Memorandum submitted by the Bogside Residents'
The issue of contentious parades in Derry goes
right back to the formation of the Apprentice Boys in 1814. Prior
to this there had been a degree of what is known in today's jargon
as cross-community participation in commemorating the Siege of
Derry. The ABOD changed all that and turned the commemoration
into an exclusively Unionist and Protestant event.
The ABOD Association, like the Orange Order
was firmly entrenched in the anti Home Rule protests orchestrated
by the British Tories in the latter part of the 19th Century.
For example, Kevin Haddick-Flynn in Orangeism the Making of
a Tradition, (Wolfhound, Dublin, 1999) notes that political
connection was established early on with the presence of Unionist
MP, William Johnston of Ballykilbeg at the Lundy parade of 1869
and also the Twelfth of August parade in 1871, at which he precipitated
a full-scale riot.
John F Harbinson, in The Ulster Unionist
Party 1882-1973, (Blackstaff, Belfast, 1973) states that in
1911 the Ulster Unionist Council in a series of reforms provided
that representatives from the ABOD would have places on the Council.
The ABOD retained these places until 1972 when as a result of
divisions within unionism, they withdrew.
In 1920 the 12 August ABOD parade in Derry precipitated
major confrontations during which 20 people died in gun battles
involving the British Army, the IRA and loyalists including members
of the recently formed B Specials who used Derry's walls to fire
down into the Bogside.
During all this time nationalists were prohibited
from parading in the city centre under any circumstances. Indeed,
nationalists had to leave the walled city once the Town bell was
sounded. Furthermore, during the 12 August and 18 December ABOD
commemorations, Catholics were subject to assaults and attacks
from Apprentice Boys and their supporters. There was organised
opposition to Apprentice Boys' parades in the 1930s. These involved
protests which were suppressed by the RUC. A more passive approach
was adopted by some residents living adjacent to the Walls; they
would often put more turf on their fires in order to cloud the
area in smoke.
Parades along the Walls were particularly controversial.
Apprentice Boys would hurl missiles, including pennies onto the
streets of the Bogside to demonstrate their contempt for people
John F Harbinson, in the Ulster Unionist
Party 1882-1973, (Blackstaff, Belfast, 1973) states that the
ABOD opposed the Civil Rights Association march of 5 October 1968,
saying it was merely an excuse for a demonstration by republicans
and nationalists who wouldn't show respect to the War Memorial.
As a result and with the hope of getting the parade banned, the
ABOD gave notice on 1 October that a party from Liverpool would
be met by them at Waterside Railway Station from where they would
march to their Memorial Hall via the Diamond. At the Hall the
Liverpool men were to be initiated in what the ABOD claimed was
an "annual" event. It was, of course, a bi-annual event
and this particular ceremony could only be conducted on 12 August
and 18 December. Nevertheless, while Craig as Minister for Home
Affairs had banned all "public" processions, but as
the ABOD parade was deemed a "private" affair, it would
be allowed to proceed. Naturally, when Derry citizens discovered
that Liverpudlians could parade in their town while they were
banned, they determined to carry on with the Duke Street demonstration.
A senior Apprentice Boy has stated publicly that the opposition
to the 5 October Civil Rights march was not an official ABOD position.
Niall O Dochartaigh in From Civil Rights
to Armalites, (Cork Univ Press, Cork, 1997) outlines the increasing
tension in the run-up to the ABOD 12 August march. Direct negotiations
between Derry Citizens Defence Committee representatives and the
ABOD collapsed when the Apprentice Boys refused to countenance
any real changes to their proposed route. The Battle of the Bogside
followed and within three days British soldiers were back on the
streets of Derry. Apprentice Boys' marches in the city were seriously
curtailed over the next six years until 1975. Their parades on
the Walls were banned until 1995.
