Tweets and thoughts

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It’s funny the ways  people react to the smallest things. Yesterday I took the train down to Dublin and tweeted about passing the wet flat glow of Malahide and the pleasure I felt in just looking at it. Any number of people responded positively to those few words. Later yesterday, I picked up on a report in which the Orange Order expressed its strong disapproval of the Parades Commission for allowing a republican march, and condemned the notion of commemoration “or even celebration” of events involving physical violence. My tweet quoted the Order’s comments and asked what the Boyne and similar commemorations were about. Among many reactions, two stick in my mind. One correspondent pointed out that Orangeism was an irony-free zone so I could forget it. The other told me I was engaged in “whataboutery” and should be more positive than that.

Regarding the first, I suppose a case could be made that the Orange Order is irony-proof. In the twenty-first century, to see men dressed in bowler hats, carrying ornamental swords and banners, you’d have to conclude they are unaware how incongruous such a sight is. Even more ironic is the fact that they argue they are parading in the name of religious freedom. It’d  be fair to say that about half  the population in this state are tempted to burst into laughter at that claim.

What about whataboutery, then? The late, respected David Dunseith, when presenting Talkback  on BBC Radio Ulster/Raidio Uladh  used to cite ‘whataboutery’ as an indicator of our inability to address issues. Certainly there was truth in that. But if a drunken man urges on you the virtues of sobriety, it’s not unfair to point out that he should practice what he preaches, If a Tory minister is caught with his trousers down (as often happens, and literally), it seems reasonable to point out that the minister is a leading figure in a party that preaches family values. At the heart of the criticism is a rejection of what must be either willful blindness or hypocrisy. How can an organisation that commemorates/celebrates a range of bloody battles condemn a parade because it believes it commemorates/celebrates physical violence? The most convinced pacifist would see at least the irony in such a stance and maybe the hypocrisy as well.

Many Orangemen claim that the Twelfth of July (and lots of other dates) are simply a family day out, an occasion for getting together with neighbours and old friends,  eating a sandwich or ice-cream, maybe having a beer or two. I have a lot of sympathy with the view. It’s even arguable that that is what motivates most Orangemen to parade/march on the thousands of occasions they do. Unfortunately, this peaceful-day-out attitude ignores how the Orange Order was created (out of a sectarian clash in which at least thirteen Catholics were killed), its history (time and again, as Andy Boyd’s book Holy War in Belfast  indicates, violence and Orange Order parades marched hand in hand) and its rules (no Catholic members allowed, no member allowed to be married to a Catholic, no member to attend a Catholic religious ceremony. And to defend these rules on the grounds that the Order is a Protestant religious organisation and so cannot have Catholics is embarrassing in its weakness). All that seems far away from the peaceful father or grandfather seated on a sunlit hill with his family enjoying refreshments. But a moment’s thought should make the family on the hillside  feel a degree of shame that their organisation has such a history and such rules. And to the extent that non-Orangemen shrug their ach-sure shoulders and ignore the grubby overarching features of the organisation, they share in that shame.

13 Responses to Tweets and thoughts

  1. ben madigan February 23, 2014 at 12:53 pm # completely agrees with the ideas and sentiments expressed here Many of its articles have explored the same themes – the leopard doesn’t change its spots hallmarks of Orange Loyalism, the orange order is a pseudo military organisation , NI how much do your obsessions cost , do they knight themselves in a self.knighting ceremony?
    There is also a stop press post – the Orange Order voluntarily disbands – which would probably be the best possible outcome for everybody in Northern ireland.
    The proposal is not unthinkable pie in the sky. The Dublin headquarters of the grand orange Lodge of ireland (how they do give themselves high-falutin’ names) was thinking about this very step in the 19th century when the order and its marches were banned for several years. The initiative was then blocked by Northern orangemen, from Portadown if I am not mistaken. Would it be blocked by the DUP, PUP and UVF today?

