Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum submitted by the Mediation Network for Northern Ireland

  Re. Reply to Mr Roy Beggs:  [Q  383] Do all parades disputes have essentially the same characteristics? Is so, what are they?

  Obviously, there are various types of parades, principally:

    —  Church parades—parades featuring a church service.

    —  Commemorative parades—such as the twelfth day.

    —  Band parades.

  Aside from differences in type, it is possible to observe a number of salient characteristics, namely:

  Personal—an individual involved in a parade dispute is motivated by personal beliefs or values.

  Inter-personal—the relationships which exist between individuals on opposing sides are hugely significant, especially if the opponent is viewed as hostile.

  Organizational—the need to maintain the confidence, support and cohesion of one's group (eg, an Orange lodge or a residents' group) affects the behaviour of those engaged in a dispute.

  Communal—the history, atmosphere and stability of the locality within which a dispute is ongoing is a factor.

  Societal—the impact of disputants' behaviour on wider society.

  Protagonists will rationalise and strategise with the above considerations in mind. In many situations, wider, societal factors inhibit movement around more locally based factors. In other words, agreement would be feasible but remains inhibited by considerations about wider society.

  All of the above characteristics relate to the issue of integrity—the values and beliefs of individuals and organizations. For instance, Orangemen find it difficult to engage with opponents because engagement would infer recognition of the opponents' legitimacy and conferring such legitimacy would be an affront to the Orange sense of integrity.

  Similarly, an opposing resident's sense of integrity may leave them feeling unable to acquiesce to a parade since this might perpetuate a position of inferiority.

  Apart from integrity, there are emotional factors at work as well. The temperature of the community, or, indeed, of wider society, goes up and down, in turn affecting people's state of mind. A nasty exchange with opponents; adverse press coverage or rough handling by police can increase the emotional heat of a parade dispute.

16 February 2001

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