By Anne Cadwallader
BELFAST — Death threats have been made against three Orange Order chaplains, others have resigned, and a crisis meeting of the organization’s Grand Lodge is due next week as the Order faces an uncertain future.
In the wake of the Drumcree debacle, in which British troops last week conducted a raid against the Orangemen camped out the site, seizing several weapons and firebombs, the Order is riven by splits between hardliners, who are still demanding to march down the Nationalist Garvaghy Road, and those who believe it went too far.
Sections of the order still refuse to accept any responsibility for the deaths of the three Quinn children — Jason, Mark and Richard — who perished in an arson attack on their home in Ballymoney on July 12.
Others are shocked to the core by the three deaths and feel the time has come for a reassessment of the Order’s place in society, post-Agreement. So much so that resignations have taken place and more may follow.
The Garvaghy Road residents, meanwhile, have denied reports that they are willing to “sell” the right to march through their area in return for an investment package to reduce high unemployment in the area.
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Spokesman Breandan MacCionnaith admitted that investment is needed to reduce inequalities between Protestant and Catholic workers, but that if it comes, it would be unconditional on the Orangemen’s right to walk the Garvaghy Road.
At least 10 firebombs, along with illegal firecrackers, cross-bows, and arrows with explosive tips, each containing a ball-bearing, were found in last Wednesday’s searches of the Orange encampment.
Several people were arrested, including Pauline Gilmore of the hard-line “Order” group, which campaigns for Orange rights to march through Nationalist areas. She was remanded in custody for a week.
Bailed last week were 10 loyalists accused of damaging a car, cutting down trees to make a barricade and mounting an illegal road blockade. They included two people named in “The Committee,” the controversial book by TV producer Sean McPhilemy.
The two are solicitor Richard Monteith and Queens University lecturer Philip Black. The Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble, is an associate of Monteith and wrote a legal testimony for him in a libel action he was taking against the book’s author.
The Church of Ireland is in discussions about its relationship with the Orange Order. Members of the church are said to be uneasy that a Church of Ireland service and church property were at the center of the violent protest and standoff at Portadown.
The church has now decided not to allow Orangemen to use its fields around the Drumcree church.
It’s now likely that the Ulster Unionist Party will reassess the special position the Order holds within its structures and constitution. Currently it has reserved places on the UUP’s council.
Since the breakup of the Orange encampment at Portadown, barricades erected by the British Army have been removed at both ends of the Garvaghy Road. The flooded trench, 20 feet wide in places, has been filled and barbed wire fences have been taken down, although a strong police and British Army presence remains.