Angry prod stereotype now fading from view…

Interesting piece from Newton Emerson yesterday which argues the demonisation of the Orange Order by Sinn Fein has actually strengthened Unionism by marginalising the influence of the Orange in Unionist politics. There were of course other longer term factors in that marginalisation, not least the massive out migration from loyalist areas of Belfast to the dormitory towns of Down and Antrim. And there is the question of the loss of local electoral capacity; which to be fair had been on the wane over most of the period of the Peace Process period. Whatever, the Ulster Prod is chillin’

The most significant event in the demise of the angry prod has been the neutering of the Orange Order. No summary of that organisation’s role in our history is necessary. However, it is necessary to remember that its role is now over, as this development is barely acknowledged.

The precise moment of the Orange Order’s demise was the farcical September 2005 press conference after the Whiterock riots. A unionist population which had begun to slink away from the Orange Order in disgust over the Drumcree protests finally stood up and openly scorned the brethren off the stage. They will not be back, except as another collection of bleating “cultural” grant-seekers.

Exposing the Orange Order was a republican strategy which eventually succeeded too well for republican purposes, by enabling unionism to rid itself of its most self-destructive institution. It has taken some time for the scale of the change to become apparent, although peaceful summers have certainly helped.

And he concludes:

…the truth is that the UUP was the inextricably Orange-linked party, while the DUP barely had to reform itself in this regard at all. That fog is now lifting, leaving angry prods without a party, an outlet, any guarantee of like-minded company or really very much to be angry about. So they are sullenly fading away. It was said of the Good Friday Agreement that unionists were too stupid to know they had won and republicans were too clever to admit they had lost. A decade on, this may finally be starting to sink in.

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  • kensei

    Read this earlier. I’ll assume for now he’s right and both that there are no angry Unionists kicking about and that the limits of anger have been properly tested.

    So, let me get this straight: Nationalism effectively forces the end of the Orange Order as a political force, and this is a actually a desparate defeat for Nationalism because we only ever want those nasty Prods to continually show themselves up. That’s our whole plan, and what the OO actually does never annoyed us in the slightest. Dear God, someone send Newt back to writing funny pages.

    I’d argue pushing the OO for reform isn’t quite through yet, but it is certainly heading that way. Policies and ideas can have natural lifespans. Even with the current crisis, the generally pro-market consensus will remain albert suitably adapted to account for lessons learned. That was the great success of the Tories in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. Their subsequent electoral problems where the result of their inability to adapt to the changes they created and new problems, not that their ideas was successful or adopted elsewhere. The triumph of market ideals is one of the lasting successes of that government, not some kind of failure. Similarly, removing the malign influence of the OO on Northern politics is a long run advantage to Nationalism; it opens doors and removes threats. Whether it takes advantage of the opportunity is a differnet matter.

    Perhaps Nationalism will fall into the same trap as the Tories did, unable to cope. But it does not have to. And it certainly does not provide support for the assertion that

    It was said of the Good Friday Agreement that unionists were too stupid to know they had won and republicans were too clever to admit they had lost. A decade on, this may finally be starting to sink in

  • Mick Fealty

    The point he makes towards the end though ken is that the Orange is no longer tied to the political destinies of either of the major Unionist political parties in the way it was before.

  • ulsterfan

    Mick
    That is a very valid point. Catholics could not have voted for UU party when there was a connection between the two.
    That connection is now broken and with the passage of time Catholics who support the Union may be comfortable to vote for UU.
    They will never be able to vote DUP because of the sectarian nature of that party and close association to the Free Ps

  • Belfast Gonzo

    While Mick has concentrated on how the demise of the OO has led to a more chilled out unionism (and as had a copy of yesterday’s Irish News beside the laptop ready to blog same article!), it’s worth considering the other reason Newt puts forward – that unionism has grown up, insofar as the DUP now recognises that to destabilise the Executive is to destroy everything it worked for to become top dog.

    Wed that to the meedja and Joe Public finally seeing through the manufactured crises that crop up, and deal with them by (quite rightly) ignoring them or not blowing them out of all proportion, and it starts to look like “the next time Sinn Fein throws its toys out of the pram the DUP has space to let the baby have its bottle”.

