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OrangeFest 2011: it’s still about hating Taigs

Suppose the Afrikaner Weerstandbeweging decided to organise a comeback gig in the shape of a white supremacist rally in Soweto. Naturally, the South African government would be concerned about the potential for public disorder. So would the best solution be to market the event as a touchy-feely, all-inclusive, fun day out for all the family?
This analogy offers something of the flavour of attempts to rebrand the Loyalist marching season in Northern Ireland as OrangeFest, with the local nationalist community invited to stand quietly on the pavement and cheer on as the massed ranks of parading Proddie flute bands walk on by.

Concepts of that degree of genius can only be the work of men and women with a background in public relations, some of them presumably working on the Titanic centenary bash even as I write. The rest of us could see that it was never going to work.

And indeed, it has not worked. For the second year running, the night before the shindig has been marked with rioting on the streets of West Belfast. Petrol bombs, stones and bricks were thrown, and nationalist youth hijacked a bus and drove it at a police cordon. The cops replied with plastic bullets and water cannon.

I am not arguing that the marching season should be banned. The Orange Order, like the English Defence League or Islam4UK, has the right to mount public displays for political purposes. But there are circumstances in which such rights can properly be circumscribed, and attempts to catalyse confrontation between communities perhaps provide the clearest examples.

When British Union of Fascists leader Oswald Mosley tried to lead a sizeable contingent of Blackshirts through the Jewish parts of East London in 1936, the left and the labour movement were right to make sure that he did not pass.

Whatever efforts Northern Ireland tourism officials make to tart up the Orange marches, they will remain what they always have been, and that is a sustained quasi-military show of force designed to intimidate nationalists and to make sure the croppies lie down.

At the very least, it would be reasonable to follow the suggestion from local politicians that the marchers be rerouted away from Catholic areas and through the city centre. Otherwise you might just as well be honest enough to advertise the proceedings as HateFest, and have done with it.

2 Comments

  1. angela says:

    I am not affiliated in any way with the Orange order. I take great offense to this article. The protestant people of Northern Ireland have every right to express their history and culture as anyone on the planet.

    Often they are mocked for having no culture of their own, when in fact it is alive and well. The fact that the OO are trying to re-brand the 12th tells me there is progress being made. Yet people like this author continue to try and divide the community. Prior to the 1970 s people of both communities came out to watch the 12th parades. There is always the notion that all bands play “kick the pope” songs all day long to antagonist the nationalist community when in fact that is a complete bold faced lie.
    The Ligoneil girls accordion band playing “abide with me” hardly constitutes a riot in Ardoyne, yet the nationalists throwing stones etc, seem to always get all the empathy on the world stage.
    Exactly WHO is it that has the PR machine in high gear? I think we all know who has used the media over the years to their own gain and best advantage.

    Long live Northern Ireland may the protestant people continue to enjoy their culture and history through fellow ship and music!

  2. Johnny Adair says:

    how dare you compare the orange order to the likes of Islam4uk. The Orange Order celebrate their culture.

    Catholics don’t like it – its a fact of life. But if you think they’re only out to antagonise catholics, you really couldn’t be farther from the truth. But you’d need to explore orange parades beyond the flashpoint areas of NI. But that wouldn’t suit your political agenda.

    If you compare the Orange Order to Islam4Uk – then SF IRA are equal only to the Nazi’s – but then we all know the Irish state was in bed with the Nazi’s during WWII.

    (last line deleted in line with comments policy – Ed)

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