Posts Tagged ‘ Orange Order ’

Scotland’s Independence Referendum Heats Up Ahead Of Polling Day

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Getting off the train at Glasgow’s Queen Street station and stepping out into George Square, it’s hard not to get swept up in the feverish excitement that is gripping the city. Yes badges seem to adorn almost every passer by. A giant banner reads ‘Bristol Greens: England says vote Yes for a fairer society.’ A band plays an open show on Buchanan Street, with saltires and Yes billboards lining the makeshift stage.

This is in stark contrast to Edinburgh, just yesterday (Saturday), when the Orange Order marched ‘to save the union’, in their biggest showing in Scotland in over fifty years. The controversial march – many on the Better Together side were well aware of the counter-productivity of a march by a group largely eschewed by most branches of Scottish civil society – was reported on positively by The Guardian as ‘a visceral show of strength for the union’ that passed by ‘largely without incident’. Continue reading

Northern Ireland – Sharing the State Means Sharing Responsibility

Castlederg. Photo: Kenneth Allen.

Northern Ireland Secretary, Theresa Villiers, has called on the organisers of a Republican commemoration to call off their plans. A demonstration is planned for this Sunday in Castlederg, Co Tyrone, commemorating the deaths of IRA members killed during the Troubles, including two members killed when a bomb they had planned to plant in Castlederg exploded. Unionists have called the planned event a glorification of terrorism, while DUP leader Peter Robinson has gone on record to denounce the commemoration as ‘insensitive’ and ‘inappropriate’. An event is held by Republicans in Tyrone every year and this year marks the 40th anniversary of the deaths of the would be bombers.

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A History of Bigotry – Should Orangemen March Through Dublin?

In a way, the predicament of the Northern Ireland Parades Commission each July is one that can be sympathised with, in a limited manner. On one hand they have the mobs of loyal Orangemen demanding they be allowed to forcefully remind those pesky Catholics how a Dutch king once beat an English king ensuring Scottish settlers would remain on the lands of dispossessed Irish Catholics. On the other hand lies the genuine Nationalist/Catholic complaints which arise over said Orange triumphalists needing to march and wave their banners through Catholic streets, something which often seems like a move to fulfil some errant craving for attention. Who do they favour? As of now, the Orange march routes which apparently exist solely to bait Nationalists and Catholics routinely set off riots and fights each twelfth of July. This year was no different, as Orange marches through the predominantly Catholic area of Ardoyne in Belfast ended in what has been called a “night of serious rioting,” with the usual violence and arrests on both sides of the coin. Chairman of the Commission, Peter Osborne, has attempted to shift the blame. Speaking to BBC Radio Ulster, he said “It is complete and utter nonsense to blame the Parades Commission for the violence last night. There has been violence in this location for many, many years now. It is time for politicians to take ownership of contentious parades… that’s the way forward.”

But really the solution lies at the feet of the Orange Order. Sinn Féin and the IRA were often criticised for failing to do their bit in helping to heal the rift in the Northern part of Ireland, and now the Orangemen must take some blame. Controversy has followed the Order since its inception. Founded in 1795 the new organisation took a leaf from the Peep-O-Day Boy’s book – a Protestant and sectarian group which often clashed with their Catholic rivals, the Defenders. The aim was the suppression of Irish nationalism and Catholicism and the upholding of the Protestant Ascendancy (the political, economic and social domination of Ireland by members of the Protestant faith). By the time the Order came into existence, the United Irishmen, who were still led at this point by mainly Protestants, had morphed into an organisation seeking an Irish republic, one in which Catholic, Protestant and dissenter alike could find freedom. Several historians have argued that in an attempt to thwart such aims, the government backed the Orangemen and promoted sectarian feelings. And, when in 1798 the United Irishmen rebelled, both the Orange Order and the Peep-O-Day Boys were among those who aided the government in suppressing the insurrection.

