Drumcree Church Parade (IRISH TIMES)

The Questions are not Exclusively Orange
IRISH TIMES – 2nd June 1997

Drumcree Parish Church

Eamon Stack poses the question “can Orangemen walk with equal citizenship?” These new phrases such as “equal citizenship”, like its predecessor “parity of esteem” is really ‘old wine in new wineskins’.

The contribution of Eamon Stack to ‘Rite and Reason’ on 27th May is most unhelpful in the present circumstances and deserves a response because of the very imbalanced, inaccurate and half-truth presentation of the situation which may not be obvious to the southern readership.

The expansion of the Garvaghy Road area to which Eamon Stack makes reference in the 1960s is indeed accurate but to say that the new houses were “assigned to Catholics” is totally inaccurate. These estates were ‘mixed’ until a previous increase in sectarian tension resulted in Protestants being forced to leave.

The peaceful nature of the return parade from Drumcree Parish Church is only invalidated by those, residents and numerous outsiders, who use physical force to block, obstruct or hinder this peaceful return from Morning Prayer.

Eamon makes the statement “No one on the Garvaghy road wants this Parade”, and proceeds to give seven INVALID reasons for making such a statement.

A. That it is oppressive because of the security operation. This may sound valid but it should also be considered that it is a self imposed security operation. There would be no need for the security operation if the residents and others did not pose a security problem!

B. That Orangemen are being facilitated . . etc. Orangemen are exercising their civil rights which they hold dear for themselves and for others. It is totally inaccurate to say that Orangemen are not allowing nationalists to do something

C. That there is already an excessive number of parades. Eamon is both making a judgement as to what is ‘excessive’ and moving the goal posts from the Garvaghy Road into Portadown.

D. That the parade is to celebrate the political victory. The Church Parade on the Sunday before the Twelfth is a Thanksgiving both for the Civil and Religious Liberty won at the Boyne and for the Battle of the Somme, in which so many Irishmen of both traditions died.

E. That it expresses a permanent socio-economic imbalance. How a parade from Morning Prayer expresses a ‘socio-economic imbalance’ is beyond the comprehension of any right thinking person.

F. It provokes public disorder. It only provoked public disorder because of the opposition publicly and violently expressed by those who deny rights to others which they so readily claim for themselves.

The right of all people to ‘peaceful opposition’ is not denied by anyone, particularly Orangemen, but Eamon Stack fails to recognise that one must hold in balance the right to Parade and the right to Protest. When the right to protest becomes the denial of the right to parade, then the democratic right of Civil Liberty is denied!

The selective UNTRUTH in this article is carried further when no mention is made of the number of parades being reduced from ten to one, or the fact that the parade coming up the Corcrain Road is also being opposed by ‘Residents’.

Clearly as Eamon says there is ‘intransigence’, but it is not on the part of the Orangemen. The residents have displayed intransigence by bringing the State to the point of anarchy for the sake of a “peaceful 15-minute walk”.

The Major Question is to be directed to the residents of the Garvaghy Road – “In what circumstances will you not object to the valid expression of a religion, culture and identity, held by the majority of the population of Northern Ireland, and not obstruct that expression by blocking the return route of the parade along the Garvaghy Road from Morning Prayer at Drumcree Parish Church?”

Frankly, like many of your readers, north and south, I found Eamon Stack’s article most depressing because of its reiteration of old tribal slogans and its determination to present an ugly form of majoritanism, where you are only accepted in a community if you ‘fit in’ to that particular communities pre-conceived majority ideas.

How very different was the ‘Rite and Reason’ column of Tuesday 22nd April last when we were all challenged to seek a consensus as the best way forward in a divided society with diverse interests. Yes the Orange Order can not only cope with equal citizenship, but affirms equal citizenship. But Eamon Stack’s article will be a hindrance rather than a help towards that affirmation.

Brian Kennaway (Rev.)
Education Committee
Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland