A former senior police officer has said it would be inappropriate for PSNI officers in uniform to parade with the Orange Order because of what he called the order’s “chequered history” in relation to violence.
Former Assistant Chief Constable Alan McQuillan was speaking after TUV leader Jim Allister challenged a decision by the PSNI for its uniformed officers and specially liveried vehicles to formally join the Gay Pride parade on Saturday.
Mr Allister said this would leave the police unable to be impartial in policing any offensive posters that might be carried in the parade and that it was taking a selective approach to hate crime when no community had experienced more attacks than the Orange community.
He said: “No one is suggesting that the PSNI should show opposition to these crimes by participating in Orange parades.”
But Mr McQuillan told the News Letter: “My view is absolutely that the police should be there [in the parade], they have a duty to protect the LGBT community.
“Historically the gay community has been subjected to the vilest abuse and assaults so I think it is absolutely right they should be in there supporting people that are gay.”
He added: “Most of the people in the gay pride parade have never done anything wrong and are simply out celebrating their own sexuality.
“However the Orange Order has a chequered history. Whereas the majority are peaceful and the majority are reasonable, in the past the order has had a real problem with violence.”
He said there must be a significant number of gay members of the Orange Order.
“The challenge for the future is can we get any gay Orangemen to take to take part in the Gay Pride parade?”
Polls show increasing support for gay marriage in Northern Ireland, he said.
“Gay people are more and more accepted and there is a recognition that they are just like everybody else.”
He added: “DUP voters increasingly say gay marriage should go ahead.”
There is a small proportion who still object, he said, but people should have the right to live as they want.
The PSNI revealed under Freedom of Information that 89 officers had declared membership of the Orange Order.
The Orange Order said police involvement in the Gay Pride parade has been justified as reaching out to people disproportionately affected by hate crime - and as a public expression of diversity amongst serving police personnel.
But an Orange spokesman pointed out that hate crimes against its members included 330 murders - 71 of whom were serving or former police officers - and almost 800 attacks against Orange properties since 1995.
Despite claims of neutrality, the PSNI insistence that officers declare their Orange membership discourages them from publicly expressing their own Orange identity.
Mr McQuillan’s remarks were “insulting” and show a lack of sensitivity to his former murdered colleagues who were also Orangemen, he added.