Towards a tolerant, plural society…

As St Patrick’s Day approaches, there is a flurry of debate on the subject of Irishness. As Chris has noted, the commemoration of 1916 has been the subject of some vigourous and largely divisive debate. Ruth Dudley Edwards attempts to pour some oil on troubled waters. Whilst noting the importance of the past, she notes the necessity of preparing for a fast arriving future.

So as we commemorate the 1916 Rising and all who died in it – combatants and civilians – let us make it also a commemoration of all that is good in the varied traditions on this island: Celtic, Viking, Norman, Anglo-Irish, Ulster-Scots, British, Irish, nationalist, unionist, green, orange, Catholic, Protestant, Dissenter and unbeliever – now being enhanced by our immigrants from Europe and far beyond. Pluralism began with the acceptance of civil and religious liberty for everyone and we are still working at that. The Orange Order has been an example to us all in its racial inclusiveness. This is a journey on which all of us on this island are embarked. I hope we can quicken our pace.


  • Oilbhéar Chromaill

    How’s this for an example of tolerance and inclusiveness. Lá reports today that Michael McDowell and Martin McGuinness had dinner together on Saturday night in London at the Marriott Hotel in Grosvenor Square.
    They sat opposite each other at the top table, hosted by Ken Livingstone, at his Mayor’s Dinner.
    Reports from the scene that it was a riot – of congeniality and good humour.
    Perhaps Martin regaled Michael with his fishing tales – the ones that got away – or some of his poetry.

  • Mick Fealty

    B’aontach an rud!

  • Nathan

    What on earth is this “we” business – who exactly is Ms Dudley Edwards claiming to be speaking on behalf of?

    Apart from that, she does make a valid point about the need to move away from a one-dimensional view of Irish history.

    I believe, however, that this journey she talks about has to some extent been embarked upon.

    Take Edward Carson for instance – according to Ms Edwards, Carson has been edited out of the national narrative. Indeed, only the OO are keeping up appearances, in commemorating his memory.

    Ms Edwards is incorrect of course. I can say hand on heart that all has been done to preserve his memory.

    Doesn’t she find it ironic, for instance, that the birthplace of the most predominent Irish Unionist figure that these islands have ever witnessed, was recently saved from the bulldozers, while buildings relating to famous Republicans such as Wolfe Tone, Robert Emmet and others have been destroyed.

    So much for the Irish State’s unwillingness to embrace inclusiveness.

  • lib2016

    Alright, I’ll bite. How many Norn Ireland Orangemen come from an ethnic minority? Or if that’s too difficult a question, how many Orangemen from the Village are black?

    I’ll be delighted if my prejudices are proven wrong but somehow I doubt that they will be.

  • Markkus

    > how many Orangemen from the Village are black?

    I think the typical Belfast answer to that question would be “They all are” 😉

    However much I might agree with the sentiment, the appearance of “…the Orange Order suffers from chiefs with the collective imagination of a myopic wood louse and the brains of a flu-stricken hen” in this piece flies somewhat in the face of an article entitled “The oil of respect to calm the waters of the Troubles”.

  • Nathan

    How come part of my post was edited again, by the usual suspect?

    I asked a perfectly legitimate question:

    “What on earth do convent girls know about the southern protestant experience?”

    For crying out loud, I wasn’t motivated by maliciousness when I asked the question – Ruth Dudley Edwards spent her education years within a convent, so its only right that we should be questioning her knowledge about the southern protestant experience.

  • Mick Fealty

    Man, ball, (wo)man! Motive is irrelevant, it’s a rhetorical question aimed at the writer rather than her argument.

  • woofy mcdog

    “The Orange Order has been an example to us all in its racial inclusiveness”

    but a catholic unionist Irishman imbued with a sense of appreciation for the glorious revolution and all the liberties that follwed from it cant join…….

    excuse my sarcasm but..

    ayeeeee right Ruth…….

  • missfitz

    The first line of the piece confuses me. “Stick it up his jacksie”? Now, I havent heard that phrase since I lived in Dublin and would have thought a Belfast man would have used the phrase “Tell Bertie to stick it up his arse”.

    Unless it was a Belfast man from the leafy suburbs? Any ideas on using the phrase jacksie in Belfast?

  • Mick Fealty


    “catholic unionist Irishman imbued with a sense of appreciation for the glorious revolution and all the liberties that followed from it can’t join…”

    As I understand it, ‘Catholic’ is the operative problem, not the rest. It’s the only form of exclusiveness the Order indulges in. And they are not alone. What catechist would allow for someone to enter the the Catholic Church and retain a publicly stated belief that the Pope was the Anti Christ?

    Sincere Catholics most decidedly do not share the same core beliefs as Orangemen and women – though it is more than likely that they share many of the same core values. Should that lead to mutual intolerance? Dudley Edwards argues it doesn’t have to – even though she pins some of the problem on poor leadership.

    As aside, I overheard one Donegal bandsman say in Derry last year that he was proud of his Protestant tradition but that people should not expect him to go as far even as supporting Rangers. Indeed, many Orangemen in the Republic are unambiguous about their political loyalities to the southern state.

    Let me throw in a couple of thoughts so we don’t get too hung up on the detail of who or what is intolerant but concentrate on the concept and how it’s put into practice.

    First, this longer definition of tolerance:

    1. The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others.
    a. Leeway for variation from a standard.
    b. The permissible deviation from a specified value of a structural dimension, often expressed as a percent.
    3. The capacity to endure hardship or pain.
    4. Medicine
    a. Physiological resistance to a poison.
    b. The capacity to absorb a drug continuously or in large doses without adverse effect; diminution in the response to a drug after prolonged use.
    a. Acceptance of a tissue graft or transplant without immunological rejection.
    b. Unresponsiveness to an antigen that normally produces an immunological reaction.
    6. The ability of an organism to resist or survive infection by a parasitic or pathogenic organism.

    It might also be said that some forms of intolerance protect the common good. Libel laws are one example, but the whole criminal code is the most obvious form of institutional intolerance. These are focused directly on curbing individual behaviours not at regulating values or beliefs.

    Few would argue that Northern Ireland is a tolerant society. It’s still the case that if you walk down the wrong side of the wrong street you can meet with a particularly nasty expression of local intolerance, sometimes regardless of your actual religion.

    Given the divided circumstances to what degree is this notion of tolerance practical or even useful?

  • Further to Mick’s post, I think that the idea of tolerance has limited use, particularly in relation to Northern Ireland. You can say that you ‘tolerate’ the presence of an identified group in your society, but you can still consider them the oppressor, the enemy within or second class citizens.

    You can say, I’m prepared to tolerate them (whoever ‘they’ may be), but that doesn’t mean you accept them, are prepared to engage with them, integrate with them, or recognise any common interest.

  • Blind Tiresias

    Ah, that time of year when the most Gaelic of Gaels demonstrate what it means to be Gaelic, when Gaelicists disucss Gaelicism and the Gaeltachtaí, and when would-Gaels and mere Gaels attempt to fit in with the fíor-Ghael …. By all accounts it is to be another year of liver-crippling alcoholism. Blood and vomit will adorn the streets of the capital and bleary-eyed teens will writhe among the beer cans on Stephen’s Green. Surely the time is more than ripe to have a “Love the Republic” march in which we can reclaim our capital. After the march, we can invite our new-found Orange Order friends back to our cabins and hovels for some Horlicks and Bovril and watch the Late Late Show.