    Adams seems to have been experimenting in 2008, to see how far he can push the DUP before it snaps. But it didn’t, and SF got next to nothing in terms of policing and justice. Most commentators seemed to see through Adams’ cynicism, as he was trying to set the DUP for blame if things collapsed. But they were equally unwilling to savage SF to death for causing the stand-off. That attitude indicates how the public and commentariat have an expectation that politicians get on with normal politics, rather than taking things to the brink all the time. We are bored with crisis. Seen it all before.

    Some of us may in fact now be suffering from ‘Myth: Adams’ Destabilisation – But All Still Trundling Along Rightly Dear’ syndrome (better known by its acronym, Mad Bastard syndrome).

    Wonder if Adams will give up his hobby in 2009, because there’s no point in standing at the edge of a political precipice if no-one is paying any attention. I for one have never been as bored by such a non-crisis as I was last year.

  • Dewi

    The direct influence of the Orange order has certainly declined but the stonewall attitude toward adaptation to a changing society is still the primary Unionist political mindset IMHO. The spin on here over the UUP-Tory links had very little substance especially the wil claims of non sectarian appeal.

  • eranu

    why do i often see irishnews articles linked on newshound written by prods that are basically sectarian and tribal in nature? it usually strikes me as a strange subject for the writer to pick to write about. like they’ve been asked to write that type of article when they would sooner write about something else.
    could you imagine an article in the belfast telegraph about them ‘whingey catholics’ or something like that. it would be totally out of place.
    am i being cynical or do the irishnews bosses ask a prod to write an article about ‘them prods’ to cater for the more sectarian minded nationalist readers? so they can lap it up and get themselves worked up to the point where they come out with a ‘prods are nazis’ corker?
    its 2009, why are we still reading about ‘them prods’ in one of our main local papers?

  • DC

    Interesting but Jon Powell in his book wrote that after the Quinn boys death around 98 time and the massive diplomatic pushes of the decade long peace process that the orange card was played out.

    That is, in his view, orange organisation is not at a political level capable of being played anymore as it has lost any effectiveness it had, or the necessity to mobilise in a given way now that the process has processed pragmatic political realities like BG states above.

  • kensei

    Mick

    I think you’ll find the point he makes at the end is:

    It was said of the Good Friday Agreement that unionists were too stupid to know they had won and republicans were too clever to admit they had lost. A decade on, this may finally be starting to sink in.

    What I quoted like.

    Perhaps also I did not make myself clear enough: the OO being tied to no political party is a good thing for nationalism in the long run. If hypothetically, you wanted to convince an OO member to embrace a United Ireland, then it would be jolly helpful if he wasn’t almost automatically a member of a Unionist party. Pipe dream you may say, but the terms in which Nationalism must begin to think. But even in less idealistic terms, it is helpful to Nationalism if Unionism isn’t ruled by a giant self reinforcing groupthink, as it is helpful that the pronouncements of the OO will not automatically translate into policy of one or more of the Unionist parties. What we have is the difference between a whiter show law firm barring the “wrong people” or an open application based on merit. The latter does not guarantee success, it merely gives opportunity. But it is still a much improved state of affairs.

    In any case, let’s not take his assumptions for granted either; realistically the OO will likely have some considerable influence within Unionism; “angry Prods” might well find a voice in the TUV, the DUP still contains a lot of uneasy people and Unionism might still find something that riles it spectacularly. The bite is likely well reduced, for now at least, but I wouldn’t right him off just yet.

  • jimmy

    the point he makes mick, as in the vast majority of his liberal unionist posts is that the shinners failed, and lost any momentum the nationalist community had built up… newton is so sickingly sectarian even the grand wizards of the O.O are ashamed admit to knowing him.

  • kensei

    BG

    Wonder if Adams will give up his hobby in 2009, because there’s no point in standing at the edge of a political precipice if no-one is paying any attention. I for one have never been as bored by such a non-crisis as I was last year.

