Memorandum submitted by the Imperial Grand
Black Chapter of the British Commonwealth
No man can tame a tiger into a kitten by stroking
There can be no appeasement with ruthlessness.
There can be no reasoning with an incendiary
Franklin R Roosevelt December 1940
The Royal Black InstitutionA Brief Explanation
Operation of the Parades Commission
Castlederg Royal Black District Chapter
City of Belfast Grand Black Chapter
Strabane Royal Black District Chapter No.
Killyman Royal Black District Chapter No.
Newry Royal Black District Chapter No. 4
Newtownbutler RBP 811 / Rosslea RBP 473
Primatial Royal Black District Chapter No.
Enhancements of the Parades Commission
A Brief Explanation
The Royal Black Institution was formed in September
1797. This Order of Christian Knighthood evolved from earlier
Orders of Chivalry that flourished in the times of the Crusades
and in the early Reformation days.
Since its inception the Institution has spread
to and developed in Scotland, England, Canada, Australia, New
Zealand, the United States of America, Ghana and Togo in West
The tiered structure of the Institution has
as its foundations the local Preceptory (Lodge). This unit elects
officers who represent their membership at the next tier, namely
a District Chapter. The District Chapter Officers form a County
or Provincial Grand Chapter. The officers of these units constitute
the membership of the governing body known as the Imperial Grand
Council. This Council is recognised by all members of the Imperial
Grand Black Chapter of the British Commonwealth, which is the
title of the Institution, as being the supreme authority with
the Sovereign Grand Master as the head of this international organisation.
The administrative offices are located at Brownlow
House, Lurgan, Co Armagh.
The aims and objective of the Royal Black Institution
are solely based on Christian teaching as found in Holy Scripture
and on the principles of the Reformation and is therefore non-political.
The members are encouraged to study the Scriptures and to participate
fully in the life and witness of the Christian Church. They are
also encouraged to act charitably and to be good citizens of their
The Royal Black Institution organises processions
throughout its various worldwide jurisdictions as a public manifestation
of our Christian Faith. The main reasons for processions taking
place can be summarised as follows:-
Dedication of Standards
Annual Major Gala Processions
2 Saturday in AugustFermanagh
Last Saturday in August6 Venues
It is important to note the central purpose
of each of the above is a religious service.
We must stress that the importance of these
gala occasions are not to create problems, to give offence or
appear to be triumphant to those who would not necessarily have
an affinity with our religious aspirations, but are to allow our
members, their families and others to take part in a communal
day out when their religious and cultural identity are clearly
expressed and exhibited.
It is worthy of note and is substantiated by
factual information that prior to 1995, particularly over the
previous twenty five years during an extremely vicious terrorist
campaign, processions organised by the Royal Black Institution
have taken place without any objections from any source and have
always been and continue to be conducted in a dignified manner
and ended peacefully.
In considering the terms of reference set by
the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee for the inquiry into the
Parades Commission and the request for the Royal Black Institution
to make a written submission, having consulted our membership
in areas where objections have been raised against lawful processions
of the Royal Black Institution, a number of common themes have
emerged upon which comment will be made.
1. Castlederg Royal Black District Chapter
Castlederg District was re-routed for the first
time in August 2000 following a Determination by the Parades Commission
based on the number of processions organised by other organisations.
No satisfactory reason or analysis was provided by the Parades
Commission as to why it was necessary to re-route the procession
away from a commercial area in Castlederg.
Why is an organisation that only organises two
processions per year penalised on the basis of the number of other
processions held in the area?
Why were undertakings given to a particular
section of the community that no processions would be allowed
in a commercial area of Castlederg without their consenta
2. City of Belfast Grand Black Chapter
Two areas are affected:
(a) Whitewell Road (RBP 336 Greencastle)
A so called local community group threatening
public disorder has faced this small local procession with increasing
orchestrated pressure and confrontation. This has resulted in
this small Preceptory not being permitted to return to their local
area following attendance at the Annual Gala Procession.
(b) Ormeau Road (District Chapter No 7 Ballynafeigh)
The issues surrounding processions in this particular
area are well documented. However, it is disappointing to record
that notwithstanding efforts by the Royal Black Institution to
defuse the difficulties and the recognition of such efforts by
the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and others,
all of these sacrifices have been to no avail. The Parades Commission
has never acknowledged these sacrifices and simply continues to
be submissive to the threat of public disorder emanating from
groups brought into the area to add numbers and increase the threat.
