The Politics of Parading Spotlight


The Politics of Parading

Hard-hitting investigations. Ciaran Tracey explores the politics of parading following a summer of tension over Loyal Order marches.


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Saturday's parade to celebrate the centenary of the Ulster Covenant. A

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march like no other, packed with pageantry. And police. 190 bands

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and 20,000 people. It's around a third to 50% bigger than the 12th.

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There were fears of trouble. But a collective sigh of relief when it

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passed off without a major incident. At what cost, though? Tonight we

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reveal the bill for this year's marching season. �6 million is far

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too much money to spend on this area. At the heart of another tense

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summer was a dispute over the behaviour of the Young Conway

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Volunteers outside St Patrick's Catholic church in Belfast. We hear

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exclusively from the band. Our band did nothing wrong. To the Catholic

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community, it was an insult. disrespect is intended by any of

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the marchers. People say they do not want to make this a contentious

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route. It was a summer in which the Parades Commission, the body set up

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to deal with contentious marches, left both sides angry. With less

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than a year to go before the Commission has to be replaced, is

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Northern Ireland any closer to finally sorting out the problem of

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parades? The Parades Commission is not the way to solve this. In fact

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there may not be a way to solve it. Thousands of people, united in

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Belfast in the spirit of a century old pledge. They were celebrating

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the Ulster Covenant. Pledging themselves to Britain as the men

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and women of Ulster. And pledging to stay British. For Ulster's

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Unionists, it's a birthright. years after all the troubles, the

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IRA campaigns and internal tussles and differences between London and

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Dublin, the fact they are still in the United Kingdom, they want to

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celebrate that loudly and proudly. It was a big day for John Aughey.

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Parading is in his blood. This one was as big as it gets. I am looking

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forward to celebrating my heritage. It is probably bigger than Twelfth

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of July in terms of the size of the parade. This is the hundredth

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anniversary, let's hope there is a 100 anniversary. It's not just an

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idea, or a folk memory for John. His family have a deep-rooted

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connection with the Covenant. They have lived it. My two grandfathers

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both signed the Covenant, but they both signed it for the same reason,

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to reaffirm our position within the United Kingdom. I consider myself

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to be following in the family tradition. My son, my daughter and

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grandson are in the parade today. Let's hope the tradition continues.

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The Covenant was about defiance. Defiance of a Bill that would

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release Ireland from british control. Ulster's unionists, led by

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Lord Carson, drew up a pledge rejecting it in the strongest terms.

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What it means has not changed from grandfather to grandson. There are

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serious and many pressures put on the people of Northern Ireland to

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weaken that opinion. It is important for us to show the rest

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of the world that we are just as determined now. But not everyone

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was celebrating. The residents of Carrick Hill protested in front of

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St Patrick's Church in north Belfast, as John and several

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hundred other Orangemen passed by. While all the bands abided by the

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Commission ruling to play hymns, some played more loudly than others.

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So a more exuberant but the process seemed to be more respectful than

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before. Sometimes it can be interpreted by members of the

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community as insulting. The majority went well. Some loyalist

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protesters outside a Catholic church in East Belfast vented their

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anger at parade restrictions by encouraging bands to play louder

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and sing banned songs. And when a bandsman was photographed urinating

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near the church, the Orange Order apologised. The behaviour, what he

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had done, anyway in public it should not happen, but particularly

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at a place of worship, it was wrong. While the day passed without

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serious incident, the failure to secure agreements in the weeks

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leading up to it revealed deep divisions between both sides.

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Saturday's Covenant parade was a relatively quiet end to a marching

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season that lasted a month longer than in previous years. But the

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parading problems thrown up by the summer remain unresolved. At the

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heart of the controversy is the future of the Parades Commission.

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We've looked back over the disputes to piece together why there were

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problems and to examine the Parades Commission's determinations.

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Rioting in Ardoyne in north Belfast on the Twelfth, a day that tested

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the police to their limits. It wasn't supposed to be like this.