I use these points to demonstrate that nationalist
and Catholic experience of the Apprentice Boys is totally at variance
from Apprentice Boys' claims of being purely a cultural and historical
At the end of July 1995, the Londonderry Sentinel
reported that the ABOD were intent on marching the full circuit
of Derry's Walls for the first time since 1969. Naturally, this
aroused much controversy in the city, particularly in the Bogside
where people could recall how the Apprentice Boys had treated
Catholics with contempt during these marches. It must be recalled
that the Apprentice Boys' marches through Derry city centre had
continued to bring confrontation to the city. The most vociferous
opposition to the parades came from SDLP and business spokespersons
who regularly condemned the disruption, the paramilitary displays
and attendant British Army and RUC harassment of nationalists,
but in effect did nothing discernible to resolve the issue. However,
since the mid-1980's Apprentice Boys marches through Derry City
centre had happened in what can only be described as a spirit
of "grudging tolerance". However, almost a year after
the announcement of the 1994 IRA cessation, it came as a shock
to most Derry people that the Apprentice Boys were once again
seeking to march round the Walls.
Following the report in the Sentinel, a public
meeting was held in Pilot's Row on Thursday 10 August at which
it was decided to seek a meeting with the ABOD in an effort to
avoid any confrontation. In the event of the Apprentice Boys refusing
to engage, it was agreed that a peaceful protest would take place
on Derry's Walls overlooking the Bogside. The Apprentice Boys
refused to meet not only the BRG but also the Mayor, Cllr John
Kerr and other elected representatives. The BRG protestors were
forcibly removed from the Walls by the RUC. At all times our protest
was peaceful and dignified. Later that day Apprentice Boys on
the Walls hurled insults and missiles from the Walls at local
residents below in full view of the RUC in scenes reminiscent
of what had occurred prior to 1969. That afternoon, local people
were baton-charged from the City Centre following a disgraceful
display of triumphalism by a band from Portadown during which
people were insulted and assaulted. Serious rioting following
with over 300 plastic bullets being fired.
3. I DTREO
Several months later, the BRG met two members
of the Apprentice Boys, both of whom emphasised that they acted
as individuals. However, proposals were exchanged and while nothing
of substance came from these, the meeting marked the beginning
of a process of dialogue between ourselves and the ABOD.
In the meantime, a major crisis was developing
in Portadown where nationalists on Garvaghy Road believed that
the compromise of an Orange Order march in 1995 would mean no
further marches without agreement. The matter came to a head in
early July 1996 when the march was banned. Unionists across the
north started blocking roads, often as RUC and British Army personnel
stood by watching. In Derry, Craigavon Bridge was blocked as well
as main roads from Derry to Belfast and Dublin, Larne Harbour
and the International Airport. After five days of major disruption,
the British Government bowed to unionist intimidation and forced
the march through the Garvaghy Road area, batoning men, women
and children off the streets in the process. The hurt felt by
nationalists of all political persuasions was compounded when
residents on Lower Ormeau were curfewed in their homes for over
24 hours to facilitate two 12 July Orange marches.
Reaction among nationalists was one of immense
anger. During three nights of rioting in Derry alone, over 3,000
plastic bullets were fired; one man was killed, crushed by a three-ton
Saxon tank, and over 300 people were injured by plastic bullets.
Once the smoke, so to speak, had cleared, people's attention switched
to the proposed Apprentice Boy march on August 12. Understandably,
there was widespread concern that major confrontation would occur
if the Apprentice Boys' marches went ahead as planned. There were
calls from many quarters, most notably, from the Derry Journal
for the Apprentice Boys to be banned from the West Bank of Derry,
as had been the case between 1969 and 1975. The BRG never adopted
this position for two reasons. Firstly, in effect it would abandon
nationalists living on the East Bank, particularly in Gobnascale,
to the prospect of thousands of Apprentice Boys banned from the
West Bank running amok in the Waterside. Secondly, it would send
a message to the small unionist population on the West Bank that
they were not wanted on this side of the river. All of that would
have been academic, however, if the Apprentice Boys did not negotiate;
in such a scenario public anger would have been such that any
Apprentice Boys march in Derry at that time would have met with
The BRG adopted a more principled approach in
that it insisted that no Apprentice Boys feeder parades would
be forced through nationalist areas en route to Derry. The Apprentice
Boys themselves claimed to exist to commemorate the Siege of Derry.
That being so, nationalists in Derry asked what connection the
Siege of Derry had with a march down the Lower Ormeau Road or
through Dunloy, for example. By late July, the Apprentice Boys
had agreed to meet the BRG face to face under the Chairpersonship
of John Hume. Four meetings followed but we failed to reach agreement
because the Apprentice Boys could not or would not deliver on
a commitment that no feeder marches would be forced through nationalist
areas. However, the fact that the negotiations had taken place
at all was significant and, in our opinion, was very instrumental
in ensuring that 12 August passed off largely peacefully in Derry.
