Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary Memorandum submitted by Mr Brendan McAllister, Director of the Mediation Network for Northern Ireland

Mediation and the Drumcree Conflict
The Potential for Intervention in 2000
(Second Edition, January 2001)

  Basis of Report
  1.  The Meaning of Mediation
  2.  A Chronology of the Drumcree Conflict 1995 — 1999

    July 1995 — Drumcree One
    September 1995 — June 1996
    July 1996 — Drumcree Two
    September 1996 — June 1997
    July 1997 — Drumcree Three
    September 1997 — June 1998
    July 1998 — Drumcree Four
    September 1998 — June 1999
    July 1999 — Drumcree Five
    September 1999 — 2000
  3.  Current Orange Perspectives
  4.  Current Residents' Perspectives
  5.  Analysis of the Conflict
  6.  The Direction of the Drumcree Conflict in 2000
  7.  Difficulties with Mediation
  8.  The Potential Contribution of Mediation


      (i)  The Drumcree Conflict: Phases of Evolution via Mediation Endeavours
      (ii)  Outline Chronology


  This report is written in response to a request from the Parades Commission for my opinion of previous efforts to resolve the Drumcree dispute and the potential for a resolution in the future. It is based on my involvement in the parades conflict since 1995 and contact with individuals on all sides.

  The report expresses my professional opinion. It should not be interpreted as representing, directly or indirectly, the views of the parties to the Drumcree dispute.


  For the purposes of this report I should like to define mediation in a way which is relevant to the dispute:

    Mediation is about assisting communication between individuals or groups in conflict in order to manage or overcome estrangement and effect positive change.

  The Drumcree conflict involves violence, hurt and trauma. "Estrangement" means that a person (or group of persons) is turned away from another and is alienated. When estrangement becomes more manageable, conflict can be managed or, even, transformed in ways which are positive. When estrangement is overcome, conflict can be resolved. Mediators do not resolve conflicts. Rather, they make a contribution to the management or resolution of conflicts. Other factors have a bearing, to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the situation. Of course, the main contributors to the resolution of conflict are the protagonists themselves.

  Effecting positive change is the ultimate intention of mediation. Change needs to occur in various ways, depending on the type of conflict. Generally speaking change can take place in four ways:

    (i)  Personal change — within the attitudes, behaviour or "wants" of an individual.

    (ii)  Inter-personal change — between individuals, ie in relationships.

    (iii)  Structural change — regarding authorities, the law, institutional provision.

    (iv)  Systemic change — within wider groups, communities or, indeed, a whole society.

  Mediation, has a variety of methods which, however, share a number of characteristics:

    —  an impartial "Third Party" presence among people affected by conflict.

    —  a focus on the human dimensions of conflict.

    —  attention to the restoration or renewal of relationships.

    —  the application of strategy or design to the activity of Conflict Intervention.

    —  the search for a solution which the parties view as relevant to the situation.

  Mediation can discharge one or more of the following functions:

    (i)  To assist communication.

    (ii)  To improve understandings.

    (iii)  To support creative thinking.

    (iv)  To explore accommodations.

    (v)  To facilitate agreements.

  An "accommodation" differs from an "agreement" in that the latter requires a greater degree of harmony and compromise whereas, in an accommodation those in dispute do enough to "get by each other".

  The methodology of mediation falls into three categories:

    —  Formal Mediation, where the mediator is endorsed by both sides and they meet face to face in an agreed process.

    —  Intermediation, where the mediator is endorsed by both sides but they do not meet, though there is an agreed process. As a go-between, the mediator's task is to bring information, from one party to another, facilitate separate discussion and assist further communication.

    —  Conciliation, where a mediation process is not explicitly established between disputants but in his/her contact with each side the mediator encourages "inclusive thinking" as well as offering support.

  Considering the definition, characteristics, functions and methods of mediation which I have just outlined, in my opinion, there has been little mediation practised to date in the Drumcree dispute.



  Both sides differ on the origins of this dispute. From the perspective of one senior Orangeman, it was sparked by a unionist blockade of a nationalist parade one St. Patrick's Day in the late 1970s. It then simmered until the Obins St. confrontations of 1985 — 1986 and was, in his view, nurtured by Fr Brian Lennon, S J and the Drumcree Faith and Justice Group on the Garvaghy Road in the early 1990s.

  From the residents' group's point of view, the origins have been more succinctly stated: "the problem is as old as the Orange Order".

July 1995 — Drumcree One

  To the surprise of everyone, the RUC's regional commander, Assistant Chief Constable Hall, blocked the Drumcree church parade from the Garvaghy Road in 1995. A stand-off ensued for over two days. On the second evening, I was invited by ACC Hall to mediate between the two sides, assisted by my colleague, Joe Campbell. Our method of intervention was "intermediation", going between the two sides. There was a positive outcome which involved the parade proceeding down the Garvaghy Road. Our contribution involved facilitating communication, improving understandings, supporting creative thinking and exploring an accommodation.

