Ormeau Opportunity Calling: Can the Orange Grasp it?

The occasion of the official opening of the Orange Order’s two museums led to significant media coverage over the past week, with visits from former Irish President, Mary McAleese, and All-Ireland winning GAA footballer, Jarlath Burns, being used by the Order to effectively call for nationalists to follow in the footsteps of these two prominent northern nationalist figures and visit the museums in an effort to gain a better understanding of the Order.

I was also fortunate enough to be given a tour of the Schomberg House based Museum of Orange Heritage, and in a subsequent BBC Good Morning Ulster interview and blog on Slugger, I made the following point:

If the Orange Order is serious about changing perceptions of the organization, then it must begin by addressing and altering the reality of how it conducts itself in a divided society.

Fast Forward a few days.

Ormeau Road.

An immediate opportunity presents itself for the Orange Order to prove a genuine desire exists to change perceptions of the organisation by altering the reality of how the Order and its supporters conduct themselves in the run up to the 12th of July.

Loyalists arriving from afar to lay claim to majority catholic and/or mixed areas is not something confined to the Upper Ormeau Road area.

It is indicative of a mentality that continues to be ill at ease with peace.

Census figures reveal the Upper Ormeau Road area to be some 57% Catholic and only 27% Protestant. For some appreciation of this, were republican flags to be erected through the centre of Lisburn and Antrim towns, loyalists would have no grounds to complain, given that those towns have significantly greater Catholic communities as a percentage of the overall community than the Upper Ormeau Road’s protestant community. Indeed, a close demographic match for the Upper Ormeau Road would be Holywood. Now imagine the loyalist reaction to Tricolours throughout that north Down village.

Alas, we don’t really need to imagine a loyalist reaction. In 2009, a man (Kevin McDaid) was kicked to death by a loyalist mob who objected to a number of republican flags being erected in a predominantly nationalist part of Coleraine.

The PSNI’s backtracking on the issue of confronting the sectarian antics of the flag erecting loyalists has further undermined the authority of the police. Indeed, the logical conclusion of the PSNI’s stated position now is that anyone can erect flags anywhere and the PSNI will only intervene if a rival crowd threaten or actually instigate a violent response to the initial act. Given the historical context of the sectarian killing of Kevin McDaid, that is a deeply troubling position for the PSNI to adopt.

True to form, far from seeking to lead and educate the knuckle draggers in their midst, unionist politicians continue to give political cover to loyalists engaged in these sectarian and intimidatory antics.

Christopher Stalford was in quick to beat the Drum:

“Ballynafeigh is a settled, mixed community. Now, if those words are to mean anything, it means that the unionist community in that part of the town is able to manifest their culture and their identity, as it’s their tradition, during the months of July and of August. If the flags are not of a paramilitary nature, then I don’t see how any reasonable person could object.”

And then, there’s this gem from fellow Belfast DUP councillor, Tommy Sandford.

Speaking in The Newsletter about his opposition to the flying of the Irish Tricolour outside of the Schomberg House- based Orange Museum this week, Councillor Sandford said that he believed there would have been local objections if the Tricolour was flown.

I would probably say it might have caused a bit of upset among some residents,” he said.

To the majority, it would have been offensive to them.”

So. Let’s be clear about how DUP logic works:

Union Flags in predominantly Catholic and mixed areas can not be objected to by reasonable people.

A solitary Tricolour alongside other National Flags at Schomberg House is unacceptable because it might cause upset and be offensive to ‘the majority’ of local residents.

None of the above will come as a surprise.

The hypocrisy of Unionist politicians is rooted in their pining for that lost supremacism.

All of which presents the Orange Order with an opportunity to actually prove the sincerity of its desire to earn the respect of its nationalist neighbours.

Imagine were the Orange Order to publicly call for loyalists to refrain from the practice of erecting flags along contentious routes, often cynically using the premise of a 12th of July Orange Order parade as the excuse for engaging in what are essentially base sectarian and intimidatory antics in a divided society? Would the Order lose anything?

Or, alternatively, would the Order begin to alter the reality of how it conducts its affairs in a manner that would begin to challenge perceptions of the Order and its members?