When is there going to be an acknowledgement
by the Parades Commission of the efforts and dignified actions
taken by the Royal Black Institution in Belfast?
Considering the obstructionist position taken
by the so called local community groups and negative "no
parade stance" adopted, when is the Parades Commission going
to have the courage to confront such threats?
3. Strabane Royal Black District Chapter No
The Parades Commission since its inception has
subjected processions in Strabane to Determinations. However,
factual evidence reveals the misguided and ill judged nature of
the Parades Commission Determinations. For example:
(a) Consultation with residents not living
on the processional route.
(b) Processional Route is 78 per cent Commercial
Premises and the remaining 22 per cent comprises mixed commercial/residential
(c) Opinions of the organisers of Royal Black
processions are never sought or considered, nor is the opinion
of the more moderate tolerant wider Nationalist community taken
into account. However, it is noted that the views of a vociferous
republican minority backed up by the implied threat of public
disorder are given precedence and are apparently the deciding
factor in the determination of the Parades Commission.
Is it pertinent to the issue, or within the
remit of the Parades Commission to consult with residents who
do not reside on the processional route?
Considering the short time taken and the small
numbers involved in the procession passing through a 78 per cent
commercial area, how can the Parades Commission conclude that
such a procession would give rise to public disorder and create
an adverse impact on relationships within the community?
4. Bellaghy RBP 573
Again, local evidence clearly indicates the
activities of a republican minority bearing disproportionate influence
on the village community to the extent that the villagers have
been instructed to remain indoors and ignore any procession taking
place. Yet again the Parades Commission succumb to the veiled
From whom does the Parades Commission seek information
that leads them to conclude that the villagers of Bellaghy would
raise objections to their neighbours who are members of the Royal
Black Institution, with whom they associate daily and do business
with, holding a procession in a part of the village?
5. Pomeroy RBP 259
The Preceptory has been prevented from entering
the village on the evening of the last Saturday in August since
1995. Draconian restrictions have been placed on processions to
and from local village churches for the purposes of public worship.
It should be noted that the Preceptory in trying to retain previous
good relations had voluntarily reduced their usual route by 50
per cent. Again no consideration or recognition has been forthcoming
from the Parades Commission or the republican objectionists, most
of whom reside one half mile from the nearest point on the processional
route. Indeed the republican activities have been so blatant and
vindictive as to result in the closing of a number of Protestant
businesses in the village.
It appears the Parades Commission has the intent
to protect and cosset minority communities in other areas yet
when our members are only seeking a level of mutual tolerance,
why is it there is no attempt to protect and uphold the minority
community in Pomeroy?
6. Killyman Royal Black District Chapter No
A Determination had been made for a procession
in Dungannon on 29 August 1998. Notwithstanding the extreme disappointment
of the District Chapter the membership complied with the imposed
restrictions. Following the event, which passed off in a peaceful
and dignified manner, the District Chapter wrote to the Parades
Commission seeking clarification on a number of points especially:-
(a) How the information, which led to the
Determination, was collected?
(b) Why their own guidelines on collecting
such information/submission were not applied?
No reply was forthcoming and a second letter
eventually brought forth a response but no answers to the questions
raised. A further letter was sent seeking answers but none were
Considering the demands of the Parades Commission,
a public body, is it unreasonable to expect, when questions of
clarification are sought in writing, that satisfactory answers
should be forthcoming?
7. Dunloy RBP 594
This is another well-documented area of difficulty
for our membership. It is incomprehensible that the membership
in Dunloy is subjected to such stringent restrictions on their
lawful processions to and from their meeting hall and local Church.
Indeed these restrictions have become so severe that the members
are prevented from even stepping beyond the gate or boundary of
their meeting hall grounds. All this despite having entered into
dialogue with the residents of Dunloy following representations
from the highest levels in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. This
proved to be a fruitless exercise and the local Preceptory is
bemused as to what they can do that would result in the restoration
of their rights and freedoms to assemble and process in their
usual dignified manner. Again it is evident that the weight and
threat of public disorder carries the day.
Is the Parades Commission ever going to recognise
the efforts and integrity of our members to resolve a problem
artificially created by republican intransigence?
