Northern Ireland

Rev William Hoey: Tributes to controversial Orangeman whose comments sparked fury at height of parading disputes

A CONTROVERSIAL retired Church of Ireland minister who was a prominent outspoken figure during parading disputes in the 1990s has been described as an “outstanding member” of the Orange Order following his death.
A CONTROVERSIAL retired Church of Ireland minister who was a prominent outspoken figure during parading disputes in the 1990s has been described as an “outstanding member” of the Orange Order following his death. A CONTROVERSIAL retired Church of Ireland minister who was a prominent outspoken figure during parading disputes in the 1990s has been described as an “outstanding member” of the Orange Order following his death.

A CONTROVERSIAL retired Church of Ireland minister who was a prominent outspoken figure during parading disputes in the 1990s has been described as an “outstanding member” of the Orange Order following his death.

The Rev William Hoey, who faced calls to be expelled from the order following comments made during the height of parading tensions, died last Sunday.

An ex-district chaplain of Ballynafeigh, Rev Hoey – who once echoed late former DUP leader Ian Paisley in calling Catholic All-Ireland Primate Cahal Daly a “red-hatted weasel” - regularly spoke for the Orange Order during the disputes over parades in the Lower Ormeau area of Belfast and Drumcree.

The Ormeau dispute began after Orange Order members were pictured mocking the victims of the 1992 Sean Graham’s bookmaker massacre carried out by the UDA.

Following bans on marches by the Parades Commission, Rev Hoey made inflammatory comments about the RUC at a protest in 1996 at Ormeau Bridge.

He told a crowd that if the RUC “continued to be perceived as those who side with the law breakers as against the law keepers, then I dread to think what may happen if the day comes when they succeed in causing the Protestant and loyalist people to rise up as one”.

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He added as the crowd responded with chants of “traitors”: “This police force will have nowhere to run and nowhere to hide," and suggested the then-assistant RUC chief constable should have his title changed to "chief of staff of the republican movement in Belfast".

The comments sparked anger within the Church of Ireland, with Bishop of Down and Dromore, Dr Gordon McMullan distancing himself from the remarks.

During the church's 1996 General Synod in Dublin, Co Donegal clergyman Rev David Crooks described the comments as “scandalous, shameful and wicked” and called for the Orange institution to urge Rev Hoey to withdraw his remarks and “if necessary, expel him from the Order”.

Nationalists in the Lower Ormeau area of Belfast hold a protest at RUC lines in 1995.
Nationalists in the Lower Ormeau area of Belfast hold a protest at RUC lines in 1995. Nationalists in the Lower Ormeau area of Belfast hold a protest at RUC lines in 1995.

In 2013, Rev Hoey appeared publicly in support of Orangemen during the parading dispute in north Belfast which began when order members were banned from a return march past the nationalist Ardoyne area.

He was pictured taking part in a rally at the makeshift ‘Camp Twaddell’ erected by loyalists as part of their protest at the Parades Commission decision.

In a statement posted to social media following his death, a spokesperson for the County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast described Rev Hoey as a “highly esteemed” member of the order.

Among those to pay tribute was former DUP North Belfast MLA William Humphrey, who wrote: “I’m so very sorry to hear of William’s passing. A lovely man and an outstanding member of our institution. Deepest sympathy and condolences to Mrs Hoey and the wider family.”

A funeral notice described Rev Humphrey as the “devoted husband of Myrtle, loving dad of William and David, granda Hoey to Charlotte, Will, Ingvild and Frøya”.

A service of thanksgiving will take place on Monday at Belfast’s St Nicholas Parish Church.

The Irish News contacted the Church of Ireland and the Orange Order for comment.