    And yet if he jumps SF off the edge we’ll be in pretty unknown territory and in a moderately exciting crisis. Perhaps you should simply be happier if nothing happens that rises beyond boredom, particularly given the “interest” of the last year, especially with various economic crisis.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “[i]Catholics could not have voted for UU party when there was a connection between the two.
    That connection is now broken and with the passage of time Catholics who support the Union may be comfortable to vote for UU.
    They will never be able to vote DUP because of the sectarian nature of that party and close association to the Free Ps”[/i]

    Not quite true ulsterfan. Many Catholics voted for Ian Paisley senior in and around the Ballycastle borough.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The precise moment of the Orange Order’s demise was the farcical September 2005 press conference after the Whiterock riots. A unionist population which had begun to slink away from the Orange Order in disgust over the Drumcree protests finally stood up and openly scorned the brethren off the stage.

    I don’t remember this happening. I do remember the DUP leader (the leader of Unionism) saying that the rerouting of the march would set off a powderkeg that would never be contained again, and unionist politicians remaining suspiciously silent when police and army lines were attacked. And I also remember, in turn, Unionism turning out to vote for him in droves in the assembly election subsequently.

    It is true that the OO has become less influential. I think this is more because people don’t think they need it anymore, rather than being anything to do with unionism’s abhorrence at what they stand for.

    ulsterfan:

    That is a very valid point. Catholics could not have voted for UU party when there was a connection between the two.
    That connection is now broken and with the passage of time Catholics who support the Union may be comfortable to vote for UU.

    The reason why Catholics (and others) are unlikely to vote for the UU is because they’re a bunch of bigoted bastards. The Orange Order’s changing role in the party hasn’t changed that, and the Tory thing hasn’t changed it either.

    kensei,

    I don’t think SF have thought much about what their strategy is beyond pulling all the stops out to keep Stormont alive. Without their victim complex, they’re nothing, and by dropping it’s objection to powersharing, the DUP have exposed that truth.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “[i]I don’t think SF have thought much about what their strategy is beyond pulling all the stops out to keep Stormont alive. Without their victim complex, they’re nothing, and by dropping it’s objection to powersharing, the DUP have exposed that truth.”[/i]

    I couldn’t agree more Comrade Stalin, and the only reason IRA/Sinn Fein are keeping Stormont alive is to hopefully transform the party from an opposition party into a progressive one. That’s a tough ask, and I’m sure the Irish Government will pay close attention to this transformation.

  • cut the bull

    It is’nt beyond the realms of possibility in a future United Ireland to have OO members who may also be members of Sinn Féin,eirigi or some otherv party that would be clearly associated with Irish republicanism.
    The OO as an organistion is no longer shackled to one political party.

  • kensei

    CS

    I don’t think SF have thought much about what their strategy is beyond pulling all the stops out to keep Stormont alive. Without their victim complex, they’re nothing, and by dropping it’s objection to powersharing, the DUP have exposed that truth.

    SF – and Nationalism in general – are clearly in a period of transition. But forgive me if I just plain ignore the tedious one line attacks on SF from people openly aligned with other political parties. It took some skill to get where they are, and they had a few sucesses. Most SF ministers (bar Ruane) have been quietly going about their business within the Executive. Getting Stormont running and stable was not a particularly bad short term goal, provided they cleared their red lines. It remains to been iif they did that with P&J;, but lets assume it happens this year. So they have to find a new path; facing challenges adapting to new circumstance is somethign faced by all political parties and better minds than those within SF. They have a fortunate electoral cushion to try and work it out. I hope it won’t take them anything like the time it took the Tories to start sorting themselves out, or I hope FF or someone will appear and shake things up, but the “SF is nothing without the victim card” stuff is just dull dull dull.

  • Suilven

    ctb,

    “It is’nt beyond the realms of possibility in a future United Ireland to have OO members who may also be members of Sinn Féin,eirigi or some otherv party that would be clearly associated with Irish republicanism.”

    I think you are off in the realms of nationalist wet dreams if you think you are ever going to see Orangemen paying homage to Pearse or Connolly.

