A day in the Orange

In the final report from the Slugger team on our day at the twelfth below is a blog submitted by Sean Matthews.

A day in the Orange

After hearing about Slugger O’Toole’s day in the Orange, I jumped at the chance of finding out more about this annual event which brings hundreds of thousands onto the streets across Northern Ireland. As the day progressed I was converged with a mixture of emotions, soon drained away by tiredness and an element of boredom.

It all started so peacefully in Crumlin village with barely a parade and a handful of supporters who probably do not even live in the area. A rather, pointless and decaying parade, to keep in line with their traditional route, with some of its participants looking as if they were born in 1795. The noisy lambeg beat gave them some air of respectability because there was no musical instrument in site. Crumlin has changed dramatically over the years as only decades ago this ‘village’ of around 5,000 inhabitants was considered a unionist stronghold. Now it’s more like an extension of West Belfast.

Moving onto Glenavy it appeared that loyalists have given up on Crumlin and moved onto a more picturist village. There where more than a dozen lodges, with a few giving a blast of the Sash to the gazes of a few passing ‘locals’.

We soon found ourselves in the heart of Belfast, observing this massive showcase of every aspect of Orangeism on display from the colourful banners to UDA flags and much more. It was actually pretty much what I expected from my previous years of observation from the television. As a precaution I changed my name from Sean to John for the day.

For many the event is a family fun day out to meet family members who they have not met in a while and knock back a few beers in the sun. However, for others it is about promoting exclusivity and naked sectarianism. This was soon evident as we passed the bottom of the Village where a small hardcore element of ‘patriotic’ loyalists gazed at anyone who looked like an ‘outsider’. Passing Shaftsbury square before the return leg of the parade was more reminiscent of a hooligan fest with loyalists and their supporters laying waste to the area, with the PSNI riot squad appearing helpless and afraid of rocking the boat. Perhaps someone forgot to tell them that their Grand Masters in the Grand Lodge of Ireland were interested in promoting the event as a friendly and tourist attraction.

I admit that for much of the parade in Belfast city centre and in the ‘leafy’ suburbs of BangorI didn’t feel threatened or intimidated, except for a brief moment passing the bottom of the Village in which a full chorus of the sash and chants of UDA was in full swing. Compared to the field in Bangor which really was more of family friendly event.

Indeed, I was struck by the waving of the Union Jack or ‘Butchers Apron’ as some like to say, which has given us state terrorism at home and abroad from Iraq to Afghanistan, and helped to stock up religious divisions here. Who was it who said patriotism is the last resort of scoundrels?

It is ironic that back in the day 36 Orange Lodges in County Armagh and 13 in County Fermanagh opposed the original Act of Union? Or that the Pope of Rome endorsed and even congratulated King Billy’s invasion of Ireland? Popular mythology has a lot to answer for in this wee country and that goes for both sides. For instance, King James was only interested in using Ireland as a staging post to reclaim the English crown. It is not as if he really cared about the plight of the ‘native’ catholic inhabitants. The revered Battle of the Boynein June 1690 is of little significance, compared to the battles in Athlone and Limerick which eventually sealed King James’ fate and ended the war.

Unfortunately, we missed the Ardoyne riots due to tiredness from the busy day but from reports I gathered from observers who where non-aligned to any political group, other than the usual dissident smokescreen was the display and agents of state violence removing a peaceful sit down protest to an un-welcome parade passing a contentious area.

As I sat down in the evening to watch the evening news with a refreshing beer and to collect my thoughts and feelings for the day, I was caught between conforming with the new peace process discourse which likes to put a positive spin on everything and the day ending in misery by relying on the inefficient and incompetent public transport system in Lisburn.

That said for your ordinary punter on the street, I have always felt that there is nothing to be gained or celebrated in the idea of two rival rulers a few hundred years ago squabbling over power and land, using religion to justify their land theft.

As James Connolly was to write in Labour in Irish History in 1910, “all the political struggles of the period were built upon the material interests of one set of usurpers who wished to retain, and another who wished to obtain, the mastery of those lands”

Orangefest is a cheap publicity stunt, to give a positive image of a deeply sectarian and counter-revolutionary institution which thrives of suspicion, division and fear. In future, I will refuse to defend the indefensible.

  • villager

    That’s just a rambling nonsense. Yes the Ardoyne riots were all the fault of the ‘agents of state violence’, the Union Jack is the ‘Butchers Apron’. In fact, I think the whole thing qualifies you as a troll. [quote]In future, I will refuse to defend the indefensible.[/quote]Did you ever defend the OO?

  • Mark McGregor

    villager,

    I disagree, for Sean’s first contribution to Slugger he was willing to step well outside his comfort zone. As I asked, he turned up with baggage intact, experienced the day pretty fully and reported back. Others had the option of doing likewise and declined, what was particularly disappointing was the refusal to engage in substantially blogging the day from supporters/particpants and it’s a real loss to Slugger we don’t have Fair Deal to cover aspects others were unwilling to get involved in.

