining the culture and tradition behind traditional parades by the loyal orders;

  • a code of practice based on those currently operated by the loyal order should be adopted by other organising bodies;

  • that the government address flaws in the public order legislation so that the fundamental right of peaceful assembly is recognised for 'all legal organisarions not supporting terrorism';

  • that the RUC properly enforce provisions in legislation that make it an offence to hinder a lawful public procession;

  • that traditional parades should he given particular protection.

The reaction of the Government to the North Report was to announce that although the Parades Commission would be set up, it would, in the first place, only promote and facilitate mediation and develop education around the issues of parades. Alistair Graham was appointed as Chairperson of the new Commission but the government decided on a further period of consultation before acting on the key proposals. This meant that nothing would be introduced until after the General Election which in turn meant that there was no realistic chance of a new Government introducing legislation that could have any chance of being effective for the summer of 1997. As such, the Parades Commission effectively had a watching brief over the events of the summer.

Public perception of the Parades Commission was chiefly influenced by two events during the summer. In the fall-our to the decision by the Chief Constable to forcibly remove protesters from the Garvaghy Road on 6 July a discussion document authored within the Northern Ireland Office implicated Alistair Graham in the conclusion that at least a limited parade would probably have to be allowed. Crucially this document was dated before the 'proximity talks' held by the Secretary of State at Hillsborough which members of the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition and Armagh Orangemen attended and at which Alistair Graham was also present. Although the Parades Commission had no statutory powers and had little or no involvement in the proximity talks, and the Chief Constable made the decision under the 1987 legislation, the implication of the document was that the chairman of the Parades Commission already had a view on the Drumcree parade.

On a more positive note, the Parades Commission appeared in a more favourable light when one of its members, Revd. Roy Magee, was able assist in easing tension over parades in Newtownbutler on 12 July and attempted to find agreement on two Black parades in August. However, despite continued attempts, a church parade on 3 August ended in disturbances when the RUC permitted the parade to take place, although the Black Preceptory voluntarily re-routed their parade on 9 August (Kelly & Allen Nan 1998). The involvement of Magee raised an important issue over the role of the Parades Commission. Could Commissioners be involved in mediation if legislation was also to give them powers to make determinations as well? The possible conflict between the two roles led Roy Magee to resign from the Commission late in 1997. It remains to be seen what the public expectation will be over the role the Commission might play in the coming year.


The Public Processions Bill

The new Labour Government published The Public Processions Etc. (Northern Ireland) Bill in October 1997. Whilst its main aim was to empower the Parades Commission, publicity mainly focused on the clause which allowed for the remit to be widened to consider expressions of cultural identity other than parades. This clause was apparently put in at the request of Orangemen during negotiations over the Twelfth parades that were eventually voluntarily re-routed in the summer. However, as the Bill passed through Parliament it seemed to become obvious that expressions of cultural identity might include such things as the painting of kerbstones and the flying of flags. If as unionists claimed the Parades Commission is to be a factory of grievances, then the clause on other forms of cultural expression simply increased the size of the factory! The clause was dropped and the bill renamed The Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Bill.

At the same rime the Parades Commission published three documents for consultation: a Code of Conduct, giving guidance to those in processions, Procedural Rules by which the practices of the Commission will be regulated and Guidelines setting the basis on which the determinations will be made (see Appendix for an overview of the Public Processions Bill, Code of Conduct, Procedural Rules and Guidelines).

Three issues in the Bill and associated documents are of particular importance. First, the criteria on which the Commission are to make the decision; second, the role of the police in the process; and third the publication by the Parades Commission of a 'preliminary view' on parades in areas of dispute.

The Criteria for Determinations

Clause 7 (6) sets out the basis on which the Commission should make a determination:
… .the Commission shall have regard to -
(a) any public disorder or damage to property which may result from the procession;
(b) any disruption to the life of the community which the procession may cause;
(c) any impact which the procession may have on relationships within the community
(d) any failure of a person of any description specified in the guidelines to comply with the Code of Conduct (whether in relation to the procession in question or any previous procession); and
(e) the desirability of allowing a procession customarily held along a particular route to be held along that route.

