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Parades and Marches - Chronology 2: Historical Dates and Events

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Text and Research: Fionnuala Mckenna
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This is a DRAFT (v2) outline of the key historical dates and events from 1689 to the present day which relate to the issue of Parades in Northern Ireland. This chronology has been compiled from a number of sources.

7 December 1688
Beginning of the 'Siege of Derry'. The city gates were locked against the forces of King James II by apprentice Boys, as a bid of "No Surrender"; those locked inside the gates suffered attacks from canon-balls and mortar bombs, famine and disease. Thousands of people died both inside and outside the walls.

Sunday 28 July 1689
Relief of the Siege of Derry. A relief ship broke through the flooting boom which stretched across the River Foyle, marking the end of the Siege. The siege had lasted for 105 days.

12 July 1690
Battle of the Boyne. Defeat of King James II by King William III - confirmed Protestant supremacy in Ireland.

This year marked the beginning of the Penal Laws in Ireland. These laws prevented Catholics from owning property, buying land, voting, educating their children, and excluded them from various professions such as the army, law and all public offices. Attempts were also made to prevent them from practicing their religion (in 1698) but this was difficult to enforce, and only a small percentage converted to Protestantism. In effect, they deprived the Catholic population from all economic and political power, and created a highly privileged Protestant elite.

21 September 1795
Formation of the Loyal Orange Institution (Orange Order) in County Armagh.

12 July 1796
First parade held to commemorate the Battle of the Boyne.

26 July 1813
Battle of Garvagh. Four hundred Catholic 'Ribbonmen' made an attempt to destroy a tavern in Garvagh where the Orange Lodge met. They were armed with sticks and bludgeons, little suspecting that Protestants were waiting inside armed with muskets, to defend the Orangemen. Several of the Ribbonmen were killed, and the rest fled to the countryside.

Sir Robert Peel introduced a mobile constabulary in Ireland. This was intended to be less partial than the yeomanry currently stationed in Ulster, who were nearly all Orangemen.

Present organisation of Apprentice Boys formed, although the Siege of Derry was being celebrated from 17th century.

Formation of the Catholic Association. A well organised association, formed by Daniel O'Connell and made up of the middle classes, peasants and priests, who were campaigning for catholic emancipation.

The Unlawful Societies Act. This proscribed the Catholic Association and the Orange Order. By this stage, many of the upper classes were already beginning to dissociate themselves from the Orange Order.

12 July 1829
In 1829 Catholic emancipation came unexpectedly for many Protestants. The 12 July Parade in Belfast was banned that year, much to their indignation, and demonstrations were held by Orangemen in Belfast. This resulted in fierce rioting in Belfast, and spread to County Armagh and County Tyrone. It lasted for several days, with at least 20 deaths and many injuries reported.

12 July 1830
Confrontations between Orangemen and Ribbonmen during the 12 July parades in Maghera and Castledawson. Several Catholic homes were then burned by Protestants following these clashes.

November 1830
Ribbonmen attacked an Orange band, puncturing some of their drums. The Orangemen retaliated by burning the Catholic village of Maghery to the ground.

1832 to 1844
Party Procession Acts enforced. This was an attempt to control various types of public demonstrations, by restricting, or banning them altogether. They were introduced as a security measure, in an attempt to curtail the level of sectarian violence which often accompanied commemorative parades.

12 July 1849
Dolly's Brae. Orangemen announced their decision to march from Rathriland to Tollymore Park in Castlewellan, a route which was both long and passed through a catholic townland. Approximately 1,200 to 1,400 Orangemen, all of whom were armed, marched along this route. However, by the afternoon about 1,000 Ribbonmen, also armed, had gathered to observe. Suddenly, shots were fired from both sides, and Catholic homes were set alight. The police were unable to control the situation. None of the Orangemen were harmed, but it was estimated that about 80 Catholics were killed.

Party Procession Acts enforced again.

Formation of the Royal Black Institution. This began as an off-shoot from the Orange Order and can be traced back as far, although it was officially constituted as an organisation in its own right in the 1850's.