  This was crisis intervention work which was necessarily crude, but, with hindsight, unnecessarily flawed.

  We did not engage Portadown District LOL No 1. We managed to engage only a small number of Orangemen, none of whom were leaders of Portadown District. Most of our dialogue on the Orange side was with unionist politicians acting on behalf of the District Lodge. In the event, we ultimately facilitated communication between RUC commanders and the Garvaghy Road Residents' Group.

  When an accommodation was reached between residents' leaders and police in our presence, I established a further point of understanding in an exchange with the acting Deputy Chief Constable when he stated that there was no question of parades proceeding without the consent of the local community. This disclosure was consequently in the minds of residents' leaders when the parade came down the road.

  Due to police concerns for public order in the deteriorating situation I was left with insufficient time to clarify final understandings with the Orange Order before the parade went down the road.

  The accommodation, which involved a parade taking place within a context of greater respect, was short-lived. Orangemen were largely unaware of the nature of the accommodation. In the atmosphere of celebration which prevailed among Protestants in Portadown, it appeared to nationalists that unionist politicians were triumphalist. They also immediately denied any suggestion that there had been a compromise.

  Therefore, the 1995 mediation effort was inadequate in the longer term. We had not been able to engage the right Orangemen. The police public order agenda became paramount. Understandings, which later became significant, were not clarified, nor properly secured. Neither side had been required to agree an objective. For a mediation process to function properly, opposing sides must adopt much the same agenda.

September 1995-June 1996

  Through the winter of 1995 and into 1996, the Orange Order strategised in order to win "Drumcree Two". Orange leaders from Armagh County Grand Lodge became involved and established a disciplined regime among the members. They anticipated a second stand-off and planned widespread protest. They were suspicious of everyone, especially people outside of the Order. The residents' group were viewed as having a sinister, Republican agenda.

  Meanwhile, the residents' group were resentful and increasingly cynical. They had seen their perception of an accommodation in 1995 immediately de-constructed by the other side. Contrary to expectations at the end of Drumcree One, Orangemen refused to enter dialogue. From a nationalist perspective, David Trimble became leader of the Ulster Unionist Party with a reputation which seemed, largely, made at Drumcree, yet, he refused to meet particular Garvaghy Road residents leaders, within his own constituency. The residents also became increasingly distrustful of the RUC, viewing them as partisan. Their lack of confidence worsened when, at a meeting with the Chief Constable, Sir Hugh Annesley, it was denied that an indication had been given to the Mediation Network in 1995 that parades would require consent from the local community. They were also now sceptical about the Mediation Network, whom they viewed as having assisted the agenda of the police. The residents' group called for dialogue and began to lobby government.

  Efforts by the Mediation Network to engage Portadown District via unionist politicians and clergy proved ineffective. In the year between Drumcree One and Two, there was no mediation.

July 1996 — Drumcree Two

  In 1996, the RUC again decided to block the parade. There was a stand-off for over four days. The Orange Order's battle plan swung into operation with massive protests at Drumcree and disruption across Northern Ireland. There was widespread disorder and violence and cross community tension. The involvement of loyalist paramilitaries, particularly the Portadown loyalist, Billy Wright, became widely observed. A Catholic taxi driver, Michael McGoldrick, was murdered near Lurgan.

  A senior Northern Ireland Office official, John Steele, acted on behalf of the Secretary of State, Sir Patrick Mayhew. Mr Steele was in contact with both sides, with exploratory offers, to no avail.

  Archbishop Robin Eames became the chief conciliator. A meeting was convened at the Ulster Carpets factory on the Garvaghy Road. According to Orange sources, they agreed to send delegates on the understanding that Breandan Mac Cionnaith would not be directly involved. When they discovered his presence at the factory, they left.

  By contrast, the residents state that they had agreed to participate with an expectation that they would engage with members of Portadown District and that names were exchanged in advance. In the event, none were there and, before the residents' leaders had returned to the Garvaghy Road, the parade was being prepared and police were facing down residents.

  For the second time, the activity of mediation suffered discredit and both sides lost further confidence in it.

  Both felt misled about the carpet factory meeting. Both sides now viewed Archbishop Eames with suspicion, for different reasons. For his part, the Archbishop was relying on the moral authority (or clout) of his office to bring the two sides together. There was no structured mediation process, with no agreed objective or design.

