Orange Parades: The Politics of Ritual, Tradition and Control / Edition 1

Orange Parades: The Politics of Ritual, Tradition and Control / Edition 1

by Dominic Bryan
Pub. Date:
Pluto Press


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Orange Parades: The Politics of Ritual, Tradition and Control / Edition 1

In the first major study of the Protestant Loyalist Orange Order in Northern Ireland, Dominic Bryan provides a detailed ethnographic and historical study of Orange Order parades. He looks at the development of the parades, the history of disputes over the parades, the structure and politics of the Orange Order, the organisation of loyalist bands, the role of social class in Unionist politics - and the anthropology of ritual itself.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780745314136
Publisher: Pluto Press
Publication date: 09/20/2000
Series: Anthropology, Culture and Society Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.46(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Ron Keith is Professor of China Studies, Department of International Business and Asian Studies, Griffith University, Australia. He is the author of China as a Rising World Power and its Response to Globalization (2005), The Diplomacy of Zhou Enlai (1989) and (with Zhiqiu Lin) New Crime in China: Public Order and Human Rights (2006).

Read an Excerpt



On the evening of Monday 10 July 1995 I stood on a hill by the stone wall of a church graveyard, and watched two men walk down the hill to talk to some policemen. One was wearing an orange collarette, or sash, the other a crimson one. By Friday 8 September, one of those men, David Trimble MP, had become leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, the largest political party in Northern Ireland. After being elected to that post Mr Trimble was asked if his success in becoming leader was due to the events of July along the road from that church. He answered that it was not. However, in my view, whilst it is true to say that those events alone did not make David Trimble leader, had they not taken place he may well have had to wait a few more years.

What took place that July evening? The graveyard is situated around Drumcree church about a mile outside Portadown in County Armagh. Standing on the hill were thousands of Ulster Protestants, most of them members of an institution known as the Orange Order. Along with us were cameras from major television companies as well as journalists from around the world. Consequently, a global audience saw those two men walk down the hill to talk to the policemen. Many watching would have recognised the man walking with David Trimble as the Reverend Ian Paisley, a man whose reputation as orator, defender of Protestantism and scourge of 'Popery', is second to none. Paisley had just climbed down from a platform where, in characteristic style, he had told the gathered crowd that the future of Ulster might be decided that night. He is not a member of the Orange Order. Rather the crimson collarette he wears represents a separate yet similar organisation known as the Apprentice Boys of Derry.

Along with us all at Drumcree were the policemen of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). Dressed in riot gear, hundreds of them stood along the narrow country lane beside dozens of the armoured Land Rovers that have been such a distinctive part of policing in Northern Ireland. The previous afternoon, a number of policemen had accompanied lines of Orangemen on a parade up to the church for a religious service in commemoration of the Battle of the Boyne (a battle fought in Ireland over 300 years ago). However, senior policemen, aware of a counter-demonstration, had decided under legislation specific to Northern Ireland that the Orangemen could not parade back to Portadown via the route the Orangemen had annually walked. The route they wanted to take was the Garvaghy Road a few hundred yards up from the church, which runs through a predominantly Catholic housing estate. The large majority of the residents of that estate did not want the Orangemen to march through their estate and some had been campaigning for the previous ten years to have them stopped.

The Portadown Orangemen stood facing the police determined that they would be allowed to parade down the Garvaghy Road. The police introduced reinforcements when, despite attempts to stop the word spreading, more Orangemen started to arrive from other parts of Northern Ireland to support their brethren. Meanwhile the residents of the Garvaghy Road waited apprehensively, keen to demonstrate their opposition to the parade and well aware of the possible results of a confrontation. There was a stand-off.

On that Monday evening Trimble and Paisley made speeches from a platform in an adjacent field. Paisley received the biggest applause.