  2. paddykool February 23, 2014 at 2:25 pm #

    Jude :
    ” that the Orange Order is irony-proof. In the twenty-first century, to see men dressed in bowler hats”……

    I always thought it was fortunate that my life-education took me on a bread-crumb trail from the childhood anarchy of Leo Baxendale’s “Bash Street Kids” in the “Beano” comic in a connected via “Just William” books to EC comics’ absurdist lampoonery in the ‘”Mad” comic magazine , right through Spike Milligan’s madcap “Oirish” “Puckoon” to rest after many side-trails in the lap of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” as it debuted televisually in Autumn 1969.

    You might say some of us were already well- primed for satire.!

    So how were John Cleese, Michael Palin and the other assorted Pythonites received in Northern Ireland in those early years of mayhem here. Both absurdities happening coincidentally in the same time-frame. The establishment beating Civil Rights marchers off the streets while the Pythons did their 2fish- slapping Dance” . The bowler-hatted John Cleese and his Ministry of Funny Walks played right into the bizarre surrealism that was our lives here.

    We loved it , of course. These Oxbridge educated pranksters were a right burr under the saddle of the British Establishment, but they were also as British as Big Ben .Somehow, some of us {from whatever political background} got and shared, the same joke.

    I always imagine a hall full of white-gloved , bowler-hatted old buffers being waited on by ladies bearing trays of neatly cut sandwiches , scratching their collective heads in total bemusement and incredulity at a private -screening of “The Life of Brian”,
    Satire is all in the education .You either get it or you don’t {“education” of a particular sort, that is!} In northern Ireland it usually falls on stony ground. The humour is of an even more “slapstick” kind…

  3. maryjo February 23, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

    The Republic of Ireland faces a similar problem right now with the 1916 centenary looming – how to dissociate that long ago act of violence from more recent republican ‘outrages’. How to distinguish between glorious history and modern terrorism? Commemorations will require some wary choroegraphy.

  4. neill February 23, 2014 at 5:22 pm #

    Its great how you cast your eye over the Unionist commnity and very kindly point out our sins and failings.

    Perhaps one day you will do the same over your own community afterall its difficult for anybody to treat your comments as little more than spiteful rants until you are critical of your own community as you are of mine.

    Indeed it would be interesting if you did I certainly would read it!

    • Jude Collins February 23, 2014 at 6:10 pm #

      Thanks for your thoughts, Neill. You’ll pardon me if I tell you I think you’re talking tosh. Why should the fact that I’m not criticising nationalists ( you’d need to tell me what for, of course) mean that what I’m engaged in is a ‘spiteful rant’? Name-calling is a rather weak argument, don’t you think?

  5. RJC February 23, 2014 at 6:01 pm #

    Neill, I’m not sure there’s anything stopping you from casting your eye over the Nationalist community and pointing out its sins and failings. Is there a Nationalist equivalent to the Orange Order?

    • paddykool February 23, 2014 at 7:19 pm #

      RJC :
      There’s always the ancient Order of Hibernians. i suppose you could take the odd dig at them if the notion takes you. I’m not sure if their profile is high enough or rabid enough though. i think they still have the odd march. Check them out.

      I think though, that what Jude’s getting at [and Neill could take heed at this too, I suppose] is that there is another critical group beyond the “two tribes” of “ours and them” which sees the many motes in all the many deadened eyes on both sides. The thing is that no other group goes out of it’s way ,,more profoundly ,to make a bloody fool of itself on so many individual occasions.

