Leading Republican Sean Murray on what he calls ‘a cycle of coat trailing’

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Royal Black Preceptory parade passing St Patricks Church on Donegall street.

Royal Black Preceptory parade passing St Patricks Church on Donegall street.


Black Saturday, the last Saturday in August usually heralds the end of the parading season.  However, given the nightly ‘protest’ parades at the Ardoyne interface no end appears in sight this year, as tensions build in this volatile area.

The main Black demonstration for Belfast this year was in the town of Newtownards, a Unionist stronghold in North Down.  The Royal Black Perceptory chapters, members and supporters can gather there and enjoy their day, free from either tension or contention.

Given such a scenario, as we enjoy the last of our summer weekends, one could question the rationale, if one exists, which requires local chapters to insist on walking through or close to volatile interface areas in North and East Belfast, in both outward and return feeder parades to this demonstration.

Chapter No.4 of the R.P.B., who gather in Templemore Avenue, in East Belfast, insist on parading in the opposite direction away from the main demonstration, past St. Matthew’s Church and the Nationalist Short Strand area to Station Street.  Here they board a bus which drives directly to Newtownards, passing St. Matthews Church once more.  The same ritual is played out at the return parade.

Then we have Greencastle R.B.P. 336 taking the scenic route.  Their parade starts at Greencastle Orange Hall, situated in the mainly Nationalist Whitewell area.  It then proceeds to Shore Crescent, where they board a bus to take them to the College of Art in York Street in the centre of Belfast.  Here they disembark and parade up Donegall Street, past St. Patrick’s Church, to the Lower Crumlin Road.  Along with other local chapters, they then parade back down Clifton Street, past Nationalist Carrick Hill area, on past St. Patrick’s Church once more towards Albert Square in the city centre where they board a bus which takes them directly to Newtownards.  If ever a definition of sectarian coat-trailing was required, look no further!

This illustration of cultural expression, necessitates a massive and costly policing operation, while directly heightening community tensions to almost breaking point.  Not content with parading such routes, the chapters ‘contract’ some of the most controversial bands with strong Loyalist paramilitary links to accompany them.  Their behaviour is unacceptably provocative and blatantly sectarian.  They exhibit obvious pleasure in continuing to breach Parade Commission determinations, apparently with impunity.

For the return parade, despite being notified by the PSNI that Mass was being held in St. Patrick’s Church, they insisted on parading past, with the bands playing at full volume, making the priests words inaudible.

These are the actions of an organisation which in its mission statement clearly commits to “regular Christian worship and all aspects of charitable living” and to “enhance greater and higher standards of Justice, Truth, Honesty and Integrity in both private and public life”.

Somehow I doubt if their feeder parades on Black Saturday reflect the noble sentiments outlined in their mission statement.


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  1. The willingness to give a little is lost on those who march.
    Northern Ireland needs leadership from leaders who have the capacity and
    confidence to take a chance. We have a leadership vacuum at the centre of our
    society and as a result the fringes are falling into the hole. Many Unionist communities
    believe they are under siege and react with frustration which is evidenced by
    the need to march traditional routes. Nationalist communities also need to
    break out of their siege mentality and learn to be tolerant. Both groups need to be led into a shared future by their elected representatives. So rather than posturing and playing games at Stormont, MLAs need to show some initiative.

  2. gerry mc dermott on

    All marches and flags should be banned with immediate effect in the 6 counties,untill manners prevails (which will take decades),the UN should be brought in to enforce this with an iron rod.

  3. Abit rich coming from that whom it does Memorials built without planning permission parades which hurt cictiams dressing in paramillitery uniform pot calling the kettle blcak

  4. MercuryTiltSwitch on

    In my opinion, nationalists should welcome the marches, turn out to watch them and point and laugh.

    The marchers get off on the negative attention. Just point and laugh. Laugh at the ridiculous outfits, the outdated attitudes, the pathetic delusions of grandeur and the need to offend.

    Laugh at them. They aren’t to be taken seriously. And, once they realise that they aren’t a threat, but a comedic interlude, they’ll go away.

  5. I wholeheartedly agree with Mr Murray’s piece and in particular his reference to the conduct and behaviour of the myriad of Christian/loyalist members, chapters, organisations and bands as ‘provocative and blatantly sectarian.’

    The actions and planned events of the loyal orders as part of our marching and parading season remain highly controversial and indeed at the moment seemingly insurmountable to deal with. As Sean points out with reference to the loyal orders: “They exhibit obvious pleasure in continuing to breach Parade Commission
    determinations, apparently with impunity.”

