Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Annex 2


    "Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth."

    Psalm 60 verse 4.

    "We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners:"

    Psalm 20 verse 5.


  The above institution rejected the establishing of a Parades Commission on the grounds that it:

    1.  placed the emphasis for public disorder in the wrong place ie it was not the parades which cause trouble but those intolerant people who wish to stop the parades;

    2.  was a draconian measure, equivalent to a Star Chamber, which would weigh more heavily on the Protestant community, with its significant marching tradition, than on the Nationalist community;

    3.  had a membership which could not be independent or impartial; and

    4.  would lead to institutionalised conflict on parades and provoke judicial reviews of its findings.

  The publication of the draft documents serves only to confirm our original thinking. Moreover the recent resignation of one of the members of the Commission would confirm the unacceptability of the nature and scope of the body. The Commission and its publications have been put in place to placate a vociferous, and often violent, minority who have no wish to allow people of a different religious identity the freedom to express that religion in a peaceful, non-confrontational and traditional manner.

  Given the thrust of Government policy we do not expect that, at this time, there will be significant changes to the draft. The current consultation process is a sham designed to give credibility to a body which already has fixed views, or has been given fixed views by its political masters. Nevertheless we feel obliged to highlight the lack of understanding of our principled position, the discrimination, the denial of religious liberty and the impracticality of these proposals.

  Ultimately such denials of human and religious rights will fail. Moreover the one-sided nature of the documents, in that they concern only parades without placing restrictions on counter-demonstrations and those who organise them, is unbelievable and outrageous.


  The Independent Loyal Orange Institution is a "religious and loyal brotherhood" dedicated to the promotion and defence of the Protestant religion. We are not, and never have been allied to any political party. Constitutionally we express a unionist view, but that unionism is dependent upon the British Throne and Constitution "being Protestant".

  The parades in connection with our Institution are themselves an expression, a public witness, of our religion. Without exception they are to a religious service, either in church or in the open air. Our banners, flags, regalia, and often band uniforms and equipment have been dedicated, by Ministers of Religion, to the Glory of God.

  In what other democratic country are there such restrictions on the expression of religion as outlined in the Draft documents of the Parades Commission? How can they justify such curtailments of religious expression?


  The guidelines as published take no account of the essential religious character of the parades and processions in connection with the Independent Loyal Orange Institution.

  They draw heavily on the anti-parade "North Report" which was the product of a Romanist, an Ecumenist and a non-entity. It is hardly surprising that it produced a set of proposals which was heavily weighted against parades. Our rejection of, and detailed response to, the North Report is already in the public domain. Any document which has the North Report as its foundation is inevitably biased against Protestant parades.

  Overall, the guidelines are an open invitation to those who oppose parades to create public disorder, disruption, contest routes, claim offence and restriction, and in any and every way possible raise objections to parades in the knowledge that the Parades Commission will force the organisers of parades to "address the concerns of others", whether real, imagined or deliberately manipulated. In this way the threat of the use of force is dangerously legitimised. A culture of concessions following the threat of violence is being created. This is damaging to the concept of democracy.

  Thus the Commission will become the focus of malcontents, troublemakers and political activists who are intent upon disruption of human rights and the creation of community tension and strife. It is noticeable that the Commission places little emphasis on restricting the activities of those who, in blocking, attacking and reacting to parades, have been responsible for widespread violence and destruction.

  The guidelines call for local accommodation, the use of facilitators and the taking of soundings from local residents' groups. This involves negotiating our faith, and the way we express it, with groups infiltrated by paramilitary organisations, backed by paramilitary organisations or groups supportive of the use of fascist tactics. No other religious expression is treated in this way. This is fundamentally wrong.

  In the event that the Commission does reach a conclusion and issue a legal "determination" there is no indication that either side will accept the views of the Commission leading, at best, to judicial reviews and, at worst, a greater number of contested parade routes and civil disorder.


  The procedural rules, as outlined, fail to take into account the essential religious character of the parades and processions in connection with the Independent Loyal Orange Institution.

  They list the steps that this "factory of grievances" known as the Commission will take in order to place limits on parades. They are a step by step guide to restrictions on parades.

  In addition, there is some evidence of conflict within the procedures. Paragraph 1.3 states that in most areas, "a pattern has emerged of parades held on a regular cycle." This is certainly true in our situation with parades being held on the same day, in the same location, year after year. Why then, is it necessary to extend the period of notice for parades to 28 days? (paragraph 5.1) It is more logical to impose this restriction on new parades only and, because the pattern is already known and established, reintroduce the original five days notice for annual and cyclical parades.


