Dromore Orangeman Drew Nelson, the Order’s second most senior figure, has moved to take on hardliners who have set out to breach Parades Commission determinations.
Grand Secretary Mr Nelson spoke out strongly to condemn those who rioted after the north Belfast parade was stopped at Woodvale – reiterating the Order’s long-standing opposition to violence.
Mr Nelson also sharply criticised a separate incident where a band played music outside St Patrick’s chapel in breach of a commission ruling and a short distance down the street did a dance with their drums above their heads.
Finaghy True Blues loudly played the hymn How Great Thou Art outside the chapel – where three years ago another band’s actions in playing the sectarian Famine Song led to restrictions on the parade – despite every other band obeying the law by sticking to a single drum beat.
Mr Nelson described the band’s actions as “totally unacceptable” and suggested there would be consequences.
Mr Nelson’s comments came against a backdrop of anger from some Orangemen not associated with the north Belfast situation at what they see as the institution’s image being continually tarnished by a minority of individuals – some of whom are not even members of the Order – in the capital city.
Mr Nelson, who has put enormous personal effort into attempting to modernise the institution and reach out to those who would not naturally support Orangeism, spoke bluntly about the band’s actions.
He told the BBC: “The (Parades Commission) determination was wrong but equally the way the band reacted to that determination was also wrong, and the behaviour of that band in appearing to dance in some sort of celebration after they had broken the determination was totally unacceptable. There will be a review of what happened and I imagine that there will be some sort of internal process by Sandy Row District.”
Mr Nelson also blamed “self-appointed agitators” for causing the violence at Woodvale and Twaddell. He said some individuals “engage in violence on the back of our parades” and that in so doing they “undermine our cause and our ability to have parades”.
Mr Nelson offered no excuses for what had taken place and said that the police would have the full support of the Order in investigating “any illegality” associated with the north Belfast rioting.
He said the Order utterly rejected violence and “people should never resort to it no matter how frustrated they are”.
He also expressed sympathy for those injured, specifically police officers, those hit by the car driven into a crowd at Ardoyne and the pipe band which saw its bus attacked by republicans in Greysteel.