The Marching Orders Northern Ireland
's Marching Season
is world famous as a cause of strife and
violent and disruptive street demonstrations. Broadly speaking, the trouble is due to disagreements between those
wishing to march in a particular area, and those who'd rather they didn't. The final say lies with
the Parades Commission
, an organisation who's role is to evaluate factors such as the desirability of
upholding tradition and free use of public roads against the likelihood of such parades offending those along the
routes. These disagreements are sometimes seized upon as an excuse for shows of strength by various terrorist
groups, who presumably hope to influence the arguments by intimidation, or perhaps just to have fun at the expense
of others. The results of this are described in Belfast in July
. It is worth noting that there are around 300
parades every year, of which only 1 or 2 lead to any sort of unrest whatever. This year I attended a traditional
(and non-contentious) Orange Order parade in Coleraine, County Londonderry, some elements of which are described in
Coleraine in July
The Orange Order
The Orange Order was founded in the 1790s as the Protestant
Its aims include the maintenance of the reformed (i.e. protestant and Anglican
) churches, civil and religious
liberty, the continuing union of Northern Ireland and Great Britain
), and the remembrance of the
victory of King William III of Orange
over King James II
in the Williamite Wars (1690-1691). They had seats on the
Ulster Unionist Council, the governing body of the Ulster Unionist Party
, until March 2005.
They march at various small
Church Parades during July, but their main marches occur throughout Northern Ireland on the 12th of July to mark a
key battle in 1690. The 12th of July is a public holiday in Northern Ireland. In the Irish Republic, a few
marches occur on the weekend before the 12th. The Orange Order has lodges in Ireland (esp. Ulster), Scotland,
England, Canada and in various parts of Africa.
The Royal Black Perceptory
The RBP are the senior, or long-serving Orangemen. They hold separate, smaller parades on the 12th of August.
The Free Orange Order
A separate Order, now presided over by Ian Paisley
. Very much smaller and somewhat more extreme in its
views than the vanilla orange order, but with similar aims. They have no links to the Ulster Unionist Party, but
Ian Paisley is the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (the DUP
The Apprentice Boys of Derry
An order tracing its routes to the young apprentices who shut the gates of Londonderry (then officially called
Derry, now unofficially it still is, see here
) in 1689 to keep out King James and his troops. A
siege lasted from March to the end of July in that year, when a relief ship broke through James's boom and brought
food for the now-starving townspeople. The Apprentice Boys march to commemorate these events.
An organisation similar to the Orange Order but supporting the aims of Roman Catholicism and Irish
Republicanism/Nationalism rather then Protestantism and Ulster Unionism/Loyalism. They are sometimes jokingly
referred to as the "Green Orangemen".
It might be imagined that the AOH and the Orange Order don't get
along especially well. Although nowadays, that might be true in some areas, in the recent past the two groups
co-operated. Drums and other instruments were shared (being painted up for the relevant orders between parades)
and AOH members would mind the livestock of rural Orangemen during their parades in return of reciprocal help
during their St. Patrick's Day parades.
The Knights of Columnbanus
These are to the AOH what the RBP are to the Orange Order.