I’ve just read a Belfast Telegraph piece by Ed Curran in which he laments the fact that, forty years on from when he was a young journalist, we’re heading into another summer of marching chaos. There’s talk of the need for compromise, of the hardliners in Ardoyne who don’t want any parade at any time, of the Twaddell camp that’s costing the tax-payer absurdly large sums of money as they insist on their right to ‘march home’. Nowhere in the BT piece do I find what is the obvious solution.
Which is? End marching. All of it. Now. “What? But that’s the culture of the Orange Order and other loyal orders! You can’t just close that down!” Well , let’s think of the consequences of not closing it down. There’ll be huge expense of PSNI time and personnel. There’s a good chance there’ll be public disorder. Maybe injuries, maybe even, God forbid, death. Public feeling will be whipped up to boiling-over point, community relations lacerated.
Nobody would pretend that any of these consequences are good. Yet they occur, as Ed Curran points out, every year, again and again and again. If our society keeps pressing the same button annually and giving itself the same electric shock, the solution to the problem should be obvious: stop pressing the button.
That’s not to say that the average Orangeman should be told to go home and burn his sash and regalia, that the day’s outing on the Twelfth is over. Summers in this part of Ireland can be long and dreary, and the opportunity to meet with one’s friends and have a celebration of those events that mean something, plus maybe a bottle or two of stout, a few sandwiches, an ice cream cone – that’s not really too much to ask. But all of these could be enjoyed AT the field. When I go to a concert or a play or film to enjoy myself, I don’t have the streets before me cleared and march in pomp to the point of celebration. Especially if I know that my progress will inflame those inconvenienced by my procession.
So let’s stop trying to do the splits and going on about on the one hand, on the other hand. Year after year, marching during the summer sends a damaging charge through this society. So let’s just stop doing it, since it’s obviously harmful. Let those participating in Orange Order events proceed from A to B, from their home to the field or place of celebration, in the normal way – by foot, by car, by bus, by bicycle. Do whatever you feel like or you think needs doing while you’re there. Then get back on the bus/bike/car and go home. Peacefully.
It’d never work? Maybe that’s because it’s never been tried. Try it for three successive years, and see if it doesn’t do something good for this society. I’m confident that skipping the restless legs thing would be a gain for everyone, but if I’m wrong I’ll be the first to admit it. All I’m saying is, try it. We’ve tinkered and tweaked and tried everything else. Isn’t it about time we tried the obvious?