Northern Ireland

Why Crumlin's parade compromise is being hailed as a blueprint

Crumlin Orangemen parade through the village
Image caption The deal brokered meant Orangemen were able to parade through the village

It's a quiet place 13 miles from Belfast with nothing in particular to mark it out from other small villages.

But after the Twelfth, Crumlin is being held up as a blueprint to solve Northern Ireland's parades problem.

Late night talks and a sequence of events allowed a contested Orange parade to go ahead without incident, despite grim predictions of trouble.

Crumlin sits on the Camlin river. It was established in the late 18th Century around the industrial flour mills built there.

The demography of the village has changed. An influx of people from Belfast who moved out in search of better and more affordable housing, means it is now predominately nationalist.

Orange parades are accepted in the village, and an arch is erected there.

The problem with the Twelfth this year was that it was to be a demonstration centre for the district - a much bigger affair.

It meant 4,000 participants parading through the village and the crowds who would come to watch.


Residents say no-one spoke to them about the plans, the first they knew of it was from a community flyer.

The parades commission said tensions had been increased "by a lack of prior consultation with local residents" or political representatives.

When the commission decided that only local lodges and accompanying bands, not the entire parade, could make the full return route from the field through the village, the stage was set for stand-off.

It looked as if the Crumlin parade could become another flashpoint.

There may have been no talks before, but now there was contact between the Order and the residents, some of it via a facilitator, some the residents say in "face to face talks".

Together they brokered a deal, that took all the tension out of the day.

The night before the Twelfth tricolours that had been hung along the route were taken down and replaced with banners protesting at the parade.

Image caption James Tinsley would not confirm if the Orange Order had sat down face-to-face with residents

One read "Orange Order silence damages community relations"; another "Dialogue and respect harms no tradition".

On the Twelfth morning district Orangemen arrived and erected parade bunting beside the banners.

The deal was that both banners and bunting would be taken down at the end of the day - that has happened.

Relaxed atmosphere

There was no nationalist protest and the parade of 4,000 participants walked the three-mile route through the village to the assembly field on the Ballytromery Road.

The mood was relaxed. One house along the way had hung a tricolour from its gable.

We watched for a while as the parade passed. Many of the brethren seemed not to notice it and those that did chose to ignore it.

At another point stewards were shushing bands as they approached a particular part of the route. I checked the parades commission determination, but there was no mention of any restriction. When I asked I was told it was a mark of respect. A child in one of the houses had died a short time earlier.

At the field I asked the local Orange Order spokesman, James Tinsley, the worshipful master of a local lodge, about the talks and the deal. He was understandably reticent. The Order doesn't engage with the parades commission, direct talks with residents are out.

"I suppose I would rather concentrate on the day and the way the day has turned out. But yes, as you have alluded to there were some tensions and some issues, but they were all resolved last night and I believe satisfactorily, and that means people can come along and enjoy their day," he told me.

He wouldn't say if they'd sat down face-to-face with residents.

The residents say they had talks with police, traders, and Orangemen. They welcomed the outcome of the day saying "We believe it was through hard work and dialogue that this was the case".


Image caption The centre of Crumlin the day after the parade

One final decision helped the day pass off without trouble. On leaving the demonstration field the Orange Order could have brought the entire parade to the 30mph posts on the Ballytromery Road.

It was at that point that the parade commission restrictions applied and it was there that the local lodges would have had to split-off from the main parade to complete their homeward route.

The Ballytromery Road is a narrow approach well-hedged in on both sides. Tradition dictates that visiting districts leave the demonstration field first and the host district last.

Had the Order stuck to the letter of the parades commission determination it could have meant a very volatile situation.

Instead what they did was turn the visiting lodges and bands to the left out of the field heading for their buses.

After a short break to allow the crowds to thin slightly only the nine local lodges and five accompanying bands turned right on to Ballytromery Road for the return journey.

More on this story