8. Newry Royal Black District Chapter No 4
There is strong dissatisfaction at the imposed
blocking of Royal Black Institution processions in Newry, which
have been scheduled to pass through a commercial area of the town,
due to threats and street protests by a group termed as "Newry
Town Coalition". This group has an address at least one-mile
northwest of the intended route but were permitted to impose their
extremist views on the situation. Another disturbing factor for
our Members is that despite having given the statutory 28 days
notice of a procession, the Parades Commission delays giving Determinations
until the latest possible moment, sometimes mere hours before
the event is due to take place. It is not hard to imagine the
difficulties this poses for those trying to organise a peaceful
and dignified procession.
Why is it necessary to give 28 days notice for
legal procession organised by a law-abiding organisation when
protest action, including the blocking of roads, can be taken
without any advance notice whatsoever?
Can the Parades Commission not organise their
affairs in such a manner as to be able to provide details of a
Determination a minimum of five days before the event?
9. Newtownbutler RBP 811 Rosslea RBP 473
In this area of Fermanagh, our membership is
extremely discontented with the activities of the Parades Commission
in that they completely capitulate to the unreasonable demands
of republican protestors and Sinn Fein activists when the threat
of violence is made. There is also the unconscionable arrogance
demonstrated in Parades Commission determinations issued and imposed
on the Royal Black Institution, designed to placate violent people.
Since 1995 the rights of our members have been
restricted and no recognition has been given to their responsible
attempts to ease artificially created tensions in the area. On
every occasion they have refused to react to threat and protest
or imposed restriction. Indeed they have voluntarily reduced the
small number of processions in which they engage, shortened the
routes and taken other roads and streets to avoid giving any excuse
to those who have made a career of being offended.
There is extensive documentation available to
substantiate these opinions and views, detailing dates, times
and actions. From the documentation, common themes emerge which
give rise to deep concern as to the capability of the Parades
Commission to act impartially.
(a) The protests, which are part of a much
wider political agenda and strategy, are led and organised by
a Sinn Fein Councillor, from Clones, Co. Monaghan, supported by
others from outside the area, intent on violence.
(b) Residents on the proposed routes have
not voiced or raised objections to the processions taking place.
(c ) The Parades Commission is aware, as
stated in its 1999 Annual report . . . "That the potential
for conflict with the Police was often a motive in itself for
Considering the Parades Commissions humiliating
treatment of the members of the Royal Black Institution in Newtownbutler
and Rosslea is it any surprise that this body is known as the
"No Parades Commission".
10. Primatial Royal Black District Chapter
The Parades Commission has imposed restrictions
on the annual "Last Saturday" feeder parade in Armagh
City since the second year of the Commission's creation.
In the first year this traditional parade was
allowed to proceed without impediment along the chosen route,
although the RUC had to clear a small illegal gathering of "out
of town" protestors, from the roadway, at one point on the
The officers of Primatial District have consistently
and publicly indicated their willingness to enter into dialogue
with their fellow citizens who actually live on the notified parade
route. This offer has never either been acknowledged or acted
upon by residents and it is therefore questioned as to exactly
who the Parades Commission take their "evidence" from
in Armagh in order to make what should be sustainable determinations.
The Parades Commission must have been aware
of the presence of International Observers at the 12 July 2000
parade in Armagh and it is quite illuminating that no report was
ever publicly shared. It would be extremely interesting to know
if the Parades Commission made any effort to obtain access to
or take account of those independent observations when making
the determination for the 26 August 2000 parade in Armagh. It
is interesting to note that the RUC has confirmed, in writing,
that they were unaware of any report produced by these observers.
In recent years the members of the Black Institution
have been pleased to observe both Protestant and Roman Catholic
residents, from that part of the route where access has been denied,
watching and enjoying the procession with their children.
The officers of the Primatial Royal Black District
seriously question the sustainability of the basis for the determination
that any part of their procession in Armagh could have "the
potential for public disorder, disruption to the life of the community
and an adverse impact on relationships within the community".
In terms of "impact on relationships within
the community" it should be noted that some years before
the Parades Commission was created and when the main demonstration
in Armagh City followed the traditional route, Primatial District
officers as a mark of respect instructed bands to refrain from
playing past an area where, two weeks earlier, two young Roman
Catholic men had been murdered.
The members of the Primatial District have,
despite their abhorrence at the determinations over the years,
complied with the decisions taken under the Public Processions
(Northern Ireland) Act 1998.
The officers and members of Primatial District
are committed to the principles of civil and religious liberty
for all and of being responsible citizens and good neighbours.
They pray for the day when all their fellow citizens of Armagh
City and District can come to the point of embracing those same
principles and furthermore to tell the Parades Commission that
the streets of Armagh are open and accessible to all citizens.