  Meanwhile, the conflict itself was becoming more complex and the number and variety of "players", or parties, was growing. Drumcree Two ended with a reversal by the police. After days of building confidence with the residents, police turned on them and facilitated a parade down the road. Yet the Orange attitude to the police was also negative. They were judged for being prepared to oppose the Orange Order in the first place.

September 1996 — June 1997

  The year between Drumcree Two and Three featured the "Review of Parades and Marches" under Dr Peter North. His report eventually led to the establishment of the Parades Commission, in shadow form, by Drumcree Three. Meanwhile, on the ground in the Portadown area, relations deteriorated. A 12 year old Catholic Darren Murray was knocked down while running from an altercation with loyalist youths in October 1996.

  Through the winter and spring, attitudes hardened all round.

  On the other hand, Orange leaders felt victorious. Many brethren believed the war had been won: the right to march had been restored. Others were concerned about the degree of violence and disruption in 1996 and feared a recurrence in 1997. Therefore, with the help of individuals on the Order's Education Committee, efforts were made to engage in "a mission to explain" to non-Orange people. This included an open letter to the people of the Garvaghy Road. Officers of Armagh County Lodge sought an accommodation. They would try to achieve a parade with consensus with the residents. However, in this regard, they would not engage in dialogue with the residents' group and if consensus was not reached, they would insist on their right to march being enforced.

  With a more hardline strategy in mind, the Spirit of Drumcree group was formed in November 1996 and tension within the Orange Order began to manifest itself. Orangemen who participated in a mediation process for Dunloy in County Antrim early in 1997, were faced down forcefully by the wider membership in County Antrim, led by individuals associated with the Spirit of Drumcree. The Dunloy accommodation was disowned. At the Grand Lodge of Ireland, a motion from Co. Antrim forbidding further mediation was adopted and became a policy for the whole of the Institution.

  On the residents' side, the events of 1996-97 were having a profound effect. Across the Nationalist community there was deep anger with the RUC for caving in to pressure at Drumcree Two. There was also anger about the deaths of Michael McGoldrick and Darren Murray. In May 1997, a Catholic man, Robert Hamill was fatally beaten on a Portadown street by a group of loyalists while RUC officers looked on. Sectarian tension on the ground in Portadown increased.

  However, upon its election in May 1997 the new Labour government gave cause for renewed hope, especially with the appointment of Mo Mowlam as Secretary of State. Residents leaders already knew her. She was a hands-on, charismatic politician. However, many Unionists and Orangemen distrusted her.

  In the local government elections, Breandan Mac Cionnaith topped the poll in Portadown. His GRRC colleague, Joe Duffy, was also elected with him to Craigavon Borough Council. In June Constables Graham and Johnston were shot dead by the IRA in Lurgan.

  With weeks to go before Drumcree Three, proximity talks were hastily convened at Hillsborough, under the Secretary of State. However, this proved to be a non-event. Again, there was no clear structure, no agreed design and no common objective. Each side found the experience of waiting for long periods in separate rooms debilitating. The Secretary of State, with the political authority of her office and closely assisted by the NIO official, John Steele, kept up efforts to broker a deal until two nights before Drumcree Sunday.

  All of these efforts were aimed at a negotiated deal, not mediation. Both sides had turned up at Hillsborough with no confidence in the occasion. For their own reasons, each felt obliged to be seen to co-operate in an exercise which they believed to be pointless. With the Portadown District leadership somewhat at a distance, the chief Orange tacticians were County Officers. They recall that as Drumcree Sunday approached, they had reason to worry about Loyalist paramilitary violence breaking out on a significant scale.

July 1997 — Drumcree Three

  In the early hours of Drumcree Sunday, police and soldiers took the Garvaghy Road by force, wearing new dark boiler suits, balaclavas, helmets and riot gear. There were many injuries among the residents. The police and army held the road all morning, sealing in the residents. With St. John's Chapel inaccessible, a Mass was held in the open air at Churchill Park. By lunch time, the parade had been forced down the road and the police and army withdrew amidst rioting on the road.

September 1997 — June 1998:

  When a so-called "Game-plan" document was leaked from the NIO in September 1997, the residents lost confidence in Mo Mowlam. The impression was given that the Hillsborough Proximity Talks had been an elaborate piece of cosmetics and not a genuine search for a settlement. There was also an impression of involvement in the "game-plan" by the new Chairman of the Parades Commission Alistair Graham, who had also angered residents with comments about a compromise parade on the Garvaghy Road.

  When the Parades Commission received its statutory powers, the Orange Order dismissed it as a tool to beat them down. They state that they had been promised a commission with a wider cultural mandate. They now set their face against any association with it.

  In February 1998, a bomb exploded in the centre of Portadown, causing extensive damage. During this period, the government were pre-occupied with the final phase of the Talks Process. However, the Parades Commission struggled to establish its credibility. With one side ignoring it and the other side suspicious, the Commission was not helped by resignations and controversial appointments.