  • james

    “This view was cemented recently when the omission of the Irish Tricolour was dismissed when the OO’s members from the south stated they felt culturally British despite living in ROI for many generations.
    The saddest part in all of this is they are now so isolated from the rest of British Society they have become culturally detached from the rest of the UK. and their values bear no resemblance to the ‘Normal’ British people”

    You could make the same point about the ‘Irish’living in NI.

    And I want no part of your ‘Untied Ireland’, Sir!

  • Gingray

    In response to my question about whether those organising parades in the USA stop anyone marrying people of another faith you said
    “They don’t need to. Largely since there are so few Native Americans left.”

    Bizarre, but anyhoo.

    You brought up the 4th of July, then linked native americans to it. Its just weird the way you jump around to find ways to link Independence Day, but then start all this nonsense about plantation.

  • congal claen

    Hi SK,
    The Gaelic League and GAA predate SF. Some would say they were necessary to ferment the formation of SF and the Liberty Clubs. So, I would suggest the language is definitely politically loaded. Douglas Hyde even left the Gaelic League over the issue and he founded it. Even today FF have it as the 2nd aim of their constitution. SF certainly kick it all round the place.
    I also don’t like the flags being over the top. We’re getting dangerously close to compromise here. Maybe we could be the new chuckle brothers ;0)

  • james

    Are you referring to Sinn Fein? They are the nearest thing I can think of to an ant-semitic body right here in the UK.

  • james

    LOL. If you would please read before replying it would save us both a tiresome exchange. You questioned the alleged pooling of money by the OO to prevent particular groups from buying land and said that wouldn’t happen in the US. I responded that such is not even an issue in US as so few of the Native Americans now survive. I’m certainly not saying that is right, just that it wouldn’t be an issue as the Native population is a tiny fraction of the whole. And to guard against deliberate obtuseness on your part I even mentioned the reservation system to hammer home the point. But to no avail, alas. Here I still am trying to paint it in big bold primary colours for you.

  • Alan N/Ards

    I find it galling that they need to it in any space ( shared or otherwise). If you want to stick a flag on your property, then great. But leave the lamp posts etc alone. They should stop imposing their “culture” on the rest of us. Murals, flags and emblems which are put on public property should be removed. Our politicians (both sides) need to get real and get the law changed, regarding murals and flags, as they are an eyesore.

  • Carl Mark

    remind me how many UKIP MP’s there are, and could you show us please the evidence that equal marriage is not supported by the majority of the British?
    on Immigrants, I think you will find that while there is a housing shortage in Nationalist areas there is a plenty of rented accommodation in unionist /loyalist areas, this is why there are less immigrants in nationalist areas.
    could it be because of the antics of loyalists (bonfire’s, flags, etc.) that make locals wanting to move out leaving empty houses to rent?
    anything to say on the flags issue

  • Carl Mark

    Cheers mick, could not remember the date (getting senior moments)

  • LordSummerisle

    Double yellow lines, or am I missing something ?

  • KMac

    What’s a nationalist/republican paramilitary flag? Do they exist? Ive certainly never come across one.

  • Gingray

    Señor Lord
    I’ve attached an image from streetview to give you an idea of how it normally is. Space is a premium, houses up there are mostly post grads and workers rather than students.

    Point is, there are at least 3 times the number of cars, come marching season people flee Belfast and northern Ireland.

    For many of us it’s a festival of fear.

  • kalista63

    There’s also been cases where the EDL have wanted to walk through areas with quite a lot of Muslims, such as Bradford, and they’ve been refused.

    What greater moment of real Britishness is there than the battle of Cable St when ordinary people HAD to take a stand against facists and those facilitating them.

  • LordSummerisle

    Thank you much obliged. However, the suggestion that the demonstration (I point blank refuse to call it a festival for it is no such thing), causes the mass exodus of ordinary decent folk to the delights of the continent, I do not agree with. You may think it odd that someone such as I would enjoy the pleasures of Levante Beach on the Costa Blanca (that is Benidorm to the uniniated) but I do. I generally travel during the twelfth fortnight and last year I left Aldergrove on the morning of the Holy Twelfth. When I arrived in the most Catholic Kingdom of Spain I was surprised to find a very large contingent of Loyalists, displaying their patriotism. Gadzooks! It appears that God Fearing Ulster Williamite Protestants leave the sacred soil of NI during the most Holy Twelfth. Perhaps it is the lure of the sun, perhaps it is holiday time granted by employers. Or perhaps, just perhaps, it is a traditional time of the year for people to take their holidays. Even if there was no parading culture in NI, I suspect those two weeks in July would be a popular time to travel.