We are here tonight because we have to establish the right of the Protestant People to march down the Garvaghy Road and our brethren of the Orange Institution to exercise their right to attend their place of worship and leave that place of worship and return to their homes. That is the issue we are dealing with tonight and it is a very serious issue because it lies at the very heart and foundation of our heritage. It lies at the very heart and foundation of our spiritual life and it lies at the very foundation of the future of our families and of this Province that we love. If we cannot go to our place of worship and we cannot walk back from our place of worship then all that the Reformation brought to us and all that the martyrs died for and all that our forefathers gave their lives for is lost to us forever. So there can be no turning back. (Ian Paisley, 10 July 1995)

Even as Paisley spoke, a hundred yards down the lane there were clashes between the crowd and the lines of police. A running battle developed across the fields as Orangemen and their supporters tried to reach the Garvaghy Road. A school and other buildings on the edge of the estate were attacked. Police fired baton rounds into the groups of men. Although ostensibly used as a crowd control measure the baton rounds are potentially lethal. Paisley attempted to calm the crowd with the news that he and Mr Trimble would negotiate with the police.

Behind the scenes, other negotiations had already begun. Members of the Mediation Network for Northern Ireland had been brought in to aid negotiations between the residents' group and the police since great distrust of the police exists in Catholic communities. At the same time the police talked to Orangemen and unionist politicians who refused to talk to the representative of the residents' group. Much was at stake. A peace process had developed the previous year and had apparently brought an end to the military conflict that had been ongoing in Northern Ireland since 1969. Both the Irish Republican Army (IRA), seeking a united Ireland, and loyalist paramilitary groups, aiming to keep Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom, had announced cease-fires; but, as in the late 1960s, it was beginning to look as if parades and street demonstrations would lead to civil disturbances serious enough to bring about renewed armed conflict.

Finally, on the morning of Tuesday 11 July, a deal was negotiated. The Orangemen from the District of Portadown would walk down the Garvaghy Road without the band they had originally brought with them, who had gone home anyway, and the residents would stand by the side of the road and make their protest. Two lines of about 600 Orangemen walked in a dignified way past silent protesters; but when the parade reached Portadown, Trimble, Paisley and a crowd of supporters were waiting. The two politicians joined the parade and received the adulation of the crowd in triumph. To the dismay of mediators and police, and to the anger of residents of the Garvaghy Road and the wider Catholic community, the Orangemen claimed victory. Drumcree was seen by many loyalists as the Protestant people fighting back. Within months medals were struck commemorating the 'Seige [sic] of Drumcree', a video was produced depicting the events, and Trimble was, to the surprise of many, elected leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.

On 12 July 1995, all over Northern Ireland, members of the Orange Institution, their families, friends and supporters, prepared to celebrate the 305th anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne. This is the battle, in 1690, at which the Protestant King William III, the Dutch Prince of Orange, won a victory against King James II, an English Catholic, and is thus perceived by Protestants in Northern Ireland to have secured the civil rights and religious liberties of Protestants within predominantly Catholic Ireland.

The largest of the parades is held in Belfast. From early morning Orangemen, usually dressed in suits and wearing Orange collarettes around their necks, meet at Orange Halls to prepare for the day with fellow members of their Orange lodge. The lodge banners depicting places, people, and events of significance to the lodge, as well as its name and number, are unfurled and attached to poles ready to be carried through the streets. Members line up in military-style files behind their lodge banner and are led by a band hired for the occasion. The bands wear distinctive, brightly coloured, pseudomilitary uniforms, some carry flags, and many have the name of their band and other loyalist insignia on the big bass drum which forms the centre-piece of the band. Most of the bands are flute bands, with some side drummers, and are almost exclusively male. There are some accordion bands and a few play bagpipes. Many of the larger bands have a group of teenagers, mainly girls, who follow them on the parade.

The officials of the Orange Institution accompanied by a colour party carrying flags lead the parade. The crowd cheers as the bands start playing, with the bass drummer, thumping his drum as hard as possible, almost jigging down the road. Along most of the route spectators are three or four deep but in the Catholic areas passed by this parade the only spectators are policemen, soldiers and a few children. The parade route is well over 6 miles long and there are a number of stops for participants to take on refreshment, a soft drink or perhaps a swig from a bottle of beer, and relieve themselves behind a house or in an alleyway.

