In his Open Letter to the Grand Master of the Orange Order, Edward Stevenson, Liam Clarke indulges in some straight talking and in the process points to an incident which suggests the Order’s leadership were involved in a petulant sectarian maneouvre to get one over on both the Parades Commission and local catholics.
The Order’s leader had written to the Parades Commission asking that loyalist bands be permitted to play hymns as they passed by St. Matthews’ Church in East Belfast. The Commission had previously pronounced that loyalist bands could march by to the beating of a single drum beat, provoking the ire of First Minister Peter Robinson and the Order.
Stevenson’s letter was viewed as a move forward, involving as it did a direct engagement between the Order and the Parades Commission. No doubt with this in mind, the Commission revised its earlier determination, taking up Stevenson’s proposal to allow loyalists to play hymns as they marched past the Catholic Church.
Of course, on the day numerous loyalist bands proceeded to play the Sash as they marched past St. Matthew’s Church, with Orange apologists claiming that this is sometimes the tune accompanying Psalm 23. [Ed – you can hear it for yourself on the 25 min video of the parade passing that point.]
It was a cynical and sectarian maneouvre by loyalists, with the Orange Order leadership seemingly acquiescing in the tactic.
Here’s Clarke’s take:
Recently, you wrote to the Parades Commission – a wise move which you should build on. You asked that bands in east Belfast be allowed to play hymn tunes passing St Matthew’s Catholic church and this was agreed at your request.
Instead, a band played The Sash, claiming it was used in the 23rd Psalm. That made you look bad and the order untrustworthy.
Last year, offensive sectarian lyrics were chanted to the tune of What a Friend We Have in Jesus as a march passed Ardoyne shops.
These were corner boys’ tricks; an attempt to cause offence and break the spirit of the adjudication. You should condemn them and ensure that, in future, the order can be taken at its word.
And let us not forget that this was precisely the same location for the UVF-sponsored sectarian attack on the Short Strand enclave just a matter of weeks ago.