Bigger crowds, fewer Orangemen…

THE Orange Order reckons this year’s Twelfth parades will attract more people into Belfast than ever before, according to the Beeb. Of course, they could be going shopping, now that retailers can open on ‘Orangefest’ and public transport is running. Ironically, the larger crowds could be watching the smallest number of Orangemen on parade in decades.

Grand Secretary Drew Nelson blames the increasing secularisation of society for the dwindling numbers. However, fundamentalist uber-Prod Rev Stephen Dickinson reckons the opposite is true – it’s the Order that has become more secular, and he’s blaming “modernisers” for its destroying the institutions traditional religious outlook and practices.

Mind you, tradition seems to have led into a bit of a cul-de-sac on the Garvaghy Road. But could a willingness to talk the talk, as well as walk the walk, take the Order down the road of compromise? Drumcree-style confrontation might be good for membership numbers, but it didn’t work and compromise for the greater good would probably be better appreciated by society… although it takes two to tango.