John Dunlop, the Orange Order and ‘God Save The Queen’



I like the Rev John Dunlop. There’s a solidity and gruff charm to him that’s attractive, and he’s not afraid to express his thinking, regardless of others. That said, there have been at least two occasions where I’ve felt he’s batted a bit short of his own high standards.

One was a number of years ago, when we were both on a radio discussion. The topic was the Orange Order, and I expressed my conviction that the Orange Order is a sectarian organisation. John’s response was immediate: “Well, I  think that remark says more about you than about it”. As a put-down it was good; as a rational response it was pointless. I gathered that he thought I was talking tripe and that he thought less of me for it. But his answer gave me – or the listeners – no clue as to why my statement was tripe, or how for me to utter it was to diminish myself. In short, I felt he was defending the Orange Order with a verbal sleight of hand that avoided the truth.

The second occasion was yesterday morning on Sunday Sequence.  The topic was Scottish independence and John was on with a fellow-Presbyterian from the Iona Institute, with John arguing the case for Scotland staying as it is and the other man arguing in favour of a Yes-vote.  Part of John’s argument was that a United Kingdom without Scotland would mean even greater domination of what was left by England, and that England was dominant enough as things stand. In support of this, he cited how at international rugby games, God Save The Queen gets played for the English team. This was wrong, John said. God Save The Queen was the national anthem of all of us in the United Kingdom – it shouldn’t be played as the anthem of one country in that union. The presenter Mark Patterson – William Crawley is off at present – asked him what about Windsor Park: under the argument John had advanced, God Save The Queen shouldn’t be played before Northern Ireland games at Windsor, since Northern Ireland is only a part of the UK – right?  John at first affected to be baffled by the question; when it was put to him a second time he  got flustered and said he was talking about Twickenham, what was the sense in moving the topic to Windsor Park?

But of course the parallel was exact. If one part of the UK (England) should not appropriate God Save The Queen  as its national anthem, then another part of the UK (Northern Ireland) likewise shouldn’t appropriate God Save the Queen as its national anthem. But if John had answered the presenter’s question and responded that he didn’t think God Save The Queen  should be played at Windsor Park for Northern Ireland games, there would have been a knee-jerk reaction of “They’re taking away our culture and John Dunlop is helping them!” Rather that face up to the truth and the storm which might have ensued, John stuttered and pretended not to understand what was being asked. Of course he understood. Of course he ducked it.

I suppose none of us is constantly fearless or constantly truthful, so maybe we shouldn’t be too critical of John. But unfortunately, the more striking your reputation for honesty and forthrightness, the more obvious any lapse from those high standards.

4 Responses to John Dunlop, the Orange Order and ‘God Save The Queen’

  1. Antain February 24, 2014 at 9:09 am #

    It’s the standard Orange Order reply – like the one you got on The Nolan Show. ‘You are a bigot for calling us bigots.’ It’s hard to argue against, puts you immediately on the defensive. It’s a great way of not having a debate. Schopenhauer acknowledged its effectiveness many years ago:

    ‘For rudeness is better than any argument; it totally eclipses intellect….Truth, knowledge, understanding, intellect, wit, must beat a retreat and leave the field to this almighty insolence.’

  2. Dr Francis Teeney February 24, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

    I really like Rev John Dunlop even though he lambasted me as well two years ago on Sunday Sequence. I had just published a book on the role of the churches in the peace process – I actually interviewed John for the book. Less than 24 hours after the book launch he was on the radio lambasting the book. Several months later he wrote saying how much he enjoyed it. He was not alone as several other clerics on the programme that day said it was rubbish and one even rubbished my claims about the late Cardinal Daly – even though I interviewed him on tape and quoted him verbatim. None of them could have read the book in less than 24 hours but felt compelled to pontificate about it. But John Dunlop was the only one who came back later on to say he liked the book and it was pretty accurate after all. So all in all I like John and tend to look over the few times he has been caught in a dilemma. He is one of the few who will speak out while most others say nothing. We need more John’s and Jude’s – if only to make life a little more interesting

  3. paddykool February 24, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    i enjoyed Antain’s quip ……

    . In the end television and radio provide a very poor platform to tease out debate and ideas .Everything gets lost in the ether , especially if the chairman has not got an iron hand on the tiller or continually buts in at the wrong point and destroys a train of thought .I’m sure it felt un-fulfilling to be unable to elucidate on a point in those circumstances ..

    The good Rev. Dunlop may be an all round good -egg and an excellent conversationalist but there can be no defence of the indefensible. If we are going to get the old dictionary out and quibble about the actual meaning of the word “sectarianism”, well his argument fails right there…..

    .” Sectarian are political, religious or ideological organizations that offer services limited to a particular sect or require recipients of the services to adhere…..”

    That about covers everything you wanted to say so which part did the Rev. not “get”.
    My take on it is that the organisation , by it’s very structure and origins has to be undeniably “sectarian” as part and parcel of it’s very existence. Anyone in opposition to the point of view is not allowed in or allowed to marry into this elite clan or heaven forbid they should taint it’s “purity” with their radical or unchristian views. Fair enough?

    I don’t believe that much can be in dispute as any political party or religious grouping has to also be by it’s very nature “sectarian”. In the “We ourselves” sense. They are all private clubs in that sense.They have to abide by the civic laws though.

    That’s really not the problem. The Laurel and Hardy “Sons of the Desert “fan and social club are therefore” sectarian”. They are not for everyone…only those with an interest
    The problems arise when the “club” tries to shove it’s “belief” or whatever , down the throats of the disinterested in the world beyond their “clique”.

    That’s what is happening in Ireland .The fact that this particular ideology is more and more confronting secular rationality is no great surprise. It flies in the face of common sense, common law and a growing ,cosmopolitan , civic society..In that sense it is completely out of step with a growing modern world. It’s current behaviour and cracker barrel antics would be frowned on and mostly laughed at anywhere in the UK and the rest of the civilised world. Intellectually , it also holds no water. It will have to change or go under. If it continues to be an affront and an insult to its neighbours in word and deed it will eventually be ostracised like a gang of pre- Civil Rights slavers …..

    This nonsense will not continue.

    The group will either change, be changed or die off like a dinosaur or a Neanderthal. It will not evolve beyond it’s time-frame.It will either be bound by civic laws which will not allow it to openly create “hate” situations on the streets. Eventually it will have less and less access to blocking the roads willy- nilly without adequate insurances and self- policing. or it will be contained in a stadium situation.

    If that is not the case we could find ourselves in fifty years time floating above Orange marches in communal hover -air buses scratching our heads as this “club” of eccentrics continue to block up our thoroughfares down below….Time will not stop…

  4. Ryan February 24, 2014 at 7:51 pm #

    Out of Sheer interest Jude… Given the current political situation, maybe there is a need for a shared ‘anthem’. What would you suggest?