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Lurgan Coat of Arms The Armagh Guardian

26 October, 1872  

THE ORANGE RIOTS IN LURGAN

(From the Nation)

For an insight into the manner in which, justice is administered in the North, for an illustration of the style in which Orangeism is fostered and abetted by representatives of the Crown; for a specimen of the tactics by which the Catholic population are goaded into frenzied resistance and driven outside the pale of the Constitution - for all these and much more we recommend Mr. Taine, or any other intelligent foreigner desirous of mastering the complex problem of Irish politics, to study the history of the recent disturbance in Lurgan. If that does not show him how equal rights and equal laws' are understood and administered in Ulster, he may abandon his task in despair.

We confess to some difficulty in narrating the circumstances calmly. Tyranny so galling, partiality so glaring and so outrageous, it cannot be contemplated; with insensibility. One must be more or less than human to regard without indignation the course of justices' justice in Lurgan.

To attend the Catholic meeting appointed to be held at Gilford a party of young men bearing with them a handsome green banner, left Lurgan on the morning of the 15th. Their intention was well known to the authorities, and the fact that opposition from the lowest rabble of Orangeism was to be apprehended was no secret. The Catholic processionists, however, were left to find their way to the railway station without guard or protection, and the Orange party, making the most of the opportunity thus afforded them, stoned them along the route. To remain to punish their ruffianly assailants, would involve absence from the appointed meeting; and so, binding up their wounds and bandaging their cut heads and faces, the Catholics proceeded to the train.

If magistrates and police were scarce at Lurgan, however, there was no reason to complain of their absence at Scarva. They were found as thick as autumn leaves in the forest path when the processionists arrived at that point of their journey. But what were they there for? To protect the travellers and save them (as Orange processionists have been saved over and over again) from molestation? Not a bit of it. They came in effect to carry out the designs of the Orange rabble by turning back the Lurgan contingent and preventing the meeting. The Orangemen had assembled in numbers to attack the Catholics on their arrival at Gilford. Instead of dispersing them, the magistrates and police, acting virtually as their associates and allies, drove the Catholics from the place, threatening them with bullet and bayonet if they resisted. The Lurgan men were, compelled to return in the train which brought them, while the Orange faction improved the occasion by holding a meeting of their own on the spot, which the Catholics had been prevented from approaching. V

The processionists returned, we need hardly say with, what feelings to Lurgan but the cup of humiliation prepared for them by the instruments of the Government was not yet full. They found the streets filled with an Orange mob drafted into the town from various outlying districts; but the police were there too, with Mr. Hancock, J.P. at their head. The course of the authorities was quite clear. The processionists had a perfect right to march through their own streets, and were entitled to protection in the exercise of that right. How was that protection accorded? By ordering the Catholics to furl their banner and escape as quietly as possible in twos and threes to their homes, leaving the Orangemen in triumphant occupation of the streets! A second time on the same day the magistracy and the police figured as their faithful and obedient slaves.

What wonder, after all this, that the Orange mob in Lurgan emulous of the fame of their fellows in, Belfast, commenced the operation of housebreaking and assassination. We do not intend to dwell hereupon their exploits in this direction; but to glance at a few remarkable incidents.

Amongst the various establishments of Catholic proprietors attacked was that of Mr. Arthur Donnelly, a respectable merchant of large means and social influence. Mr. Donnelly attempted to scare off the wreckers by a discharge of firearms from the window, but the mob of ruffians outside were not so easily deterred from their coveted plunder, and Mr. Donnelly's premises were, sacked and gutted after the Orthodox Orange fashion. This, however, was not deemed sufficient punishment. He had committed the enormity of attempting to protect his property and his life, and Orangemen howled for vengeance. He had fired, it was pretended on an unoffending crowd. The Orange press took up the cry and shrieked for Mr. Donnelly's arrest. Volley after volley, it was declared, had been fired from his house; but the magistrates, though by no means unwilling to act, found that, much as was spoken of the 'carnage,' no wounded were forthcoming. To justify his arrest it was deemed necessary that an information should be lodged showing that he had injured some one, but for all the cry about the 'murderous fusillade,' no one with a gunshot wound could be discovered. In this extremity the Orangemen brought forward a boy named White, suffering from a wound in the head. There would be no difficulty, it appeared, about swearing that he had been shot by Mr. Donnelly; but there was this difficulty about the case, that the doctors declared the cut was not a gunshot wound at all, and that, in fact, it had, beyond all question, been caused by a stone.

But the Orange party were not to be baulked by such trifles. Again they summoned in their legions from the country districts, and on Saturday they entered Lurgan, armed, says the report, with sticks and bludgeons, intent on compelling, the authorities to obey their behests. 'They were met, not as they should have been met,' at the bayonet's point, but with honied speeches and conciliatory promises. Lord Lurgan was there, and the gentle Mr. Hancock' (who is accused of having torn down a green flag two days before with his own hand), and Captain Keogh, R.M., and policemen in strong nuimbers. But the rowdies who had assembled to overawe the authorities and over-ride the course of justice received no threatening order for dispersion. They were mildly reasoned with by the Rev. Mr. Black; and gently expostulated with by Lord Lurgan and the amiable Hancock. They demanded as the only conditions of dispersion, the liberation of one of their own bludgeonmen, who had by some chance been taken into custody; and the arrest of Mr. Donnelly. Will it be credited? Their demands were on both points acceded to. Amidst' peals of Kentish fire the captured bludgeonman was set free on the spot, while Mr. Donnelly another lad with a cut head about which the doctors could not speak so positively having been found was thrown into prison. And then the Orangemen, having dictated terms to the Government and trampled on the executive power, marched homewards in triumph.

The days of ascendency had come again. When magistrates and noblemen stop to bargain for the preservation of the peace with a mob of riotous ruffians, and when Justice becomes the handmaid of a fanatical, street mob, from any denomination, Government must have fallen to a low pitch, indeed. That its level in Ireland is not a high one may readily enough be conceived, but no one ignorant of the ramifications of Orangeism and the malign influence which Ascendency still preserves where impartiality should reign supreme, will read without astonishment the narrative of the last Orange triumphs in Lurgan.

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