CAIN Web Service

'The Endless Parade' by Neil Jarman

[Key_Events] [Key_Issues] [Conflict_Background]
PARADES: [Menu] [Reading] [Summary] [Background] [Chronology_1] [Chronology_2] [Developments_Drumcree] [North_Review] [Statistics] [Sources]

Text: Neil Jarman ... Page Compiled: Fionnuala McKenna

The following chapter has been contributed by the author Neil Jarman with the permission of the publishers. The views expressed in this chapter do not necessarily reflect the views of the members of the CAIN Project. The CAIN Project would welcome other material which meets our guidelines for contributions.
This chapter is from the book:

Material Conflicts: Parades and Visual Displays in Northern Ireland
by Neil Jarman
Published as part of the
Explorations in Anthropology series
Oxford: Berg Publishers, 1997
ISBN 1 85973 124 4 (hbk)
ISBN 1 85973 129 5 (pbk) £14.95
Cover: Photographs by Neil Jarman

Orders to:

Local bookshops
T: 01403 710851
F: 0143 711143

This chapter is copyright Neil Jarman 1997 and is included on the CAIN site by permission of Berg Publishers Ltd. You may not edit, adapt, or redistribute changed versions of this for other than your personal use without the express written permission of the publishers. Redistribution for commercial purposes is not permitted.

Material Conflicts:
Parades and Visual Displays in Northern Ireland

by: Neil Jarman

Chapter 6


While the Orangemen parade through Belfast, their brethren are holding similar demonstrations across the north. Each year the Orange Order holds Twelfth parades in eighteen locations, and the small Independent Orange Order, a product of a split in the early 1900s (Morgan 1991), hold their own event. The Twelfth is the centrepiece of the marching season, and the climax of the Orange parades, but the Order is only one of a number of similar bodies that organise parades in Northern Ireland. On 13 July the parading tradition is taken up by the Blackmen from Counties Armagh and Down, who host a large parade and gathering at Scarva, Co. Down, reputedly on the route that King Billy's army took on its way south. The Black parades continue through August, until their main demonstration on the last Saturday marks the traditional end to the parading calendar.

Some members of the Orange Order will have begun their association as children, as members of the Junior Orange Order, but most join an Orange lodge as adults. Most men then progress rapidly to membership of the Royal Arch Purple Chapter, a body that has little in the way of public identity and is scarcely distinct from the Orange. They are then eligible to join the Royal Black Institution (RBI), or, to give it its full title, the Imperial Grand Black Chapter of the British Commonwealth, which is regarded by many as representing the more middle-aged, middle-class, respectable and religious side of Orangeism. Alongside membership of the Orange and Black some men also belong to the Apprentice Boys of Derry which, with a membership of around 12,000 men, is the smallest of the three main orders. The three senior loyal orders are responsible for organising the major annual parades that commemorate the Williamite and Somme anniversaries. They also organise a wide range of smaller parades, and these have increased in number to such an extent that the period from Easter to the end of August is now known as the marching season. The marching season is dominated by the parades of the loyal orders; but there is also a distinct nationalist parading calendar that is part of the wider culture of parading, and this will be considered later.

The Orange, The Black and The Boys

The build-up to the Twelfth that I have described in the Sandy Row area of Belfast is replicated across the north. In the two or three weeks prior to the anniversary of the Boyne all Orange lodges will parade once or twice to church services, and many towns hold mini-Twelfth parades around the time of the Somme commemorations on 1 July In recent years these have become increasingly popular, and more districts seem to announce a preparatory parade each year. These are usually evening events, and amount to little more than a relaxed stroll around the host town, a warm-up for the big parade. They are social rather than commemorative occasions: they draw large crowds on to the streets, and attract visiting lodges and bands from nearby towns and villages. Apart from the Twelfth these are the only occasions when the banners are publicly displayed.