When will the Parades Commission respond positively
to the issues highlighted and act in a manner to ensure the liberties
of all responsible citizens are safeguarded?
The foregoing are but examples of the treatment
meted out to our members, and demonstrably indicates a sad lack
of impartiality on the part of the Parades Commission in their
operations and Determinations. It is evident there is an obvious
bias and submissive attitude towards appeasing those who would
use the threat of public disorder and whose avowed intentions
are to actively and deliberately target all processions and stop
them at whatever cost. Despite this, and notwithstanding recent
provocation, public disorder has never occurred at or emanated
from any procession or demonstration organised by members of the
Royal Black Institution. This can be ascertained by reference
to public and police records and considering that this Institution
has been commended on numerous occasions by the printed and visual
media for the dignity, discipline and restraint always exhibited
by its members, we find it incomprehensible that our members should
be deprived of their legal right to process lawfully and peacefully
along the roads and streets of Northern Ireland.
The Parades Commission also fails in the operation
of its Charter in that it does not collect information from all
those with an interest in a procession being held, nor does it
act as a go between with those involved in a disputed processional
route. The serious work of a facilitator ought not to be confused
with the collection of or repetition of idle gossip or noting
of rumour on which to base a Determination.
It is well nigh impossible, given the track
record of the Parades Commission since inception, to suggest any
changes that could or would improve the ongoing negative work
of this appointed body. Nevertheless despite our well-founded
reservations documented in our submission
to the Review Body chaired by Dr North and now supported by the
foregoing, we would offer the following suggestions:
it is essential that Determinations
be based on factual information.
The threat of public disorder must
never be the deciding factor in making a Determination. To submit
to this only encourages the demand for further concessions from
the organisers of peaceful processions and places the Royal Ulster
Constabulary in an invidious position.
Determinations must take cognisance
of the long record of dignity, discipline and restraint always
shown by those involved in processions organised by the Royal
Black Institution. This creditable conduct has often been commended
by various sections of the media and those charged with maintaining
and upholding law and order.
The Parades Commission must surely
challenge the validity of "local community groups",
which have a tendency to appear early summer for a few months
and then disappear. It is important to acknowledge the validity
and positive contribution to society of the membership of the
Royal Black Institution since its establishment in 1797.
In any sensitive matter confidentiality
is of the most extreme importance. The leaking or revealing of
the names of those involved in organising processions is to be
severely deplored and removes all confidence in those involved
in preparing and making Determinations. Steps should be taken
to prevent any such occurrence in the future.
In exercising their responsibilities
facilitators must ensure they seek and deal fairly with all parties
with an interest in a procession, whether for or against it taking
place. Experience has revealed that different facilitators are
approaching different groups to seek views without reference to
the others. This leads to an imbalance in the collection and collating
of vital information necessary in making a fair Determination.
In arriving at Determinations the
Parades Commission would appear to be subject to political considerations
in that there are common themes revealed throughout their decisions:
1. Adverse impact on community
2. The potential for public
3. Pressure to enter into
dialogue with representatives of a "local community".
In this context the Parades Commission should
be clearly and patently transparent in its dealings. It should
not be subject to or take cognisance of pressure from either political
parties or Government.
The community from which the Royal Black Institution
draws its membership has been accused in the past of having a
"siege mentality". Considering the Determinations made
by the Commission there are more than ample reasons for such an
attitude to prevail and, indeed, there is now justification for
a feeling of official victimisation purposely being perpetrated
to appease, to mollify and to encourage republicans to accept
and be part of a political and constitutional arrangement within
Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. An objective, which surely
the most dimwitted can clearly see, is utterly unattainable.
Indeed it is obvious that republicans are intent
on developing a "grievance culture" and the Determinations
of the Parades Commission give credence to that myth which is
not only perpetuating but fostering in their young people a feeling
of oppression, repression, underprivilege, discrimination and
disadvantage. This negative and introverted attitude is resulting
in artificially created enclaves, which thrive on a philosophy
of "ourselves alone" and therefore contribute nothing
to mutual understanding or the advancement of tolerance in a mature
The reasons given in our submission to Dr North
against the establishment of a Parades Commission have been proven
to be valid and the concerns expressed have been more than amply
justified. Indeed the establishment of the Commission has resulted
in an increase and escalation of republican protests against the
legitimate public expression of a culture, which seeks only to
exhibit the Christian principles of the Reformation.
5 Not reported. Back