Political orphaning of moderate unionism is source of wonder and despair.

And for your delectation, another Newton Emerson bullseye

The political orphaning of moderate unionism has been a particular source of wonder and despair. What party represents the vast majority of unionists — those who are not Orangemen, bandsmen, gunmen, Bible-bashers, flag-flyers, bonfire-builders or all the other overlapping little constituencies that unionist politicians never dare to disappoint?

What party can represent the 400,000 “garden centre” Protestants who refuse to vote, or appeal to any Catholic “economic unionists” who might just accept a British province that treated them with respect? How has such a substantial need for representation not been met for almost a century?

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

  • Morpheus

    Typo Ulidian – 57%, sorry

  • Morpheus

    Typo Ulidian – 57%, sorry. Still the majority in NI

  • Ulidian

    Based on what? An opinion poll? Sorry, but that’s bullshit.

  • Morpheus

    Yes, based on the NILT, a highly respectable source of information.

    What is your opinion based on?

    In response to the question:
    Do you think marriages between same-sex couples should or should not be recognised by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages?

    Less than 1 in 3 said no with the overwhelming majority saying yes.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Joe Hoggs

    I must say, it’s refreshing to have some one finally stand up and address the matter, most of the time when these accusations come out few people stand their ground or offer clear opinions (a commentator in here called UPC was incredible, he would immediately throw a wobbler and accuse all and sundry of being Catholic fundamentalist republican terrorists if someone uttered a squeak against the marching underbelly):

    Anyhoo, yes, there’s a lot to sort out.

    I think there are a few reasons for this:

    Anyone who ticks the ‘respectability’ boxes within Orangeism who may have the clout to brow beat people into accepting a new way tend to be more hardline.

    Unionism has a fine tradition of orators with explosive rhetoric, it’s very easy to box people into corners with incendiary paranoid invective as opposed to reasoned argument.

    For example, I can easily imagine the scenario where three decent hard working, modest, God-fearing rural Orangemen might utter a few words of concern against proceeding with a controversial parade in a village (on account of hurting their Catholic neighbours’ feelings) only to be bellowed into obedience by some firebrand, bowler-hatted Thor in the corner who would dip his hand into the emergency box of ready made arguments:





    etc etc, I’m sure you’ve come across these types. Whilst Orange culture might hold button lipped, hard working, solid men in the highest esteem on a personal level, this is seldom reflected by the leadership.

    If it was, then Chittick would be holding the banner ribbons every year, not in the position to speak in front of a camera (though, as you mentioned, Belfast is a different Orange beast).

    Rev Bingham had the stones to speak out and was duly lambasted for it in the most atrocious manner.

    Another reason (at least I believe this) is that many Orangemen believe that ‘succumbing’ to change is some sort of surrender, the strategic benefit of change is smothered by the short term horror of giving in.

    On a separate note, the OO should decide once and for all how important the union actually is as far as they’re concerned.

    If it is no 1 then all elements that are derogatory to the union and its longevity should be lanced and cauterised.

    If they find that parades are actually pushing people towards ‘unificationism’ rather than cementing unionism then these parades must be dealt with.

    Cause and effect and all that jazz.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    For Orange members the criteria is as follows:

    1. Protestantism.
    2. Politics (UK this is centred on the union in ROI and further afield it is not).
    3. Culture
    4. Social responsibility.

    Members have let themselves down in relation to Belfast such as rioting and drunken behaviour.

    Outside of Belfast problems arise from poorly attired men on parade, the protocol is generally a suit but this is not in the rules so some parade in jeans and t-shirts which is unacceptable.

    There are also those who are drunk on parade, the Orange has to take some responsibility here too. When the Twelfth is over there is very little put on by lodges that offer a proper social event where alcohol is involved in a responsible manner. Many indeed ignore the problem and advise the Orange can’t have social events that include alcohol as this is against the rules and then bury their heads in the sand when members are drunk during the day. There is a twofold solution here, zero tolerance for drunken behaviour and an outlet for celebration in the evening after the parade.

    95% of Orangemen want to and in fact do attend funeral masses, these rules need to be updated.

    There is a need for more female members, at the moment it is like branch of the WI and is very outdated, the men are in the 19th century and the women are in the 16th.

    We have too many parades too, Orangemen have complained about the number of parades, however the logic of the leadership is – “Druncree was banned so lets have five more in it’s place” and this happens every time a parade is banned.