  • 6countyprod

    Kudos for Sean having the courage to step out of his comfort zone.

    What a pity he used only 5 of his 13 paragraphs to actually report on the events he witnessed. The rest of his ‘report’ was subjective and preconceived drivel.

  • villager

    Mark, as 6cp says, he was supposed to be reporting back on what he saw, not giving a bizarre account of odd bits of Irish history, very annoying.

  • RepublicanStones

    ‘Kudos for Sean having the courage to step out of his comfort zone.’

    Indeed. Im just wondering if the Slugger team that went out for the experience actually grew up with the annual event on their doorstep? As I grew up in a small village in Tyrone, I have vivid childhood memories of each 12th, when the village was taken over for the day even though the only protestant houses on the route would barely have been 1%, with them being at the start.

  • oldruss

    I thought he did a good job of catching the essence of the day.

    “We soon found ourselves in the heart of Belfast, observing this massive showcase of every aspect of Orangeism on display from the colourful banners to UDA flags and much more.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t UDA flags prohibited? The UDA is a loyalist-paramilitary-terrorist organization isn’t it?

    Why would the Orange Lodges allow the presence of UDA or any other loyalist paramilitary flags? Why would the PSNI?

    And someone wants to turn the Twelfth into “Orangefest”. Don’t know how many Yanks you’ll get to come across the pond regardless what you call it. Now, St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin, that’s more likely.

  • Mark McGregor

    Folks,

    Each to their own. There was no preset format/formula for reports. The offer was open to any and all to attend and present what they experienced and what they thought as a result.

    Sean’s blog hits everything I asked of people participating. Yes, he brought his prejudice with him, as did I, and that clearly was reinforced during the day and shown in his report. Big deal – that was what it was about, being there and writing up how you felt after.

    It may not have been up to some’s expectations but those complaining haven’t been any help in providing the coverage and view Sean was more than happy to give.

  • Mark McGregor

    And I’ll add many of Sean’s thoughts were aired throughout the day and he was up front in raising them with Dawn Purvis as UDA chants were heard just a little distance away.

  • villager

    As one of those complaining, I would like to point out that I was busy on the day and am not in the possession of a Blackberry!

  • Driftwood

    Sean Matthews writes like an uneducated, low IQ ,narrow minded and bigoted cretin. Much like many of those on parade.
    Probably did Law at Queens, and, like the Ardoyne spide rioters, likes GAA.

    I spoke to George Osborne this morning and he said he was at the parade and thought it was OKayish. The wine and cheese was pretty dreadful, but the German beer in Lavery’s made up for it.

  • cbtd

    Driftwood writes like an uneducated, low IQ ,narrow minded and bigoted cretin.

    Hiding behind his PC like the uber-armchair warrior that he is, he dreams of “JonnA” and “Skell” oiling up on ‘ther, whilst the Sash floats softly over the July Breeze of a Maze morn…

  • eranu

    it seems to me that (for some catholics) alot of the fuss about orange parades and events is down to the fact that they arent catholic. the rural village type parades arent much more than a day out for a few locals. but it seems that some catholics are evaluating a non catholic event and deciding that if there isnt a sizable amount of people who are into the event then it should be banned or something. what ever happened to let everyone do their own thing?.. i really dont understand why people are concerned with other peoples events. for example, im not into rock music, but i wouldnt be concerned if a rock concert was planned for my area of belfast. what is the big deal for catholic or nationalist or whatever type of people if something they arent really into is taking place in the area they live in?

    mark, i was too late in one of your previous threads asking this. you mentioned you would be going to the 12th with all your prejudices intact. i was wondering what if any of your views had changed? you seem to have had a good experience in bangor. if you were in a discussion with other republicans about orange stuff. would you now pipe up and say ‘look they arent all bad, leave them alone!’ or would you still put them all down in a blanket ‘they’re all bastards’ type comment?
    how have your views changed?

  • west1

    ”As James Connolly was to write in Labour in Irish History in 1910, “all the political struggles of the period were built upon the material interests of one set of usurpers who wished to retain, and another who wished to obtain, the mastery of those lands” ”

    pure,unadulterated marxist shite…surely marxism has been so discredited by now that people would stop using marxist alanysis as if it’s some sort of gospel??

  • west1

    by the way,i saw the entire belfast parade twice(morning and evening),and i’m not calling anyone a liar,but i didnt see a single UDA flag throughout the proceedings….

  • eranu

    the only coverage ive seen is the odd you tube vid. but on the beeb site the vid they had included a band that had uvf on their drum. now people may argue some bollocks about history but everyone knows that the only reason these days that uvf is on a drum is for the terrorist organisation.
    on reviewing my text i have realised that i am more pissed than i thought i was. so i willl refrain from replying until tomorrow!!!

    bon jour!

  • Mark McGregor

    eranu,

    I had both bad and good experiences at my first 12th. I don’t force my views on anyone but I certainly can see how those hostile to parading culture could and should discuss with those parading. I’d recommend nothing to anyone other than open dialogue and honesty.