By midday the first of the marchers reach 'the Field'. Some participants rush off to meals prepared in church halls and hotels, others buy from the food stalls, whilst still others concentrate on consuming the beer transported to the Field. At the bottom of the Field is a platform where a few spectators, journalists and social researchers gather to hear a religious service and some resolutions proposed by senior Orangemen and politicians. Many of the bandsmen are more interested in the teenage girls who have accompanied them.

At around four o'clock the parade re-forms with a little less discipline and decorum. Some Orangemen and bandsmen are just returning from their hotel meal and look to find their places in the parade. Some members of the parade are as sober and dignified as at the start. Others, particularly members of some of the bands, have entered into a little carnival spirit. Face masks, funny hats, wigs and false beards all appear. The performances are even more boisterous and the music is a little less disciplined. One song is played and sung above all others as they return to the centre of Belfast - 'The Sash'.

It is old but it is beautiful, and its colours they are fine; It was worn at Derry, Aughrim, Enniskillen and the Boyne; My father wore it when a youth in the bygone days of yore; So on the 12th I always wear the Sash my father wore.

As lodges parade to the area of the city in which they are based they get a rousing reception. Bands finish by playing the national anthem, but some go on to play and drink back in their club until well into the evening. The streets of Belfast are almost deserted by mid-evening. Another Twelfth has come and gone.

On the afternoon of Sunday 7 July 1996, I was back at Drumcree watching another stand-off. The RUC Chief Constable, Sir Hugh Annesley, had announced that the Boyne Church Parade would not be allowed down the Garvaghy Road. There had been a few attempts to set up negotiations during the year but Orangemen had refused to meet the chairperson of the residents' group on the grounds that he had a terrorist conviction. When the parade left the church and reached the bottom of the hill they were confronted by more than just a line of police officers. The forces of the state had prepared more thoroughly than the previous year. Rows of barbed wire had been erected across a number of fields on either side of the road and in the distance a line of army trucks could be seen parked within the perimeter of a school playing field.

The mood amongst Orangemen and their supporters was relaxed. Some Orangemen were organising the parking of cars as the narrow country lanes started to clog up with families, journalists and at least two anthropologists. Many people were in their Sunday best and mothers were negotiating pushchairs down towards the church. At the church a Tannoy system was being set up to relay information to the crowd. Down by the Land Rovers a number of unionist politicians milled around making statements to the press. A few conversations quickly revealed what many people had suspected, that the Orangemen had also been preparing. This year the tactic was not to bring as many Orangemen as possible to Portadown but for the Institution, and others, to make their presence felt all over the countryside. The previous week, Orangemen in other parts of Northern Ireland had put in applications for parades to be held on the 8th, 9th, and 10th, taking routes that were deliberately close to Catholic areas, to put pressure on the police. They had decided that if the police wanted a battle of strength, that was what they were going to get. By the time we left Drumcree on the Sunday evening the roads into Portadown were already blocked by men wearing masks, men more than likely belonging to the mid-Ulster unit of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) an outlawed paramilitary group. Back in Belfast youths were gathering on street corners preparing to build bonfires on roads. Could the forces of the state cope or would loyalists be able to face down the police in demanding their right to march?

Later on the evening of 7 July, a Catholic taxi driver was shot dead outside Lurgan, a town 10 miles from Portadown. The mid-Ulster UVF were widely believed to be the perpetrators although no one claimed responsibility. Mainstream unionist politicians made thinly veiled threats about the further consequences if the situation was not resolved. Despite this murder, the loyalist paramilitary cease-fire was still deemed to be in place.

