Paramilitaries ‘a fact of life’ in Belfast, says Orange leader

Riots at Woodvale in July
Riots at Woodvale in July

Some believe that the UVF in north Belfast has engineered street disorder in Woodvale and is exploiting the Orange.

When asked about that, Drew Nelson said that people needed to realise that “the community in Belfast is organised very differently to the community in the country”.

He said that “there does tend to be much more interaction between different people from very different backgrounds in Belfast and so I take what is happening there as a fact of life and we have to be realistic and work with the broader community”.

“I would point out that it’s not just local community workers who are involved there; it’s not just the Loyal Orange Institution and the bands, but it’s also the political parties taking their turn manning the [protest] camp.”

Asked if the involvement of paramilitiaries undermined Orange opposition to terrorism, he said: “We are opposed to violence and we live in a society where there is a very ambivalent attitude to violence. That is from the top of our society to the bottom. As evidence of that, I would submit that even the Secretary of State had an ambivalent attitude to the naming of a play park in Newry after a terrorist [something she later regretted]. When the Secretary of State displays that ambivalent attitude, and when that attitude of ambivalence permeates society in Northern Ireland, inevitably that seeps into all organisations.

“So whereas there would be more of a reluctance in some parts of our become involved with ex-paramilitaries or people coming from that background than others, there’s also a widespread recognition in the rural part of our organisation that the situation in Belfast is very different.”