THE Royal Black Institution wishes to respond to comments made following the Last Saturday demonstration in Belfast on August 25.
The Belfast demonstration consisted of 63 preceptories and 33 bands. The ‘contentious’ part of the route, as defined by the Parades Commission, consisted of approximately 200 yards, past mostly commercial premises and a Catholic Church, on a main arterial route into the city centre.
Throughout Northern Ireland that day, a total of 390 preceptories, including 17,000 members of the Royal Black Institution – and bands – paraded at six locations.
The City of Belfast Grand Black Chapter had never previously held its Last Saturday demonstration in the city. This was a special parade to mark the centenary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant. Each year their Last Saturday parade is held outside Belfast and that arrangement will resume next year, as planned.
Through its stand for the Reformed Christian Faith, the Royal Black Institution has doctrinal differences with the Roman Catholic Church but we want to make it absolutely clear that the anger of the Royal Black Institution is not directed at St Patrick’s Church. We apologise for any offence to the clergy and parishioners of St Patrick’s Church.
We have always had good lines of communication with the Roman Catholic Church and we would intend to continue to maintain and consolidate these, away from the public gaze.
The sense of injustice and hurt felt by the members of the Royal Black Institution is focused on the Parades Commission and its irrational and often irresponsible determinations.
Parading is embedded in the DNA of the Protestant community but the Parades Commission has shown an appalling lack of understanding about what that means.
They consistently pander to the demands of people who have gone out of their way to be offended and whose aim is to remove all traces of the Reformed Christian Faith and cleanse Protestant culture from society.
The Institution calls on our politicians to remove the Parades Commission, an unelected quango, and to have it replaced within a democratic framework where decisions will be held accountable to the people.
To that end we are hoping to have an early meeting with the Northern Ireland Secretary of State to repeat our message that the current Parades Commission is a major hindrance to the development of democracy within this country. We have asked to meet the leaders of the three unionist parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly to enlist their support in bringing about the demise of the Parades Commission.
We have also requested meetings with Protestant church leaders to give them an insight into the strength of feeling on the ground.
The Royal Black Institution is founded on Christian principles and all of our processions are to and from an act of worship.
Our Institution is determined to play its full part in civic society and make Northern Ireland a peaceful and prosperous part of the United Kingdom, where cultural diversity is respected.
Millar Farr, Sovereign Grand Master
William Scott, Grand Registrar