12 July 1857
Confrontations between crowds of Catholics and Protestants on the evening of the 12th July in Belfast. This turned into 10 days of particularly violent rioting, with many of the police force joining the Protestant side, leaving only a small number to contain the situation. There were also riots in Derry, Portadown and Lurgan, but these were relatively minor compared to Belfast.

12 July 1867
Despite the Party Procession Acts, the Orange Order decided to parade from Bangor to Newtownards in County Down. The parade was organised by William Johnston, and approximately 30,000 took part. William Johnston refused to apologise to the authorities, and was sentenced to a short time in prison the following year for his actions.

Party Procession Acts Repealed. Much of this had to do with William Johnston, the small land-owner, who organised the 12 July parade in 1867, and was subsequently sentenced to a short spell in prison. Following his release he was elected to Parliament and succeeded in having the Acts repealed.

Summer 1872
Approximately 30,000 Nationalists held a demonstration at Hannahstown in Belfast, campaigning for the release of Fenian prisoners. This sparked off another series of riots between Catholics and Protestants in Belfast.

June 1886
Defeat of the Home Rule Bill. Protestants celebrated with bonfires and Orange bands. Rioting broke out again on the streets of Belfast. Seven people were killed and many more injured.

12 July 1886
Following the 12th July celebrations, more clashes took place between Catholics and Protestants, and also between Loyalists and police. There followed a weekend of serious rioting in which 13 people were killed. This continued sporadically until mid-september, by which stage the official mumber of deaths had reached 31, although it was believed to have been a lot more.

Formation of the Independent Orange Institution, as a breakaway from the Orange Institution.

The Formation of the Royal Arch Purple: This organisation is very closely connected to the Orange Order, although it remains a separate organisation. It does not have any major parading dates of its own, although it does hold a number of church parades.

July 1916
Battle of the Somme. The 36th (Ulster) Division, which contained many Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) members lost 5,500 men in the first two days of July in Northern France. This battle is regarded by historians as one of the bloodiest ever fought.

12 July 1921
In the wake of partition, Northern Ireland saw a lot of rioting, and July of this year was particularly bad. Clashes between Catholics and Protestants on the 12th July resulted in 23 deaths and the destruction of over 200 Catholic homes.

18 June 1935
Following the riots in May and June of this year when Protestants celebrated King George's Jubilee, the Ministry of Home Affairs banned all parades from 18 June, including the 12 July Parade. However, the master of the Grand Orange Lodge announced that the Government did not have any right to impose conditions on them and that they would be marching on the Twelfth. Bates capitulated and the ban was lifted, much to the grievance of many Catholics. As the 12 July parade was marching homewards, serious clashes took place between Orangemen and Catholics. The police were largely ineffective at controlling the situation and the result of this was that 2 people were killed, many injured and homes were destroyed. Troops were called in and a curfew was imposed, but the rioting continued until the end of August. The toll of violence by the end of August included the deaths of eight Protestants and five Catholics, hundreds of injuries and over 2,000 homes destroyed (almost all Catholic).

Public Order Act. This gave the Chief Constable the power to impose conditions on parades or public processions if it was believed that they would lead to public disorder.

Flags and Emblems Act. The implications of this were twofold:
(a) It became illegal to interfere with the display of a Union Jack flag
(b) It gave the RUC the right to remove any other flag or emblem on public or private property if it was thought that it might lead to a breach of peace.
This second power was to be exclusively used against the 'tricolour' (the flag of the Republic of Ireland).

5 October 1968
The Civil Rights Association had planned a demonstration in Derry, when the Apprentice Boys decided to hold a parade the same day. William Craig, the then Minister for Home Affairs, banned all marches on that day, but the Civil Rights Association decided to go ahead with theirs. They were attacked by the RUC, dispersed, many of them injured, and the episode resulted in two days of serious rioting on the streets of Derry.