A number of points arise from these criteria:

  • How does one measure the various criteria against each other?
  • On what basis is the Parades Commission to make judgements of public disorder?
  • How does one measure 'disruption to the life of the community' or 'the impact a procession may have on relationships within the community'?
  • Who will monitor compliance to the Code of Conduct?
  • Why should a traditional route carry precedence over others and on what basis do you measure tradition?


The Role of the RUC

There are serious issues about the RUC that impinge upon this debate but which have been considered in more detail by others (Bryerr 1997; CAJ 1996, 1997; Human Rights Watch 1997; O'Rawe & Moore 1998). However, concentrating on the parading legislation there are questions over the exact role of the Chief Constable in carrying our the determinations. It is broadly accepted that a police force has to have operational control on managing a large event; public safety demands that officers may be required to change decisions. However, the Public Processions legislation allows for more than this. The Chief Constable can appeal to the Secretary of State to review a determination of the Parades Commission. The Committee for the Administration of Justice has argued that there is no reason for the police having a 'double bite of the cherry' by making an appeal, given that the Chief Constable will already have made representations to the Commission. Furthermore the Chief Constable is not accountable to the Parades Commission if he feels the need to overturn their determination.

The Preliminary View

The explanatory note that accompanies the new legislation suggests that the Public Processions Bill 'implements recommendations contained in the Report of the Independent Review of Parades and Marches'. In some areas, such as the clause on traditionality, the legislation is clearly at variance with North (see North 12.53). However, one proposal has caused particular difficulties. North recommended that 'the Parades Commission should be empowered to reach and promulgate conclusions to one or more parades in an area and do so where appropriate over a period longer than one year'. One advantage of this is that each determination is nor reduced to a win-lose scenario. Considering more than one parade over a particular rime frame however is problematic since under the new legislation notification of intent to parade is to be made 28 days in advance. Each parade can therefore only be considered on its own merits. Yet it is recognised that the number of parades in a particular area influences community relations. As such, under the Parade Commission's Procedural Rules, having gathered information in particular areas, the Commission will make an early informal or preliminary view on the pattern of parades for the year ahead. This offers a possible blueprint on the marching season and may receive cross-community support. The most significant change from previous years may well be that there will now be a preliminary view made on the right to march a particular route, which is distanced from any impending threat of public disorder.


Practice

So far we have concentrated on changes made by the state on the procedures for deciding on the right to march. However, just as important is an analysis of how the control of public political expression works in practice. A number of issues merit consideration:

  • the responsibility of organisers;
  • the role of the community in controlling public order;
  • the stewarding of events;
  • police responses to public order situations;
  • levels of toleration and provocation;
  • the consumption of alcohol.

Let us take two examples to consider how these issues affect practical situations.


Case Study One: Apprentice Boys Parade - Ormeau Road 8 April 1996

The annual Apprentice Boys Easter Monday parade was held in Portadown in 1996. The Walker Club in Ballynafeigh customarily holds a feeder parade that starts at the Orange Hall near the top of the road and finishes by boarding buses near the city centre. Tension was still high in the lower Ormeau area after violence during the RUC's clearance of protesters to allow the Apprentice Boys to hold a procession the previous August, and the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community (LOCC) group gave notice of a protest. The RUC announced that the Apprentice Boys parade would be re-routed.