    “The OO as an organistion is no longer shackled to one political party.”

    Its membership never was, at least in the era of multiple unionist parties – the UUP block vote was an utter anachronism that the party paid a heavy price for in not addressing sooner.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    My guess is that after the DUP see off Allister in the European elections, justice will be quickly devolved and we can get down to proper ‘boring’ bread-and-butter politics of the type we all want to see.

    One big question is, wherefore all those Sinn Fein signature projects that are definably republican? Education is a mess, but unlikely to lead to take us the brink. The Irish language debate has the potential to, but SF’s commitment to it is debateable. Even the debate over public symbols has quietened.

    What will actually define SF’s united Ireland republicanism? What will differentiate it from the other administrative parties in Northern Ireland?

  • PaddyReilly

    The reason why Catholics (and others) are unlikely to vote for the UU is because they’re a bunch of bigoted bastards.

    In Politics, you have to identify a particular section of the population and further their interests. A party which roots for everyone and stands for nothing in particular will never make the big league. Their only hope of a brief moment of glory would be to gain the balance of power, and that is not something that will last for ever.

    A trick that many politicians pull is to be disgustingly bigoted when out of office, and then reasonably moderate when in office, blaming this change of heart on coalition partners and other factors. However this can only work for a limited period of time.

  • What will actually define SF’s united Ireland republicanism? What will differentiate it from the other administrative parties in Northern Ireland?

    BG

    I think the answer to that very pertinent questiuon is “nothing at all”.

  • Driftwood

    Belfast Gonzo, I pretty go along with most of your viewpoints. But surlely ‘bread and butter’ politics still lies with Westminster and beyond. Stormont can only tinker with what Whitehall and/or the Bank of England decides.
    Mervyn King has more power over peoples lives here than Peter Robinson. As does Alistair Darling.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    Surely Westminster and the Dail is only interested in keeping IRA/Sinn Fein in Stormont because their primary aim is to tame the beast, learn it manners and transform it’s good-for-nothing supporters into democratic Irish citizens Dublin would be proud of?

  • Chris Donnelly

    Firstly, let’s dismiss the false premise that republicans ‘demonised’ the Orange Order. The Brethren were quite successful in this regard for a lengthy period long predating partition, never mind the recent conflict.

    An Orange Order with less power and influence to annually destabilise community relations through unwanted marches, provocative speeches and flag/ banner flying and burning benefits the entire community.

    Nationalists benefit because members of that community are the ones normally targeted during the dreaded Marching Season.

    Unionists benefit partially for the same reason as nationalists above, but also because it does little for a community to have as a representative voice such harbingers of doom.

    The further the Order moves away from effectively sponsoring hatefests and towards something resembling and widely appreciated as a Christian-based organisation capable of providing much needed facilities to rural communities in particular, the better for all.

  • Newton Emerson

    Mmmm. I’d like to point out, Chris, that you’re the only person to use the word “demonised” in reference to SF’s Orange Order strategy. I used the word “Exposing” which surely concurs with what you (claim to be) saying.

    I am also intrigued by Kensei’s lightening-fast ability to take the line “Exposing the Orange Order was a republican strategy which eventually succeeded too well for republican purposes” and come up with the defensive sarcasm of “this is a actually a desparate defeat for Nationalism because we only ever want those nasty Prods to continually show themselves up. That’s our whole plan.”

    Bit of a telling over-reaction there. I’m sure it’s not and never was the whole plan. On the other hand, when Radio 4 asked Mitchel McLaughlin in 2006 what SF had achieved for its constituents, his lightening-fast reply was: “The degree of uncertainty and the lack of confidence in the unionist community”. On a third hand, since this episode (among others) Mitchel has been rapidly promoted downwards. But all this is beside the point.

    The point is that throughout last year, numerous opportunities arose for unionism to take its ‘turn’ to crow in a similar fashion, yet unionists at all levels chose not to do so. This may not have been very sincere, as mentioned in the article. But do you dispute that it happened regardless?

