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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Int'l Observers Denounce Sectarian Displays at Orange Marches

Intl Observers Denounce Anti-Catholic, Loyalist Displays At 2005 Orange Marches IRISH PARADES EMERGENCY COMM., BREHON LAW SOC. PRESS RELEASE International observers denounce anti-Catholic and loyalist paramilitary displays at 2005 Orange marches, call on British, Irish gov'ts to uphold Good Friday Agreement guarantees Contact: Sean Cahill, 917-972-4965 (U.S.) New York, May 24, 2006 -- Contested Orange parades in North and East Belfast in July 2005 were once again characterized by grotesque anti-Catholic displays and the promotion of loyalist paramilitary groups. This is the conclusion of "Sectarianism on Parade: Orange Parades in Northern Ireland, Summer 2005 International Observers' Report," the latest report by the New York-based Irish Parades Emergency Committee (IPEC) and the Brehon Law Society. The report was released and posted on IPEC's website ( on May 24, 2006. Copies are being printed and will be sent to members of the British, Irish, and United States governments, as well as to political parties, government bodies, and community groups in the north of Ireland. The anti-Catholic displays included Orange supporters dressed as Roman Catholic nuns who marched triumphantly through Ardoyne the morning of July 12, 2005, as well as the playing of anti-Catholic and anti-Irish sectarian songs while passing Catholic churches and communities. The loyalist displays were myriad, both at marches past the nationalist/Catholic Short Strand neighborhood and through the nationalist/Catholic Ardoyne community. They included flags, emblems, and uniforms promoting several outlawed loyalist terror groups, including the Ulster Volunteer Force, the Ulster Defence Association, and the Red Hand Commando. "For the third time in four years we documented anti-Catholic political theater in Ardoyne," said Sean Cahill, a spokesman for the IPEC/Brehon observers. "Once again we documented brazen displays of support for loyalist paramilitary groups in Orange parades through or past Catholic, nationalist communities in Belfast. These displays clearly violate Parades Commission guidelines, the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, and other laws. The British and Irish governments must uphold the Good Friday Agreement's basic guarantee of 'freedom from sectarian harassment.'" "In years past we have been careful to portray these events as 'Orange parades with loyalist participation,'" Cahill continued. "But the brazen promotion of loyalist terror groups in parades past the Short Strand and through Ardoyne has become so pervasive that we have taken to calling these 'Orange/loyalist parades.'" The IPEC/Brehon report also noted positive developments, including the relative restraint shown by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, nationalist residents, and most Orange march stewards in East Belfast July 1st, 2005. The report also praised the restraint shown in Ardoyne by residents and police. "Until late in the evening of July 12th, 2005, the residents of Ardoyne acted with restraint, as did the police," said Cahill. "This despite the sectarian abuse inflicted on Ardoyne residents at both the morning and evening marches July 12th. We are hopeful that the progress shown in Ardoyne most of the day last July 12th will be built on this year." Still, tensions were raised by the killing of two men by loyalist paramilitaries near the Short Strand and Ardoyne on the eve of contested parades there, as well as by the firebombing of a Catholic home in Ardoyne the weekend before the Orange marches. IPEC and Brehon Law Society observers were surprised to learn that the Belfast City Council funds eight loyalist 11th night bonfires—at which machine gun-toting loyalist paramilitaries predictably appear—to the tune of £2500 per bonfire. "We were amazed, frankly, to read the Belfast City Council state that it couldn't control the discharge of illegal firearms by outlawed loyalist groups at illegal bonfires that it subsidizes," said Stephen McCabe, another IPEC/Brehon spokesman. "We can't imagine the city council of Dublin, London, or New York making such a statement of political impotence." International observers from IPEC and Brehon have observed contested loyal order parades across Northern Ireland since 1996. Last year's delegation included residents of Italy and the United States. In previous years observers from Guatemala, France, and the U.S. have observed contested Orange parades in Derry, Dunloy, Bellaghy, Lurgan and elsewhere. "The riots of September 2005, in which both Orangemen and loyalists attacked the police after being kept out of an interface area, as well as our photos documenting the Orange/loyalist parades in North and East Belfast last July, should put to rest any belief in the fiction that the Orange Order is completely distinct from loyalist paramilitary groups," said McCabe. "We call on the PSNI to uphold the rule of law and enforce the ban on sectarian displays at Orange/loyalist parades. We also call on Orange and unionist leaders to end loyalist and anti-Catholic displays at Orange Order parades through nationalist and Catholic areas," McCabe said. "This is, after all, the 21st Century." "Sectarianism on Parade" also includes an assessment of policing of contested loyal order parades, an analysis of media coverage, an examination of the meaning of the July 1st Battle of the Somme parades for unionists, the different meanings Orange parades have for unionists and nationalists, and an analysis of the loyalist and Orange riots of September 2005. For more information and to view a copy of the IPEC/Brehon report on the 2005 Orange marches, as well as previous reports, go to
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