A GLASGOW councillor has hit out at the “excessive number” of Orange Order and loyalist marches set to take place in the city this year.

An investigation by the Sunday National revealed there will be 122 marches in the Glasgow City Council area in 2024.

The data included both marches affiliated with the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland and the Apprentice Boys of Derry – which regards itself as a separate organisation.

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SNP Councillor Ruairi Kelly, who represents Glasgow City Council’s North East ward, has previously described the marches as “anti-Catholic” and said he wishes the local authority had the power to ban them.

“I think if the marches were for anything else, people would say it’s quite excessive, especially for a geographically small area like Glasgow and the imposition and disruption that causes for communities,” he told the Sunday National.

“And the fact is that quite a significant portion of the community feel they are intimidating and discriminatory.”

Currently, a petition set up by a Glasgow resident who says they are “deeply affected by the animosity the Orange Order marches bring to our community” has almost 5000 signatures.

A march in Stonehaven was previously halted after thousands put their name to a petition while there was a similar move by residents in the Highland Council as part of a bid to halt an Apprentice Boys of Derry parade.

Cllr Kelly continued: “I think people have maybe become more vocal in their opposition to it because they’re coming to realise it’s not something that just has to be normalised and happen every year.

“It’s essentially a celebration of an event which cemented Protestant ascendancy in Ireland and hundreds of years of the oppression of Irish Catholics so people are asking why that’s being celebrated on the streets of Scotland.”

The councillor added that he was particularly concerned about the potential impact the marches could have on the city’s reputation.

In 2021, police condemned “outbreaks of racist and sectarian singing” by some of those attending processions in Glasgow.

Glasgow City Council also previously banned the Orange Order from walking past the St Alphonsus’ Church after a priest was spat on.

“I’m from the north of Ireland myself so I’m not unused to these,” Kelly added.

“I don’t think the vast majority of them give off a great impression of the city once people understand exactly what they’re about.

The National:

“They also don’t tend to be just a band marching or processing through the city and then going. It’s the hangers-on that give the city a bad image and that tends to be where most of the overtly anti-Irish and anti-Catholic rhetoric is coming from.”

When approached by The National, the Apprentice Boys of Derry said it "strongly refutes" any suggestions of being "anti-Irish" or "anti-Catholic" and that this "does not align with our values nor the inclusive nature of our organisation".

When it comes to potentially banning the marches, Kelly says there are “aspects of freedom of assembly and the right to free speech” which need to be considered.

A spokesperson for Glasgow City Council said: “The legislation that governs public processions is set nationally.

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“There is a presumption in law that processions can take place unless there is a reason to intervene – and these reasons are quite narrowly defined in the statutory framework.

“A local authority requires credible evidence in order to take such a step – usually by way of intelligence from the police about a risk of disorder or a threat to public safety.

“As such, we can only look at events on a case by case basis.”

In a statement provided to the Sunday National, the Apprentice Boys of Derry said it was "aware of the concerns raised regarding our processions in Scotland and welcomes the opportunity to address them, in the same time taking them seriously and allowing for openness and transparency".

It said: "Firstly, the Apprentice Boys of Derry association is committed to promoting our cultural heritage and historical remembrance, not to propagate any form of intolerance or division. 

"Our processions aim to commemorate significant events in British and Irish history, particularly the Siege of Derry 1688-1689. 

The National: A visiting member of the Apprentice Boys of Derry Campsie Club Dunmurry Branch sporting some

"While we respect the right to freedom of expression and differing opinions, we strongly refute any allegations of being 'excessive', 'anti-Irish' or 'anti-Catholic' as stated by some others of political nature.

"Such characterisations do not align with our values nor the inclusive nature of our organisation.

"We engage professionally with local authorities and communities to ensure our events are conducted peacefully and respectfully. We actively encourage dialogue and co-operation to address any concerns and foster a better understanding.

"The Apprentice Boys of Derry remains open to constructive discussions with all stakeholders to ensure our processions continue to uphold our principles of heritage, respect and inclusivity."

The chairman of the Scottish Amalgamated Committee of the Apprentice Boys of Derry added: "We pride ourselves in working closely with local councils, Police Scotland and the wider communities to ensure our parades pass off without incident, causing as little disruption as possible but while also bringing economic value to the local areas. 

"All Apprentice Boys of Derry parades follow the Civic Government Act 1982 and are strictly marshalled appropriately by trained members who work closely with Police Scotland prior to, during and after any of our events."

In a separate statement provided to the Sunday National, the Orange Order said: "It’s disappointing to hear that a Glasgow councillor would use this language and I would encourage them to educate themself on the Orange Institution rather than spouting inaccurate comments.

"The modus operandi of the Orange Order is to promote the reformed faith based on the infallible word of God- the Holy Bible, to give allegiance to the reigning monarch and our constitution.

"In Scotland we have over 500 lodges from Inverness to Dumfries, we have nearly 1000 parades every year with 99% of them conducted in peaceful and respectful manner.

"We preach one Scotland, many cultures, unless you belong to the Loyal Orange Institution. Our parades are the best organised, with the largest crowds. Our display of colour, vibrancy, and pageantry, create the largest parading spectacle in any parade throughout Scotland and beyond.

"These parades are enjoyed by these large crowds and bring needed income to the local economy.

"We stringently follow the rules and guidelines for processions that are put in place both by us internally and those enshrined in law.

"We spend huge sums of money training our marshals to ensure our parades are safe for participants and spectators alike. Yet, there are many out there who see us as a threat to society, they are blinded by their own bigotry to see the irony when calling our members bigots.

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"Our institution appears to be fair game for anyone who opposes our beliefs and faith, and this is simply because certain individuals are too ignorant and prejudiced to educate themselves and truly understand our beloved Orange Order.

"We have recently produced a document of hate and damage caused to our organisation and the wider Protestant community by those with sectarian hate towards our community.

"We have held meetings with Scottish Government ministers, shadow ministers, Police Scotland and council officials on how we protect our members and our property."