Having joined the Orange Institution in 1964 and served on the Parades Commission 2011-2013, the Rev. Brian Kennaway offers his analysis of the parading conflict. A number of groups need to step up to the mark.
By Rev Brian Kennaway
Parading has a long and noble tradition in Ireland; but it also has the ability to provoke a negative reaction, particularly in Belfast, where areas of conflict in the 1880’s, 1920’s and 1930’s are still areas of conflict today.
It was the failure of the Orange Order to deal with widespread conflict over Drumcree which lead to the establishment of the Parades Commission. To put it bluntly, it was the Orange Order which created the Parades Commission.
Many in the parading fraternity have not grasped the fundamental fact that the right to Parade is a presumptive right, and the Parades Commission will only intervene if there is a likelihood of civil disorder, a conflict of rights or a negative impact on community relations. Therefore, when notifying a parade organisers should consider a route and conditions which will prevent the Commission from intervening.
Those in the parading fraternity, particularly those belonging to an organisation which professes to be “Christ-centred, Bible-based, Church-grounded”, are required to do much more than would be expected of a non-religious body.
They must recognise that others have rights as well; the residents through or passed whose districts they parade, the traders whose businesses are affected, and not least the PSNI whose responsibility it is to maintain public order.
As a Christian Minister, I have at times been ashamed by the behaviour of some professedly Christian organisations. The Christian principle is established in Scripture – The interests of others come before the interests of self! “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2; 3)
It is un-Christian to encourage the breaking of the law – the determinations of the Parades Commission have the force of law! “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority” (1 Peter 2:13) It is also un-Christian not to keep your word, “Do not break your oath, but fulfil to the Lord the vows you have made” (Matthew 5:33) The self imposed template issued on 11 June 2013 by the Orange and Black Institutions was swiftly broken.
Parading organisations must take responsibility for the parades which they notify, and ensure the good behaviour of all those who participate. It is behaviour in the public square which must be addressed. It is long past the time to stop playing the game of “whataboutery” and accept responsibility when things go wrong. If no offence is given no offence will be taken.
Those in the “loyalist” community should desist from making accusations which do not stand up to public scrutiny. When the Parades Commission intervenes, the cry is often – “This is an attack on our culture”. The facts reveal a different story. Over the last ten years there has been a 30% increase in parades from the “loyalist” community and a 3% increase in the twelve months up to March 2013.
Throughout Northern Ireland the traditional parading culture is thriving – but as far as Belfast is concerned we must ask in what form and at what cost? The real threat to the parading culture comes, not from the opposition of republicans, but from the often lawless and offensive public behaviour in Belfast.