While the focus of attention is on the Ulster parades, Orangemen also parade in Britain and Ireland in this period. On the Saturday before the Twelfth, the County Donegal Orangemen host a parade at the small seaside resort of Rossnowlagh. This is primarily for lodges from the Republic; but large numbers of Orangemen come from Northern Ireland, making a symbolic gesture of solidarity to those brethren that were abandoned to the demands of pragmatic politics in the 1920s, when nine-county Ulster was partitioned to ensure a permanent Protestant majority in the new northern statelet. The same weekend some Orangemen and bandsmen make the journey over to Scotland, where a number of Orange parades are held in the Strathclyde region. On the return they are accompanied by Scottish bandsmen, and sometimes Scottish Orange lodges, who come over to parade in Belfast and elsewhere on the Twelfth. Many bands and lodges have built up long-standing connections in Scotland, which are renewed each year. English Orange lodges hold an annual parade in Southport on the Twelfth; but many members prefer to come over to Ulster for the parades. The reciprocal network of affiliations that are extended the length and breadth of the north on the Twelfth are thereby further extended, to include brethren in Ireland, in Scotland and in England.

The Twelfth signifies the climax of the Orange Order parades, and many people spend the next day recovering from the walking and celebrating. But 13 July also marks the first of the major Black parades, when up to 50,000 visitors come to the parade and Sham Fight at Scarva in County Down. In contrast to the exertions of the Belfast Twelfth, this is only a short parade, and if the weather is fine the day has the feel of a large picnic in the countryside.

Although Orange and Black parades are broadly similar in form and style, there are significant differences, which highlight the complexity and variations both within the loyal orders and from area to area (see Cecil 1993; Larsen 1982). The Black parade is a much more stately affair: it is little more than a short walk through the village, which is taken at an easy pace and is far less dominated by the military rhythms of the Belfast Twelfth. There are fewer of the noisy blood and thunder bands at Scarva, and instead the music is provided by a wide selection of bands: accordion, pipe and a range of part-music and silver flute bands. These styles of bands are usually dominated by women and older men: the musicians often play from sheet music, while the music is softer and more melodic, with more hymns and fewer party tunes. Although accordion bands do still parade in Belfast, the pipe bands no longer attend: the walk is too long and the bands are too slow. In contrast, the pace of the Scarva parade is set by the pipe bands, who always turn out dressed in full highland costume.

The parade therefore sounds different; and it also looks different. The displays of national emblems are usually less pronounced, and paramilitary regalia are rare: the visual displays of the Black banners give less emphasis to the military history of Protestantism, and are heavily dominated by religious themes (see Chapter 8). These differences can be seen as contrasts between the more elderly and religious orientations of the Black and the working-class secularism of many Orangemen. They also represent some of the differences between urban and rural areas: rural Orange parades are more like Black parades, with a wider range of bands and more Biblical imagery, while the blood and thunder bands also bring their paramilitary style to the Belfast Black parade.

The Belfast Twelfth and Scarva signify the two poles of 'Orangeism': the urban event, dominated by the young, secular, and working-class, is 'rough' and noisy, while the rural parades are representative of elderly, middle class, religious, respectable values (Buckley and Kenney 1995). But these distinctions are always matters of degree: both parts are always present at the major parades; they are the two halves of the Orange community; it is neither just religious, nor purely secular and sectarian: it is always both. One of the most surprising features of the Orange tradition is that it still manages to retain this diversity of features within a single organisation, within a single event, and that it has not been subject to schism and fragmentation in the way that the Protestant Church has. In fact virtually all sects within the Protestant faith are able to come together within the framework of loyalist parades. This is possible because that framework, while nominally religious, is principally about a collective national identity, constructed and maintained in the face of a threatening Other.

The Twelfth parades also traditionally marked the beginning of the summer holiday period, with factories and industry closing down for two weeks. As a result there is a break in the marching. The season recommences in mid-August with the Relief of Derry commemoration, organised by the Apprentice Boys, and more Black parades. The Apprentice Boys are based in the city of Londonderry; their main purpose is to commemorate the events of the siege of the city in 1688-9. To do so they host a small parade each December to mark the Closing of the Gates and the beginning of the siege, and another on the Saturday nearest 12 August to mark the Relief of the city (Derry Day). This latter is one of the biggest events in the parading calendar: it draws members, bands and supporters from all across the north, as they come to Derry for the day to remember 1689, to walk the walls, and to renew friendships. On the same day the Blackmen of County Fermanagh commemorate the battle of Newtownbutler in 1689, when the Enniskillen garrison defeated the approaching Irish army, an event that in turn assisted the final relief of the siege of Derry (Macrory 1988).

