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Religious, Political, and Geographical Determinants of Attitudes to Protestant Parades in Northern Ireland

  • Jocelyn Evans (a1) and Jonathan Tonge (a2)

Although violence over Northern Ireland's constitutional position has largely subsided, the problem of sectarian animosity between sections of the Protestant Unionist British and Catholic Irish Nationalist population remains. One such area of communal contestation is attitudes to Protestant parades, organized mainly by the Orange Order. For many Protestants, Orange Order marches are legitimate cultural, religious, and political expressions of Protestant culture, loyalty to the British Crown and a pro-United Kingdom position. For many Catholics, the Orange Order is seen as a sectarian and anti-Catholic organization, which prohibits its members marrying Catholics or attending Catholic Church services. The Parades Commission was established two decades ago to adjudicate on Orange Order parading routes. Its decisions have sometimes involved re-routing marches away from Catholic areas and the inability to satisfy both sides has been followed by riots on several occasions at the annual height of the Protestant “marching season.” This article examines levels of support or antipathy toward Orange Order marching rights among Protestants and Catholics. Drawing upon evidence from the most extensive recent study of public opinion in Northern Ireland, the 2015 Economic and Social Research Council general election study, the piece tests the importance of demographic, religious, political, and geographical variables in conditioning attitudes towards Orange parades.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Jocelyn Evans, School of Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, United Kingdom. E-mail; or to: Jonathan Tonge, Department of Politics, University of Liverpool, 8-11 Abercromby Square, Liverpool L69 7WZ, United Kingdom. E-mail:
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We thank the Economic and Social Research Council for its generous support for this survey

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