In the intervening years, a variety of processes
have been used to try and resolve the issue. These have met with
varying degrees of success, most notably in 1998. 1999 was a major
setback for the process when a march was forced through the Ormeau
Road for the first time since 1996. However, following the banning
of this year's Lower Ormeau march, an understanding was reached
in Derry that ensured a largely peaceful day. For the first time,
there was agreement that the process to reach an accommodation
needs to start early, a welcome departure from the crisis management
talks of recent times.
The first question which often springs to mind
when one examines the issue of contentious parades in an overall
context iswhy can Portadown or Lower Ormeau not do what
Derry is doing? The reality is that the context is totally different.
For example, in Portadown a minority community is being toldnot
even askedthat they have to accept a march by an organisation
representing the majority community through their neighbourhood,
a march that, for many nationalists, epitomises inequality in
Portadown. Nationalists in Derry do not have that same sense of
inequality, at least not on the West Bank of the Foyle.
The first comment we would make in relation
to the current Parades Commission concerns its makeup. In terms
of class and politics it is very imbalanced and gender balance
is non-existent. We have pointed this out to the Commission, who
have in turn pointed out to us that they have no role in terms
of appointments. There is a strong case for co-options to counter
any real or perceived imbalances.
Secondly, it has always been our opinion that
either forcing marches through areas where there is opposition
to them or re-routing them is not a solution. We want agreement
based on respect and equality arrived at through various processes
of dialogue. We believe that the Parades Commission should base
its decisions, when required, on what is best in terms of promoting
the possibility of finding an accommodation. The previous Chair
of the Commission was quite enthusiastic in describing the Commission
as the Parades Commission, not the No-Parades Commission. This
gives rise to the strong suspicion among nationalists that the
agenda of the Parades Commission is to arrive at a scenario where
marches and parades take place with or without agreement through
currently contentious routes. This can be seen in its approach
to Garvaghy Road, where a march has been promised if a number
of conditions are met by the Orange Order; the views of residents
do not appear to count in this scenario.
The Parades Commission should consider the history
of contentious marches and seek a complete and absolute resolution
of the issue over a period of time.
5. AG TEACHT
Earlier, we outlined the overt political nature
of the ABOD dating back to the early 19th Century. The Sentinel
reported on 30 March 1972 that ABOD's General Committee was "deeply
shocked and grieved" at the suspension of Stormont. They
called for its immediate restoration and further called on "the
members of the Apprentice Boys Association to support the efforts
of the Vanguard movement in its resistance to the sell-out of
the loyalist people of Ulster by the Westminster Government and
Parliament". The Sentinel also reported on 18 December 1985
that at the Lundy's Day parade the previous Saturday, Apprentice
Boys General Secretary, John Noble said "that the large attendance
at this year's celebration was due mainly to opposition to the
Anglo-Irish Agreement". He stated that "the number of
people present this year shows the feeling of opposition to the
agreement and the celebrations are being used as one way of
making their protest" (our italics).
Since 1995, however, it has been noticeable
that, unlike the Orange Order, the ABOD have been less outspoken
on political issues. For example, the Orange Order publicly opposed
the Good Friday Agreement and called on its members to vote against
it; the ABOD refused to either endorse or oppose the Agreement
and left the matter of voting to individual members. This is significant
because in recent years the ABOD have emphasised that they are
primarily a historical and cultural organisation; they have organised
activities linked to the Siege other than marches. We consider
these moves in a very positive light; not because we believe that
Apprentice Boys are not entitled to hold views, negative or otherwise
on political issuesthey arebut because it is our
view that any organisation which clings to the sectarianism of
the past is doomed to self-destruct.
Perhaps, the Apprentice Boys have embarked on
a process of regeneration that we hope will transform the organisation
into a truly historical and cultural body existing to commemorate
an event of immense significance not only in Derry but in the
whole of Ireland. It is too early to say if this will happen.
However, we are certain that if they don't, the ABOD will cease
to be an organisation of any significance in the 21st Century.