The final major parading day of the season is the Last Saturday of August, when the Royal Black Institution hold six county demonstrations (Black Saturday). This day does not herald any specific anniversary, but rather marks a ceremonial end to the summer marching season. These are only the largest and most prominent of the parades: woven in amongst these anniversaries are numerous smaller events that often pass unnoticed except by those immediately involved. These begin with an Apprentice Boys parade on Easter Monday and end with Reformation Day church services at the end of October; in between, each of the local branches of the loyal orders will hold a number of church parades, as well as parades to unfurl banners and to dedicate halls, charity parades, and others.

How Many?

In 1995 there were 3,500 parades held in the north of Ireland: 2,581 of these were classified by the police as loyalist events, and 302 were nationalist (these will be considered in more detail in the next chapter); the remaining 617 were made up of such events as St Patrick's day parades, the trade union May Day parades and those organised by bodies such as the Boys' Brigade and the Salvation Army. In spite of the insistence on the importance of parading as a tradition, with all the implications of continuity and lack of change that that word suggests, police records show (Table 6.1) that there has been a steady increase in loyalist parades over the past ten years. The figures also show a vast imbalance between the number of parades that are held by the two dominant communities: loyalist parades outnumber republican ones by around 9:1. I want therefore to address three issues that these statistics raise: firstly, Why are there so many parades? ~ even given the number of anniversaries and local parades already discussed above, the numbers seem excessive; second, Why are the numbers of parades increasing?; and third, Why is there such a difference between the number of loyalist and republican parades?

The description of the main anniversaries of the marching season only scratches the surface in addressing the number of parades that are held each year. If we return to the description of the Belfast Twelfth, it is clear that not only are there a number of smaller parades in the days preceding the main event, but that there are also many small parades on the Twelfth itself, as lodges and bands assemble at their local hall prior to parading to join the main event. There is no requirement to seek permission to hold a


Source: Royal Ulster Constabulary Chief Constable's Annual Report. (No statistics were published prior to 1985.)

Table 6.1. Total number of parades between 1985 and 1995

parade - it is regarded as a civil right (although not an unproblematic one); however, under the 1987 Public Order (Northern Ireland) Order, parade organisers must notify the police of their intentions to hold a parade, and indicate the route and the probable number of participants, at least seven days beforehand. This is done by filling out a detailed form known as an '11 / 1'. In most cases this is a formality: the police do not give permission or sanction the parade, although if in their opinion they think the parade may cause serious public disorder they can impose constraints (on music, on flags, etc.) or order that the parade take a different route. Most parades take the route they wish, with a minimum of constraint. Each parade organiser therefore fills in an 11 / 1; and each completed 11 /1 signifies a statistical parade.

Each of the main parading days will involve a large number of individual parades. Members of the loyal orders rarely depart for, or arrive at, a venue in a quiet and inconspicuous manner. In many cases a lodge or a band gather in the morning at the lodge master 's or the band leader's house; they may then parade to the local hall to meet other local lodges, and collectively they will parade to the main assembly point. In other cases the lodges parade through their home area before boarding a bus that takes them to the main venue. Some lodges or bands may have taken part in three different parades before the main event has started. Each major event always involves a large number of these small feeder parades, and, whether it includes 10 men or 10,000 men, statistically each parade is treated the same. Although there are eighteen main parades on the Twelfth of July, the total number of notifications, and therefore legally recorded parades, on the Twelfth in 1995 was 547. Over 20 per cent of all loyalist parades were held on a single day Similar large numbers of parades will be held on Derry Day and on Black Saturday: the marching season therefore is not evenly spread. The large number of loyalist parades is in part a reflection of both the scale of the organisation and its decentralised nature. There is no part of the Orange hierarchy that oversees, or restricts, these parades. Some areas seem to parade more often than others; but there is no formal means of constraint - the decision to parade to another parade is a purely local matter, although one that invariably invokes the idea of tradition.

