Riots taking place in the Northern Irish town of Portadown are analysed in the context of the 'right to march'. The paper concentrates specifically on the demands by a number of Protestant organisations that they should be allowed to parade along roads which they have followed for many years despite the objections of a large majority of the Roman Catholic, Nationalist community living along parts of the route. To understand fully these disputes it is necessary to examine the political and social situation that pertains to a particular time and place. The paper will also draw on comparative material in order to explore the general nature of political rituals since they are also elements of what took place locally which are common to most societies. I particularly wish to reject any notion that ethnic groups in N. Ireland are in some way trapped by their history since, on the contrary, research into public rituals such as these parades reveals the ways in which they are used as a dynamic political resource through changing historical circumstances.