  In April, 1998 the Good Friday Agreement was signed.

  Meanwhile, in Portadown a Catholic, Adrian Lamph, was shot dead by Loyalists.

July 1998 — Drumcree Four

  In its first year in charge of the parades dispute, the Parades Commission re-routed the Drumcree parade away from the Garvaghy Road. They cited the impact on community relations as the deciding factor. Two days before Drumcree Sunday, the Government suddenly announced crisis talks, again in proximity form and this time at Armagh. The Prime Minister's Chief of Staff (and former diplomat), Jonathan Powell, was drafted in to preside with assistance from Rev Roy Magee and Peter Quinn.

  The day before the Drumcree parade, the sides were convened at Armagh. Negotiated outcomes were mooted but engagement was indirect and minimal. Again there was mass protest and renewed violence. On one night at Drumcree, shots were fired at police lines and police were injured by blast bombs. After six days of protest, the stand-off ended amidst acrimony: three young brothers (the Quinns) were burned to death in an arson attack on their home in Ballymoney. Rev William Bingham called for the protest to end. Other Orange leaders followed suit.

  Portadown District maintained their protest, establishing a token presence at Drumcree, led by the District master, Harold Gracey, from a caravan at the church.

  The Drumcree conflict had become ever more complicated. The number of parties was growing on all sides. Concern was expressed by three governments: London, Dublin and Washington. The political agenda of protecting the newly established Good Friday Agreement was a priority for all three. Drumcree threatened to undermine the fragile peace. The issue could provoke paramilitaries on all sides. For the British Government there was a particular concern about the potential of Drumcree to weaken pro-agreement unionism.

  Yet, the Government's intervention was last-minute and haphazard. Again, there was no design, no agreed objective and inadequate preparation. The residents perceived the Government as pre-disposed towards a parade. The Orange Order blamed the Government for establishing the Parades Commission like an albatross around its own neck. Across the community, there was consternation at the deaths of the Quinn children.

  Orangemen resented the police for blaming them. At one demonstration, the Spirit of Drumcree leader, Joel Patton, publicly rebuked Rev Bingham and jostling took place. Mr Patton was subsequently expelled.

September 1998 — June 1999

  With Drumcree Four viewed as a major set-back for Orangemen, there was increasing militancy within the Orange Order. A strategy of protest parades and rallies was adopted. These led to confrontation and at one of these, in October 1998, Constable Frankie O'Reilly was fatally wounded. Sectarian tension in Portadown deteriorated. Twelve Catholic families moved out of the Craigwell Avenue interface. Two Catholic owned shops were bombed in Portadown. Others were burned and some were picketed.

  In March 1999, the residents' solicitor, Rosemary Nelson, was murdered by Loyalists. Many Nationalists suspected police involvement in the light of previously publicised allegations of threats against her from police officers. Residents viewed the policing of protest parades as inadequate and half-hearted, noting that no charges were brought for breaches of Parades Commission rulings. The Parades Commission were also discredited for permitting the protest parades in the first place. The residents' group resorted to the courts to highlight inconsistencies in Parades Commission rulings. In June 1999, Elizabeth O'Neill died in a sectarian attack by Loyalists on her Portadown home.

  Proximity talks led by Jonathan Powell re-convened late in 1998 but ended inconclusively. Both sides complained about the experience. They each appealed directly to Downing Street and met the Prime Minister.

  In the Spring of 1999, the Government appointed a new facilitator, an industrial conciliator, Frank Blair, from Scotland.

  After a period of bilateral assessment, Frank Blair convened proximity talks at the Interpoint centre in Belfast but these came to grief when he tabled proposals from Downing Street which offended the Orange Order. There were also misunderstandings regarding ground-rules. Again, there was no prior agreement on an objective, nor on the design of the process. With the Orange Order continuing to refuse to engage in dialogue, proximity talks were the preferred format. However, neither side truly valued this approach and both sides continued to suffer frustration and a loss of energy from the experience. The GRRC had aired the idea of a Portadown forum with Jonathan Powell but when civil servants produced a blue print, the residents did not view the proposed model as credible because, in their view, nationalists would be, tactically, in a minority.

  Meanwhile, David Trimble had met the residents' group for the first time. He also encountered Breandan Mac Cionnaith and Joe Duffy of the residents' group in talks in Craigavon Civic Centre among local elected representatives which were aimed at a social and economic agenda.

  By this stage there was a clear divergence between the agendas of the two sides. The residents now insisted on progress on social and economic issues and on community relations in Portadown. With Portadown District now much more to the fore within the Orange side, there was a continued insistence upon a more specific focus on the Drumcree parade per se.