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And it would end in a serious attack. The Orange Order's march

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had had restrictions placed on it by the Parades Commission. In an

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attempt to prevent confrontation, they said the Orange marchers had

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to return past nationalist Ardoyne much earlier than normal. By 4

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o'clock. Much to the irritation of the loyalist and unionist community.

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It caused great distress in the way the unions family was. A

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reprehensible decision -- Unionist family. It literally forced the

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loyal orders to return by 4pm. same day, Republicans also wanted

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to march in Ardoyne. Two separate protests were planned. The

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organiser of one says their aim was clear, to challenge the Parades

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Commission. We were challenging them. We say who has primacy?

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effort to accommodate all sides, the parades commission allowed the

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two republican protests AND a loyalist one - to go ahead, as well

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as the Orange parade. It led to a Of republicans and loyalists cheek

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by jowl in the middle of the road. The police were caught in the

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middle. How close did it come to the wire to getting out of control?

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There was a period of five full ten minutes undoubtedly and it was

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incredibly difficult. -- I had to make sure nobody got hurt. I after

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a day of tension and violence, the commission was criticised. Except

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it was a challenging position for the police on the day and whatever

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decisions were taken, there would have been problematic issues.

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rioting worsened as the night went on and things turned more sinister

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as a dissident republican gunman shot at police, firing 17 rounds.

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The day after the 12th, a video emerged showing a loyalist marching

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band stopping to play what many regard the sectarian tune outside

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St Patrick's church. There was fury within the nationalist community.

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The band responsible has not talked publicly about its actions, until

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now. One of the band members spoke exclusively to us. I do not believe

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the band did anything wrong on the day. What we did on Twelfth of July,

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we did throughout the day, on the entirety of the route. It is just

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what we do. The band in no way, as I see it, did anything wrong on the

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day. He was one of those who stopped outside St Patrick's. He

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feels the actions of the band have been exaggerated. There is nowhere

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else in the world he would see the media taking the story of a band

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playing outside a church. Over the top of 17 shots being fired at

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police officers. It was not the act of playing that caused such offence,

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it was the choice of music. tune we played was Sloop John B. We

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cannot be held responsible for what people perceived to be. My honest

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opinion if people think it was sectarian, surely they have a

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mindset that is sectarian. Many say it is sectarian because it also

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goes by the name of the Famine Song, a standard of Glasgow Rangers

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supporters. We played tunes set out before we walk. In our eyes, it was

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a genuine song. And if people perceived it as the Famine Song, if

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somebody... If somebody felt hat, from what the band did, the band,

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by all means, will apologise and has apologised. We did not set out

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that day to cause anybody upset. It was a day of exuberance. We do what

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we do every Twelfth of July. Act is little comfort to the priest

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at St Patrick's, who was abroad when he heard about their actions.

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I sent a text message and e-mail to say -- I received, it said to check

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the website and I was quite shocked by it. My response was, what is

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going on? And why are we being focused? Why are we being singled

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out for this particular behaviour? Father Sheehan quickly found out

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how upset parishioners were. They were horrified and insulted. They

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felt belittled. They felt that nothing had changed in decades.

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That day felt they were second- class citizens. And if we were

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insulted by it, tough. She shortly after the video emerged, the band

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apologised for any offence and said that members did not realise they

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were outside a church. Some people would say they did not deliberately

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do that and I am trying to be open to that. To the Catholic community,

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it was an insult. Many others would say it was not intended as an

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insult, but to stand outside the church and to do that, it is an

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The YCV band's actions could not be ignored. They'd broken the Parades

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Commission's code of conduct. And the body had to be seen to act.

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Once more, how it acted made it the target of trenchant criticism. It

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decided to place restrictions on an entire set of bands marching past

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St Patrick's, on a Royal Black Preceptory Parade in late August.

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They were only to play a single drumbeat - and the YCV band weren't

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to walk past at all. Mervyn Gibson, chaplain to the Royal Black

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Preceptory and an Orange Order spokesman, claims the Parades

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Commission was acting in a vengeful way. You just cannot come out of

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the blue, ban an organisation, a whole parade, from playing music at

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a particular time. For no particular reason other than spite.

