On Friday 22nd May, members of our District took the invitation to attend a planned protest on behalf of the Ards & North Down Friends of Twaddell.
Our members joined community representatives, local bands and unionists from throughout the town at a protest parade and rally in the town centre. In attendance were members of the three lodges camped at Ligoniel and their bands. At the well attended rally, Worshipful District Master Bro Mark McDonald made a financial donation to the brethren of Twaddell and spoke the following words from the platform:
“As WDM of Newtownards District No.4 I would like to welcome everyone here tonight to the protest in support of our brethren at Twaddell. I would especially like to welcome all our visitors tonight, representatives of the three Ligoniel lodges, chairman of the civil rights camp at Twaddell, the ladies of the camp, community representatives and visiting bands, especially the members of the Pride of Ardoyne Flute Band. You are all very welcome to Newtownards and I hope you all have an enjoyable evening and go back to Belfast knowing that you have the support of the people of Newtownards and No. 4 District.
“It has been an interesting few weeks In Northern Ireland, with the recent general election and the 100th anniversary of the 36th Ulster Division marching past City Hall and the 70th anniversary of VE Day. Sadly the freedoms won by our forefathers in the World Wars and in the Williamite Wars in Ireland are being eroded by the unaccountable, unelected QUANGO that is the Parades Commission. Their continued denial of our basic rights is the reason we are all gathered here tonight.
“Sadly the Parades Commission shamefully bowed to the threat of Republican violence when they denied the Ligoniel lodges permission to parade up a main arterial road on their way home from their 12th July parade in 2013. They continue to deny our brethren their basic rights to parade home to their Orange Hall along the Crumlin Road, a parade that will take just six minutes to pass the Ardoyne shops. Republicans speak of a shared future but what hope is there for that when they can’t even tolerate a short parade? We simply ask for six minutes tolerance.
“Can I take this opportunity to commend the officers and members of the three Ligoniel lodges and all who have been involved in the protest at Twaddell for the way they have conducted themselves over the past 650+ days of peaceful dignified protest, especially under extreme provocation from Republican attacks. I know the protests will continue until we reach a successful conclusion but must stress that they must remain peaceful. The right to peaceful protest is protected under Article 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights with the key word being peaceful. That is why Republicans continue with their attacks trying to get a violent response so that once the protest is no longer peaceful we lose that protection under Article 11. I would urge you not to fall into the Republican trap.
“The recent general election has shown what Unionists can achieve if we work together. Sadly in the past we have been divided and many seats in councils, the Assembly and Westminster have been lost to non Unionists due to too many people standing and splitting the vote. Unionist co-operation this time meant we returned two more Unionist MPs to Westminster that five years ago. There is nothing Republicans fear more than united Unionism as has been shown by their recent behaviour in both Fermanagh South Tyrone and North Belfast with the distribution of a blatantly sectarian leaflet by Sinn Fein showing everyone their true colours.
“It is time to put the unity back into our community. We had a fine example last year when bands and lodges worked together for the greater good with the result being one of the best and most memorable 12th celebrations in a generation. We have seen what we can achieve and what we could have achieved by Unionist unity and it is only by that unity that we will achieve what we all want; the removal of the discredited Parades Commission and the Ligoniel lodges and bands completing their 12th parade home.
“We can see by the turnout here tonight the level of support within Newtownards and surrounding areas for this and I hope the brethren are encouraged by this. Can I thank you all again for your attendance.
“LET THEM HOME!”