At 8.00am around 80 men left the Orange Hall with approximately 50 more people following on the pavement. A banner at the front of the parade stated 'Ballynafeigh says No to Re-routing'. The RUC had blocked the bridge rising Land Rovers, but officers were not at this point dressed in riot gear. Sandy Geddis, who acted as spokesman for the club, read a statement at the RUC line and the marchers stood around chatting. Things remained quiet until 9.30 when the RUC pushed through lines of Apprentice Boys to give a fire engine access to a fire that had been started at the rear of the nearby supermarket. As the accompanying media scrambled to get pictures there were scuffles, a cameraman s stepladder was thrown into the river, and the reporters retreated behind police lines. It became clear that the parade organisers were nor sure how they were going to conduct the standoff.

It was a warm, sunny day and many people sat around drinking. There was some intermittent bottle but during the afternoon the violence became more persistent and a number of people were injured, apparently from bottles falling short of police lines. The police seemed to assume that the Apprentice Boys would march back to the hall at 500pm when the original parade would have returned from Portadown. However, the Apprentice Boys did nor seem to have a clear idea of how they were going to end the protest and the majority of those confronting police lines were not wearing Apprentice Boys sashes. From 4.00pm onwards a number of bands arrived and marched down to the police lines. Some Apprentice Boys and band members were clearly ill at ease at how the protest was being conducted and two band members had a public argument about what was taking place.

The next phase saw petrol bombs being prepared and we believe there may have been an attempt to hijack a bus. Some shops were attacked whilst others in the crowd shouted at people 'not to attack out own'. Between 5.00 and 6.00pm, perhaps when it became obvious to the police that the Apprentice Boys were nor going to parade back, the riot squad began to advance up the road. At around 6.30 there were attempts by some older men to gain control of the situation. One accordion band marched down to police lines then back up the road, which changed the mood somewhat and switched attention from police lines. Another band also marched to the police lines, but by this rime significant figures had taken control at the front of the crowd and this allowed Unionist councillors and some Apprentice Boys to place themselves between the crowd and the police and relieve tensions.

Just when the situation appeared to be under control another band and an Apprentice Boys club appeared at the top of the road and marched down. As the band moved away some of these Apprentice Boys attacked the police with a bannerette and ceremonial pike whilst others attempt to pull them back and retain control. After further confrontations those in the crowd trying to maintain control manage to do so. It was only at about 11.00 at night that the police broke up the remaining crowd with a baton charge.

Observations

The events that rook place during the day were complex. There were clearly interactions between the apparent randomness of crowd activity and the involvement of a variety of interest groups. There was the Apprentice Boys club, a variety of bands from different parts of the city, Some with paramilitary affiliations, some without, there was a variety of unionist politicians, there were figures from both the UDA and UVF present, many spectators spent the rime drinking. The actions of the police were crucial and the role of the media was significant on at least one occasion. At different points during the day different elements in the crowd took centre stage and seemed to control what was taking place.

However it would be foolish to think that situations such as these can always be managed. Emotions were high, yet there was clearly a desire amongst the organisers of the parade, amongst many unionist politicians and, we suspect, amongst some within the paramilitaries, to control what was taking place and make the protest forceful yet peaceful. The protest therefore raises a number of questions.

  • Is it possible to plan protests in such a way as to keep the peace?
  • Could organisers utilise stewards to manage such situation better?
  • Can communication with the police be improved so misunderstandings do nor occur?
  • With whom does the responsibility for public order lie, the police or the protesters?
  • Can effective controls on alcohol consumption be maintained in such circumstances?
  • Should the media be working under guidelines for such occasions?


Case Study Two: Parades in Derry

The parade dispute in Derry has some features that are significantly different from those in other areas (Jarman & Bryan 1996; Pat Finucane Centre 1995 & 1996; Kelly & Allen Nan 1998). First it is a city with a large nationalist community with a small Protestant community in the Fountain area. There seems to be widespread agreement that it is important that the city remains mixed and that the Protestant legacy is recognised. Second, the dispute involves a small number of parades: the Apprentice Boys parade in August commemorating the end of the Siege and the parade in December which remembers the Closing of the Gates and ends with the burning of an effigy of Lundy. The August parade is possibly the largest parade held annually by the loyal orders. Third, there seems to be a consensus in the city that these two parades should take place, but there are disagreements about the conditions under which the parade should take place.