Providing an explanation for the steady growth in the number of parades is rather more difficult. However, one must be aware that tradition is a vague, and sometimes elastic, concept, especially when it is used as political weapon and when there are no clear records available. Nor do the police statistics provide much help. They do not indicate whether the growth is a regional factor or specific to one organisation, or represents an increase in one particular type of parade. The decentralisation of the loyal orders means that no central records are kept of the total number of parades, while individual members often have no more than a very general idea of the total number of parades in their own areas. Few people are willing even to admit that parade numbers are growing to any extent, and, on the contrary, many loyalists feel that their parading traditions are under threat. Nevertheless, I will offer some suggestions to account for the increase. The decentralised nature of the loyal orders is probably one factor in the growth in the number of parades in recent years. In the past the elaboration of loyalist parades and displays has occurred largely in response to perceived political threats: parading was a way of displaying and affirming communal strength and local dominance. In recent years, and perhaps particularly since the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985, Protestants have felt their constitutional position, and therefore their sense of national identity, more threatened than at any time since partition. One response has been to parade more frequently in local areas, and also to organise more parades for more events: mini-Twelfth and Somme anniversary parades seem to have been two particular growth areas. Another growth area may be in the number of feeder parades to main events, especially as the loyalist communities have become more dispersed in the greater Belfast area: for instance, there has been a steady increase in the total number of parades on the Twelfth in recent years - these have risen from 361 in 1990 to 547 in 1995. It is difficult to account for this increase except as an expansion of local practice.

Another prominent factor has been the emergence of a new type of parades that are organised by the bands themselves, and that fall outside the auspices of the loyal orders. Band parades are held on each Friday and Saturday evening and on many Saturday afternoons throughout the summer months (Bell 1990). These are a distinct part of the wider loyalist culture of parading, but are not related to any formal commemoration. Instead, they are social events: the host band uses the event to raise money, while the visiting bands compete with each other for a range of trophies and prizes that are adjudged to them on their marching and musical abilities. The successful bands are those that go to lots of other parades, and only by visiting other band parades are they likely to attract bands to their own parade. A more recent extension to these social events has been the development of commemorative band parades: these are held both to honour the memory of local paramilitaries and on Armistice Day in November to commemorate the First World War UVF volunteers. Both of these types of event illustrate the close links between some of the bands and the paramilitary groups. While they are not a part of the formal commemorative cycle, these parades nevertheless add another layer to the network of affiliations that is mapped out across the province, and add more figures to the statistics.

Parading is often claimed to be a specific feature of Orange or loyalist culture, and a parade an expression of Orange culture. The implication of this statement is that parading is not a feature of nationalist culture. But the discrepancy between the number of loyalist and nationalist parades can also be related to the broader political history of Ireland. The imbalance of power in the north has historically been used to constrain nationalist and republican parades, while loyalists have come to regard parading as a key element of their culture and an expression of their inalienable civil rights and liberties. Loyalists expect to be able to march where and when they will in their country; but they regard nationalist parades as a threat to public order. Loyalist parades are inevitably presented as cultural and traditional rather than political, while nationalist, and in particular republican, parades are seen as political and therefore provocative and confrontational. Traditional parades are presented as unproblematic and uncontentious, whereas political parades need to be carefully policed and constrained. The opportunity to demand and to exercise the right to march is thus a symbol of the distribution of political power in Northern Ireland. Tradition is invoked wherever possible, while the language of politics is avoided.

Although parading continues to be claimed as the prerogative of the loyalist community, nationalists also have a long history of parading. The nationalist parading bodies, the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) and the Irish National Foresters (INF), as well as the republican movement organise an extensive range of parades throughout the marching season and, as we shall see in the next chapter, in recent years the republican movement has readily taken up the practice of parading as an element of its own culture of remembrance. But it is almost easier to regard these as two distinct marching seasons - a nationalist commemorative calendar that runs in parallel to the loyalist one. The two cycles are only ever vaguely connected: although the loyalist parades over the Easter weekend were begun in the 1930s to counterbalance the republican Easter parades, few people are aware of this, and they are now an accepted part of the loyalist tradition. In practice the marching season consists of two groups of interlocking but distinct cycles (see Table 6.2): loyalist and nationalist groups neither share nor contest any commemorative occasions. Furthermore, the two communities rarely ever parade on the same day: most loyalist parades are held on a Saturday or on a weekday evening, and only church parades (which are treated by Protestants as an extension of the act of worship) are held on a Sunday, which is idealised as a purely religious day. In contrast, Sunday is used by Catholics as the principal day for religious observance, recreation and public demonstrations. Morning Mass is followed by an afternoon of sports, and, on the appropriate occasions, by public commemorations and political demonstrations. The two cycles of commemorations never coincide: the two communities parade on distinct and mutually exclusive anniversaries, and on different days of the week; and furthermore, they rarely even parade over

