Orange Order thinking: has it paralysed the rest of us?

Well, that’s it for another year. The marching. Except, of course, for all the other marches there will be between now and Christmas.

If you’re like me, you’ll have the melancholy privilege of remembering some of the resolutions read aloud by bowler-hatted men at Twelfth gatherings before the Troubles. You know, when there were no troubles, let alone Troubles, and where Catholic neighbours came out to applaud the music and sentiments of their Protestant neighbours.

What sort of things did the various Orange worthies address the other bowler hats about? If I wasn’t so lazy I’d probably hack my way through the archives. But I’m willing to bet that in, say, 1958, or 1962, there were resolutions warning the faithful about the tentacles of the Church of Rome, and the threat of the state in the south to the integrity of Northern Ireland within the UK. I could be wrong, but I think that would have been standard fare at many Orange gatherings.

And yesterday? Well at most if not all Orange gatherings, they got this spine-stiffene

“We reaffirm our opposition to the introduction of any form of legislation for the Irish language. Such a move would have far reaching detrimental consequences for our British identity and would rightly be acknowledged as a landmark victory for republicanism in their ongoing cultural war against our community

At Newcastle Co Down the faithful were rewarded with this from Rev Mervyn Gibson:

“Nationalists and republicans seek to use border polls and Brexit to worry us into a united Ireland. Well, they couldn’t murder us, bomb us, intimidate us into a united Ireland – they are certainly not going to bribe us, cajole us or frighten us into a united Ireland.”

At Castlederg, Co Tyrone, the grand master Edward Stevenson added some starch to the resolve of the brethren.

 “Republicans are daily attempting to rewrite history to make it look as if their campaign of murder was somehow justified. We will never allow the perpetrators of violence to become the victims, and that would be an insult to those who lost their lives and to their families.”

At Newtownards, the audience were told “We declare today this is our culture. It is not intended to offend anyone. It is part of who we are. Get over it.”

Now – what part of any of those statements carries a hint of reconciliation? What part of them points the way to a better, less toxic future? What part of it offers anything remotely approaching new thinking?

That’s why I have always maintained that the Orange Order repeatedly seeks to drive a wedge between neighbours and communities that might begin or continue the long task of finding a better future for everyone. The OO is an anti-Catholic organization – one Orange speaker declared that
“In view of the decline in Biblical Christianity in the Republic and in Northern Ireland, what this island needs is not a visit from the Pope but a visit of God’s Holy Spirit.”

Geddit? No Pope here.

Has anybody totted up the cost of yesterday  to the public purse? Has anyone totted up the number of speeches that urge us to think about the past, brood over the evil of other in the past, and resolve to do everything possible to restore the characteristics of the past?

Next year, maybe some imaginative lodge will arrange to have it march backwards. Start at the field and march in reverse to the convening point. That’d be a vivid illustration of the Orange Order’s contribution to reconciliation and a shared future. But reconciliation and shared future are not words that any God-fearing Orangeman uses.

So well done, lads. A cacophony of sour monotone tunes, with sentiments harking back to a time that never was. Is it possible people who are stuck in a time-warp  will ever move forward?   If not, can the rest of us make progress, with this Orange ball and chain still clamped on our society?

Leo Varadkar will have to make a lot of trips to the House of Orange before yesterday’s heads-on-backwards demonstration grows into a genuine  culture.


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