In 1995 the Apprentice Boys applied to have a parade around the full circuit of the walls of Derry on the morning of Saturday 12 August. The walls had been closed in 1969 so the full circuit had not been walked since then. The Bogside Residents Group (BRG), formed in 1995, objected to the parade using the section walls overlooking the Bogside. However, the police decided the parade should go ahead and cleared protesters from the wall. Later in the day when the main parade came over from the Waterside there were confrontations, particularly between some bandsmen and protesters at the Diamond. Although Apprentice Boys stewards attempted to calm the situation, they were rinable to deal with it. After the parade ended conflict developed between the police and protesters and within 30 minutes plastic bullets were being fired and petrol bombs being thrown.

The events surrounding Drumcree 1996 encouraged a closer relationship between the various residents groups and members of the BRG felt that they should show solidarity with residents groups in areas where the Catholic community formed a lower percentage of the community. During meetings between the BRG and the Apprentice Boys prior to the 1996 Relief of Derry parade, the BRG argued that a solution should be linked to disputed Apprentice Boys parades in the lower Ormeau, Bellaghy, and Dunloy. But with no agreement reached the Secretary of State, Sir Patrick Mayhew, decided to prohibit all parades on that section of the city walls between 7 - 31 August and the army moved in and sealed the area. The parade on the day took place without major incidents, thanks in part to Alistair Simpson, Governor of the Apprentice Boys announcing that a parade around the walls would take place at a date of their choosing. That parade took place on 19 October.

In 1997 there were significant attempts by community workers, politicians, the business community, the BRG and the Apprentice Boys to look for solutions. Yet, as with the previous year, the feeder parades in other areas still created difficulties. On 4 August the RUC announced that the controversial feeder parades were to be re-routed and the BRG announced that there would be no protest at the Siege of Derry parade. There seemed to be a good chance that the day would pass peacefully. As part of an effort to change the atmosphere at the parades around the walls, the Apprentice Boys organised a pageant, which was in part funded by Derry City Council. Alistair Simpson made it clear that only local club members were to take part, and although there was a group of around 30 nationalists on Magazine Street, at 9.30 the parade, with some people in costume, took place to the sound of a single drum beat. Whilst members of the local Apprentice Boys Clubs went to the Cathedral for services other people were left drinking, waiting for the main parade. This started from the Waterside around mid-day and included nearly 150 bands. Although there was no organised protest in the centre of Derry, there were clearly a number of onlookers from the Bogside gathered in Butchers Street. The police attempted to let spectators move freely around the Diamond although there were barriers in place. For a long period the parade seemed likely to pass off peacefully but a number of factors conspired to cause disturbances. As is always the case there are significant quantities of drink taken by spectators at this event and some were allowed to occupy the War Memorial. Young nationalists were soon engaging in 'banter'. Although there were attempts to keep the situation calm, things rapidly got out of control when a loyalist band, carrying paramilitary flags, broke ranks to pursue a youngster who had stolen a bandsman's cap. Members of the band gestured as if they were shooting at people as stewards and police struggled to regain control. For the next hour tension was high, bottles were thrown, and fights broke out. Apprentice Boys stewards tried in vain to calm the situation but as more loyalists gathered in Bishop Street, confrontation became inevitable. As bands came into the Diamond a number of them reacted, ignoring the fact that they were going around a war memorial. Since the RUC seemed unwilling to deal with the parade they tended to move in on the nationalists. Only when the parade had finished did the RUC move against the loyalists who had gathered and the riot squad moved them up Bishop Street.

