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22 February 2001 Edition

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Irony or hypocrisy

The Orange Order and loyalist violence


`Irony is not a strong point with the comrades,' Guy Burgess, the British spy who infamously defected to Soviet Russia in the 1950's was attributed as saying in Alan Bennett's film ``An Englishman Abroad''.

This week, an article in a northern daily brought the scene back to mind. Just 24 hours after it had been revealed that a team of Johnny Adair's Shankill thugs had hosted a `feud celebration' in an Orange Hall, one particular newspaper ran with a story about the Orange Order's major contribution ``towards the social life of Northern Ireland''.

Irony is not a strong point with the Belfast Newsletter either.

To be fair, the sentiments were those of an Orangeman, Drew Nelson, speaking at an Orange Order conference in Kilkeel, rather than the journalist. But without the slightest hint of qualification the article ran on:

``A social audit of the 186 Orange halls in County Down carried out last year revealed that 36 percent of the use of Orange halls is non single identity community use. The Orange Order has always been willing to make its halls available... a fact which has been somewhat obscured by all that has happened in Northern Ireland during the past 30 years.''

And there's more.

``As we go forward in this new century, the Orange Order will be asking the major funding organisations recognise the contribution which it makes to civic society.''

Meanwhile, other members of the 5th Estate had recognised quite a different kind of contribution the Order had been making in the use of its Orange halls. According to media reports senior members of Adair's UDA gang had travelled to a County Antrim Orange Hall last Friday night. The UDA is currently engaged in a sectarian campaign of terror against vulnerable Catholic communities which has included over 50 pipe bomb attacks in as many days.

The hall had been booked by a loyalist flute band, the same band that sparked the internecine riot on the Shankill Road in August, escalating a turf war between different loyalist factions into bloody feuding.

During the UDA's party night in the Orange hall, the part played by the band in igniting the feud was ``celebrated''. The Shankill riot had erupted when a band carrying LVF flags passed a pub frequented by the UVF, bitter rivals of the breakaway LVF.

In a speech, sanctioned by Adair and read out by a senior member of the UDA from the Lower Shankill, beer swilling UDA members were thanked for ``retrieving'' the LVF emblems.

Commenting on the UDA night of rivalry in an Orange hall, Antrim Town unionist councillor Paddy Marks, described as a ``veteran Orangeman'', said he was ``horrified'' and ``disgusted''. ``I would be completely against it,'' he said.

Of course this is far from the first time loyalist paramilitaries have found sanctuary in an Orange Hall. In 1999, an intelligence cache belonging to the self-styled loyalist killer gang the Orange Volunteers was discovered in another County Antrim Orange Hall.

The loyalist death list found stashed in Stoneyford Orange Hall included over 300 names and personal details of republicans and nationalists. The documents, which also included photographs and maps, originated from British Military Intelligence. A number of local Orangemen were arrested in connection with the find.

This time the Orange Order were ``aghast'' at the discovery of a murder conspiracy within the sanctuary of one of their halls. The lodge was ``totally taken aback'' said the County Grand Master. ``Orange halls are very much part of the community and are widely used by a variety of groups and organisations,'' said Orange Order Secretary George Patten. If any member was found to be involved they would be expelled, said Patten. But Orangeman Norman Coopey, jailed for the brutal killing of Catholic schoolboy James Morgan in 1996 was never expelled. Only after intense media pressure did the Order allow Coopey to resign.

But more significantly, loyalist violence, whether emanating from the UDA, LVF or OV, has a long and widely documented association with the Orange Order, most recently around the issue of Drumcree.

An advertisement appealing for support of the ``Orange Volunteers'' appeared in the Orange Order's official Twelfth magazine a few years ago. Challenged by the media, the Order claimed the advert referred to a ``charitable'' organisation. The Orange Volunteers emerged shortly after the LVF announced a cease fire and was largely seen as a flag of convenience for further loyalist violence.

More recently, masked and armed members of the OV posed for the cameras in front of an Orange Order flag amidst rumours that a member of the Grand Lodge is also prominent in terror gang.

The pipe bomb, currently the loyalist's preferred weapon of sectarian intimidation, was first utilised during Orange standoffs in the field at Drumcree. The two pipe bomb fatalities to date both occurred in connection with Orange protests around Drumcree.

Elizabeth O'Neill, a Protestant married to a Catholic, died when a bomb was thrown through the window of her Portadown home in June 1999. Just a short distance from the Garvaghy Road, the O'Neill family were an easy target for loyalists besieging the nearby nationalist area. Eight months earlier, Frankie O'Reilly, an RUC officer, was fatally injured by a pipe bomb during an Orange protest rally in Portadown.

If anyone was ever in any doubt of the affinity between the agenda of the Orange Order and the methods of loyalist paramilitaries the graffiti that appeared on several billboards and walls on the Shankill last week said it all. ``Roll on Drumcree 2001'' ran the slogan, ``Free J. Adair, UFF 2nd Batt C Coy''.

Last year Johnny Adair, the UDA boss who infamously told a Dublin journalist, ``the only taig that had ever been in his car before had been a dead one,'' and his cohorts marched behind a UFF banner down Drumcree hill. He also appeared at a LVF show of strength in Portadown.

On his return to Belfast, Adair organised a series of sectarian attacks on vulnerable Catholic enclaves in the north of the city. Along the Limestone Road Catholic families were terrorised when a minibus of loyalists, some armed and masked, staged an early morning attack on their homes.

Orange Drumcree threat

Adair is currently in Maghaberry jail after his licence was evoked by the British Secretary of State for his role in loyalist feuding on the Shankill, but Adair's absence will not deter the UDA from mounting another campaign of terror in support of Orangemen this year.

The word is already out that the UDA is gearing up for ``a huge summer showdown over Drumcree'' and the Orange Order have begun to set the scene which will make this possible.

South African mediator Brian Currin recently presented a portfolio to the Orange Order's Grand Lodge outlining what he hoped would be a breakthrough. Currin was led to believe that the proposal would be considered at a recent meeting of a 120-strong delegate conference of Orangemen.

In fact, 170 copies of the portfolio provided by the mediator to aid discussion were unceremoniously dumped in the bin by the head of the Order. The Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, Robert Saulters, dismissed the document as ``irrelevant and decided ``there was no point'' presenting it to delegates.

``The first six pages were all about discussions with the Garvaghy Road committee,'' said Saulters. ``The Grand Lodge has set its face against talking to the Garvaghy Road residents.''

``So while Mr Currin may talk to them (nationalist residents) we won't be talking to him or them,'' said the Orange leader, `` We will not talk to people who are represented by an ex terrorist.''

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