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The marching fraternity was incensed, and decided it had had

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enough. I think it was a case that people were asked would they

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support a breaking of a determination if that was the case.

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And I believe there was support for that decision. Unionist politicians

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were prepared to lend them support. On the eve of the march an open

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letter was written Owen Paterson, then Secretary of State, calling

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the Parades Commission's decision "monstrous". I think it was

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unhelpful. I think whenever I saw that letter produced, publicised,

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the morning of the parade, I mean it was quite obvious that it was

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not going to have a helpful effect. It was signed by a many unionist

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politicians - including First Minister Peter Robinson, who was

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abroad on holiday. When you've got someone who is supposed to be

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leading an administration signing a letter which in practise encouraged

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people to breach a determination which the Parades Commission had

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established. I mean that is the opposite of political leadership,

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that is running in behind the extremists. On the day of the

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parade, bands openly flouted the Parades Commission's ruling -

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playing loudly and proudly as they passed the Church. Father Sheehan

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could only look on. The next thing I heard was the bands striking up

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but becoming louder. And I was shocked because I couldn't believe

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it and I thought maybe it was just a one off thing. Then the next band

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struck up and the third band and the fourth and at that stage i

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thought this is just crazy. And I couldn't understand why it was

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happening. I had never ever witnessed anything of such anger

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and eh would appear to be venom and sectarian hatred as I did then. I

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was shocked by it, I was horrified by it. I was still shaking after it.

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I know that. It's up to the police to uphold Parades Commission

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determinations. But the police chose not to block the bands and

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instead stood back, shouting warnings. You have an option you

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can enforce at the time or but enforcement at the time stopping

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that parade will lead seven thousand people to go where? I am

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absolutely certain that the judgement that we exercised on the

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25th was a right judgement in terms of both communities in North

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Belfast. The Parades Commission had been openly defied. Peter Osborne

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denies that it had been fatally undermined. The vast majority of

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determinations are adhered to. Where they are not adhered to,

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first of all the police gather evidence Secondly it's the sort of

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issue we would take into account for future determinations if

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necessary. More than 30 bands broke the Parades Commission

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determination. They were criticised by some Protestant clergy, but DUP

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minister Nelson McCausland sympathised with them. There is an

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anger, there is a resentment within the unionist community and

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therefore something such as this was almost inevitable. To be able

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to say look, this is completely wrong, or you have to support the

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law - that's what the role of a senior politician should be. Not

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coming along and saying, look the Parades Commission, it shouldn't be

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there, we shouldn't talk to them and we deplore their determinations.

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I mean that just gives an open door to people who are going to riot.

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What happened on the 25th was genuinely a protest against the

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parade commission's decision. I wouldn't see it as law breaking.

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was law breaking. You say it was law breaking, I am saying it was a

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protest, something, a line in the sand had to be drew, it had to be

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done. Determinations can be protested against, but when they're

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flouted, the law is broken. there is a bad law there that

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doesn't show equality and is enacted against the institution, I

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think there will be peaceful protests against that until it is

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changed. For the police, the legacy of these events was mounting

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tension among loyalists, convinced they were being persecuted. It was

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almost like a pressure cooker effect within the wider community

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:17:58.:17:59.

in. One week on from the bands' act of defiance, a republican parade

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made its way past Clifton Street - without any restrictions. It was to

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spark sustained rioting involving hundreds of waiting Loyalists. Once

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again, the police were in the middle. That was three days of some

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of the most intense rioting we have seen in Northern Ireland over the

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course of a number of years to the most intense barrage of missiles

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that led to over sixty of them being injured over the course of

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that three days It led Will Kerr to publicly criticise the leadership

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of politicians. But what was frustrating for the police service

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at the beginning of September was the continuant political focus on

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blaming the other side there's no such thing in a mature civic

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society in 2012 as righteous anger that justifies the intensity and

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the level of violence that we saw between the 2nd and 4th of

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September in Carlise Circus. Unionist politicians, who'd been

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happy to rail against the Parades Commission before the violence,

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were then criticised for not coming out to condemn it. The DUP's Nigel

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Dodds says that's grossly unfair. The DUP have a clear record of

:18:57.:18:59.

condemning violence and we condemn violence absolutely, and Peter

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Robinson and I visited the Lower Shankill and spoke to local

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residents. This attempt to turn it round that somehow Unionist

:19:09.:19:15.

politicians were slow to condemn violence that is absolute nonsense.