  Another development was the emergence of a team of political and legal representatives of Portadown District. There were now two strands of leadership being provided to Portadown District: one led by the Grand Secretary, Denis Watson and one led by David McNarry of the Central Strategy Committee.

  With Drumcree Five imminent, the political and legal representatives, along with other Orangemen (but no members of Portadown District) met residents leaders for direct talks on a Sunday afternoon at Stormont, chaired by Jonathan Powell. However, there was renewed dispute about the agenda and, again, this meeting took place without prior agreement regarding an objective, or a design.

  In the wider context, the Church of Ireland had, by now, produced a set of principles which were implicitly critical of the Drumcree parade. Churches hosting parades were now required to give pledges about their conduct.

  Between Drumcree Four and Five, there had been at least four "talks" initiatives, none of which involved dialogue between the two principal protagonists: the residents' group and Portadown District; none of which had a mutually agreed aim or structure; none of which involved mediators.

July 1999 — Drumcree Five

  In the run-up to Drumcree Sunday 1999, the Long March made its way to Portadown from Derry/Londonderry over a period of days with nightly protest rallies en route.

  Meanwhile, the Prime Minister had become directly involved with both sides. He was much exercised by the dangers which another blocked parade posed for the stability of Unionism and the fledgling Peace Agreement. According to some Orange leaders, their contact with the Prime Minister left them feeling confident that, if they kept protest to a minimum, a parade would follow before too long.

  The Parades Commission re-routed the parade for the second successive year but Drumcree Sunday became a huge anti climax for the general public. The army had secured the area with elaborate engineering and a strong presence along with the police. However, protest was kept low key. The estimated five thousand who turned up on the Sunday morning were encouraged to leave after a short rally. The symbolic protest at the caravan was maintained.

September 1999 — 2000

  Since the summer of 1999, the role of the team of "political and legal representatives" of Portadown District has become more significant. They have met the Parades Commission and have begun to take cognizance of the particulars of Commission rulings with a view to demonstrating a genuine effort to defuse the Drumcree conflict though without engaging in direct dialogue with the residents' leaders.

  Ever mindful of the potential political damage which Drumcree could visit upon the Peace Process, Downing Street have persisted with intervention initiatives. At one stage a new minister, George Howarth, was introduced with a specific remit for Drumcree but he was given short shrift. His colleague, the Security Minister, Adam Ingram, appeared initially to fare better with his efforts to construct a process. However, the residents had by now totally lost trust in Government led initiatives which, in their view, were driven by political concerns. They declined to proceed with Ingram and called for the introduction of an independent mediator.

  Meanwhile, the Government have established a review of the Parades Commission and required all of its members to resign their posts (at the end of their term). This has created some hope on the Orange side that a more credible body might emerge while, from the residents' perspective, the review and the recruitment of a new Commission is being viewed as a negative sign of political interference with a body which had asserted a degree of independence.


  Broadly speaking, there are currently two schools of thought within the Orange Order. The first is one of confidence and is favoured by the leaders of Portadown District and their team of legal and political representatives. In this view, the conditions for a parade are improving. The Government recognise how the Parades Commission have mishandled the problem. The review of the Commission will yield important structural reform and the composition of the new Commission will be such that the importance of the right to parade will be given greater credence.

  At the same time, it is accepted that the Orange Order should take greater cognizance of the decisions of the current Parades Commission and demonstrate efforts to positively respond to issues which the Commission has signaled as being pre-requisites for a parade.

  Therefore, this approach pragmatically accepts the value of addressing the Parades Commission's checklist regarding efforts to engage the residents and address their genuine concerns. Portadown District state that their intentions have always been inoffensive:

    to parade to Church;

    to attend worship;

    to parade back into town in the traditional manner.

  They reason that if the Garvaghy Road people cannot tolerate this tradition, the town will become irrevocably segregated and the alienation of Protestants from Catholics will, in all likelihood, take on a more permanent nature. The people of the Garvaghy Road will be isolating themselves. Community relations will descend to greater depths.

  As things stand, the town is more bitterly divided than ever and intimidation happens on all sides. Protestants have been intimidated out of their homes as well.

  The second school of thought within Orangeism is "non-confident". Those who hold this view, note the previous inability of Downing Street to steer a path round the current Commission and wonder whether the Government will actually manage to reform the Commission. They also wonder whether another forced parade down the Garvaghy Road would really be countenanced in the face of the likely reaction within Nationalism. This school of thought worries about the ongoing effect of Drumcree on the wider Orange Order: the danger of a haemorrhage of the traditional mainstream and the influx of newer blood with an appetite for confrontation.