DateLoyalist Nationalist
January 29Bloody Sunday
March 17St Patricks Day

Easter Rising
TuesdayJunior LOL
1st Sunday

Hunger Strikes

Portadown M-12
3rd FridayN. Belfast M-12
20Wolf Tone
4th SaturdayW. Belfast M-12
July :

Somme Commemorations
Sat. before 12Rossnowlagh (Donegal)
Sun. before 12Orange Church Parades
12Twelfth - 19 venues
13RBI - Scarva
lst Sunday

INF Annual Parade
2nd SundayInternment Parades
12ABOD - Siege of Derry
RBI - Newtownbutler
15AOH - Lady Day
Last SaturdayRBI - 6 venues
Last Sunday

Reformation Day
Church Services
December 18ABOD - Closing Gates

*Including all the major parades but with an over-emphasis on Belfast for the Orange Order mini-Twelfth (M-12) parades.
The exact dates often vary from year to year; most are held on the nearest weekend.

Table 6.2. The Annual Cycle of Parades in Ulster*

the same routes or through the same towns. However, the cumulative effect of the (seemingly) continuous routine of alternating loyalist and nationalist parades is to raise tension and to sour community relations, particularly during the most intense cycle of parades in midsummer.

The Geography of Parading

The significance of parading in the politics of Northern Ireland is as much about geography as it is about history. For loyalists parading is a means of displaying faith and pride in one's culture, and exercising the right to parade is also a means of confirming that Ulster is British. Nationalists on the other hand see loyalist parades as triumphal expressions of superiority, as coat-trailing and an indicator of the continuing differences in communal civil rights. Both perspectives have a validity. Parades are expressions of culture, displays of faith and acts of domination; and they are intimately linked to the wider political domain. They work both as a part of an internal dynamic and to consolidate difference. Kertzer (1988:23) has argued that the simultaneous enactment of ritual activities is a widely used mechanism through which peripheral groups are symbolically connected to the centre of political power. Geographically or socially marginal groups mirror the displays of the political or ritual centre, and thereby are able to affirm their place in an idealised unity (see also Vogt and Abel 1977).

In Northern Ireland, the Protestant ideology of individualistic egalitarianism circumvents the need for a permanent centre. On the Twelfth of July and on the Last Saturday there is no unifying centre that determines either the ritual procedure or standards; rather, a multitude of decentralised events incorporate the whole province within their scope. The parades simultaneously connect the entire unionist population of Northern Ireland in the process of public commemoration. But they do so without valuing one group of people, one locality or one parade venue over another: each locality that hosts a parade is on an equal footing with the others. Belfast may host the biggest single event and attract much of the media coverage on the Twelfth; but the city never hosts a major Black or Apprentice Boys parade. All venues attract prominent public speakers from within the loyalist community; but the political heavyweights may choose, or be invited, to appear at any of the many venues. lan Paisley parades each year with the small Independent Orange Order (although he is not a member), away from the centre of political importance in rural County Antrim. Furthermore, the decentralised nature of the organisation of the parades demands a constant rotation of the venues: this helps to consolidate the unity of Protestant Ulster by drawing a maximum number of people into participation. Because this custom draws on and reconfirms the egalitarian principles of Protestantism, it thereby confirms to the faithful that Ulster remains in essence a Protestant state for a Protestant people. The parades themselves commemorate military victories, but the process of commemoration has become interwoven with the threads of religious faith, and each year these are re-spun across the province.