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After three days of disorder, the First Minister publicly condemned

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the rioting I think very consistently I've condemned anyone

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who's involved in violence and breaking the law, that's a role

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that you would expect any first minister, indeed it's consistently

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been my position. I think there are undoubtedly very high tensions in

:19:28.:19:38.
:19:38.:19:46.

north Belfast and indeed other My role is to ensure that we don't

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add to those difficulties by things that are said and done. Perhaps if

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everyone took as step back and said a lot less, we might be in a much

:20:01.:20:06.

better position to resolve these issues. But they will only be

:20:06.:20:08.

resolved on the basis of mutual respect. But some commentators

:20:08.:20:11.

believe unionist politicians were too slow with their condemnation.

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think it was hugely damaging because it looked like they were

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running away. It looked like they recognised they had got it wrong.

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It was one of the biggest, I think, own goals that Unionism and Orange

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have scored in the past two or three years. With the landmark

:20:23.:20:25.

Covenant Centenary Parade just weeks away, the loyal orders tried

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to build bridges. All eyes, including the Parades Commission,

:20:30.:20:34.

were on them. So there was an apology for offences caused to the

:20:34.:20:36.

church. And the Orange Order offered to meet the St Patrick's

:20:36.:20:40.

parishioners. The Orange Order was hoping the talks it had offered

:20:40.:20:43.

might lead to a deal to ease tensions in the area. With a summer

:20:43.:20:46.

of trouble behind them, but one of their biggest events ahead, they

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wanted to avoid restrictions from the Parades Commission. Father

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Sheehan and a handful of parishioners agreed to meet with

:20:53.:21:02.
:21:03.:21:03.

them. I had never been involved in anything like this in my life. I am

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not a negotiator, I am not trained in anything like that. I just

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jumped in with two feet. And it was always my firm hope that if orange

:21:10.:21:13.

and residents met that they would have found a common ground which

:21:13.:21:18.

would have been clearly evident to both. The meeting with parishioners

:21:18.:21:21.

was seen as a big development. But there was no meeting with residents

:21:21.:21:27.

of the area. The Orange Order had for years blocked talks with

:21:27.:21:30.

residents groups, but revealed that as far back as March it had dropped

:21:30.:21:33.

that ban. We decided that we just couldn't sit back and allow the

:21:33.:21:42.

parades commission to continue eh what they were doing. So we said

:21:42.:21:45.

what we do need to do is to move things forward ourselves as an

:21:45.:21:48.

organisation? But the talks didn't work - they ground to a halt over

:21:48.:21:51.

the issue of whether the Order would talk to residents of nearby

:21:51.:21:54.

Carrick Hill. I could not understand why that wouldn't happen.

:21:54.:21:57.

And my hope was that that would happen. The Orange Order however

:21:57.:22:01.

considered it a success. I think we have seen that we can engage and do

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engage. And even engage at every parade of many people. This time we

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actually engaged at a place where there had been contention and at a

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place where there had been hurt caused. And I believe we engaged in

:22:14.:22:17.

a way that was genuine. In a way that lead to mutual understanding,

:22:17.:22:21.

and I believe lead to a resolution of that particular issue. There had

:22:22.:22:24.

been engagement, but there hadn't been a solution. Once again it was

:22:25.:22:27.

back to the Parades Commission to make a decision. The Parades

:22:27.:22:30.