These incidents soured the genuine efforts to improve the environment in which the parade took place. The Apprentice Boys were quick to act against the band involved, but recriminations over the action of organisers, police and those watching the parade were widespread. The Closing of the Gates parade on 13 December subsequently became an issue even though it had not been so in previous years. The BRG stated that they would protest in the Diamond. Interestingly, the business community, who had been trying to resolve problems, now moved to centre stage and debate focused on the way the parade affected the Christmas trade. Attempts to find a resolution failed and on the day the police print in place a massive operation to stop protesters reaching the Diamond. Whilst businesses in the Bishop Street area had felt it necessary to close in previous years the threat of disturbances and the police operation effectively meant that most of the city centre closed down by early afternoon.

The parade is much smaller than that in August and involves around twelve bands. It comes into the city around mid-day and, after a service at the Cathedral, follows a route around the Diamond. Whilst there was shouting between protesters and loyalists on the ground the atmosphere was nor particularly bad. The police operation overwhelmed almost everyone including parade organisers. A helicopter flew so low overhead that it was nor easy to hear anything. Apprentice Boys stewards made strenuous efforts to make sure that there were no problems as the bands went around the Diamond. Some paramilitary flags that had been on view as the parade entered the city were removed and stewards attempted to keep spectators from abusing the protesters. Senior Apprentice Boys were placed in Butchers Street where the parade enters the Diamond and made sure that each band knew to stop playing. Indeed, the first band set the mood by playing Jingle Bells as they approached The parade went smoothly until a Belfast band changed the atmosphere despite attempts by stewards to calm them down. As they went around the Diamond a confrontation with a steward required police involvement and brief scuffles resulted. Following the parade confrontations between police and nationalists quickly developed on Shipquay Street, these spread to the bus station anti the Guildhall area. Vehicles were hijacked and burnt as youngsters threw stones and petrol bombs at the police. Serious confrontations continued late into the evening.

Observations

Unlike most loyal order parades, the majority of those participating in the Siege of Derry parade are nor from the area and are relatively unfamiliar with the city. Since there is a large Catholic majority in the city many locals feel that their city is taken over for the day. This in turn increases the problems for those trying to steward the event if an incident occurs. For many it is a day out and there are often problems with the amount of drinking that takes place at both the August and December parades. The parades also take the best part of both days. The December event has particular problems because the effigy of Lundy is nor burnt until after dark so that many people are hanging around for most of the afternoon.

Coming to terms with the historical legacy provided by the two major events is important for the future of the city. It is important for all concerned that the Protestant community in the city feels secure and that Derry is able to accommodate its diverse history. However, for this to take place the relations that encompass the parades need to be worked upon. Although 1997 was an inauspicious year for improving the community relations in the city there is clearly a lot of pressure to make things work. The business community and the local council have been more pro-active in Derry than in any other part of Northern Ireland. The Apprentice Boys have approached the situation with more imagination than the loyal orders have shown in other areas and the BRG have repeatedly said that in the right conditions these parades should be facilitated. Neither the business community, nor local residents, nor the Apprentice Boys can reasonably claim (or we think would try to claim) a monopoly of rights in using the city centre. The disputes in Derry also raise a range of issues.

  • What level of disruption should reasonably be asked of local communities in recognising the right of groups to hold public events?
  • How much should one take into account the rights of the business community in decisions on major events?
  • How can changes to the organisarion of events improve local community relations?
  • What levels of police-organiser-community liaison should there be prior to large public events?
  • Is it possible to improve the monitoring and stewarding of such events to better enstire public order?
  • Can improved communications better facilitate public order?
  • What strategies can be utilised to reduce the amount of incidents exacerbated by the high consumption of alcohol at events?


Conclusions

These two case studies provide good examples of the complex issues we wish to analyse. In some ways they are not representative cases. The Apprentice Boys of Derry have many any fewer parades than the Orange Order and as an organisation have attempted to deal with some of these difficult issues on the Ormeau Road and in Derry. The attempt to view the walk on the walls as an historical pageant must surely be a good way of coming to terms with difficult relationships. Nevertheless, despite the unique qualities of these cases we do think they suggest general problems.