1 January 1969
March organised by the People's Democracy. The intention was to walk from Belfast to Derry, although much of the route was through Protestant countryside, and they were forced to take various detours. At Burntollet Bridge, on the Derry to Claudy road, an ambush was waiting for them and stones and bottles were hurled down on them by Loyalists who were positioned on high ground over-looking the road. When they tried to escape into the fields, police forced them back onto the main road, where they were viciously attacked by men armed with crowbars, sticks and various other weapons. The police did very little to protect them. Those who were fit to continue to Derry did so, but were attacked again along the road. Later that evening, after their arrival in Derry, 20 police constables went on the rampage in the Bogside, smashing down doors and windows etc. Barricades were erected around Catholic areas of Derry and rioting lasted for several days. The television coverage of this episode reflected very badly on the police.

12 July 1969
Rioting followed the 12 July parades yet again in Belfast, Derry and Dungiven, as youths threw stones and bottles at Orangemen.

12 August 1969
Battle of the Bogside. The Apprentice Boys held their annual parade on the 12 August and as they paraded past the Bogside (a working-class Catholic part of Derry) they jeered and threw pennies at Catholics. Catholics responded with stones, and loyalist supporters and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) then became involved. By 7.15 that evening, a full scale riot was in progress, later referred to as the 'Battle of the Bogside'. Once news spread to other parts of Northern Ireland, rioting erupted in many Catholic areas across the North, most notably Belfast. This continued on a wide scale until 2 days later (on the 14 August) Chichester Clark, the then Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, called for the mobilisation of British troops on the streets of Northern Ireland.

Formation of the Junior Orange Institution. As the name suggests, this is a branch of the Orange Order which only accepts boys under the age of 16.

July 1985
On 3 July 1985 the 'Tunnel', that is, the Catholic Obins Street area of Portadown, became a subject of controversy. Thousands of Loyalists demonstrated against a proposed Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) decision to re-route a church parade away from the 'Tunnel' area.
On 06 July, 1985, the RUC gave the go-ahead for a church parade to go through the disputed area, but it imposed a ban on similar marches on the 12th and 13th July. The result of this decision was to cause serious clashes in Portadown between Nationalist protesters and the Police on 7 July as the Parade, consisting of 2,500 Orangeman, passed through the Catholic Obins Street. Eight policemen were injured and three people were arrested during these clashes. On 12 and 13 July there was further rioting in Portadown, this time between Loyalists and the RUC, as the Orange order and Black Institution Parades were re-routed from the controversial 'Tunnel' area. Police had sealed off all the entrances to Obins Street, and Loyalist protesters hurled stones and bottles at them. Police responded with plastic bullets. In total 52 policemen were injured and 43 people were arrested during these two days of rioting.

March 1986
On 31 March 1986, Tom King, the then Secretary of State, announced his decision to ban the Apprentice Boys Easter Monday Parade. His decision was received with anger and resentment from Loyalists, which they directed mostly towards the RUC. Rioting broke out in Portadown and other parts of the North, police homes were attacked with petrol bombs, and 11 Catholic homes were petrol-bombed in Lisburn.
Despite the Secretary of State's ruling, approximately 400 Apprentice Boys attempted to parade through the town centre of Portadown anyway. Police and soldiers blocked the Bann Bridge but were attacked by youths who threw stones, bottles and pieces of paving stones. Police responded with plastic bullets, firing 125 in total. However, the worst rioting was seen at Woodhouse street, the street which leads to Catholic Obins Street. Bricks and breeze blocks were stolen from a nearby building site, and used to attack police. Meanwhile approximately 3.000 Loyalists, led by Ian Paisley, had assembled in protest at Garvaghy Road and police were attacked there also. Sporadic rioting continued for several days.

July 1986
On 3 July 1986, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) allowed an Orange Church parade to pass through the Catholic Obins Street area of Portadown, but banned the 12th and 13th July Parades from doing so. Three days later rioting broke out when police prevented George Seawright, a Loyalist politician, from passing through the 'Tunnel' area. On 11th July, the Portadown Orangemen accepted the compromise offered to them by the RUC, that is, that they could march along the Garvaghy Road route; a compromise which was to result in a weekend of violence. The weekend casualties included 128 police injuries, 66 civilian injuries and 127 arrests. The riots continued in Belfast and Portadown for six consecutive nights.

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