Commission said that only hymns were to be played outside churches,

:22:30.:22:36.

and played with respect. That was flouted by some. Leaders from all

:22:36.:22:38.

sides though have praised the relative calm of the Covenant

:22:38.:22:45.

celebration. The question is after a summer of violence and protest

:22:45.:22:51.

around parades - at what cost was this Centenary success bought?

:22:51.:22:54.

Policing disorder arising from this summer's parading has cost the PSNI

:22:54.:22:59.

considerably. Exact figures will be presented to the Policing Board on

:22:59.:23:09.
:23:09.:23:09.

Thursday. But we can reveal that the cost is already up on last year,

:23:09.:23:11.

without taking into account the loyalist rioting in September or

:23:11.:23:14.

Saturday's parade. The total for this year's marching season will be

:23:14.:23:22.

over �6.5 million. That's up around �800,000 from last year. �6 million

:23:22.:23:25.

is �6 million, which a police service can't spend on things that

:23:25.:23:28.

matter more to local communities for the real, rest of the year. �6

:23:28.:23:33.

million is far too much money to spend on this area. Will Kerr has a

:23:33.:23:37.

strong view about how those costs should be met in the future.

:23:37.:23:40.

would say quite legitimately I think that people should take

:23:40.:23:43.

responsibility and share a burden of the costs whenever the platform

:23:43.:23:46.

of an event leads to associated disorder we would welcome a debate

:23:46.:23:56.
:23:56.:23:56.

about where that cost would lie. Politicians here also have to

:23:56.:24:00.

grapple with their failure, so far, to sort out the issue of parading.

:24:00.:24:04.

It all comes down to the question of what will replace the Parades

:24:04.:24:08.

Commission. Alistair Graham was on the very first Parades Commission

:24:08.:24:12.

in 1998. It was his commission that first dealt with the annual problem

:24:12.:24:18.

of Drumcree. I thought it would be an issue for a long period of time.

:24:18.:24:21.

I didn't think the Parades Commission would still be in

:24:21.:24:23.

existence, taking week to week, month to month decisions about

:24:23.:24:28.

parades in Northern Ireland. I have genuinely been staggered by the

:24:28.:24:31.

degree and the progress that has been made in political decision

:24:31.:24:35.

making in Northern Ireland. But unfortunately we haven't made the

:24:35.:24:42.

same progress in dealing with parades. Back in 2010, the DUP and

:24:42.:24:50.

Sinn Fein thought they had it cracked. They came up with

:24:50.:24:54.

proposals that would have created a new panel to rule on parades. But

:24:54.:24:56.

the Orange Order voted not to support it, effectively killing the

:24:56.:24:59.

plan off. There was elements within the institution that didn't want

:24:59.:25:02.

that. Some I believe for political reasons, some for genuine reasons

:25:02.:25:05.

that they were against them. I was involved in producing them, so yes,

:25:05.:25:08.

I think they should have adopted them. But it is a democratic

:25:08.:25:11.

organisation and they rejected them, albeit by a very small minority,

:25:11.:25:13.

but that is democracy. That rejection called into question the

:25:13.:25:16.

DUP's ability to deliver on parading. What the DUP should have

:25:16.:25:19.

done was went ahead with it because the Orange order were represented

:25:19.:25:22.

in all of that. They showed a weakness of leadership by not

:25:22.:25:25.

seeing that through It also meant that the current Parades

:25:25.:25:27.

Commission's life had to be extended until next year. Nigel

:25:27.:25:30.

Dodds says there's still time to find a replacement. It's important

:25:30.:25:33.

that people buy into and have confidence in a regime they have to

:25:33.:25:36.

operate under and that applies to any walk of life so far as

:25:36.:25:41.

government is concerned. No, I would've preferred that we had

:25:41.:25:44.

moved forward on the basis of proposals that are out there but

:25:44.:25:48.

we're not precious or signed up that it has to be these 2010

:25:48.:25:51.

proposals, this is set in concrete, far from it, we want to move this

:25:51.:25:55.

forward. Under the 2010 proposals, oversight of parading would have

:25:55.:26:01.

been devolved to the office of first and deputy first ministers.