    Surely these actions, marches and displays, which clearly exacerbate community and local relations, heighten tensions and worsen divisions, should be carefully considered and planned. There is absolutely nothing wrong with respective and different events being carried out as a display of history, culture, tradition or even as an act of remembering or even as a form of awareness raising for justice or peace but why would you go out of your way to ensure that a cultural and symbolic event becomes deliberately offensive and invasive to others.

    What then is the motivation to annoy, insult and cause anger if your community and collective act is ‘cultural’? The volatile situation at Woodvale, for example, is no different in terms of dubious decision-making. That protest could have been centrally positioned within the heart of the community but rather it was decided to place it at a contentious interface in close proximity to Ardoyne – seen by many as a deliberate attempt to intimidate and raise tension in the area rather than considering alternatives in getting a ‘civil rights’ message across.

    In sociology, for example, you will hear the term ‘norm’ quite often. Norms are the specific cultural expectations for how to behave in a given situation. They are the agreed-upon expectations and rules by which the members of a society/culture
    behave. Norms vary from culture to culture, so some things that are considered
    norms in one culture may not be in another culture. In our inimitable context
    it is to some degree the lack of acceptance and toleration of the other’s culture that causes a great deal of our problems.

    However it isn’t even as simple as ‘let the march past’ or ‘let the bands return’ – it is about an acceptance of law and order, respect, political conduct, mutual responsibility, local sensitivity and courageous leadership – absent and unfortunately wanting here. We cannot continue on this path.

    We are far from and not yet a settled place quite clearly and Sean’s piece highlights one issue of controversy. On the eve of the Haass talks there is no doubt that this is an intolerable and intractable situation linked to other stubborn local complications – resolutions and peaceful actions are therefore necessary and needed to move us forward.

    We really must all not only try to work to end sectarianism, bigotry, discrimination, prejudice and violence but also to contribute to designing structures that are capable of
    creating, and preserving peace within and between communities – who at the moment
    are at each others throats.

  6. I’ve worked in factories all my life and any time I’ve seen sectarianism its been down to a particular individual or individuals. The majority of people are sensible enough to know that people need to get on with life and have more urgent priorities. Nationalists have a cultural wealth with music, language, writers and poets that are the envy of any nation on earth, why then do we feel threatened by people who’s cultural high is playing sectarian songs outside Catholic churches?

    • In response to Dom’s contribution I would take issue with the view that sectarianism is the preserve of a few individuals. Sectarianism, one of the major scourges of our society, permeates all classes and creeds. We may feel that we, as individuals, are not sectarian either in thought or deed. However, anyone brought up in our divided society, breathes in, digests, internalises, whether consciously or not, attitudes or perceptions that shape a sectarian mindset. That mindset may not translate overtly into sectarian actions or words, but it is present nonetheless, and if we are really honest with ourselves we must recognise and acknowledge that truism.

      What we can and must do, is to confront, initially our own mindset, as a precursor to challenging any manifestations of sectarianism, initially within our own circle or tradition. Only then have we the moral authority to forcefully confront it when it is expounded by our opponents or members of another tradition.

      Sectarian displays outside any place of worship, constitutes totally unacceptable behaviour in the eyes of anyone who aspires to a shared future built on the foundation stones of Equality, Parity of Esteem, Tolerance and Respect for all.

      • The problem arises when people’s innate prejudices over-ride their common sense. It’s a matter of personal judgement how you deal with these things. It was the “Young Conway Volunteers” who decided to march in circles around St Patrick’s Church playing sectarian songs which proves my point.

  7. Martin Óg Meehan on

    A pretty good description of how these marches cause increased problems for Church goers in St. Patrick’s and in the Carrickhill community. Loyal Orders like the RBP need to recognise the deep sectarian issues surrounding their parades.

    As you know, the greater Ardoyne area also has serious issues surrounding unwelcome parades and associated violence. Local Resident’s Group, GARC have repeatedly said they are willing to meet the Orders who march through our community. However, they been regularly excluded from talks. With the negative encouragement of Sinn Fein and the PUP. In GARC’s opinion, political interference from both Parties only adds to the overall difficulties to find a resolution.

  8. To see what the Black Institution really is have a look at what eurofree3.wordpress.com
    “Do they knight themselves in a self-knighting ceremony?”
    It’s time everybody saw these Loyal orders for what they really are and the sooner they march into oblivion the better for all the people in Northern Ireland

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