I’ve said it before (repetition for the sake of emphasis, Virginia): the most interesting reading on this blogsite is often to be found among the comments added by readers. One such happened a couple of days ago on the topic of Orange Order marches.
I’d made the suggestion that all marches – the 4,000+ loyal order marches and the 150 nationalist/republican marches – simply end. While I’ve lumped together the Orange Order et al with nationalists/republican marches, there is an interesting difference between them: some Orange and Loyal Order marches take place in or as near as they can get to nationalist areas; nationalist/republican marches take place within areas where they are welcome. However, to avoid the annual disruption of traffic, use of police time, social and political division, I suggested they should all end.
This was greeted with incredulity by some of those commenting. How could this happen? The expression of the Orange culture needs marching and efforts to crush it would be counter-productive.That’s when a highly interesting idea was floated: build a stadium.
A parallel was drawn with rock festivals. In the early days of these events, lack of amenities, drunkenness, even violence were features. Then the organisers took things in hand. People were charged for entry, no alcohol was allowed to the event, the bands were protected by security as were the audience. What had been occasions of near-mayhem became orderly events which attracted tens of thousands.
Why not this for Orange and Loyal Order marches – or nationalist/republican marches for that matter? Build a stadium, which would be rented by those involved with the march. Charge those who wish to see the event or events; screen patrons for alcohol and any other disruptive material; then let everyone sit back and enjoy the music and speeches and marches within the stadium.
Did I hear you say ‘Cost’, Virginia? Yes it would be costly to construct a purpose-built stadium. But do you know how much 4,000+ Orange and Loyal Order marches cost at present? Well, in 2011 security around loyalist marches cost over £5 million, while republican parades cost £250,000. You could probably construct a fairly attractive stadium inside a short time, using that kind of saving.
This is the twenty-first century. Since the end of the eighteenth century we’ve been bedevilled by sectarian clashes, ill-feeling and community divisiveness as a result of Orange marches. It’s costing us a bundle, socially and financially, every year. No suggestion is being made that those who espouse the Orange culture should not continue to do so. All that is asked is that they should not ask the rest of us to pay for it financially or socially. Despite the sectarian nature of its origins, ordinances and history, the Orange Order could become a source of genuine culture, even generating revenue for tourism and ending the drain on police resources.
If someone can tell me why the need to walk/march trumps all that, I’ll be interested in hearing it. And my thanks again to the person who suggested it a few days back.