  Nationalists in Portadown and further afield now view the Drumcree dispute as a struggle by the Orange Order, on behalf of Unionism, to maintain an unequal status quo which is historic and persistent in Northern Ireland. The concept of an "accommodation" with a parade taking place on the basis of mutual respect is viewed as a falsehood. Those who have promoted accommodations have always adhered to the Orange Order's bottom line of a parade, as if it were an immovable fact of life. In the residents' view, a parade on the Garvaghy Road is incompatible with the principle of mutual respect; rather, it is a sign of the absence of respect.

  The Garvaghy Road Residents' Coalition view the Catholic community of Portadown as long term victims of inequality who have been further violated and traumatised by the Drumcree conflict. In this view, it was no accident that the majority of local Nationalists were housed (and sometimes rehoused there following intimidation elsewhere) in one part of Portadown. They were a corralled minority in a town designed to remain an Orange citadel. Since 1995, the Residents' Coalition believe they have been successfully challenging this state of affairs. They acknowledge that this has been at a huge cost. Six people have been murdered since 1996. Many have sustained injuries, either through sectarian attack or on the receiving end of over enthusiastic policing. Many have been intimidated from their homes.

  The RUC are viewed as fellow travellers of the Orange Order. Local Nationalists have countless stories of police inaction in the face of Loyalist assault, particularly at the Craigwell Avenue interface and, most notoriously, at the scene of the fatal attack on Robert Hamill. Furthermore, there is a widely held conviction that police colluded in the assassination of Rosemary Nelson, which robbed the local Nationalist community of a friend and champion.

  From their perspective, the residents' leaders contrast the apparent readiness of police to prosecute Nationalists with their inability to prosecute Orangemen and Loyalists for a litany of misdemeanours.

  According to the Garvaghy Road Residents' Coalition, over the various "Drumcrees", "third party" intervenors have invariably accepted the assumption that the search for an accommodation includes the search for a parade. In this view, such efforts have blurred the real issues. Residents point out that mediation requires the commitment of two parties, yet, Portadown District have never responded positively to requests for mediation, nor indeed, any contact with them.

  Therefore, the emergent residents' view identifies three issues in the Portadown situation.

  Firstly, the issue of ethnic equality, which is inherent in the Good Friday Agreement and various pieces of UK legislation which address the subject of race. In this respect, Catholics can be viewed in racial terms because respective legislation identifies religion as a determinant of race. The residents ask rhetorically: "Where in Great Britain, in this day and age, would the Government force a parade of a white organisation through a black or Muslim area of a city, by the use of thousands of police and soldiers?"

  The residents' coalition now see the State as the primary party with whom they are in conflict. They believe that it is up to the State to prove whether the Good Friday Agreement's promise of a new kind of society means what it says.

  They say that for this reason, Drumcree remains a matter of concern for the Nationalist community across Northern Ireland.

  The second issue for the Residents' Coalition is about parades in Portadown. The residents point out that there are over 30 scheduled "unionist" parades in Portadown each year. They view their acceptance of this as a sign of respect on the part of Nationalists. However, they argue that this should not mean that parades should be allowed to pass through areas wherein they are not welcome. The residents' group points out that Nationalists have not sought to parade in areas where they would not be welcome. In this regard, they say that the outward route of the Drumcree church parade is emerging as a matter of contention. Urban re-zoning will create the likelihood of Catholic expansion around Drumcree. The outward route has the possibility of becoming an issue similar to the Garvaghy Road leg — an unwelcome parade through a predominantly nationalist area. The residents' group would be willing to discuss this matter with the Portadown District. They believe that there is now an urgent need to reach agreement on this matter.

  However, they no longer view parading on the Garvaghy Road as a live issue for discussion. They state that they have made clear to various authorities that they wish to see the same approach taken to parades on Garvaghy Road as was taken to Obins Street in the 1980s, where parades were discontinued.

  The Residents' Coalition's third issue is about relationships with Protestants in Portadown. They say that local Nationalists make a distinction between the local Protestant community and the Orange Order. They recall Portadown District parading in 1972, accompanied by columns of paramilitaries. They add that again in the 1990s, loyalist paramilitaries were actively supportive of Portadown District. They view Portadown District as part of an institution which is anti-Catholic and which by its creed and nature could not be respectful of Catholics. The idea of Catholics seeking a respectful relationship with the Orange Order is viewed as being as ridiculous as expecting black Americans to seek a respectful relationship with the Ku Klux Klan.

  The Residents' Coalition have noted that in their various determinations regarding Drumcree, the Parades Commission have concluded that no parade on the Garvaghy Road is feasible without an agreed accommodation. The Residents' Coalition view is that given the current social, political and economic situation that prevails in Portadown, it is highly unlikely that an Orange march could take place on the Garvaghy Road.

