AP front 1 - 2022

10 June 1999 Edition

Resize: A A A Print

Out of Order

The Orange Order and loyalist violence

By Laura Friel

It's grotesque. Speaking after attending a service at Drumcree Church, leading Portadown Orangeman David Jones repeats the now well honed denials of the Loyal Orders. ``As far as we are concerned there is no link,'' his homily concludes. It is just a few short hours before the funeral of Elizabeth O'Neill is due to take place in Portadown, but if David Jones feels any kind of remorse he doesn't show it, all we get is the ritual washing of Orange hands. ``We totally condemn any attack of that nature and if anyone misguidedly thinks that they are in some way helping the protest at Drumcree, then they aren't,'' says Jones.

A resident in the predominantly loyalist Corcrain district, Elizabeth O'Neill lived little more than a stone's throw from the nationalist estate around the Garvaghy Road. The Corcrain Road runs parallel with Obins Street and forms part of the main route for Orange marches to Drumcree Church. For over a year now Catholics living near the Corcrain Road have endured almost nightly intimidation from Orange supporters engaging in illegal protests around the interface of the Garvaghy Road area. Since last July 18 families have been forced to flee following loyalist intimidation, including petrol and pipe bomb attacks on their homes.

In Craigwell Avenue, a minor slip road between Obins Street and Corcrain Road, 12 out of 32 families have been intimidated out by loyalists. In September 1998, RUC officer Frankie O'Reilly died after he was struck by a blast bomb thrown by Orange supporters intent on attacking Catholic homes along Craigwell Avenue. Tragically, other fatalities come as no surprise. Given the level of sectarian intimidation meted out against the Catholic community which has accompanied the Orange Order's insistence of their right to march down Garvaghy Road, the only surprise lies in the fact that more people haven't been killed.

At the height of the Drumcree standoff last year, within a 48-hour period, 73 Catholic homes and 71 Catholic-owned businesses were attacked by protesting Orange supporters. The attacks culminated in the deaths of the Quinn children, three little boys who screamed as they died trapped in their petrol-bombed home. In the last year, over 150 Catholic families living in predominantly loyalist estates have had their homes fire bombed. According to official government statistics, over 1,350 families have been forced to flee their homes because of intimidation. And still David Jones stands in front of the cameras to deny any link.

Elizabeth O'Neill is the latest of ten people whose deaths have been directly linked to the Orange Order's protest at Drumcree - a 59-year-old Protestant mother and grandmother who had lived with her family in the predominantly loyalist Corcrain estate for over 36 years. The fact that her husband Joseph was a Catholic was sufficient for the O'Neill family to be targeted. Fatalities arising out of the Drumcree protest include Michael McGoldrick, a Catholic taxi driver shot dead in at the height of the Drumcree standoff of July 1996. A random sectarian murder, his death was ordered by loyalist killer and prominent Drumcree protester Billy Wright.


As tensions rose in Portadown during the run up to the Orange marching season, Robert Hamill was kicked to death by a loyalist mob in the town centre in April 1997 and Bernadette Martin was shot dead at her Protestant boyfriend's home in July 1997. By this time Billy Wright, expelled from the UVF, had organised his own loyalist terror group. Based initially in Portadown, the LVF was later used as a cover for other loyalist groupings to carry out a series of sectarian murders throughout the Six Counties. A year later, Adrian Lamph, a Catholic council worker from the Garvaghy Road estate, was shot dead in April 1998 as it became clear that the Parades Commission would reroute the Orange Order's 5 July parade away from the nationalist Garvaghy Road.

The three Quinn children died in a petrol bomb attack on their Carnany estate home, Ballymoney in July 1998. The children had attended an Eleventh night bonfire on the predominantly loyalist estate where they lived just hours before the fatal attack on their home. News of the triple murder and public acknowledgement by Orange Chaplain Reverend Bingham that their deaths were a direct consequence of the Drumcree protest curtailed plans for a mass convergence of Orangemen at Drumcree on the Twelfth last year. Bingham was later heckled by Spirit of Drumcree leader Joel Patten and was thrown into a ditch by Orangemen enraged by his questioning of the Drumcree standoff after the Quinn children's deaths.

During Orange protests, which have continued almost nightly around the Garvaghy Road since July of last year, RUC officer Frankie O'Reilly died after being struck on the head by a blast bomb thrown by an Orange supporter in October 1998. In March of this year, Rosemary Nelson, a Lurgan solicitor, died in a loyalist car bomb attack. It is widely believed that she was targeted because of her high profile support of Garvaghy Road residents. The latest victim, Elizabeth O'Neill, died in a pipe bomb attack ``aimed at destroying the talks to resolve Drumcree'', as Methodist Church leader David Kerr acknowledged.