The Twelfth of July generates the biggest parades and crowds, the most colour and noise as well as the most disruption and protests. It remains the highlight of the parading calendar, THE single event that marks the Ulster identity. The locations of the Twelfth parades are therefore shared out across the province, to include as many towns and villages as possible within the celebrations. The only place apart from Belfast to host an annual Twelfth parade is the staunchly Protestant town of Ballymena in the Democratic Unionist Party heartlands of mid-Antrim. Apart from these two fixed points, each of the six Orange county organisations has its own routine for planning the location and the number of parades in its own area. The 17 venues outside Belfast are divided as follows:

Co. Antrim
Co. Armagh
Co. Down
Co. Fermanagh
Co. Londonderry
Co. Tyrone

In County Armagh the parade rotates on an ll-year cycle around the principal towns of the county. Apart from Fermanagh, the other counties hold larger numbers of smaller parades at which participation is based at the lower district level of organisation. In County Down, for example, there are four parades in which the lodges from Newtownards, Upper Ards, Bangor and Holywood Districts from the north of the county walk together; the 15 Mourne District lodges in the south hold another parade; the eastern Districts of Lecale, Saintfield, Castlewellan, Comber and Ballynahinch hold another; and the lodges from eight western Districts hold the fourth. By rotating the venues within each group of districts practical matters such as the organisational work and the cost of the day's commemorations are shared around. Large parades are shared around a greater number of venues, and these costs are incurred only rarely. In County Armagh the parade has been held in 12 different venues in the past 26 years, and no district has hosted the event on more than three occasions; whereas in the Mourne District, in which only a small number of villages are represented, the parade returns on a much more regular cycle.

Table 6.3 lists the venues of all the Twelfth parades, by county, in the 26 years of the Troubles. Like Co. Armagh, many towns and villages host the event on a regular cycle: these range from a parade every two years for Kilkeel in the Mourne district to one every 10 years for Ballyclare. The majority of cyclical parade venues host the event on a cycle of between four and eight years. Besides the practicalities that affect the rotating of parades, the scale of the distribution symbolically affirms Ulster's Protestant status. The insistence by the Orangemen that they have a right to walk anywhere in Northern Ire ' land, and that Ulster is primarily a Protestant province, is annually put into practice, and over a period of years the entire six counties is encapsulated within the recurring and expanding trace of 'traditional' routes. Most towns and villages, regardless of the relative proportions of Protestant and Catholic inhabitants, will eventually host a parade, which will thereby confirm their symbolic 'Protestant' status.

Orangemen claim that being able to walk along traditional routes is an essential feature of their civil rights. Any challenge to this is seen as symptomatic of the creeping influence of Dublin and of the threat of compromise over the status of Northern Ireland. The range of towns and villages that are regularly paraded implies that these rights are being actively maintained, and that nowhere is abandoned as an integral part of Protestant Ulster. In practice it seems more complicated. Some of these venues have not been walked on the Twelfth since the early 1970s, although they are maintained as traditional routes by hosting other parades. In County Fermanagh, an area in which the Orange Standard (the Order's monthly paper) regularly claims that Protestants are being hounded out of their farms in the remoter border areas ('ethnically cleansed', in their current language), one-third of the venues have not been used in recent years: the Twelfth parades have been concentrated in fewer, larger and safer towns. However, the Black parades in late August, which, until recently, have not tended to

