Friday, July 31, 2009

An Open Letter to Drew Nelson

Orange Order coming through Gates onto nationalist part of Springfield Road

July 31st 09

An Open letter to Drew Nelson

Regular Readers will remember that this blog wrote recently about Orangeism and the need for dialogue to resolve contentious orange marches.

At the 12th July celebrations Drew Nelson the Grand Secretary of the Orange Order rejected any talks with Sinn Féin.

But this blog is not for giving up on our orange brothers and sisters. I penned an open letter to him which the Belfast Telegraph carried this morning - Friday.

I addressed the issue of ‘respect’ which Drew raised and pointed out that ‘respect, if it is to be meaningful, must be mutual. If the Orange Order seeks ‘respect’ from others, then it in turn must respect the views of those who differ from them, and address their concerns in a peaceful and dignified way.’

Nowhere is this more necessary than in respect of those ‘parades through or fringing sensitive areas, where little or no respect has been shown to local residents. The annual insistence on contracting Loyalist paramilitary or ‘kick the pope’ bands, the appearance of UDA, UVF and YCF flags and bannerettes and the refusal to countenance alternative non-contentious routes, is hardly indicative of a manifestation of respect or Christian forbearance.

Mutual respect could also be demonstrated if the Orange Order and indeed all the Loyal Orders could agree to a process of meaningful dialogue with the political representatives of the Nationalist community. This should not present a difficulty for the leadership of the Orange Order whose members have over the years held discussions in Belfast and beyond with myself and other Republicans.’

I reminded Drew that the Orange Order declares itself to be ‘Christ-centred, Bible-based and Church grounded’ and in 1998 it agreed with the heads of the main Protestant Churches that you ‘cannot refuse to talk to anyone made in the image of God’. How do these declarations reconcile with your continued refusal to meet with Sinn Féin?

Drew Nelson accused me of glorifying IRA killings and demanded an apology, in particular for those 273 orange members killed by the IRA.
In my open letter I tell him that I have never glorified IRA killings and I again ‘expressed my sincere regrets for the deaths and injuries caused by republicans. This includes members of loyal institutions.’
But I posed a number of questions to him. The 12th resolutions state that 335 members of the order were killed. Who killed the remaining 62? ‘Was it a direct or indirect result of membership of Loyalist paramilitaries? Were some brethren killed by members of the British Crown Forces, the same Crown who you reaffirm your devotion and loyalty to every 12th? How many nationalists were slain by Orangemen in Loyalist paramilitary groups? Or in the British Crown Forces?

I draw his attention to some examples of paramilitarism with the Order, for example, one Belfast lodge, that is renowned for its UVF connections, is the ‘Old Boyne Island Heroes’ LOL 633. Their bannerette listed 6 UVF lodge members who were killed in the recent conflict.

Six years ago this same Lodge took part in the contentious Whiterock parade along the Springfield Road. One of those taking part was Eddie McIlwaine, adorned with Orange sash who was sentenced to 8 years for his part in the Shankill Butcher’s campaign of terror.

There is a reference in the Bible which seems very appropriate at this point which says: “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote of thy brother’s eye”. Matthew 7:3-5 (King James Version)

I said all of this not to make dialogue more difficult but to emphasis the need for all of us to set aside our differences in the interests of finding solutions.

The reality is the political and social and financial costs and risks presented by parades disputes are too great to ignore. ‘The Orange Order and Orangeism is a part of who we are as a nation. Irish republicans want a dialogue with the Orange in order that we can each understand and appreciate the position of the other.’

This blog and Irish republicans accept the right of the Order to parade and to promote its sense of orangeism. ‘But this has to be on the basis of equality and mutual respect and tolerance. The overwhelming majority of orange parades take place without rancour or dispute. But there are a small number which each year give cause for concern.’

And in my letter I again ask Drew Nelson and his colleagues to engage in dialogue with ‘local residents and with Sinn Féin and let us together seek to resolve these in a common sense and respectful manner. Our door is open.’


For those who are interested the six names on the Orange banner belonging to ‘Old Boyne Island Heroes’ LOL 633 are:

• Aubrey Reid was killed in a premature explosion while on ‘active service’ for the UVF;

• Noel Shaw was killed in an internal UVF feud;

• John Bingham, a UVF commander was shot dead in 1986; He received an Orange funeral with members of his lodge flanking his coffin wearing traditional regalia.

• Brian Robinson a UVF and lodge member was shot dead on 2/9/1989 by a British Army undercover team, just after he shot dead a catholic resident of Ardoyne, Patrick McKenna. He also received an Orange funeral.

• Bobby ‘Basher’ Bates, also a UVF and lodge member, who was part of the Shankill Butchers gang which savagely killed many Catholics. He was shot dead by a fellow Loyalist in a revenge attack.

• And finally, Colin Craig, another UVF and lodge member, was shot dead by the INLA in 1994. He initially featured on the bannerette but was removed when it was alleged that he was an informer.