But the use of sectarian violence is by no means a recent departure for the Orange Order. Indeed, its very foundation was rooted in the blood of its Catholic victims. In 1795, a minor dispute escalated into what became known by Orangemen as The battle of the Diamond, in which 40 Catholics were killed. From this incident, the Orange Order was spawned. Speaking about the activities of the Order in 1795, the Governor of Armagh told magistrates: ``It is no secret that a persecution is now raging in this country... the only crime is... the profession of the Roman Catholic faith. A lawless band have constituted themselves judges..'' Throughout the 19th century, annual Orange marches were accompanied by sectarian pogroms against Catholic communities.

By the 20th century, partition consolidated the Orange Order as one of the most significant power blocs in the Six Counties. Between the imposition of partition in 1921 to the introduction of direct rule in 1972 all six Stormont Prime Ministers were Orangemen and out of 95 Stormont MPs, 87 belonged to the Orange Order. Throughout this period anti-Catholic pogroms continued to be associated with Orange parades. During one particular Twelfth parade in July 1932, a returning Orange parade invaded a Catholic enclave off Lancaster Street in Belfast. In the violence which ensued, nine people were killed and 2,241 Catholics were driven from their homes.

In Portadown, the Orange citadel, links between Orangemen and loyalist paramilitaries have remained particularly close. In a disputed march in 1972, masked loyalist paramilitaries lined Obins street as an Orange Parade was pushed through. But the most recent expression of this was the close association of Portadown UVF, later LVF, leader Billy Wright. Known as ``King Rat'', Billy Wright was a serial sectarian killer, known to be responsible for at least 42 Catholic deaths since 1989.

In the first Drumcree standoff in 1995 Wright was active in organising barricades in the Charles Street area of the town while the Orange brethren confronted the RUC at the top of Garvaghy Road. In 1996, Wright played an even more prominent role. David Trimble, Unionist Mid Ulster MP, held a series of meetings with the loyalist gunman at Drumcree during the 1996 standoff as did members of the Portadown Orange Lodge. As an act of solidarity with the Orange protest, Wright authorised the kidnapping and murder of a Catholic taxi driver.

Following the murder of Michael McGoldrick, Wright was ordered to leave the country by the Combined Loyalist Military Command, whose ceasefire Wright had ignored. At a rally in support of Wright held in Portadown, he was joined on the platform by Orange Grand Master Harold Gracey. Jailed for intimidation in 1997, Wright continued to orchestrate sectarian attacks from his prison cell before his own death in November 1997. Even after his death and the orgy of LVF killings which followed, the Orange Order's commitment to Billy Wright continues. Only last week, following a meeting of the Grand Masters, the Order reiterated its call for a public inquiry into Wright's death. In stark contrast, the Orange Order has never called for an inquiry into any of the deaths associated with their Drumcree protests.

It is against this backdrop that the nationalist residents of Garvaghy Road have been faced with the bizarre accusation by the Orange Order of supporting `ethnic cleansing' during proximity talks with ACAS mediator Frank Blair, held in Belfast this week. In a statement read out to around 700 Orangemen after a service at Drumcree Church, the Orange delegation accused Frank Blair of ``complete bias'' while ``noting with concern the desire of the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition to continue with their policy of exclusivity''. The residents' document submitted during proximity talks endorses ``the concept of ethnic cleansing'', the Orangemen reported.

Emerging from a meeting of Orange Order leaders held in Derry last week, Grand Master Robert Saulters insisted that Orangemen had an absolute right to march down the nationalist Garvaghy Road. ``We have a civil right to walk down that road,'' said Saulters. Asked if the Order had an absolute right to parade along the Garvaghy Road, the Orange leader replied, ``Yes, we do believe in that.'' Day after day, Catholic families are facing loyalist violence, from verbal abuse to physical attack, from petrol to pipe bombings, sectarian intimidation to sectarian murder. Catholic homes, Catholic business, Catholic Churches, Catholic schools have all come under repeated loyalist attack. And yet in the twisted mindset of Orangeism, challenging the Orange Order's ``absolute right'' to march through a nationalist residential area is tantamount to ``ethnic cleansing''. Who do you think you are kidding Mr Saulters?


Michael McGoldrick, shot dead July 1996.
Robert Hamill, kicked to death April 1997.
Bernadette Martin, shot dead July 1997.
Adrian Lamph, shot dead April 1998.
The Quinn children, petrol bombed July 1998.
Frankie O'Reilly blast bomb attack October 1998.
Rosemary Nelson, car bomb attack, March 1999.
Elizabeth O'Neill, pipe bomb attack, June 1999.