The Right to Parade

The right to hold a procession or demonstration is an important right and it is the duty of the stare to attempt to facilitate that right. But where do the limits of these rights lie?

What are the responsibilities of organisers?
What constraints should be placed on those wanting to hold processions?
What are the limits of provocation that either participants or protesters should tolerate?
What rights should be accorded to the business community?
How do we judge that groups are being treated equally?

The Right to Protest

The right to protest is important and it is the duty of the police to facilitate that right. Clearly, in the nature of protests, they offer different problems to events such as a parade.

What responsibility do those protesting have towards the community?
How are relations with the police to be managed?
Is it possible to lay out guidelines for protests?
Does a democratic culture require greater education on rights?

Policing

One conclusion that can be drawn is that public order is an issue for the wider community not simply for the police. Serious and regular breakdowns in public order generally affect areas that can least afford such problems. Recognising that public order is a problem for the Community is not new and it has led to a reappraisal of policing in other parts of the world, South Africa being an obvious example (Brogden & Shearing 1993). Such problems therefore demand a re-examination of the advantages of forms of local community empowerment and a rethinking of the way we deal with public order problems.

In the second section of this report we will examine how many of the above issues are addressed in other countries. The Notting Hill Carnival, the control of Orange parades in Scotland, the legal rights of demonstrators in France and Italy, the reform of rights of political assembly and the management of political difference in South Africa, the control of large St Patrick's Day parades in New York and Boston, and the rights of minority communities in Israel are all worthy of examination. Many similar legal and practical problems exist in each of these jurisdictions. Whilst in some cases people have had no more success in dealing with problems than in Northern Ireland, we think that they offer a range of possibilities and solutions which are worth considering.


TABLE 2 PARADE DISPUTES IN 1996

Mar3Lurgan Nationalist Right to March Re-route
April8Ormeau Road ABs - Feeder Parade Re-route/Violence
20Crossgar Band Parade Violence
26Lurgan Band Parade Voluntary re-route/Protest
28Ormeau Road OO - Orange Widows Service Re-route
May4Lurgan Band Parade Voluntary re-route/Protest
5West Belfast Hunger Strikes Commemoration Voluntary re-route
19Dunloy ABs - Church Parade Protest
31Roslea Black Banner Unfurling Protest
June9Dunloy Black Church Parade Protest
21North Belfast OO mini-l2th - Tour of the North Protest/Violence
29West Belfast OO mini-l2th - Whirerock Protest
Downpatrick Band Parade Re-route
30Ormeau Road OO - Somme Anniversary Re-route
July1Lurgan OO - Somme Commemoration Protest
Bellaghy OO - Somme Commemoration Protest
7Porradown OO - Drumcree Church Parade Re-route/Violence
8Bellaghy Band Parade Protest
12Ormeau Road OO - Twelfth Feeder Protest
Newry OO - Twelfth Feeder Protest-re-route
Coalisland OO - Twelfth Feeder Protest/re-route
Keady OO - Twelfth Feeder Protest
Newtownbutler OO - Twelfth Feeder Protest
Pomeroy OO - Twelfth Feeder Protest
19Omagh Band and Nationalist Parades Violence
21Newtownbutler Black Church Parade Protest/re-route
27Keady Band Parade Protest/Violence
Aug10Derry ABs - Relief of Derry Re-route
Armagh ABs - Feeder Protest/re-route
Bellaghy ABs - Feeder Protest
Dunloy ABs - Feeder Re-route
Ormeau Road ABs - Feeder Re-route
Newtownbutler Black - Feeder Protest/ re-route
Roslea Black - Feeder Protest/re-route
11Bellaghy Black Church Parade Protest/re-route
15Moy AOH Lady Day Parade Voluntary re-route
25Ormeau Road Black Church Parade Voluntary re-route
30Crumlin Band Parade Violence
Newry Band Parade Protest/re-route
31Armagh Black - Feeder Protest/re-route
Bellaghy Black - Feeder Protest/re-route
Cookstown Black - Feeder Protest
Crumlin Black - FeederProtest/re-route
Dunloy Black - FeederProtest/re-route
Keady Black - FeederVoluntary re-route
Newry Black - FeederProtest/re-route
Ormeau Road Black - FeederProtest/re-route
Pomeroy Black - FeederProtest/re-route
Strabane Black - FeederProtest/re-route
Sep7Derry Women's Orange ParadeAttacked
8Dunloy OO - Church ParadeProtest/re-route
22Enniskillen Band ParadeViolence
Oct27Ormeau OO - Church ParadeRe-route