      The “LAD” boys would cattily call it “the group that just keeps on giving”. They are trying to harvest absurdity anywhere they can find it. They got Gerry Kelly with the” land rover incident “, for example They’d probably love to nail as many of our po-faced television buffoons as is humanely possible…….on both “sides” That’s not necessarily done out of spite although it sometimes may be just laugh -out- loud incredulity at the madness of it all.
      We need lots more of that kind of critical humour in Northern Ireland. We need our own version of “Private Eye” or “Mad” magazine just to remind ourselves that this “Monty Python ” landscape we inhabit is not” normal” and what is confronting us is some really topsy-turvy behaviour without inherent logic.

      i would say that if Jude should see a metaphorical arse, he has every right to kick it , no matter what side it is digging with.This is a land , after all where i have literally beenasked …”Are you A Catholic atheist or a Protestant atheist….? …Go figure…..

  6. neill February 23, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

    Name-calling is a rather weak argument, don’t you think?

    Yet you are so good at it Jude.

  7. giordanobruno February 23, 2014 at 7:04 pm #

    The Orange Order voluntarily disbanding as ben madigan suggests, is about as likely as paddykool ever getting his marching stadium built.
    Perhaps more likely is a split in the Order between the Belfast lodges and the rest. As you say those elderly farmers sitting on a hilltop ought to be ashamed of the shenanigans of their city cousins. I suspect many of them are
    A split, and it happened before with the Independent OO, might lead to an isolating of the Belfast Lodges and encourage the PSNI and our politicians to stand up to them.
    I don’t really agree that the rule about no Catholics is wrong in itself. Any organisation can promote the reformed faith (or any other faith) if they wish. How could they invite those to join who fundamentally disagree with that faith? I do think they need to revise their rules about attending services in Catholic churches or indeed marriage to Catholics.
    Of course as a heathen myself it all seems like nonsense to me, but people are free to believe nonsense if they wish. Transubstantiation anyone?

    • paddykool February 23, 2014 at 7:31 pm #

      gio : Yeah, I have a big problem with “miracles”, personally , but i do believe the human brain is quite capable of believing any old bollocks in the end….

  8. Noel McDonald February 23, 2014 at 8:40 pm #

    I’ve been a reader of Collins’ blog (Jude, you understand that I’d be much to forward to consider ourselves on a first name basis just yet) for sometime, albeit spending my time in the shadows, considering his and fellow commentators points of view. I often marvel at the particular anomaly that is Neill. Perhaps wrongly, I assume the content of his retort before I’ve had a chance to read past his moniker; I’m rarely surprised, however. His posts usually display the quintessence of “whataboutery” and exhibit a failure to consider the arguments presented, largely determined to “count coup” on the “other side”.

    Neill, would you ever wise up?

  9. ANOTHER JUDE February 23, 2014 at 9:27 pm #

    First of all may I say I have been to Malahide and it is a lovely, tranquil place, all the wee boats sitting in the harbour. I went there just a few weeks before 911 and the contrast between that idyllic scene and the carnage and fear witnessed in New York always resonates with me. Maybe it was because of the Aer Lingus planes I watched leaving Shannon airport bound for America? Anyway, I digress. The Orange Order is unfortunately part of the problem, any organisation that regards fellow humans as second class has to be. The idea of celebrating a brutal and bloody battle that occurred at the end of the seventeenth century is anathema to any right thinking person. It would be the equivalent of the southern states winning the American civil war (God forbid) and marching every year to remind the African American population they were still in slavery. Supremacism is wrong, especially when it is the self delusional nonsense witnessed in this part of the north.

    • NorthMunsterman February 25, 2014 at 7:28 am #

      1. “The idea of celebrating a brutal and bloody battle that occurred at the end of the seventeenth century is anathema to any right thinking person.”

      2. “It would be the equivalent of the southern states winning the American civil war (God forbid) and marching every year to remind the African American population they were still in slavery. ”

      1. Correct.
      2. Incorrect analogy in my view.
      The Orange Order are celebrating failure – they won the battle but lost the war and they lost 5/6 of Ireland.
      The main objective of the English/British conquest of Ireland was the annexation of all of Ireland – not 1/6…..and the 1/6 bit is being irreversibly dismantled of the trappings of the Orange statelet as democracy is implemented as part of the GFA process in the northern part of the country.