  The residents' group believe that a survey, like that which was undertaken in 1997 for the North Report, would confirm that there is almost universal opposition among local Catholics to the resumption of Orange parades on the Garvaghy Road.

  But, aside from parades, they affirm the desire of Catholic residents for better relationships with the Protestant community in Portadown. To that end, they are promoting a "Community Development" strategy to address a social and economic agenda within the Catholic community and with the Protestant community. They anticipate that building better community relations will take years. However, in their view, a reality with which Unionist citizens will have to come to terms is the refusal of their Nationalist fellow citizens to return to a life of second class citizenship.


  The Drumcree dispute is an "identity-based" conflict, rather than one which is based on conflicting interests. If Drumcree was merely a matter of balancing interests then both sides would have found a way to avail of social and economic aid which has reportedly been on offer. If either side cared only for their interests, they would have priorities other than trying to parade on a particular stretch of road or opposing unwelcome parading in their locality.

  On the contrary, both sides view the problem as of fundamental importance to their (heightened) sense of ethnicity. For Portadown District, maintaining this age-old parade marks the survival of a tradition. It is a sign of cultural health and civic integrity.

  For the Residents' Coalition, ending the parade is a sign of equality and freedom from domination by another, antipathetic, grouping.

  From both of these perspectives, the suffering involved in this conflict is a price which has to be paid for a greater prize. For the Orange Order the prize is survival of a noble way of life. For the Residents' Coalition the prize is equality for an oppressed people. As one resident has said, "Drumcree is Northern Ireland writ small". On this point both sides agree. So, Portadown Orangemen are as important to their brethren elsewhere as Jewish citizens in Jerusalem are to Jewish people everywhere. The fate of the Garvaghy Road residents is as important to the wider Catholic community as was that of black civil rights protestors in Montgomery, Alabama to black America.

  The Drumcree dispute is a multi-party conflict. It involves more than the Orange Order and the Garvaghy Road Residents' Coalition. Both groups would now view the RUC as another party to the conflict. Each party, understandably, sets greater priority by its own agenda. For instance, police concern for public order inclines them to be more pragmatic. Many Orangemen now see the RUC as traitorous, at least amongst its commanders. They view the police definition of "public order" to mean "political order", the new political order. Residents tend to view the RUC as partisan, with public order meaning "Orange order", the old order.

  In addition to the above, the police, at the very least, have relationship problems with both sides. They have a lack of relationship with the overall Catholic community. At the same time, their historic, organic relationships with the Protestant community create expectations all round and, when police officers do not conform to those expectations, the changing nature of the relationship creates a sense of betrayal among many Orangemen.

  This is an example of the growing complexity of the Drumcree dispute and the overall parades conflict. Like any other conflict, the longer it lasts, the more the issues multiply. The apparent clarity of 1995 is in contrast with the complexity of 2000.

  In terms of years, the parades conflict is cross-generational. A number of generations are involved. The integrity of the quarrel has been handed down and is being handed down from one generation to the next.

  The conflict is systemic: it is not an inter-personal conflict (though personality issues are significant).

  Within each side there are different constituencies. This is particularly true of the Orangemen, for, within the Orange Order there are members of the Church of Ireland alongside Free Presbyterians; anti-Agreement Unionists along with pro-Agreement brethren. There are different tiers within the Orange Order: private lodge; District; County; Grand Lodge. Orangemen may have common cause but relate to different constituencies or may have different priorities: one may think macro while another's concern is purely local.

  Third parties might think they have engaged "the Orange Order" when in reality they have formed a tentative relationship with a few individuals. They may relate well at County level but not register at all within the District.

  One might seek progress with a group of residents' leaders but find that matters need to be reported to community meetings attended by hundreds of people.

  Therefore, the principal protagonists represent different sub-cultures with different traditions of leadership, and decision making.

  The Drumcree conflict is evolving. Like all conflict, it cannot remain static, inert or impervious to changing circumstances. It has an emotional life and is affected by personalities and events.


  The Orange Order views itself as being driven by two causes:

    —  the protection of a civil and religious liberty;

    —  the survival of a cultural tradition.

  As in previous years, it will press its claim to parade and, failing that, will likely engage in protest. If the traditional church parade is granted in 2000, the Order would feel that important principles have been upheld once again; ground that was lost would have been recovered and the brethren would wish to keep going for as many years as it takes to win the argument once and for all. However there would be a price for success. The negative reaction across the Nationalist community could further endanger the parading tradition in a number of places. Great damage would be done to community relations. Increasing unease within the Unionist tradition would lead to a loss of support.

  If a parade is once again denied, there would be a view among Portadown Orangemen that further light is being shed on that which they fear is a grim reality: that the State and Nationalism are insincere regarding the commitment to a diverse society and, in reality, are quite intent on destroying a Protestant way of life. In this scenario, Orangemen would feel that "they know where they stand".

