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29 October 1998 Edition

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Orange crisis drifts into farce

By Peadar Whelan

The mess that Orangeism has found itself in since the debacle of this year's Drumcree violence - which peaked with the killings of the three Quinn brothers in Ballymoney - struck an almost farcical note last week with the suspension and then reinstatement of `Brother' David Jones, spokesperson for the Portadown Order.

Jones was suspended on Thursday 22 October after publicly rejecting Robin Eames' plea to Orangemen when, during the Armagh Diocesan Synod, Eames asked them not to break the law.

Among the three pledges that Eames asked of Orangemen was the plea to avoid action before or after July's Drumcree service that ``diminishes the sanctity of worship'', and to show ``obedience to the law... and respect for the integrity of the Church of Ireland''.

However during a BBC interview `Brother' Jones deemed these basic requests as something Orangemen ``would have difficulty with'' as they don't accept, ``the authority of the Parades Commission''.

Jones rejected Eames' plea out of hand and as he was obviously saying that he didn't accept the authority of Robin Eames either, the Grand Master of the County Armagh organisation, Dennis Watson moved to silence Jones by suspending him.

Watson maintained Jones had not been authorised to give the interview although in his defence Jones says he tried to contact Watson on four occasions to seek permission and anyway had been cleared to speak to the BBC by district officers.

Watson had earlier stated that he could not envisage Orangemen having difficulty with the Eames pledges.

Within 18 hours of his suspension Jones was reinstated after Watson met with Portadown Orangemen at 8pm that same evening.

A joint statement issued by the Portadown District and Watson shrugged off the events of the day, saying, ``a genuine misunderstanding'' had arisen between Jones and Watson and the matter was resolved.

Meanwhile Dr James Mehaffey, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe has said the Orange Order must avoid another ``credibility damaging'' Drumcree.

Dr Mehaffey told his Diocesan Synod in Derry last week that Orangemen must sign up to the Eames pledges before going on to say: ``neither the Church of Ireland nor the Orange Order can wash its hands and try to distance itself from any civil disorder which may arise out of attendance at church services.''

The wisdom of Brother Jones


On the day the three Quinn children were being buried Jones accused the ``security forces'' and paramilitaries of colluding to launch the petrol bomb attack on the Quinn home.

``They (the security forces) have been in contact with members of paramilitary groups and the paramilitary groups have set about carrying out this petrol bombing. It was an excellent vehicle to discredit the Orange Order by saying it was directly linked to Drumcree,'' he said at the time.

Jones outraged unionists and the RUC when he said it would be difficult for RUC officers to continue living in Protestant areas. Jones warned the RUC about using ``excessive force'' against loyalists and said they used plastic bullets ``indiscriminately'' against loyalists.

Following the death of RUC man Frankie O'Reilly, killed by a loyalists blast bomb, Jones maintained, ``when you are standing up for liberties sometimes the cost of those liberties can be very high''.

Authority rejects ban on RUC Orangemen


A ban on members of the RUC holding dual membership of the RUC and Orange Order or similar organisations has been rejected by the Policing Authority.

This decision flies in the face of a recent British parliamentary select committee report supporting such a ban.

Police Authority chairman Pat Armstrong said they debated the issue with the RUC chief constable and the Police Federation but despite being ``committed to supporting impartial policing'' felt there was no reason to prevent dual membership ``if it does not compromise the ability to act impartially and objectively''.

Armstrong said there was no reason to doubt the ``impartiality'' and ``integrity'' of the RUC and the Authority had ``consistently defended its record''.
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