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Friday, April 3, 1998 Published at 08:23 GMT 09:23 UK


The marching tradition
image: [ Orange Order marches date back to the 18th century ]
Orange Order marches date back to the 18th century

The Orange Order and the other main loyalist marching organisation, the Apprentice Boys, date back to the 18th century. Both were associations of Protestants set up to commemorate famous victories by Protestant forces in the 1680s and 1690s.

The Orange Order remembers the triumph of the Protestant King William of Orange over the Catholic King James in the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, whilst the Apprentice Boys of Derry take their name from the 13 boys who closed the gates of Londonderry against King James's army in 1688 and withstood an eight-month long seige.

[ image: Protestants say that parades are part of their culture]
Protestants say that parades are part of their culture
The Orange Order and the Apprentice Boys say that marching is an essential part of Protestant culture and all they want to do is to uphold long-standing traditions. The routes they take were established decades ago, but areas have been subject to demographic changes, with Protestants moving out and Catholics moving in.


Although parades and marches have been a tradition in Ulster for decades, it is only in recent years that they have become the cause of so much tension and violence.

Many older Catholics have memories of going out to watch Orange parades in the days before the 'troubles'. Now the marches are far more divisive, and the Catholic population either actively opposes them, as in areas like Portadown's Garvaghy estate and Belfast's Lower Ormeau Road, or gets out of the way.

The nationalists say that they have become more determined to assert their rights not to have parades which they find offensive passing through their areas.

But many Unionists say that the marching issue has been deliberately exaggerated by Sinn Fein in order to destabilise Northern Ireland.

The Siege of Drumcree

[ image: Across the barricades at Drumcree]
Across the barricades at Drumcree
Marching became became a major political issue in 1995 after the RUC decided to block an Orange Order march from passing through a Catholic area in Drumcree.

A peaceful silent march was agreed to by the Orangemen but the seeds were sown for a repeat confrontation in 1996.

The Orange Order march through Drumcree in July that year was particularly nasty and has become known as the Siege of Drumcree.

The RUC and troops erected barriers to prevent the Orangemen proceeding through the nationalist Garvaghy Road area.

Protestant loyalists across Northern Ireland responded with road blocks, car hijackings and petrol-bombings of Catholic households.

The roads to Larne harbour and Belfast airport were blocked, and Catholic taxi driver Michael McGoldrick was murdered.

After four days, 10,000 Protestant loyalists had gathered at Drumcree threatening to break down the barricades. Finally the RUC gave in and let 1,000 marchers through.

The move was bitterly condemned by the then Irish Prime Minister John Bruton and led to the North report, which recommended the stting up of an independent Parades Commission.

Last year at Drumcree the Orangemen were allowed to march again with a heavy police presence. The two sides were kept separate by barbed wire and defences erected by the RUC. When the Orangemen entered the mainly Catholic Garvaghy road area residents hammered tins and dustbin lids to show their disapproval.

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