    How do you feel the Orange can become more acceptable?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Some good eatin’ there Joe.

    I agree entirely with the shoddy dress sense, if one can’t make an effort for the main event then what is the ruddy point?

    I personally hate the bodyguard type sunglasses that some of the ‘tight’ lads wear, that sends out the wrong image.

    “How do you feel the Orange can become more acceptable?”

    Well, I reckon the first thing they could do is accept that they are the centre of a ripple and acknowledge what happens on account of their actions.

    Sometimes I think OO strategy is akin to “I’m going to walk and swing my arms, if you get punched it’s your own fault”.

    Once they accept that protesting against a parade decision or whatever has serious detrimental effects on the lives of others then they should address this.

    As you have pointed too, the bandsmen need reeled in.

    Any hint of paramilitarism WHATSOEVER should be dealt with severely and immediately.

    Stalls at OO parades should not be allowed to sell paramilitary badges.

    The overtly anti Catholic (or even anti Republic) message should be tempered.

    Having opinions on the Roman Catholic faith is one thing, endorsing bands that play overtly anti-Catholic songs is another.

    They should also examine the proselytising effect of their actions/inactions, I’ll give you an example (whilst all the other readers switch off “Gawd, AG’s going down memory lane again”.

    Last 11th night I took my wife (a Catholic from Eastern/Central Europe who is a unionist and a MEGA-Royalist, she can’t get enough of the Windsors) also present was a former RIR 1st batt Iraq veteran friend of London Irish extraction .

    Both had a whale of a time in the pub and watching the parade.

    We met friends and relatives at the bonfire site and it was a nice atmosphere.

    Then suddenly the bonfire was lit, chanting began and a tri-colour was thrown on top of it.

    It was like that scene from ‘from Dusk Till Dawn’ when the entire club turns into deranged vampires.

    We all left with a saddened feeling.

    How many years of this do you think my Royalist wife could take before she finally thinks “to hell with the lot of ye’s, I’ve tolerated all your mad notions and sentiments for years and all you every do is sing about killing Catholics! I’m gonna vote for a united Ireland just to piss ye’s off”.

    This will happen eventually unless the Orange spectrum can deal show respect.

    To earn respect you normally have to show it first.

    Too many elements of the Orange do not do this and those that do are smothered by those that don’t.

    There are many things that can be changed, but these can do for starters.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    PS Yes, my missus sounds like that after only a few days in NI, it’s quite unnerving actually…

  • Morpheus

    I agree with AG, serious kudos to Joe for actually talking about it from a knowledgeable position.

    In answer to your question Joe the vast, vast majority of parades are tolerated in Northern Ireland but in a nutshell the main thing that is needed is education on the Orange institutions to eliminate the fear of the unknown. At the minute they are viewed as a deeply triumphalist, supremacist, sectarian, anti-Catholic organisation as opposed to the pro-Protestant Christian organisation they think they are – and they seem to revel in the former while ignoring the latter. Good things go in at grassroots, that I accept, but that good volunteer is grossly overshadowed.

    There has to be more than ‘our ancestors beat your ancestors in a fight and we’re going to remind you that because of that you are second class citizens in our country year after year after year in every village and town in the country”

    I refuse to believe that perception of the 12th is the reality and urgent steps need to be taken to address it before that 2% we discussed becomes 1%, then 0.5% and so on.

  • Am Ghobsmacht


    There has to be more than ‘our ancestors beat your ancestors in a fight and we’re going to remind you that because of that you are second class citizens in our country year after year after year in every village and town in the country”

    That’s the thing that scares me about unionism and Orangeism, that they focus so much on the past.

    It’s either July 1690 or July 1916.

    What about July 2016 or 2116?

    The ‘cold dead hands’ approach is no good.

    A new direction is needed.

    In my opinion the North/Ulster has always been different from the rest of Ireland to a certain extent, but the assertive side of unionism is galvanising the appeal of homogeneous Irish nationalism, one of the things they ironically dread.

    I like the notion of being different to the rest of the UK and the rest of Ireland.

    Said the eccentric man….

  • Joe_Hoggs

    There clearly is something wrong with the Belfast Twelfth and Orangeism there in general. I’m shocked to hear that paramilitary rubbish is sold at Twelfth stalls – I can honestly say I have never seen this but I have never been to a Belfast Twelfth – something which many outside of Belfast find embarassing.

