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 organisations 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 Orders 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.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty