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Peter Hadden

Should marches be banned?

(19 July 1996)

From Militant [UK], 19 July 1996.
Transcribed and marked up by Ciaran Crossey.

The Drumcree stand-off and RUC climb-down has placed the issue of parades at the centre of the crumbling peace process. The Orange Order will soon realise that they scored only a pyrrhic victory in insisting that they march along the Garvaghy Road.

Catholics in other areas who were possibly prepared to tolerate Orange parades passing near their homes, will now be liable to object.

What happened on the 12th, where parades in Newry and Cookstown were blocked by demonstrations, is an example of what will now occur elsewhere.

A meeting in Derry before the Garvaghy U-turn adopted the reasonable position that the Apprentice Boys should march through the city except for the section of the walls overlooking the Bogside. After the Orangemen got their way protesters at another meeting cheered calls for the Apprentice Boys to be blocked from entering the city side of the river.

Patrick Mayhew’s belated response of an “independent” review of parades won’t provide an answer. What happens when either residents or marchers don’t accept the recommendations of an independent body? The scene has been set for future clashes.

Militant Labour stands opposed to sectarian organisations such as the Orange Order or its equivalents on the Catholic side. However, we respect the right of these organisations to march and to do so freely.

The problem is where parades pass through or by areas where they are provocative or intimidate local residents. This problem has been aggravated by the response of the state which has been to hem residents into their street in order to let Orange parades through.

If a way is to be found to avoid endless confrontations, the rights of residents to object to parades must be respected. This means that where parades are contested they should only pass through sensitive areas with the agreement of local residents and in a manner which has also been agreed.

In the year since the first stand-off at Drumcree, the Orange Order refused to negotiate with Garvaghy residents or intermediaries. This, approach was dictated by the right wingers linked to the Unionist Party who have become more dominant within the Orange Order and who refuse compromise.

Parade organisers must respect the rights of residents and be prepared to stay out of areas where there are objectors. On the basis of a reasonable attitude on the part of those organising parades, there could be a reasonable attitude from residents. Local agreements acceptable to all could be worked out.

If parades took place by agreement – and only where there was agreement – the other problem of people being hemmed in by the police or army need not arise. Where there are agreements over parades there should be no police presence, rather the stewarding of onlookers should be left in the hands of the community representatives.

This approach offers a way out. If the Orange Order maintains its position of intransigence it will be up to the rest of the community, Protestant and Catholic particularly to the trade unions and other organisations of the working class, to apply pressure to make the Orange Order’s leadership and the Unionist establishment aware that the rest of us are not prepared to be dragged along the road of confrontation because of their refusal to budge.

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