  • Chris Donnelly

    Newton
    “Mmmm. I’d like to point out, Chris, that you’re the only person to use the word “demonised” in reference to SF’s Orange Order strategy.”

    Err, no I’m not. Mick Fealty used it in his intro, which is what/whom I was addressing.

    On Mitchel McLaughlin, I think you’d find the man’s health played a very considerable part in altering his public profile, though he remains a key party figure, not the least at Stormont- sorry if conspiracy theories disproved…On the quote itself, it’s not the brightest comment so I wouldn’t attribute too much to it (though I know a number of Slugger bloggers appear to think otherwise.)

    Thirdly, political unionism’s capacity to over-react had become a tiring yet faithfully over-reported feature of politics here since the mid-90s (if not before, but I was too young and otherwise engaged in pursuing more meaningful interests in those days to notice.)

    I’ve posted before on Slugger about how consistent the familiar refrain of unionist ‘fears/concerns/ anxieties’ appeared in media broadcasts and newspaper stories in the run up to the GFA and since. There are some classic examples which don’t need replaying at this juncture.

    If that has receded as you identify than that shows either a growing political maturity or an awareness that some complaints may simply provide ammo to others within their community (namely the TUV) in this post-deal scenario.

    I’d suggest a bit of both.

  • doctor

    Actually, Mick used the term “demonised” in his link to the article.

    “The point is that throughout last year, numerous opportunities arose for unionism to take its ‘turn’ to crow in a similar fashion, yet unionists at all levels chose not to do so.”

    I take it that you don’t read the News Letter or DUP press releases ( usually one and the same thing).

  • borderline

    There are two mistakes in the above contribution. They concern the word ‘lightning’ as opposed to ‘lightening’, one being quicker if somewhat heavier than the other.

    We should be honoured Newt deigns to join us on this site. He is one of the smartest brains in Ireland IMO.

    I’ve read a lot of his stuff. He manges to retain his Unionism and Britishness whilst respecting folk on the other side.

    And he is also a funny bastard.

  • kensei

    Newt

    Bit of a telling over-reaction there.

    Bit telling the boiling down of a reasonably lengthy post to a line. Oh look~! I can play this game too.

    I am simply pointing out that success is never failure, however much you want it to be so, and your central conceit is wrong. If success opened up new challenges, by all means talk on that, but the problem is not and never is with the original success.

    I’m sure it’s not and never was the whole plan. On the other hand, when Radio 4 asked Mitchel McLaughlin in 2006 what SF had achieved for its constituents, his lightening-fast reply was: “The degree of uncertainty and the lack of confidence in the unionist community”. On a third hand, since this episode (among others) Mitchel has been rapidly promoted downwards. But all this is beside the point.

    So to sum – you agree? Excellent.

    The point is that throughout last year, numerous opportunities arose for unionism to take its ‘turn’ to crow in a similar fashion, yet unionists at all levels chose not to do so. This may not have been very sincere, as mentioned in the article. But do you dispute that it happened regardless?

    I assume you missed a DUP member crowing about how much money it moved from Irish to Ulster Scots. Or maybe Gregory having a pop at the GAA. Or Robinson having a pop at Adams. Excetera. The precarious nature of the institutions and only weak opposition for the right (though Allister did seem to drive DUP policy at points) meant that Unionism didn’t get into a huge state. But lets not kid ourselves here that Unionism didn’t have a few outbursts, or was particularly gracious.

    And by the by, set against that you are using 1 – yes 1 – quote from a single SF member several years ago. Hardly overwhelming, is it?

  • Newton Emerson

    It’s not a scientific survey, more a general perception (qualified as such in the piece) that prods seem harder to wind up than they used to be.
    I did wonder if this observation might itself wind some people up, but as noted it is dubious to judge the public mood from a few angry postings on the internet.

  • Driftwood

    In an increasingly secular society, the Orange order, and indeed the churches have lost much influence in the last 20 odd years, if not longer.
    Economics plays a much greater influence in peoples lives than religious affiliation. Politics has moved slower to match this trend, but it will. The vast majority of Unionists and Nationalists are comfortably numb with the present situation, and I suspect at ease with the constitutional issue on a long slow back burner.
    The biggest problem for all political parties in the next decade will be widespread apathy. The OO is dying off, and very few people give a toss.