And since its early days, the sectarian nature of the organisation hasn’t changed. Following a revival in the 19th century, they were instrumental in the formation of the Ulster Unionist Party and were influential in organising constant opposition to Home Rule for Ireland, including the famed Ulster Covenant, in which 500,000 people pledged themselves against such a move. Early armed Orange militias were gathered into a central organisation which became known as the Ulster Volunteer Force and since 1921 and the creation of the Irish Free State, the Order has been influential and often central to Northern Ireland. From 1921 to 1969, every single Prime Minister of Northern Ireland was a member of the Order, ensuring that the state would remain for decades a Protestant state, and an Orange state, keeping Catholic citizens in the second class. During the Troubles the Order once again showed its usefulness, encouraging many members to join Northern security forces, while others opted for Loyalist paramilitary groups, although officially, the organisation had a fractious relationship with these groups. Around 300 Order members were killed during those thirty odd years. Orangemen were often found in possession of weapons or documents likely to be used in acts of terrorism while bands hired to play during marches have previously and openly declared support for Loyalist paramilitary groups. In recent years the Order has still attempted to exercise influence amongst unionists, holding talks with both the DUP and the UUP in an attempt to unite the two parties before a recent general election in the province. Grand Master Robert Saulters has openly called for a single unionist party in the North so as to maintain the union with Britain.

The order’s anti-Catholicism is clear as day; members must be of the Protestant faith, Catholics are banned from holding membership. In previous years such a ban was clearly stated against Roman Catholics, nowadays the various laws require vaguer wording. In particular the Grand Master quite recently referred to the oppositional dissident republicans as the “Roman Catholic IRA”, something which isn’t so surprising when issued from the mouth of the Orange Order, who have, since the beginning, attempted to link Catholicism with nationalism and the enemy, in an attempt to unite unionism and promote and promulgate sectarian feelings. Some have attempted to draw links between the Order and the American Ku Klux Klan. Though former Grand Master Martin Smyth rejected such comparisons, writer and historian Tim Pat Coogan argued that in America, the Order manifested itself in the form of the Know Nothings (a xenophobic and anti-Catholic organisation during the 1850s) as well as the KKK, with whom they share an extreme bias towards Roman Catholicism and somewhat exotic leadership titles.

Perhaps even more well-known than their anti-Catholic stance and attempts to unite Protestant Northern Ireland against Roman Catholicism is their incessant marching practices each July and in particular, the Twelfth. This, more than anything, has been the cause of troubles over the past several decades, troubles which so easily could be avoided. The Order insists on marching through Nationalist areas, such as Ardoyne, despite the hassle and grief it causes. Memories take a while to fade, and many people still remember the violence the Order sparked each year with their insistence on rubbing the memory of William of Orange in Catholic and Nationalist faces, like a spoilt child waving a fistful of sweets at a deprived neighbour. And despite their attempts to maintain a dignified stance, the Order is well able to toss their toys from the pram if they don’t get their way. In 1998, the first year the authorities dared challenge their power and rerouted the march, protests erupted. Orange followers set fire to a Catholic house in Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, in which three little boys were burned alive. The thunderous banging of the drums long served to ignite fear in anyone who stood against them, while their marching through rival streets highlighted how their kind held the power, and they could do what they liked. Would a Republican march bearing IRA banners and shouting anti-Protestant slogans through the Shankhill Road receive Unionist support? I think not. Double standards are at play here, as the Orangemen desperately attempt to cling onto the six counties in which they once ruled as they desired.

While this may appear as an entirely one sided diatribe against the Orange Order and its Loyalist ways, it doesn’t forget the other side which can often be guilty of anti-Protestant sentiment. A war waged solely partly based on the two opposing religions, as nationalism has boasted quite a few supporters over the centuries, while not all Catholics are in favour of splitting with Britain. Nationalist and republican history may indeed boast quite a few scholars but precious few saints. But while republicanism in the form of dissident republicans fighting a war which ended years ago can be criticised, and rightly so, so too can the other side of the coin. Because the Orangemen are not exactly doing their part in easing tensions between the opposing peoples. Quite recently, the Order addressed the Irish senate, seeking a second shot at an Orange parade through the streets of Dublin. One might remember the clashes that occurred the last time the Order attempted the Love Ulster parade. Much of the violence was instigated by thugs with precious little knowledge of our history and driven by a mindless desire to hurt and break, but those genuine protestors had genuine reasons, similar to anyone who might protest should the KKK or Westboro Baptist Church come to town. Perhaps one day in the future, when the Order forsakes its long held tradition of sectarianism and triumphalism, and finally shakes off its links with a Protestant Ascendancy and Loyalist thuggery, then they might walk through our streets without fear of disruption. Until then, our roads have no place for ancient bigotry – from either side.