So when Lost Identity asked me what my opinion was on the whole carry-on I had to reply. Now anybody who reads this blog will know that, unlike some of my fellow bloggers, my opinions tend to be as mild as milk and this one will be no exception. So if I get a lot of mad ly'lists and Orange apologists attacking me for them I shall be ever so upset and stick to writing about whimsy and fluff until Christmas when, as is my traditional route, I will become an anti-consumerist Scrooge who will rant non-stop about the crapness of Christmas before rushing out and spending £17,000 on tat.
As I said in comments there are a lot more than two sides to this story. But this is the way I see it.
(And at this point I was interrupted by Ploppy Pants who happens to be an Independent Orangeman but more of that later)
I was brought up a Catholic in County Antrim, which, like County Down would be one of the more Protestant counties of Northern Ireland. Our parents expected us to respect our neighbours. Neither hate nor sectarianism was taught in our home. Neverthesless I remember the Orange marches then as being oppressive and not for us. The 'Marching Season' was seen as their celebration, their party, one to which we weren't welcome.
Now it seems to me that the Orange celebrations are not as mainstream as they were. Thirty, Forty years ago the Order was much more popular and included Protestant people from all spheres of society. Nowadays the professional and middle classes are less represented. The rural lodges are dying off. The only lodges that are surviving are those from the loyalist working class areas of towns and cities.
The future? On the surface the parades are all about costumes, raucous military style bands and a fun day out. They're also about sombre faced Orange men and women walking their 'traditional routes' and remembering a battle from a 17th century political and cultural movement that few have any knowledge of. Underneath it's the same old story - sectarianism and exclusion.
That said I still would not support the violence of some of those protesting against the parades. Apart from everything else it only fans the flames. Perhaps if the parades were let be they'd fade away in time - or grow into something more inclusive. And pigs might fly. But I don't live in a flashpoint area - what do I know?
Ol' Ploppy Pants and I had a coffee and a conversation about all this stuff. Naturally we mostly disagreed on what the Orange Order actually is. He told me something interesting things about the Independent Loyal Orange Institution which broke away from the main Orange Order in 1903. The breakaway happened because the established Orange Order was inextricably tied up with the ruling classes, the political elite and big business interests. In fact one of the ILOI's mottoes is 'Protestantism not Politics'. PP said that at that time the people who broke away were evicted from their homes, sacked from their jobs and generally ostracised. He said that some of this ill feeling exists to this day. As recently as Tuesday when Independents and Old School met in Portglenone they were still either glaring at or looking through each other.
Here are two more interesting snippets I turned up while doing a bit of sketchy research for this post.
- The Independents' unionism and loyalty to the British crown is dependent on the constitutional monarch being Protestant. No shit?
- The original Orange Order only allowed Presbyterians to join in the 1840s.
There is an article on Orangeism on Wikipedia.
It's neutrality is in dispute.