  • Gingray

    But when it comes James, I know that every effort will be afforded to let you fly your flag in an appropriate manner, and let you march freely. I have high hopes that the Orange Order will have eliminated lots of the outdated sectarian nonsense and will form a vibrant colourful part of Irish life

  • Gingray

    The report provides one example only, a ploughy star. Mentions dissident flags too but no pictures

  • Gingray

    Couldn’t agree more.

    And it doesn’t matter that they where nationalist, any scumbag that needs to threaten a minority in their area is a coward and bully.

    Some of us are irish, more of us are British, lots can embrace elements of both, but by far the most of us want to live our lives without being hassled or threatened, and I am genuinely sorry to hear about your friends being forced out.

    Had hoped those days had passed 🙁

  • Gingray

    Um OK, to be honest you have went off on a weird tangent, bringing in things that are unconnected and irrelevant and showing a complete lack of knowledge about the meaning of independence day in the USA.

  • Carl Mark

    Please give us some examples of attempt to destroy anything not off their culture?
    Did you read the post.

  • Gingray

    Ah, well good Lord, I for my sins stay in Northern Ireland most years, and most of Belfast feels like a ghost town from lunch time on the 11th.

    Despite what you say, the vast majority of those left behind are in working class areas, with generally our warmest weather, some public holidays that shut the place down, and booze. Yay, recipe for disaster.

    In addition, my own office of 10, will be down to 2 that week, as people genuinely do want to avoid any potential trouble.

    My regular poker night was due on the 10th this year but was cancelled as the culchies didn’t want to come up incase things got heated.

    For a lot of us, the only culture we get around the twelfth is one of fear, and neither the order or unionist politicians have tried to address that.

  • Carl Mark

    Yep I think they did, its the same procedure for everybody, so they must have filled in the forms Just like the OO when it marches through the city center.

  • Gingray

    Ah kalista, my ma had told us about the battle of cable street when I was young, wonderful event. She was well happy when I married a woman whose grandfathers brother had taken part.

    Vicious riot with the cops standing off. Great British story indeed, different times tho.

  • Alan N/Ards

    I would say that it’s a religious organisation, but it appears to be a bit lacking in showing Christian charity to its neighbours. That’s what I find hard to take.

    If it was truly an organisation that is following the teachings of Christ, then it wouldn’t be in the position its in today. They need to take a look at the way they do things. They need to swallow their pride and step away from Twaddell. They need to show respect when passing Catholic Churches and they need to expel members who behave in a non Christian way. It’s not rocket science. “Love your neighbour – Do unto others etc. They also need to remove the anti Catholic stuff from their rule book. That’s a good place to start.
    Look, I know that there are many members who are respectful to their neighbours, but the silence from them is deafening when asked to condemn the many who step out of line. They close ranks and pretend it doesn’t happen. A Christian order should be better than that.

  • babyface finlayson

    You try taking his flags down and you will find they have been
    re-erected 3 days later.

  • james

    Interesting. Why will it be so acceptable then, given that it is (apparently) so unacceptable now?

  • mickfealty

    Well, I’m not by instinct a prohibitionist if that’s what you mean. I also try to take a policy focused view on these and other matters.

    Orange parades in south Belfast are mostly harmless, and therefore not a social problem. Poverty, on the other hand, is a social problem, and yet we have very few anti poverty strategies emerging in this space.

  • Carl Mark

    could you point us at this statement, I though it was a claim made about the southern members by a northie and not as you said stated by them

  • Carl Mark

    times change James, and to be honest Unionisn/loyalisn is starting to alienate more of the protestant community with its actions

  • C d G

    I lived and worked in the area. The residents of the Holyland(s) treated this march with absolute disdain. Let’s face reality.

    Anyone have the stats for the exodus from the North during the July holiday?