ANTRIM, 33 venuesRichhill 3Irvinestown1
Aghalee4Tandragee 2Kesh2
Ahogill8DOWN, 37 venues Lisbelaw3
Antrim6Annalong 6Maguiresbridge3
AughafattenBallygowan 1Newtownbutler1
Ballinderry4Ballyhalbert 1Tempo1
Ballycastle8Ballymartin 5
Ballyclare3Ballynahinch 5LONDONDERRY, 14
Ballygelly1Banbridge 8venues
Ballymena26Bangor 5Ballyronan2
Ballymoney9Braniel 1Bellaghy1
Broughshane6Carrowdore 1Castledawson1
Buckna3Carryduff 1Coleraine7
Bushmills5Castlewellan 2Garvagh3
Carnlough4Comber 5Kilrea4
Carnmoney2Crossgar 2Limavady7
Carrickfergus3Donacloney 1Londonderry7
Cloughmills3Downpatrick 2Macosquin2
Crumlin2Dromara 2Maghera2
Cullybackey10Dundrum 2Magherafelt4
Derriaghey4Gilford 3Moneymore4
Dervock1Greyabbey 1Portstewart2
Glenarm5Groomsport 1Tobermore3
Glenavy2Hillsborough 4TYRONE, 22 venues
Clengormley1Holywood 4Augher4
Larne6Kilkeel 14Aughnacloy6
Lisburn4Killyleagh 1Ballygawley7
Mosside1Kircubbin 1
Newtownabbey1Loughbrickland 33Benburb4
Portglenone12Millisle 1Beragh3
Portrush1Moira 2Castlecaulfield44
Randalstown4Newcastle 1Castlederg3
Rasharkin10Newry 2Castlederry1
Stonyford1Newtownards 6Clogher5
ARMAGH, 12 venuesPortaferry 2Coagh3
Armagh2Portavogie 1Cookstown5
Bessbrook2Rathfriland Dromore3
Keady2Saintfield 3Dungannon4
Kilmore1Waringstown 1Fintona2
Killylea3Warrenpoint 4FiveMileTown3
Loughgall2FERMANAGH, 12 N'townstewart5
Lurgan2venues Omagh4
Markethill3Ballinamallard 22Pomeroy4
N'townhamilton3Brookeborough 3Sixmilecross2
Portadown3Derrygonnelly 1Stewartstown4
Enniskillen 7Strabane1

Table 6.3. Location and Number of Twelfth Parades, 1968-1994

generate such strong emotions as the Twelfth, continue to be held across a wide range of venues. Smaller venues, such as Claudy, Co. Derry, Sion Mills near Strabane, Moy on the Tyrone-Armagh border and Dromore and Donaghadee in Co. Down, can maintain their traditional status by hosting Black parades on the Last Saturday. Once the wider range of parades and the complex patterns of sharing the venues around are drawn out, the settlements that are voluntarily excluded from the major events of the parading cycle are few indeed.

Nevertheless, there are some. Most of the places that have not hosted a major loyalist parade are on the margins of the province, and have no great symbolic significance to Orangemen. They are either geographically isolated or surrounded by towns and villages that do hold parades, and can thus be overlooked without causing an affront to Orange tradition. Such places include Cushendall and Whitehead on the Antrim coast; Strangford and Ballywalter on the Ards peninsula; Ardglass, Killough and Rostrevor on the South Down coast; Crossmaglen and Middletown on the Armagh border; and Belleek on the Fermanagh border. The towns of Coalisland in Tyrone and Dungiven in Co. Derry are the only other substantial places that have been (relatively) parade-free recently, although Dungiven was the site of major disputes in the 1950s (Bryan 1996; Farrell 1980). All of these are also towns and villages with an overwhelmingly Catholic and nationalist population, and this seems to be discreetly acknowledged as a significant fact by the Orangemen, in spite of the rhetoric of walking where they will. Similarly within Belfast, some nationalist areas that were once paraded, such as the New Lodge and parts of the Falls, have long been abandoned. Part of the concerns of the loyal orders over the growing nationalist protests at their parades is that the areas where they are no longer able to walk freely will only increase. The fight to maintain traditional routes in areas with a large Catholic population is an attempt to deny or to ignore the demographic and political changes that have been taking place in Northern Ireland in the past few decades.

Although some nationalist towns or areas do seem to be acknowledged as inappropriate venues by the loyal orders, an overwhelming or dominant Catholic population need not be regarded as a deterrent if the Order regards it as part of a traditional Orange route. Keady in Co. Armagh and Pomeroy in Co. Tyrone, both of which have an estimated 95 per cent Catholic population, have hosted controversial Twelfth parades in recent years (Belfast Telegraph 11.7.89). In 1991 a judicial review was held at the last minute on an RUC decision to authorise the parade through Pomeroy, an event that occurs every 7 years. After permission to allow the parade was finally given, the local Orangemen agreed to amend their route slightly to avoid an area that was described as 'predominately nationalist' (BT 11.7.91, 12.7.91). Still, a massive security operation was mounted to protect the estimated 10,000 marchers. In most similar cases the RUC have been prepared to authorise Orange parades even in the face of stiff local opposition, and have emphasised the Order's own arguments that the practice is traditional (a distinct legal category until 1987) and that it is not meant to cause offence or that the parade will not take very long or cause much disruption. On such occasions an appeal is often made to the memory of previous parades that have passed peacefully or to nostalgic recollections of those days, before the Troubles, when Catholics enjoyed watching the Orangemen pass by. Until recently only rarely have the opponents' arguments been upheld, and usually some form of compromise that favours the Orangemen has been enforced.