:26:01.:26:11.
:26:11.:26:12.

Alistair Graham says that's a bad Well I would be strongly against

:26:12.:26:17.

that. I think to put this toxic issue of parades into the heart of

:26:17.:26:24.

the political process would be a high risk strategy indeed.

:26:24.:26:27.

solution many seek is for residents and marchers to come to agreements

:26:27.:26:31.

on parading. The Orange Order meeting with Church parishioners

:26:31.:26:34.

this summer shows that they think there's mileage in the idea, if

:26:34.:26:39.

only to bypass the Commission. It's also led to increasing calls for

:26:39.:26:47.

the Order to meet with Sinn Fein. have no doubt that they see the

:26:47.:26:51.

orange will see the way ahead is to talk to Sinn Fein, is to talk to

:26:51.:26:54.

residents groups. And then get more marches and more permission to

:26:54.:27:02.

march as a result of that than refusing to speak. I think it will

:27:02.:27:05.

eventually happen. Some people in the institution will never want it

:27:05.:27:09.

to happen which is fair enough and i respect that view. I think it

:27:09.:27:12.

will happen, but it won't happen when people are being enforced into

:27:12.:27:15.

it or bullied in, or people think they are politically point scoring.

:27:15.:27:18.

To do that the Orange Order will have to bring its members and

:27:18.:27:21.

supporters with it. That will be a difficult sell to people like

:27:21.:27:24.

bandsman Paul Shaw. If they're seen to be meeting republicans and

:27:24.:27:27.

meeting Sinn Fein then it will tear the Order apart. I mean they will

:27:27.:27:33.

lose all support from within itself, they are going against the grain.

:27:33.:27:36.

If they have a policy and a principle set out, then they should

:27:36.:27:40.

stand by it. If communities can't agree, most accept that decisions

:27:40.:27:45.

from above are needed - basically what we have at present. So in many

:27:45.:27:47.

ways we're at stalemate. The Parades Commission is certainly

:27:47.:27:53.

unloved, but no-one yet has a better solution. We understand and

:27:53.:27:56.

have always understood somebody has to arbitrate when there is dispute

:27:56.:27:59.

around parades. We would prefer that not to reach that stage but

:27:59.:28:03.

there is some parades will reach that stage. All we want is a body

:28:03.:28:06.

in there that will deal with us all fairly. That is certainly not the

:28:06.:28:09.

case with this Parades Commission. And hasn't been in the past.

:28:09.:28:12.

Whether the critical decisions around parading remain with the

:28:12.:28:14.

Commission or move to Stormont, the process will remain deeply tainted

:28:14.:28:22.

by suspicion. It is a total disgrace the way we are being boxed

:28:22.:28:27.

up and put in to cold storage. I mean it would suit everybody all

:28:27.:28:36.

right for the Protestant people just to disappear. Nationalists

:28:37.:28:40.

also face a decade of events that may likely be as contentious as the

:28:40.:28:43.

Covenant celebrations. Yet they, too, have their problems, and will

:28:43.:28:45.

be looking over their shoulder at hard-liners emboldened through this

:28:45.:28:48.

summer's protest at parades. reality is I don't think there is a

:28:48.:28:51.

solution to the parading commission, where you continue to have a turf

:28:51.:28:55.

war, and there will always be a turf war in parts of Northern

:28:55.:28:57.

Ireland. And nobody, whether it's the Assembly, whether it's the

:28:57.:28:59.

Parades Commission, whether it's another entirely invented

:28:59.:29:01.

organisation, I don't think anyone can resolve the bottom problem,

:29:02.:29:08.

which is that one side really doesn't like the other. That mutual

:29:08.:29:12.

animosity will always find an outlet in problem parades. A

:29:12.:29:14.

century after the Ulster Convenant, Northern Ireland has worked through

:29:14.:29:18.

After a summer of tension over Loyal Order marches, Ciaran Tracey explores the politics of parading.


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