    From personal experience, entire families choose to leave.

  • Nevin

    “Fast Forward a few days.” … Chris


  • james

    Assuming you mean unionisM and loyalisM (and not merely the Belfast variants of ‘unionisn’ and ‘loyalisn’), I will ask you,; once again, to recognize that unionism and loyalism are NOT the same thing. Furthermore, unionism is not specifically attached to any religion. One could be a Muslim and a unionist or an atheist unionist, or a Catholic unionist. And, to be honest, the classic shinnerdrone promise-threat that the times they are a-changing in no way answers my question.

  • james

    Sorry, which statement are you referring to?

  • mickfealty

    Yes, and me in my time also. But that’s not a case for prohibition, surely?

  • Sergiogiorgio

    Mick – your big words and diversionary tactics are a bit limp. No one in South Belfast can reasonably have an issue anyone’s reasonable expression of their cultural heritage. The Mela, St Paddy’s Day, take your pick. But what goes on round Orange marches and their local South Belfast flag intimidation and polluting bonfires is just plain wrong. It’s in the hands of the OO to separate the wheat from the chaff, then they can reasonably ask for support. The “South Belfast question” is all about intimidation of the non unionist majority in the area. Dogs pissing up flag poles and a showing of disrespect to their flag they tell us they cherish.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    As I remember it “An Craoibhín Aoibhinn” may have resigned his presidency at the 1915 Oireachtas of Conradh na Gaeilge, but he never at any point left the league itself. And he did not have any problem with taking a seat in the new state’s Seanad in the 1920s and 30s, He also became, on 26th June 1938, the first President of Ireland under the new constitutional arrangements of 1937. All of this genuine history dilutes the point you area ttempting to make somewhat, I’d feel.

    Hyde felt, in common with many others, that Contadh ne Gaeilge should be entirely above politics, and although a number of important members steered it to make political statements in 1915, Hyde believed that the League itself remained above politics in its essence. While teh language may be used by politicians for non-culktural ends, the language itself, any language in fact, simply cannot be “political” in any meaningful sense.

  • KMac

    The starry plough? Doesn’t it represent the Labour/Workers movement? Hardly a “paramilitary” flag. I’ve come across RSF flags before but only on private property and still not paramilitary. I think I once saw IRA written in felt tip on a tricolour, maybe that’s what they’re referring to..

  • kalista63

    People were more connected back then, usually by trade unions, working men’s associations and clubs and The Mirror was a decent paper back in the day.I think the spirit is still there and a new type of movement is emerging again via social media.

    Its interesting to see the arrest figures when there are counter marches and protests against the likes of the EDL, the same spirit of the police being alive and well, sadly (I do love it when the police unions look for public sympathy. Fek them!).

  • congal claen

    Hi Sean,
    We even politicise colour. So, politicising language is no problem. If we don’t, how come the communities are largely split on it? On an orange and green basis…

  • SeaanUiNeill

    You need to talk to my wife the social anthropologist about what is cultural and what is political, congal. Politics may use issues of language but language is being “borrowed” for this activity, it is not in itself a political thing. No one political “expediency” can claim the language as its own property as the language is language, a neutral thing that expresses ideas and articulates a culture that develops through its medium. The community (and the factions it divides into) are reacting to politicised representations of the language, but these are simply representations of what the language is, as a photograph is of a person, not the essence of what the language or the culture it engenders may be in its living totality.

  • congal claen

    Hi Sean,
    Can’t argue with anything you’ve written. Who’s going to argue with a wife?!
    It is the use, or misuse, of the language that is political. Street signs are just one manifestation of that misuse. Used here they are about territory marking in much them same way that flags are.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    It’s astonishing, congal, just how many things we all seem to be able to invest with serious political significance and can use to stoke up tensions. My grandfather was a strong Irish speaker, a liberal Unionist with strong friendships across the political spectrum of his day who showed the kind of respect to one another that Danny Kinahan recently commended to the chamber at Stormont. He’d have welcomed Bi-lingual street signs as a potentially unifying thing. But all that changed with Paisley and his allies in 1968 and now if you are not fully signed up to one of the polarities you are fair game for anyone’s ire, like my poor self!