Parades in Conflict

This is not an unchanging scenario, however: the disputes in Keady and Pomeroy marked the beginnings of a more serious contest over the right to parade, which has counterposed this civil right with the right not to suffer unwanted parades. The dispute reflects how parading is seen from two distinct perspectives. As I have described, the unionist community see the parades as an expression of their civil rights, a celebration of their culture and a confirmation of their constitutional status; whereas nationalists regard the (seemingly) constant parades as triumphalist reminders of their second-class status. The earliest signs of the present dispute began with disputes over loyalist parades in Castlewellan and Downpatrick in the early 1980s and in Portadown in 1985 and 1986 (Bryan, Fraser and Dunn 1995). These resulted in a change to the law, and some restriction on the rights of traditional parades; but the balance of political will remained with the Orangemen, as the cases of Keady and Pomeroy illustrate. However, since the ceasefires of 1994 the issue of the right to parade has become a major political issue.

Residents' groups opposing Orange parades began to appear in 1995, in Belfast, Bellaghy, Derry and Portadown, and over the next year similar groups were formed in other nationalist towns and villages. They have demanded that parades be re-routed away from their areas, or that the loyal orders seek the consent of the residents before trying to parade. The loyal orders have generally been unwilling either to change the route of their parades or to negotiate with the residents, whom they regard as little more than a Sinn Féin front. Mediation has largely been unsuccessful and compromise rare; instead, the dispute has brought to a head the divergent attitudes of the two communities (see Jarman and Bryan 1996; Montgomery and Whitten 1995; Pat Finucane Centre 1995 1996). In July 1996 the decision by the police to ban an Orange church parade from walking along the nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown led to several days of loyalist road-blocks and rioting. When the police reversed their decision in the face of even more massive public disorder, the nationalist community reacted in a similar way. The dispute polarised the two communities in a way that had rarely been seen before, even during the height of the Troubles; the political middle ground disappeared; and there was widespread speculation of a return to paramilitary violence. In the event the two sides pulled back, although the protests against parades continued, and the dispute escalated on a slow fuse with a campaign of consumer boycotts, intimidation, sporadic arson attacks, increases in residential segregation, the picketing of Catholic churches and a general rise in tension. The government belatedly announced a review of the law and decision-making process surrounding the rights to parade; but this was regarded by many on both sides as too little, too late. As I write, the review body is just beginning its work.

The crisis illustrates the continued symbolic and political significance that is given to the right to parade, to particular parade routes, to the importance of parading for geographical and communal identity, and the difficulties of balancing conflicting perceptions of those rights. But it would be wrong to see 1996 as merely a cyclical re-enactment of 1969 - many things have changed: too many for some, not enough for others. In 1996 it was a confident and assertive nationalist community that confronted the loyal orders, and although they were angry at what was seen as the playing of the Orange card in Portadown and the capitulation of the state to the threat of violence, nationalists are more readily able to assert their own communal identity than a generation ago. While the loyal orders feel threatened by the demands to give up or change their traditions of parading, the nationalist community have readily asserted their own rights to parade. A little-publicised feature of the Troubles has been the way in which the nationalist community, and in particular the republican movement, have used public parades to assert their growing power and to extend their tradition of commemorations; we turn to these parades next.

Photographs by Neil Jarman

(The following photographs appear in the book at the end of chapter 6. Neil Jarman has also provided additional photographs of parades, bands and banners.)

Walking I, Edenderry, Twelth 1995 [Black and White Photograph]

Walking II, Lower Falls, Internment Parade, August 1993 [Black and White Photograph]

Walking III, East Belfast, Somme Parade, July 1993 [Black and White Photograph]

Walking IV, Londonderry, August 1992 [Black and White Photograph]

CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
CAIN is based within Ulster University.

go to the top of this page go to the top of this page
Last modified :