Ardoyne March


Paul Doran said...


Don't hold your breath.And you what is so annoying a lot of these lads in the Orange order if they looked at the leadership of the orange Orders and their politics re their support for non working class politcs, the corruptness of the whole thing, they should run a mile fom these so called leaders of the orange men and women.

The British government want nothing to do with these lads and never did.

Mr Reality said...

I wish that any talks between the Orange Order and Sinn Fein would go well.
However Gerry you are dealing with some of the most right-wing and narrow-minded people this side of the graveyard.
The Orange pride themselves on being upright 'christians' however the christianity they profess is a far cry from the teachings of the One they claim to follow.
If Heaven is populated with the people who marched on July 12, you can count me out.
If you look at the age profile of the organisation in general I would suggest that the vast majority are in the over-sixties bracket, with a life-time of ingrained distrust and loathing (I hesitate to use the word hatred) of anything remotely linked to Catholicism or any kind of a liberal agenda.
Having spent whole life-times carrying that kind of a burden any moves to reach an accommodation with their fellow Irishmen and women would be seen as the ultimate betrayal.
But, with their numbers declining, time is running out for our Orange brethern and like the dinosaurs failure to change will have only one outcome, extinction.
In some ways I feel sorry for the organisation, because I am sure there are many decent people withing their ranks, who, for one reason or another feel they must toe the Orange line or pay the price of being seen to be soft.
The touble is they have painted themselves into this not-an-inch corner and their future does seem bleak as the real world around them moves on and they are left behind.
Hopefully any talks that do take place will bear fruit, but I won't be holding my breath.

Timothy Dougherty said...

Gerry, I do like a open letter, let it all out for everyone to view. With my Instructors Credential in the area of "Communication services .." I find the problems most interesting."You shall not change, but a nobler race of men
Shall walk beneath the stars and wander by the shore;
I can not guess their glory, but I think the sky and sea
Will bring to them more gladness than they brought to us of yore"
It is always about change, the need for a real change of view and action. People who will not talk do not want to change or are in fear of change or both.Observe always that everything is the result of a change, and get used to thinking that there is nothing Nature loves so well as change.With free conversing people forget all time, All seasons, and their change. The Order must change o go out of season,this they know as fact,this is the order of life.

Anonymous said...

posted by Kathy Collins


back in the end of the 90's and early 2000's you and sinn fein USED to say the orange order was like the KKK...both hate organizations.
AN Pholbacht the newspaper of the republican movement has several stories linking the two organiztions as hate groups. One of July 13, 2000 has your ex-vice President of Sinn Fein Pat Doherty talk about the KKK and how the orange order is like it. Theres a story in May 13, 1999 detailing the linkage of the orange order and KKK hate group---
What I find intersting is that you want to "talk" with the leader of the orange order about just some of the parades....IF they are like the KKK...shouldn't you be wanting to stop ALL parades?

Ed Feighan said...

Hi Gerry, Dealing with the orange order is like we Irish in America had to deal with the Masons. They preach that they are into christian living but they also are hate mongers when it comes to the advancment of catholics in the trade unions. E.F.

starry plough said...

Gerry, if they won't talk then what is there left for us to do. Should we just bow the knee and stand by the road and watch them pass? Sinn Féin led the protests agaisnt these marches and if Sinn Féin won't do so again, then others will and we all know what their agenda is.

Sean Flanagan said...

Hi Gerry,

Would they talk to someone other that your self or a Sinn Fein representative. I don't dispute the right of people who feel vulnerable to be represented by whomever they want but I think that nationalists should extend the hand in way that is sincere.

The difficulty that we face is that the 'bigoted unionist' community expects catholics to be sleekit in the same way that we expect them to be unaccomodating.

In derry we have a situation where the Apprentice boys ask for permisson (to walk on the walls of derry) and the community in brandywell and the bog gives permission (though there is a protest at the AB march tomorrow).

Over the past few years you can really see the Apprentice Boys teeth beginning to ungrit.

Can unionists really not see that nationalists blame the orange state for the troubles? Look at that old woman in Limavady whol had a Unionjack nailed to her door. The kids who did it apologised and said that it was divilment. It is just a bit of divilment to protestants but it scares the crap out of catholics.

Anonymous said...

Gerry I can’t imagine some of your responses, like you do not know why republicans disagree and protest. Let’s see just today the UDA McDonald stated in the Irish news "Loyalist regrets McDaid death but says it was ‘not deliberate’" They were a little short on explanation on how the use of pick ax handles was not a deliberate attempt to kill someone. or why the PSNI Orde sent in MI5 a deliberate breach of GFA before the two soldiers were killed (I to do not condone killing or 13 yr old kids getting hurt needlessly from plastic bullets). we have been through these hard issues and hit the same brick wall and in your own words OO Parades go from Ardoyne then bused to Derry some cultural event. Ill see if we can’t get Hillary or the President to pop over for the joyous event. I would defiantly like the envoy job to NI.