Skip to main content

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:
Hide All

We thank the Economic and Social Research Council for its generous support for this survey

Hide All
Arzheimer, Kai, and Evans, Jocelyn. 2012. “Geolocation and Voting: Candidate-Voter Distance Effects on Party Choice in the 2010 UK General Election in England.” Political Geography 31:301310.
Atashi, Elham. 2009. “Challenges to Conflict Transformation from the Streets.” In Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding: Moving from Violence to Sustainable Peace, eds. Dayton, Bruce, and Kriesberg, Louis. London: Routledge, 4560.
Aughey, Arthur. 2005. The Politics of Northern Ireland: Beyond the Belfast Agreement. London: Routledge.
Bruce, Steve. 2007. Paisley: Religion and Politics in Northern Ireland. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Bryan, Dominic. 2000. Orange Parades: The Politics of Ritual, Tradition and Control. London: Pluto.
Bryan, Dominic. 2001. “Parades Disputes and the Peace Process.” Peace Review 13:4349.
Cunningham, Niall. 2014. “Hard to Miss, Easy to Blame? Peacelines, Interfaces and Political Deaths in Belfast during the Troubles.” Political Geography 40:6478.
Democratic Unionist Party. 2001. Westminster Election Manifesto. Belfast: Democratic Unionist Party.
Democratic Unionist Party. 2016. Our Plan for Northern Ireland. Assembly Election Manifesto. Belfast: Democratic Unionist Party.
Dudley Edwards, Ruth. 1999. The Faithful Tribe: An Intimate Portrait of the Loyal Institutions. London: HarperCollins.
Dyck, Joshua J., and Gimpel, James G.. 2005. “Distance, Turnout and the Convenience of Voting.” Social Science Quarterly 86:531548.
Evans, Jocelyn, Arzheimer, Kai, Campbell, Rosie, and Cowley, Philip. 2017. “Candidate Localness and Voter Choice in the 2015 General Election in England.” Political Geography 59:6171.
Evans, Jocelyn, and Tonge, Jonathan. 2013. “Catholic, Irish and Nationalist: Evaluating the Importance of Ethno-National and Ethno-Religious Variables in Determining Nationalist Political Allegiance in Northern Ireland.” Nations and Nationalism 19:357375.
Finlay, Andrew. 2010. Governing Ethnic Conflict. Consociation, Identity and the Price of Peace. London: Routledge.
Frampton, Martyn. 2009. The Long March. The Political Strategy of Sinn Féin 1981–2007. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
Górecki, Maciej A., and Marsh, M.. 2012. “Not Just ‘Friends and Neighbours’: Canvassing, Geographic Proximity and Voter Choice.” European Journal of Political Research 51:563582.
Hayward, Katy, and Komarova, Milena. 2014. “The Limits of Local Accommodation: Why Contentious Events Remain Prone to Conflict in Northern Ireland.” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 37:777791.
David, Hume. 1996. The Ulster Unionist Party 1972–92. Lurgan: Ulster Society.
Irish News . 2015. “Parading Season Disorder Costs PSNI almost £7 m.” (Accessed on March 15, 2016.
Jarman, Neil. 1997. Material Conflicts: Parades and Visual Displays in Northern Ireland. Oxford: Berg.
Jarman, Neil. 2001. “Not an Inch.” Peace Review 13:3541.
Kaufmann, Eric. 2009. The Orange Order. A Contemporary Northern Irish History. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kennaway, Brian. 2006. The Orange Order: A Tradition Betrayed. London: Methuen.
Lederach, John Paul. 1997. Building Peace. Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace.
McAuley, James W. 2010. Ulster's Last Stand: Reconstructing Unionism after the Peace Process. Dublin: Irish Academic Press.
McAuley, James W., and Tonge, Jonathan. 2007. “‘For God and for the Crown’: Contemporary Political and Social Attitudes among Orange Order Members in Northern Ireland.” Political Psychology 28:3352.
McAuley, James W., Mycock, Andrew, and Tonge, Jonathan. 2011. Loyal to the Core? Orangeism and Britishness in Northern Ireland. Dublin: Irish Academic Press.
McGarry, John, and O'Leary, Brendan. 2004. The Northern Ireland Conflict: Consociational Engagements. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Mesev, Victor, Shirlow, Peter, and Downs, Joni. 2009. “The Geography of Conflict and Death in Belfast, Northern Ireland.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 99:893903.
Mitchell, Claire. 2006. Religion, Identity and Politics in Northern Ireland. Aldershot: Ashgate.
Mitchell, David. 2015. Politics and Peace in Northern Ireland. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Northern Ireland General Election Survey. 2015. “Measuring Political Change in a Power-Sharing Polity.” (Accessed on July 15, 2016).
Report, North. 1997. The Report of the Independent Review of Parades and Marches. Belfast: HMSO.
Parades Commission. 2016. “Annual Report and Financial Statements for the Year Ended 31 March 2016.” (Accessed on May 10, 2017).
Orange Standard . 1998. “NO.” May 1.
Orange Standard . 2001: “Ethnic Cleansing.” October 6.
Patterson, Henry, and Kaufmann, Eric. 2007. Unionism and Orangeism in Northern Ireland since 1945. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Porter, N. 1996. Rethinking Unionism. Belfast: Blackstaff.
Ramsbotham, Oliver, Woodhouse, Tom, and Miall, Hugh. 2011. Contemporary Conflict Resolution, 3rd edition, Cambridge: Polity.
Requeqo, Ferran, and Nagel, Klaus-Jurgen. 2015. “Nationalism and Religion: Friends or Foes?” In Politics of Religion and Nationalism: Federalism, Consociationalism and Secession, eds. Requeqo, Ferran, and Nagel, Klaus-Jurgen. London: Routledge, 111.
Shirlow, Peter. 2001. “It's Grim up North.” Fortnight 398:1213.
Shirlow, Peter. 2003. “‘Who Fears to Speak?’ Fear, Mobility and Ethno-sectarianism in the two ‘Ardoynes’Global Review of Ethnopolitics 3:7691.
Shirlow, Peter, and Murtagh, Brendan. 2006. Belfast: Segregation, Violence and the City. London: Pluto.
Smithey, Lee, and Young, Michael. 2010. “Parading Protest: Orange Parades in Northern Ireland and Temperance Parades in Antebellum America.” Social Movement Studies 9:393410.
Tonge, Jonathan, and Evans, Jocelyn. 2001. “Faultlines in Unionism: Division and Dissent within the Ulster Unionist Council.” Irish Political Studies 16:111132.
Tonge, Jonathan, and Evans, Jocelyn. 2015. “Another Communal Headcount: The Election in Northern Ireland.” Parliamentary Affairs 68:117132.
Tonge, Jonathan, and McAuley, James W.. 2008. “The Contemporary Orange Order in Northern Ireland.” In Irish Protestant Identities, eds. Busteed, Mervyn, Neal, Frank, and Tonge, Jonathan. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 289302.
Tonge, Jonathan, Braniff, Maire, Hennessey, Thomas, McAuley, James W., and Whiting, Sophie A.. 2014. The Democratic Unionist Party: From Protest to Power. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Walker, Graham. 2012. A History of the Ulster Unionist Party: Protest, Pragmatism and Pessimism. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Walsh, Dawn. 2015. “Northern Ireland and the Independent Parades Commission: Delegation and Legitimacy.” Irish Political Studies 30:2040.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Politics and Religion
  • ISSN: 1755-0483
  • EISSN: 1755-0491
  • URL: /core/journals/politics-and-religion
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 9
Total number of PDF views: 102 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 382 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 4th September 2017 - 23rd March 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.