  • slug

    I think Newt has put his finger on something.

    My own sense is that people in the unionist community are feeling more relaxed and less insecure these days. People are more positive about Nortern Ireland as a place. People are less bitter. Something is happening.

    Where there *is* more anger is against the incompetence of politicians up at Stormont regarding their failure to meet and to agree on the bread and butter issues.

    I do think there is a change going on in NI society, one that makes NI a less tense place. There are still peace walls for sure, but elsewhere the pressure is being gradually let off.

  • Jimmy Sands

    I suspect the main factor is the narrative which the DUP has chosen to adopt, which is that the vicious threat that provisionalism once posed has been neutralised under their wise and farseeing stewardship. Anything that might provide fodder for the opposite view must now be shrugged off. The role of shroud waver has now passed to the UUP (who do it in a fairly half hearted fashion) and TUV, to whom nobody really listens anyway.

  • David

    I think that most “angry prods” are coming to think that the GFA/StAA is actually a victory, not a defeat and are therefore going back to the mythical garden centre.

  • Driftwood

    Leaving the Stormont gravy train aside, with its incompetence and expenses filling charade of an administration. People here are happy with British rule. A little Brit soviet satellite financed by huge swathes of mainland financial subvention. Nobody cares about Orange parades or irish Language bullshit apart from a few headcases.
    We’re in clover here, keep our heads down in case the mainland taxpayer catches us on.
    Trebles all round?

  • edward

    perhaps its that the ‘angry prods’ are fading into the background out of shame for what their actions wrought for 80 years

  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    All Irish Nationalist Republican folk remember what that Orange bit on the Irish Republic’s tri-colour represents….

    Now let’s all sing together in harmony and mutual respect, All Irish Republicans and Orangeman together, 1, 2, 3 …

    Sure l’m an Ulster Orangeman, from Erin’s isle I came,
    To see my British brethren all of honour and of fame,
    And to tell them of my forefathers who fought in days of yore,
    That I might have the right to wear, the sash my father wore!

    etc…

    ….and always let them have their right!

    ….and we can all be happy.

  • DC

    mOr perhaps unionism and nationalism of the DUP SF variety rose to power on interlocking strategies of subtle and sophisticated antagonism matched with aggressive reactionary behaviour.

    Remove the horns of one said DUP and SF fails to gain traction and the DUP can rely on things remaining as is in the hope that they are better equipped parliamentary experience wise to see off SF up at Stormont re winning debating points. Unionism is oft considered as taking things literally and of welcoming rational thoughts whereas nationalism more aspirational and vague and mythically hopeful, full of promise: always becoming never being. At least with a silent DUP the kulturkampf becomes harder and fail on that and across the range winning identity battles becomes harder too. To DUP voters the rationale of bread and butter suits them so votes can be maintained and if SF tries to block moves that put people first then only the diehards and stoics will turn out for them when trying a scorched earth Stormont.

    This will force SF to become more imaginative in their aspirations rather than the easy points scoring via reactionary unionism. But it opens up a challenge to each and every party to find a forward agenda and new vision as old strategies devalue and fade while the value of the union remains. To the tune of 7billion and all its life with the children fed.

    The brain drain though has bled NI white economically speaking which is devaluing life here. Culture is part of social cohesion and cohesion regionally is part of vibrancy and forms a competitive identity for investors aka yanks. This is the flip side for the DUP these blocks in the cogs remain a threat, these vetoes and bloc votes. Even running to stand still is too late as the pull of a more powerful Britain remains miles ahead. This pull affects protestants disproportionately but both groups are significant leavers all the same. They leave for it is another level and they feel like they are on another level with their lives.

    So it says a lot of the challenges to be overcome and won but if lost to a culture count it will be an underpower arthritic NI that unifies. As for the people who have moved east they will look west to Ireland Northern and feel content about being still on another level.