Orange Order rift talk dismissed as ‘mischief making’

Rev Mervyn Gibson said the Orange Order had members with different party affiliations
Rev Mervyn Gibson said the Orange Order had members with different party affiliations

A senior Orangeman has described talk of a rift between the country lodges and those in north Belfast as “nothing more than mischief making”.

Rev Mervyn Gibson was responding to recent media reports suggesting many members in rural districts felt “ashamed” watching scenes of violence related to parades in the city.

I am 100 per cent sure the Orange is united in wanting to see the back of the Parades Commission

Grand Chaplain Rev Mervyn Gibson

The grand chaplain has also said that the nightly protest at police lines at Twaddell Avenue will continue – despite intermittent disorder at the Ardoyne flashpoint since the Twelfth parade on Monday.

“Like any organisation there will be differences of opinion, but we will deal with them within the organisation.

“Overall, I believe the Orange is united. In fact, I am 100 per cent sure the Orange is united in wanting to see the back of the Parades Commission and wanting the [right to parade] issue resolved once and for all. Any attempts to show division between the city and the country are just mischief making.”

Rev Gibson added: “After every Twelfth of July each county will have their own discussions as to how the day went.

“Thankfully the vast majority of them will be talking about what a great day it was for most people. Indeed, it will have been a great day for, I would say, all Orangemen. Sadly, there are some incidents that will have to be looked in to, but as far as the institution goes, they will address any issues that have to be addressed.”

Commenting on the Twaddell/Ardoyne interface situation, Rev Gibson added: “The protest with regard to the Ligoniel lodges not completing their Twelfth of July 2013 parade will continue. The peaceful protest will continue. What happened on the Twelfth [this year] wasn’t a peaceful protest, but it wasn’t ours.”

Meanwhile, DUP MLA and Orange Order member William Humphrey has called for the fallout from the recent violence to be discussed behind closed doors, describing the public debate as “self-defeating” for the Order.

“My father always ‘drummed’ into me that Orange business should be dealt with, as the Laws and Ordinances clearly state, in the ‘Lodge Room Assembled’. Of course he was absolutely correct,” Mr Humphrey wrote on Facebook.

“Whatever the pressure, frustration or anger that brethren may feel, it is in private, district, county or grand lodge, that their issues should be raised – not in the public domain, in the media or social media.

“Whatever your position within the Orange Institution, this tendency to attack the Order, or indeed other brethren, publicly is self-defeating and wrong and of course plays into the hands of the enemies ranged against our beloved Institution,” he added.

As the debate within Orange circles continued, loyalist rioters again threw missiles at police close to the Twaddell/Ardoyne flashpoint on Wednesday night.

A PSNI officer later posted images of the aftermath on social media, showing damage to traffic lights, burning rubbish piled in the middle of the road and footpaths broke up outside family homes.

The officer added the message: “Unfortunately this is a late one as myself and some of my team have spent the last hour trying to clean up bits of the Woodvale area after loyalist young people decided to have a riot, throw stones, bottles and petrol bombs at ourselves, which had absolutely no effect, but they also managed to wreck their own community”.

A police commander later commented: “While no arrests took place at the scene, CCTV footage was taken for evidential purposes and police are working to try to identify anyone involved.

“Police would appeal for anyone with influence locally to ensure young people are not involved in this type of behaviour, which causes fear among the more vulnerable members of the community.”

The most serious violence took place on Monday after police enforced a Parades Commission determination preventing the Ligoniel lodges from walking past the Ardoyne shop fronts.

Several police officers were injured when loyalists attacked police lines and one member of the Orange Order was charged with attempted murder after his car struck two protestors on the Ardoyne side of the interface.

John Aughey, 61, from Brae Hill Park in the Ballysillan area of the city, appeared in court in Belfast on Wednesday and was released on bail.

There was a heavy police presence in the area on Thursday night.