    I saw nothing I could encourage a nationalist, agnostic or catholic to participate in. So the most the OO can ask from of ‘others’ in my view is tolerating something alien and asking for tolerance. That requires them understanding what is tolerable.

  • Drumlins Rock

    “I admit that for much of the parade in Belfast city centre and in the ‘leafy’ suburbs of Bangor I didn’t feel threatened or intimidated, except for a brief moment passing the bottom of the Village in which a full chorus of the sash and chants of UDA was in full swing. Compared to the field in Bangor which really was more of family friendly event. ”

    Well you actually caught a little bit of the real 12th but otherwise i guess you saw what you wanted to see Sean, shame you missed Ardoyne and your predudices could have been fully reinforced, I did challenge Mark to get well away from belfast, and see the real parades, but understand the transport problems. Would love to discuss all the historic points you raised, but maybe anther time and place, to be honest nobody really cares that much on the 12th either.
    PS republican stones, I know of nowhere in Tyrone that has a large 12th parade every year, the most common is 1 in 4, guess your refering to the couple of local lodges that take all of 5 min to pass.

  • Driftwood

    I saw nothing I could encourage a nationalist, agnostic or catholic to participate in.

    Mark, what about us unionist atheists. I took my partner (one of youse) to Newcastle to witness the charade about 8 years ago. Bored silly apart from some (for the 12th) decent bands playing irish tunes she recognised (My grandfather’s clock???)
    Would Richard Dawkins have enjoyed it?

    I’m lost on this gibberish..

    Hiding behind his PC like the uber-armchair warrior that he is, he dreams of “JonnA” and “Skell” oiling up on ‘ther, whilst the Sash floats softly over the July Breeze of a Maze morn…

    Posted by cbtd on Jul 17, 2009 @ 09:35 PM

    Gave up smoking that stuff 20 years ago mate. I suggest you do the same.
    code word: mass

  • RepublicanStones

    ‘PS republican stones, I know of nowhere in Tyrone that has a large 12th parade every year’

    PS Drumlins me ‘aul flower I suggest you re-read my post and then think about a little linguistic device called ‘tense’.

  • Paul

    I put my perspective in one of the Twelfth threads. I need to finish it off but I wasn’t sure if anyone bothered to read it.

    I have mixed feelings about it, particularly the Belfast parade. I can see how nationalists would find some of the behaviour objectionable (do we really need bandsmen displaying slogans calling half the population of the country ‘bastards’ and the level of public drinking with the paramilitary approval that goes with it?) and I can understand why they would dislike the whole thing. It is also not a good message to be sending to people in the rest of the UK/Ireland or indeed the world – do you really want Northern Ireland to be known as an intolerant shithole full of murderers and the most bigoted of Orangemen? I’ve tried my best to deconstruct some of the irrational nonsense but most people won’t listen to reason. I should have been murdered over there by republicans. Apparently. It’s a lovely place and yes it does have its problems and I can’t wait to go back there. These issues do need thinking about by all Northern Irelanders.

    However, this behaving like children – no surrender versus tiocfaidh ár lá – will get you nowhere. I’m in favour of retaining the UK but unionists need to get off their high horse and nationalists need to stop constantly telling unionists that they’re Irish. Unionists need to know that talking to nationalists won’t mean that they’ll have the Dáil ruling over them and nationalists have to realise that unionists and loyalists in particular are a deeply insecure and worried people (the things that we, as unionists, hold dear appear to be disintegrating while the despicable autocrats that nobody voted for, the EU, watch and nod approvingly) and that talking to them won’t mean going back under the Orange jackboot.

    So there’s a reality check required on both sides.

    I’d also like to see the political parties there moving away a bit from appearing to be there simply to be there to put it up the fenians/huns. The political issue will always be there in Northern Ireland but how about having parties that believe in the Union/Irish nationalism whilst having, shock horror, real policies? I’d probably vote for Jim Allister (he’s the only proper eurosceptic in Northern Ireland as far as I can see) but his ‘no surrender’ attitude puts me off.

    Northern Ireland is the most statist part of the UK and the level of state interventionism will really hurt the place in the next few years as civil servants lose their jobs.

    Most of all, the people of Northern Ireland need to sort out their own problems themselves without either shouting insults at each other. But who am I to talk? Politics is never seriously discussed in the rest of the UK either so I don’t think that Northern Ireland is that different in that respect.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Paul

    It’s not just nationalists telling unionists they’re Irish. Orange Grand Secretary Drew Nelson stood on a Twelfth platform and told Martin McGuinness that he was as Irish as the SF deputy, as well as British.

    Identity doesn’t need to be singular and exclusivist.

  • 6countyprod

    Maybe you guys could start planning for next year, and include a report from Scarva on the 13th. Now, that’s a good day out!

    PS Just noticed a report in the Newsletter this morning on the Slugger’s 12th day exercise. More

  • Eoghan

    A 56% fall in the number of Orange members must lead us to ask what sort of a pogrom was permitted by the British government?
    Or else there is no war which membership would allow you to avoid a la 1939-45?