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Gerry Douglas, Orange Order Grand Master
"This is the only thing left open to them"
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BBC Radio Ulster's Gareth Gordon
Orange Order members are worried about the direction the institution is headed
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Wednesday, 12 July, 2000, 12:40 GMT 13:40 UK
Unrest at heart of Orangeism
Street blockades continue across Northern Ireland
Orange links with street blockades: Disquiet in Order
The annual 12th of July parades are the highpoint of the Protestant Orange Order's marching calendar but this year's commemorations are taking place under the shadow of the Drumcree dispute

While thousands march the streets the length and breadth of Northern Ireland, questions are being raised about the Order's role in recent violent protests.

As the dispute over the banned Drumcree parade from a church service along the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road is causing unrest throughout the province, it is also giving rise to dissent throughout the Unionist family.

Images of protesters blocking traffic while brandishing Orange regalia with loyalist paramilitary figures in the background are causing a drift away from the Order, members have said.

We've fallen into a republican trap and we've walked straight into it - no road is worth that

William Brown
The attendance at Drumcree of Johnny Adair, who as an Ulster Freedom Fighters commander was convicted for directing terrorism, may have led mainstream Unionist politicians to stay away.

The leader of the anti-agreement Democratic Unionist Party, Ian Paisley, had been a regular at the Drumcree stand-offs in previous years along with party colleagues.

The disquiet within Unionism has percolated through to the ranks of the Orange Order.

William Brown is a deputy grandmaster of the order but he says he no longer wears the Orange collarette with the same pride.

He also admits he has not attended a meeting of the Grand Lodge of Ireland for two years because he believes the leadership is taking the institution in the wrong direction.

"When I see people blocking traffic, standing with pints in their hands - that's not the institution I joined."

Mr Brown believes the high profile which the dispute over the Drumcree parade has garnered over the past six years is one of the root causes of what he believes is a decline in standards.

Johnny Adair spotted at the Belfast protests
Johnny Adair: Convicted UFF leader has been spotted at protests
Media coverage of the dispute has shown scenes of Orangemen clashing with police, images which do not sit comfortably with the Order's traditional standards of upholding the law.

He believes that the Order has become fixated with the Portadown lodge's effort to get down the Garvaghy Road, a campaign which he says has damaged Orangeism.

"We've fallen into a republican trap and we've walked straight into it. No road is worth that."

He wants a radical change of direction, something which would happen if the current leadership of the Order were to be ousted.

"We need a complete change of leadership and I believe we can go forward on the basis of love thy neighbour.

"Just like any company which has bad results, they should have the honour to go.

"We're losing good members and we are attracting people we don't want to attract."

He says he is not alone as there are other senior colleagues who also believe the Order has changed beyond recognition since they first joined.

"One has only to look at the people in the institution - the membership is not falling but the quality definitely would be."

The call by the Portadown lodge for widespread protests for Monday, followed by further sporadic disturbances on Tuesday, appears to have caused anger because of a lack of concern with the wider Orange Order.

We can't go on the way we're going year after year after year

William Brown
"Portadown District shouldn't be running the Orange Institution," says Gerry Douglas, a former grandmaster of County Down.

He is now questioning the leadership of the Order's grand lodge over the Drumcree issue although he supports the right of the Portadown Orangemen to walk the Garvaghy Road.

"Grand lodge should have said we're either running this protest or we're not," he says.

He has strongly criticised the role of Portadown lodge district master, Harold Gracey, in calling for the protests.

Mr Gracey's failure to condemn violence during a BBC interview and again at Sunday's Drumcree parade has given rise to concern.

"I don't think it's his prerogative to dictate to the Orange Institution what should be done to satisfy his ideas about what should happen at Drumcree."

An Orange Order member salutes defiantly at a protest scene
The decision last month by the Grand Lodge of Ireland to maintain its ban on talking with the Parades Commission is also a focus of criticism.

Bill Murdie is an organiser of a controversial parade in north Belfast but was one of the first to argue for direct discussions with the body established in 1997 to make determinations on contentious marches.

"The Order has been damaged, I think, by events which have been taken out of their hands."

He believes continuing in the current direction will mean the Order loses the "high moral ground" which he thinks it once occupied.

While he says he will remain in the Order to argue for a change in direction, he says other members are considering their position.

"I do know that there are brethren having attended a church service no later than Sunday last are examining their situation.

"They are concerned - not to say there's going to be any mass resignations - with the position the Orange Institution is in at the moment and they're very annoyed with the image that's being created."

In William Brown's view, the Order has passed the crossroads. "We can't go on the way we're going year after year after year.

"There are plenty of roads to march on in Ulster."

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See also:

12 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Marching season reaches peak
11 Jul 00 | UK
Curse of the anniversary?
11 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Q & A: Drumcree protests
10 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Where the protests are
11 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Prosecution fear for road block buster
10 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Trimble rejects assembly recall
10 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Picture gallery: Loyalist protests
10 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Sites of Orange protests
11 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
RUC chief appeals for support
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