State Papers

Orange Order berated Sir Patrick Mayhew over 'cannibals' remark

Sir Patrick Mayhew (left) criticised the behaviour of some Orangemen in south Belfast. Picture from Pacemaker
Dr Éamon Phoenix

THE Orange Order berated Secretary of State Sir Patrick Mayhew after he said the actions of Orangemen at a parade in south Belfast "would have disgraced a race of cannibals".

Declassified files from 1993 show the order was angered by Sir Patrick's remarks following misbehaviour by Orangemen on the lower Ormeau Road in July 1992.

There were serious tensions after a march past Sean Graham’s bookmakers shop where five Catholics were killed by loyalist gunmen in February that year.

Sir Patrick hit out after some of the marchers shouted "up the UFF" and made two-fingered gestures.

During a private meeting with the order in Belfast in 1993, Orangeman and Ulster Unionist MP Rev Martin Smith said the reference to cannibals had been "felt very sorely", particularly from marchers who were trying to calm the situation.

However, Sir Patrick said he had been "horrified" by the marchers and stood by his comments.

"People in Northern Ireland spoke their minds and he intended to do likewise," the file read.

Rev Smyth said many people believed the British government had a hidden agenda, but Sir Patrick told him his government was committed to the union.

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