The Orange Order: Unacceptable in 2023 Ireland? – by Michael Lagan



Being part of a club or organisation is not a bad thing.  It enables social contact, keeps your health and mental state in check, and generally keeps people in touch with friends.  From hurling to Gaelic football to cards, rugby and hockey; everyone can play these sports or join these clubs to some extent, even if it is simply in the capacity of a supporter.  These sports and clubs permit any and all religions, faiths and traditions to join and participate in the clubs and sports associated with them.  Even the PSNI had a GAA club.

With NEI moving forward like that and progressing into a more inclusive future…how can the Orange Order be acceptable when inherently, by definition and by its own birthright, it is utterly sectarian?  The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland (note the Ireland part there) specifically states on its own website –  “The Orange Institution is a membership organisation comprised of Protestants who are committed to the protection of the principles of the Protestant Reformation and the Glorious Revolution of 1688 which enshrined civil and religious liberty for all. Our members  celebrate these principles publicly through our annual colourful parades.”

In the grand scheme of things, there is nothing wrong with Protestantism or indeed the Protestant Reformation as such, as it was simply a split from the Catholic Church, an act which occurs in almost every religion and faith on this earth.  While history is history, killings, death and everything else in between connected to the Reformation, the issue lies with how an extreme wing of Northern Irish and Scots Protestantism acted and continues to act toward its neighbours of Catholic and other faiths.

In recent years the Orange Order has tried with all its might to morph itself, at least on the outside, from a staunch, right-wing, extremist ‘religious’ organisation into a more cuddly acceptable version of the sectarian organisation it is.  This attempt to run an organisation with parallel missions, one sectarian and one acceptable, has from the outset failed miserably, owing to the fact that for generations the Orange Order trampled over Catholics and Catholicism, nationalism and republicanism to the point where Orange Order marches had to be forced through Catholic areas, riot protected on all sides by riot police.  The riots alone denote the fact that the organisation is unacceptable to anyone not in its ranks.

Mervyn Gibson, the Grand Secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland is a prime example of how an organisation which seeks to become acceptable to all in fact caters to the few.  Our Mervyn was not only a former member of the RUC but was an officer in the RUC Special Branch.  I don’t need to remind anyone of the shenanigans the Special Branch got up to in NEI other than to say they instigated one of the worst civil wars these islands have ever seen alongside the likes of Drew Harris, now Garda Commissioner who was once MI5.  The very men who ran the deadly collusion on this lovely isle of ours, who targeted and directed the killing of hundreds of innocent people, are now at the head of their respective organisations.  Cuddly, right?

When the Orange Order’s mission and main objective is to maintain the Protestant ascendancy in Ireland, one has to wonder how this organisation is still acceptable in today’s society.  It’s almost like the KKK being acceptable in predominantly ethnically black states in the United States.  The problem for the Orange Order in NEI and in Scotland isn’t that they are anti-Catholic (which isn’t acceptable) but more they are ‘anti-everything not British’ which shifts them from being a religious organisation into a political organisation with more influence than they really should have in NEI.  When bands march down the road, more often than not through Catholic communities (because of traditional routes, which says it all), many within those bands wear Orange collarettes to denote their Orangeism.  Orangeism we are told is a religious fraternity, devoted to God.  However, more often than not those same bandsmen are marching behind images and emblems of which the Kalashnikov and terrorism are as commonplace as the Bible and faith.

It is no coincidence that the LVF, the one terrorist faction which insists on its members attending religious services and reading the Bible, was born at Drumcree.  The LVF, for all its involvement in sectarian criminality and extortion, represents what can be called ‘evangelical loyalist terrorism’. It believes that it is not only fighting to defend the Union but also the Protestant faith with many within its ranks also being members of the Orange Order.  In rural areas of NEI, there is a sizeable faction of Protestants and loyalists who regard Catholics and nationalists as an ever-present danger to both their temporal and spiritual well-being. One of the most aggressive Protestant preachers is Pastor Alan Campbell, a former member of Ian Paisley’s Free Presbyterian Church, who has since set up his own religious grouping which regurgitates and spews the fantasy that the Ulster Protestants are the lost tribe of Israel.  Indeed John D. Brewer points out in his book, Anti-Catholicism in Northern Ireland: 1600-1998, “Anti-Catholic ideology is a robust virus, which replicates in times of crisis for the Ulster Protestant community.”  Brewer’s main point in this book is that anti-Catholicism has survived in Northern Ireland because it helps define territories and excuses Catholic inequality and Protestant privilege…such as in NEI.

Anti-Catholicism lies at the root of Orange thought and not Unionism; it remains a potent weapon and force both politically and spiritually.  Worst of all, its final logical end goal is eliminationist,  just as anti-Semitism was in Germany.  After all, if you believe that Catholic men, women, and children will burn in the fires of Hell if they do not convert to the true faith, what’s wrong with petrol-bombing their homes and burning them out of your streets or shooting them dead for being of a different faith?

Whilst Ireland is one matter, the Grand Secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, Jack Ramsay claimed the Orange Lodge could become a terrorist group in an independent Scotland.  Ramsay said he could not rule out members taking up arms to save the union if the SNP win power.  He went on to say – “The Orange Lodge would become a paramilitary force if you like. It obviously implies a recourse to  arms. If we were separated from the UK we’d have a group of people who would be pro the union.”  He goes on to say – “The logical development of that would obviously mean some form of confrontation.  We would go underground and anything underground surfaces.  The people who would join us then would not be those who would have joined if the Orange Lodge was legal.”

So much for being a religious organisation, eh?  No, the Orange Order while attempting to become palatable in a more modern NEI is doomed by its own history of sectarian hatred.  Once again, the old line ‘Love thy neighbour’ will come back to bite an extremist Unionist group in the same way it has come back to bite political Unionism.  Had Unionism and likewise Orangeism reached out to any and all other sections of society in a bid to connect and cut back on the sectarianism and supremacy, their attempt at transformation might have been accepted;  but with the likes of Drumcree, Ardoyne and other contentious parades being sought by the Orange Order after years of peace…what now for the Orange?  At this point, they mean to cause more trouble over the summer marching season.  That alone is unacceptable in today’s society.

2 Responses to The Orange Order: Unacceptable in 2023 Ireland? – by Michael Lagan

  1. Another Jude July 2, 2023 at 6:03 am #

    Excellent analysis.