  The Garvaghy Road Residents' Coalition views itself as being driven by two causes:

    —  the achievement of equality among citizens;

    —  the establishment of respect for Nationalists.

  As in previous years they will press their case for no parade and, failing that, will likely engage in protest. If a parade is denied in 2000, the residents would feel that important principles have been upheld again. In their view, the Garvaghy Road would still be a bridgehead on the shore of equality.

  Of course there would be a cost. Community relations in Portadown would harden. The people of the Garvaghy Road area would continue to feel they were living in a besieged ghetto and they would have to live with the dangerous dynamic of Loyalist rage.

  If a parade is permitted this year, there would be a view among Garvaghy Road residents that another moment of truth has arrived: that the State and Unionism are insincere about the Good Friday Agreement and the new equal society it promised. In this scenario, the structural changes of new government would appear superficial alongside the deeper reality of a system unchanged: an unequal social order remaining the same. Their sense of alienation would grow but they would intend to press on and insist on reform.


  There are great difficulties stemming from the perceived history of mediation in the Drumcree story. The parties' experience of it has been, largely, negative. However, while a succession of people (including myself) have done their best, in difficult circumstances, with hindsight it is easier to observe some common shortcomings. Principal among these is a lack of design to intervention initiatives. There has not yet been a properly constructed mediation process with the parties being asked to agree on an aim, objectives and comprehensive ground rules.

  In what other dangerous situations would this be permitted in our modern times? For example, how many people would knowingly board a plane without confidence in the pilot? Without knowing the plane would take them where they wanted to go? Without confidence that the plane was designed to carry its load and that there were safety procedures in the event of a fault?

  Another difficulty is that some intervention initiatives have been driven by a different agenda. This is especially true of Government sponsored activity which, understandably but inappropriately, is bound to serve political priorities rather than the communal issues at the heart of the parades conflict.

  The term "mediation" has been used and abused in these last years to cover a range of activity from negotiation to facilitation.

  Mediation has also become linked with the notion of an "accommodation". Yet, for both sides this remains a dangerous concept. Residents resent the commonly held assumption that the only accommodation possible is merely one with a parade that is more sensitive to their feelings. Orangemen resent the expectation that they should impart unwarranted respect to unworthy opponents by entering dialogue aimed at compromising their fundamental principles.

  Many Orangemen view dialogue as an act of submission.

  Many Nationalists view dialogue as a sign of respect.

  And as the conflict has advanced and become more complex, the two sides have developed on different wave-lengths.

  For Orangemen, the issues are technical. The only relevant discussion is about the practical arrangements for a parade. For residents, the issues are contextual. The only relevant discussion is about the context of this society, with the parades issue viewed as a symptom of deeper problems.


  As stated in the introductory section of this paper, mediation does not solve conflict; it makes a contribution to the management or resolution of conflict. So, what contribution can be made to the Drumcree situation?

  Firstly, it may be helpful to suggest that there is one Drumcree conflict with a number of Drumcree problems. The problem which has been central to the Drumcree conflict to date is how to reach agreement on whether an Orange parade should go down the Garvaghy Road. In my opinion, mediation cannot help this problem. Since it is an identity-based conflict rather than a needs-based conflict, the question of a parade cannot be resolved to the mutual satisfaction of both sides. Portadown District refuse to engage with the Residents' Coalition about the Garvaghy Road and the residents no longer see much point in engaging with the District about it anyway.

  On the other hand, there are other significant problems within the Drumcree conflict. One of these concerns the need to assist the two sides to address their troubled relationship in order to manage their enmity. Of course there is an immediate difficulty here because neither side places value on the relationship, a relationship in which each side feels violated by the other. However, this relationship is central to the Drumcree conflict.

  In 1997, the North Report took the view that, in addition to existing public order criteria which were already applied by the police to parades conflicts, the effect of a parade on community relations should become a central concern. The Parades Commission's determinations on Drumcree have identified the issue of community relationships as the decisive factor. There is widespread agreement on all sides about the effect of the Drumcree conflict on community relations in Portadown and in Northern Ireland.

  Therefore a mediation process which is designed to address relationship issues, rather than a parade, is more feasible. Unfortunately, the indications are that neither side would prioritise such an endeavour at this point in the conflict.

  Another difficulty is that each side might fear entrapment by mediation; that their participation in a process of any kind might be used in evidence against them. This is especially a problem with a new Commission about to be appointed and suspicions all round about the integrity of the future Parades Commission.

  Therefore, a pre-requisite for credible mediation in the Drumcree initiative should be requested by one or other of the parties themselves.

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