The news the following morning reported a few incidents from the front line at Drumcree, but, more importantly, road blocks had been set up by Orangemen and their supporters in Protestant areas all over Northern Ireland. The police were either unwilling or unable to clear the roads quickly. On Monday evening Belfast emptied quickly and pubs closed their doors. Orangemen in the city prepared to go on parade. As the police tried desperately to place officers near to likely flash-points, of which there are many in Belfast alone, youngsters took control in particular areas. In Protestant areas of the city bonfires were lit across roads and bottles and stones were thrown at the police with relative impunity. Soon, not only bonfires, but cars, vans, buses and business premises were burning. Some car showrooms had had the foresight to remove all their cars. Protestantrun businesses in Protestant areas were being attacked by Protestant youths. I heard of one Orangeman out on parade in east Belfast who returned to find his car gone as well. In north Belfast there were serious clashes between youths in both communities. And most worrying of all, some Catholics were apparently intimidated out of their houses.

The violence became worse on the 9th and 10th, and 1,000 extra British troops were sent to Northern Ireland. By the end of Wednesday the RUC announced that over the previous four days there had been 156 arrests, over 100 incidents of intimidation, 90 civilian and 50 RUC injuries, 758 attacks on police and 662 plastic baton rounds fired. At Drumcree there had been intermittent violence, a bulldozer had been brought up by the local paramilitaries and the army had placed concrete blocks on the road. Secret negotiations were taking place between the Northern Ireland Office and members of the Garvaghy Road Residents' Group, and the heads of the main Churches also tried to broker a deal. By Wednesday evening rumours were rife that the Chief Constable would change his mind and allow the parade down the road. On the morning of 11 July it became clear that, with the threat of thousands of Orangemen arriving in Portadown for the Twelfth, the parade was to be given access to the Garvaghy Road.

Residents tried to conduct a protest but were forcibly removed from the road. The parade took place to the sound of a single drum and with hundreds of Orangemen, not all from Portadown, taking part. This time Trimble and Paisley steered clear of the overt triumphalism they had displayed the previous year, but Orangemen all over Northern Ireland were jubilant. Rioting now started in nationalist areas. Police fired thousands of plastic bullets and nationalist protesters threw thousands of petrol bombs. One nationalist protester in Derry was killed when an armoured car hit him.

As the events of Drumcree in 1996 proceeded one particular comment was repeated by journalists time and again: 'All this just to walk down one bit of road?' When outsiders watched the events at Drumcree in 1995 and 1996, or saw reports of the Twelfth parades, they were inevitably left somewhat bewildered by the apparent importance attached to these parades by people in Northern Ireland. The right to perform a particular ritual does not usually become a central political issue in a modern industrial European state. Yet in 1995 Drumcree was only one, albeit the most serious, of forty-one such disputes in eighteen different areas of Northern Ireland (Jarman and Bryan 1996: 85-93); and over four days during that July week in 1996 the forces of the British state in Northern Ireland were brought to breaking point over the right to parade. Thousands of policemen and soldiers were deployed, and millions of pounds spent, to try to stop around 600 Orangemen from walking down a particular length of road, that is, from performing a brief and simple ritual. This book will explain why Orange parades are such a prominent issue in the politics of Northern Ireland and how the rituals have been, and continue to be, utilised as a political resource. I will argue that by understanding the nature of ritual action we can better comprehend the dynamics of political divisions in the north of Ireland.


Excerpted from "Orange Parades"
by .
Copyright © 2000 Dominic Bryan.
Excerpted by permission of Pluto Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents




1. Drumcree: An Introduction to Parade Disputes

2. Northern Ireland: Ethnicity Politics and Ritual

3. Appropriating William and Inventing the Twelfth

4. Parading 'Respectable' Politics

5. Rituals of State

6. 'You Can March - Can Others?'

7. The Orange and other Loyal Orders

8. The Marching Season

9. The Twelfth

10. 'Tradition', Control and Resistance

11. Return To Drumcree

Appendix 1 The number of parades in Northern Ireland according to RUC statistics.

Appendix 2 The ‘Marching Season’: Important Loyal Order 
Parading Dates.




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