    Bonfires, that’s an issue on its own, I know this is a bit of a passing the buck but they are not run by Orangeism and this is the problem. I complained about a local bonfire sight, it’s positioned beside a number of houses and it is being built on a piece of ground owned by the housing executive. Currently it’s a dumping ground – I complained months ago that the area was a dumping ground so the HE came out and cleared the area and fenced it off with metal railings. Then the HE came out and removed the railings so that the bonfire could be built. The HR, local council and politicians will not do anything againist bonfires. They’re a bit of an outdated scurge to be honest – I’ve never attended one and I have no plans to do so.

    Leadership is a huge problem, this needs to be a full time paid role. It is however being carried out in a voluntary capacity by a decent man who is too old and a full time farmer – nobody else wants the job.

    Problems internally are that some of our halls are in disrepair and it’s difficult getting insurance. We rely on grants and then have to give away most of our money to charity while members are again expected to dig deep for the lodges running cost. Membership is on average £60 per year, of this £30 is sent off to Grand lodge and is unaccounted for, they advise it is for insurance and to pay for the right to parade but it seems excessive. If a member is on the books but hasn’t been seen for two years they can’t be expelled until the end of the second year bu the lodge is still down £120 due to the cost of him being returned and Grand lodge will still expect their £60. This is crippling for small lodges.

    So internally we’re a mess and externally we’re a mess. Personally I would prefer if Orangeisim didn’t receive grant money from local councils etc as this is being misused.

  • Morpheus

    Again Joe, a commendable display of honesty. Bravo.

    I don’t think the pay levels of the leadership should come into it though. He is the leader and he knows the difference between right and wrong – it is a Christian organisation after all. If the OO are a mess internally and externally then the leadership need to take responsibility. It’s a tough job but it is a job he took on – he should perform the duties of his office before it is too late for the grassroots

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    I agree, Belfast takes it too far.

    As for the paramilitary paraphernalia, hands up, that’s only my memory of it.

    Perhaps things have changed but as of a decade ago one could fill one’s pockets with all manner of UVF, YCV, Utterly-UV, I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-not-Loyal-VF badges.

    I know what you mean about the poor state of halls, my family’s hall was a disgrace last time I was in it, over 15 years ago.

    It’s a disgrace that politicians are so spineless against bonfires, the OO should support politicians in this regard as ultimately the blame is laid at their feet in terms of public perception.

    This could perhaps be the first step in the OO’s rebranding, if they were to publicly support community minded politicians with regards to doing the right thing.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Edward Stevenson to my knowledge is a decent man who has done a lot for Orangeism and to be frank probably had this role forced upon him.

    What I am saying is Orangeism give to charity to show ‘we’re not that bad’ in fact behind the scenes there really isn’t an ulterior motive other than wanting to do good. All the money raised at the Twelfth goes to charity with the exception of the private retailers. I feel this money would be better used to pay a number of people to deal with the issues facing Orangeism and then use the surplus towards halls etc. If there is anything left it then goes to charity. This is frowned upon by the leadership who don’t want to be seen ‘not giving’. For the sake of the institution I wish the grants were abolished.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Am Ghobsmacht ,

    Orangefest didn’t work, Unionism seen it as diluted Orangeism and Nationalists seen it as a ploy.

    Ownership of the bonfires is a good idea, trouble is grassroots have to do so much in preparation for the big day there just isn’t time. For me at present this is a policing issue – what have they said?

  • Morpheus

    Joe, I am confused. I just had a chat with someone whose father supposedly belongs to the Royal Purple and he says that the ‘riding the goat’ thing is true. Which is it?

    Is this guy talking rubbish just to sell books?

  • Joe_Hoggs


    This is a valid question of yours, most lodges bypass this ritual although its involvement was never as extreme as what was ‘exposed’ by others.

    To get into the Orange a brief initiation happens where members swear to be true to Protestant principles and charitable to people not of the Reformed faith.

    Arch purple is similar but with a little more biblical emphasis. Some lodges I’m sure will be more literal in this process but most are not.

  • Morpheus

    Again, I appreciate your honesty. It has brightened my day a little that there are dudes out there who have actually ridden a goat to show their worthiness

  • Joe_Hoggs

    No problem.