Belfast Orangeman: Order highly irresponsible at Ardoyne

Tensions ran high as the Orange Parade was blocked by police at Woodvale in Belfast on Monday
Tensions ran high as the Orange Parade was blocked by police at Woodvale in Belfast on Monday

A Sandy Row Orangeman has expressed firm support for the senior rural Orange figure who yesterday spoke of his dismay at what went on in north Belfast on Monday night.

Yesterday the News Letter reported comments by Stuart Brooker, the Fermanagh District Master, who said that there was a sense of shame among many Orangemen in the county at the scenes they observed in north Belfast.

Mr Brooker also said that if a parade in Fermanagh was stopped in similar circumstances to that at Woodvale, he could not imagine the police being attacked as happened on Monday night.

Mr Brooker blamed a mixture of youths out to cause trouble and paramilitaries for the north Belfast violence.

Last night Graham Craig, an Orangeman in the Sandy Row district of south Belfast, said that he “completely agrees” with Mr Brooker.

The Ulster Unionist councillor, who is originally from Castlederg, said that it was “completely irresponsible” for the Orange Order to withdraw its marshals – who last year were credited with helping to keep the peace – from this year’s parade.

Mr Craig told the News Letter: “The Orange Order is a law-abiding, Christian organisation and therefore we must abide by the law. That ultimately has to be our watch-word – to be law-abiding.

“Once the first bottle is thrown, you’ve lost the argument.”

He added: “As an Orangeman, you’ve a responsibility to behave in a way that prevents violence. Therefore, just telling people not to commit criminal acts is not good enough.

“You have to act in a way that ensures they do not commit criminal acts.

“Doing a Pontius Pilate isn’t good enough.

“You have to show people by your actions that violence, thuggery and criminality is not acceptable. If you read the qualifications of an Orangeman, they are clear about how you must behave.”

And Mr Craig said that the violence seen at Twaddell over recent years was also strategically disastrous for the wider institution.

“I was out in Drumcree in 1995 and 1996. That strategy failed. It failed 20 years ago and it will fail today. That’s what people must learn.”

Mr Craig, a former adviser to Sammy Wilson when he was the DUP finance minister, said that the Order could learn from the bold decisions taken by the Apprentice Boys, of which he is also a member.

He said: “I can remember at the turn of the century Londonderry was like an armed camp during the Relief of Derry parade in August.

“There was a concerted attempt by republicans to have us excluded from the city 
centre.

“The then Governor Alistair Simpson could have chosen confrontation but instead chose dialogue and engagement.

“Today the parade is bigger than ever, the ranks of the clubs are swollen and the security presence is diminishing.

“It is clear to me that the Apprentice Boys made the correct strategic choices over a decade ago.”

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