TABLE 3 PARADE DISPUTES 1997

Mar 31Ormeau Road ABs - Feeder Voluntary re-route
April 27Ormeau Road OO - Orange Widows Service Voluntary re-route
May 18Dunloy ABs Church Parade Protest/re-route
June7Ballymena Band Parade Violence
20Newry Band Parade Protest
22Bellaghy OO - Church Parade Protest/re-route
Keady OO - Church Parade Protest/re-route
Mountfield OO - Church Parade Protest/re-route
28West Belfast OO mini 12th - Whiterock Protest
29Ormeau Road OO - Somme Anniversary Re-route
July 1Bellaghy Somme Anniversary Protest/re-route
4Newtownbutler Church - Band Parade Voluntary re-route
6Keady OO - Church Parade Voluntary re-route
Newtownbutler OO - Church ParadeProtest/Voluntary re-route
Pomeroy OO - Church Parade Protest
Portadown OO - Drumcree Church parade Protest
7Bellaghy Band Parade Protest/re-route
12Armagh OO - Twelfth Main Voluntary re-route
Ballycastle IOO - Twelfth Main Protest
Bellaghy OO - Twelfth Feeder Protest/re-route
Castlewellan OO - Twelfth Feeder Protest/re-route
Derry OO - Twelfth Main Protest/Voluntary re-route
Dromore OO - Twelfth Main Agreement
Dunloy OO - Twelfth Feeder Protest/re-route
Keady OO - Twelfth Feeder Protest/Voluntary re-route
Newry OO - Twelfth Feeder Voluntary re-route
Newtownbutler OO - Twelfth Feeder Agreement
Ormeau Road OO - Twelfth Feeder Voluntary re-route
Pomeroy OO - Twelfth Feeder Protest
Strabane OO - Twelfth Feeder Protest/Voluntary re-route
Whitewell Rd OO - Twelfth Feeder Voluntary re-route
14Newry Black - Feeder Voluntary re-route
25Castlewellan Band Parade Agreement
26Ormeau Road Band Parade Violence
Aug 3Newtownbutler Black Church Parade Protest
8Ballycastle Band Parade Violence
9Bellaghy ABs - Feeder Protest/re-route
Derry ABs - Main Agreement/ Violence
Dunloy ABs - Feeder Re-route
Newtownbutler Black - Feeder Protest
Ormeau Road ABs - Feeder Re-route
Roslea Black - Feeder Re-route
24Ormeau Road Black - Church ParadeVoluntary re-route
29Newry Band ParadeProtest
Pomeroy Band ParadeProtest
30Ballycastle Black - FeederProtest
Bellaghy Black - FeederRe-route
Dunloy Black - FeederVoluntary re-route
Newry Black - FeederVoluntary re-route
Ormeau Road Black - FeederVoluntary re-route
Pomeroy Black - FeederVoluntary re-route
Strabane Black - FeederVoluntary re-route
Whitewell Rd Black - FeederVoluntary re-route
31Lurgan Another ChanceProtest
Sep5Crumlin Band ParadeProtest
14Dunloy OO - Church paradeRe-route
Oct26Ormeau Road OO - Church paradeRe-route
Nov8Bellaghy British Legion - Rem SunProtest
Dec13Derry ABsViolence

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