  The chairman, in his introduction, betrays the inbuilt bias against parades. The statutory responsibilities of the Commission relate only to parades and not those who would protest against them. Thus the Commission would have no ability to impose restrictions on the protesters.

  The chairman further refers to the cultural and traditional aspects of parades. Our parades are about our Protestant faith. Our Protestantism is not social, nominal, political or carnival, rather it is spiritual and biblical.

  The code of conduct starts from the misunderstanding that all of those who object to parades can be placated by some adjustments by those on parade. This is patently not the case. The situation in Portadown demonstrates this very clearly.

  In the Portadown situation, a parade in silence, on one side of the carriage way, with one bannerette, once a year, at lunch time, on a Sunday, along a main arterial route, lasting about 15 minutes, seems to cause immense offence. The simple fact of the matter is that those who object to the parades by Loyal Orders, do so because they object to the people on parade, their religion and their rights. The motivation of the objectors to parades is the basest form of sectarian hatred.

  There is an emphasis in the Code on early publication of details concerning parades, including (routes iii) the suggestion that details might be published of a person "whom the representatives of the local community might approach about aspects of the parades." Such publication could be cost prohibitive, could invite objections where, in reality, none exist and most seriously, given the leadership and content of some of the residents' groups, could endanger the lives of our members.

  If early publication is required, a news story in a local newspaper should be included in the list of methods. Moreover, the publication should only apply to major demonstrations which would require adjustments to movement over the course of an entire day, or for a number of hours during the course of a day. If a paid notice is required, this should be publicly funded.

  On no account should the names and addresses of any organisers be published, unless it is the desire of the Commission to put at risk the lives of our members.

  With regard to the information concerning church services, weddings and funerals, the Loyal Orders have a well established routine of no music being played while passing these if they are known beforehand. Such information, where it is not already known, can often be passed on by the police before a parade. This communication method should be maintained. Could we also suggest that details of houses along a route, where a death has occurred, should be similarly communicated.

  On the subject of representations made by residents, the Code makes a comment which betrays the lack of understanding of its drafters about our parades. It states that, in response to residents' objections, adjustments are "likely to amount to little more than the furling of banners . . ." In our case this is not a small or insignificant request. Our banners are not unfurled in our own name or for our own glory, rather in accordance with the injunction of Holy Scripture they are set up in the name of God and unfurled to His Glory. (Psalm 20 verse 5 and Psalm 60 verse 4). Thus any request to furl such is, once again, an attack on the expression of our religion.

  Finally, on routes, again there is in point iv a rather insulting insinuation. Does the Commission have any evidence of Protestant parades which have not allowed free movement to the emergency services? Within the loyal orders there is an established, well understood, policy for dealing with such emergencies without the intervention of stewards.


  Stewards are regarded as important by the Code. It is not specified if the purpose of stewards is to control those on parade or those who might seek to disrupt a parade. This matter needs immediate clarification.

  In many cases, all members on parade, as responsible individuals, can ensure the passage of a parade to and from its venue without incident. Clearly many, particularly smaller, parades require no formalised stewarding, or minimal stewarding. The Code does state that stewards must be "fully aware of the provisions of public order legislation", perhaps the only effective stewards will be solicitors, barristers and members of the judiciary.

  We are concerned that the provisions outlined for stewards could allow some to establish, or legitimise an existing, paramilitary organisation for the purposes of parades. We would be concerned at the potential for certain law enforcement activities to pass from the proper authorities. In particular the crowd control aspects and the seeming provision for a basic uniform would be of concern to us.

  The Code also refers to communication methods and training in these, as well as first aid and other aspects. Notwithstanding our previous comments on the requirement for stewards, where they are deemed necessary approved training routes would need to be identified and grant assistance made available for capital purchases (two way communication) and payment of training providers. To expect, what are in many cases, voluntary organisations with limited funds to comply with provisions being forced upon them without grant funding, would be unreasonable.


  In accord with our established temperance policy, which follows on from the religious nature of our organisation and events, we have no objection to the powers given to the police in relation to alcohol.


  This appendix brings together and augments many stipulations previously outlined in the Code. In some cases it requires further clarification.

(a)  Behaviour

  In this section behaviour is defined in terms of what is acceptable to a potential objector.

  As we have seen in the Portadown situation[1], this is not an acceptable benchmark.