In the most serious of a series of pipe bomb attacks this week, 59-year-old Elizabeth O'Neill was killed when a pipe bomb was thrown through the living room window of her home in the early hours of Saturday, 5 June. Her husband Joseph, who was watching television with his wife at the time of the attack, escaped injury. The couple, a mixed marriage, had lived in the predominantly loyalist Corcrain estate, Portadown for over 36 years.
In a second attack in Portadown, a pipe bomb was thrown at a house close to the O'Neill family's home. The device exploded in the garden. A woman, teenage girl and 10-month-old baby escaped injury.
In Hilltown, County Down, a pipe bomb attack shattered the windows of a Catholic family's home. Joe Murnin was watching television on Saturday 5 June when the explosion rocked his house. The father of four had moments before put his children upstairs to bed. This is the second attack on the family. Six years ago Joe Murnin's mother was badly injured by a letter bomb.
In Twinbrook, on the outskirts of Belfast, families were forced to flee after two pipe bombs were discovered lying in a grass play area beneath Acacia Avenue flats. The devices were believed to have been thrown at the wall of the flats in the early hours of Sunday morning but both failed to explode. Local children had been playing close to the spot where the bombs were discovered.
Two pipe bombs were thrown at houses in the Catholic Short Strand on Sunday night, 6 June. The bombs were thrown over walls at St. Matthew's Court and Clandeboye Gardens. Neither device exploded.
Catholic school children have been targeted by loyalists in Ballymena. A pipe bomb was discovered outside the canteen of St. Mary's primary school in Harryville on Monday, 7 June.
A Catholic couple's home was petrol bombed on the Rathenraw Estate, Antrim Town, on Monday morning, 7 June.
The home of Sinn Féin Councillor James McCarry was attacked by loyalists using ``some sort of pellet gun'' on Sunday, 6 June. This is the latest in a series of attacks on the McCarry family home. The family narrowly escaped injury when a pipe bomb was thrown through their living room window earlier this year.
A Catholic solicitor's office was attacked in Lisburn on Friday, 4 June. The offices were broken into and the premises set alight. A pipe bomb and LVF memorabilia was discovered during a raid on the home of a loyalist caught at the scene.
In Larne, a letter bomb addressed to a local man was intercepted Wednesday, 9 June when a postal worker raised the alarm.

Ormeau Apprentice Boys talk to residents


A face to face meeting, on Friday 5 June, between the Ormeau Road Apprentice Boys and representatives of the Lower Ormeau community may herald a resolution of the issue of Orange marches along the Lower Ormeau Road.

The meeting follows an appeal made by the LOCC last Wednesday 3 June when they stressed the need for talks as a way out of the parades deadlock.

On 3 June, residents revealed that they had offered to meet with Ballynafeigh Orangemen as a way of diffusing the tension that surrounds the parades issue each year. However, the Orange Order has so far not replied to the LOCC offer and were not involved in Friday's talks. They say they are considering the residents' proposals for dialogue.

In a joint statement released after their Friday meeting, the Apprentice Boys' Belfast Walker Club and the LOCC stated that there would be a process of further meetings before the next Apprentice Boys march in August.

These will take in to account the concerns of both the local community and the marchers.

Meanwhile, attempts are still being made to establish a framework for dialogue between residents and the Orange Order with a process of mediation chaired by former Lord Mayor David Alderdice are being proposed.

However, comments made by Orange Order head Robert Saulters after a meeting of the Grand Lodge of Ireland on 3 June may be an indication that hardliners within the Orange Order may be holding sway and that dialogue will be resisted. The next Orange Parade scheduled for the Ormeau Road will take place on 4 July.

Springfield Road Residents call for talks with Orange Order


Bairbre de Brún, Sinn Féin Assembly member for West Belfast, has called on the Orange Order to begin urgent dialogue with the Springfield Road Residents Action Group in light of the proposed Orange Parade through the predominantly nationalist area scheduled for 26 June.

Her call follows a meeting she had on Tuesday 8 June at which Springfield Road residents voiced their concerns about mounting community tension due to the impending march. De Brún stressed that the Springfield residents have sent letters on a weekly basis urging the Orange Order to begin dialogue but have had no response. The residents of the Springfield Road have also called on the Parades Commission to arrange a meeting with the Orange Order, also without success. Residents' concerns come in light of last year's events, in which the parade included a UVF colour party and camp followers taunted local residents and wore Billy Wright t-shirts. The residents also argue that an alternative route exists along the Shankill and Ballygomartin Roads which would lead the march onto the Springfield Road beside the Orange Lodge.

De Brún went on to accuse the RUC of disrupting everyday life on the Springfield Road on the day of the march by sealing it off and using heavy handed tactics. Although the Apprentice Boys have met with the Springfield Road residents, the Orange Order has refused any offer for dialogue. In consideration of the Good Friday Agreement, the residents are demanding an end to this yearly disruption.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1