(c)  March

  The suggestion that all parades be positioned on one side of the carriageway is unrealistic. Main parades are major spectator events with onlookers on both sides of the road. To allow traffic to pass between these spectators and a parade would destroy the spectator enjoyment, the tourist potential and may even endanger members of the public. Main demonstrations and parades require more than a single carriageway to maximise the spectator potential. The practice of closing major parade routes to traffic for the duration of the parade should be maintained to allow the parade to pass without delay from traffic and to encourage the family and relaxed atmosphere which accompanies many of our parades.

  Flexibility could be the order of the day for feeder, church parades etc.

(g)  Flags etc

  This section requires clarification. Many banners include historical scenes of importance to Protestant religious history and development. These may include scenes of martyrdoms at the hands of the Roman Catholic authorities at that time in history. It would not be possible for us to remove such from our banners. To suggest that we do would be a fundamental denial of our religious identity and development.

  Similarly, there are replicas of historic battle standards in association with Carson's UVF and the subsequent 36th Ulster Division which, forming part of Ulster's historical development, should be permissible. Band uniforms associated with the same history should also be permitted.

(h)  Stewards

  We have already expressed some concerns about the section on stewards. However, this appendix section goes further. Why would the police require the names and addresses of all stewards? They already have the name and address of the organiser.

  Training should be given to the police to ensure that they do not unnecessarily over-estimate the numbers of stewards required. Such action could alienate parade organisers and create tension where it was not necessary. Over zealous and over officious police officers have, in the past, created problems in communicating and implementing such details, (see recommendations on policing—below).

  It is unreasonable to expect a steward, however well trained, to know the identity of all persons on parade and thus be able to provide identification information to the police. This section should be dropped.

(i)  Policing

  While, in general, co-operation with the police is achieved and necessary, it would be unreasonable to expect parade organisers to co-operate with the police in the case of a banned or re-routed parade. The Parades Commission would, in those circumstances, have to take responsibility for the breakdown of the normally harmonious relationship between the Loyal Orders and the police.

  Consideration should be given to the appointment of liaison officers in each police station. These would be responsible for receiving notice from each Loyal Order, and conducting all subsequent communication with regard to that parade. In this way relationships of knowledge and understanding could develop, ensuring that all sensitivities could be dealt with in an empathic manner.

(j)  Dispersal

  We fail to understand the need to "disperse immediately". Members may have to wait for buses or, indeed, may wish fellowship with others they have not seen for a significant period. Discretion would be required in this situation.


(b)  War memorials and cemeteries

  At war memorials, no music should be played while passing in parade. A hymn may be played while a wreath is being laid.

  While passing the war memorial all flags, with the exception of the Union Flag, should be lowered.

  At cemeteries, we see no reason why "military march tunes" should not be permitted.

(c)  Where the majority population of the vicinity are of a different tradition and interface areas

  The following require further clarification:

    (1)  vicinity;

    (2)  sectarian tunes? We know of no sectarian tunes in the repertoire of bands in association with our Institution; and

    (3)  likely to cause offence? Refer to comments on Portadown[2].

(d)  Sunday

  The code does not mention this aspect. However, we strongly believe it should be included. In keeping with our belief that the entire day is sensitive and special, and being conscious that our members are offended by desecration of the Christian Sabbath, we believe that only hymn tunes should be permitted on this day.

  If empty churches and graveyards, whose residents could hardly raise any objections, are to be accorded respect, then is it too much to ask that the Christian Sabbath, which is so much a part of our heritage, be accorded the same respect?


  The clear intention of the Parades Commission, and its publications, is to limit the right of free assembly for Protestants. It has ignored the problems created by counter-demonstrations and the motivation of many of those involved in such. It has ignored the fact that any restrictions on parades will inevitably result in a lack of "fair treatment" for Protestants given the extensive parading tradition in the Protestant community. Many of its proposals lack basic common sense and require modification or further clarification before any serious comment can be made on them.

  Overall the Parade Commissioners demonstrate little understanding of the Loyal Orders and what motivates them and their parades. This is not surprising given the unbalanced nature of the Commission itself. The one member of that Commission who could loosely be said to come from the Protestant community is on record as being hostile to parades "where they are not welcome."

  With regard to the Independent Loyal Orange Institution, the documents as published take no account of the special character of our Order. We are a "religious and loyal brotherhood". Our parades, in their entirety, are an expression of our religion. Therefore many of the restrictions proposed by the Commission are a direct attempt to restrict the expression and practice of our religion. This we cannot accept.

  The Parades Commission needs to address, with urgency, its position in relation to restricting the expression and practice of religion.

January 1998

1   See Ev p 200. Back

2   See Ev p 200. Back

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