So Twelfth of July. Thing is…I dont like it.
I dont like Orangemen.
I dont like the Orange Order.
I dont like their apologists.
And I dont feel in any way bad about it.
Opposing Racism (or in this case Orange Supremacism) is NOT Racist. Orange “Culture” is not “Culture” at all. And the so called Culture is not under threat as part of a genocidal campaign.
But the old days when Orangemen could walk the “Queens Highway” without any reciprocal arrangement for nationalists are long gone. They blew it themselves.
Their behaviour at Garvaghy Road ensured that “orange feet” will not walk that part of Portadown. Their behaviour on the nationalist part of the Ormeau Road in South Belfast means they cant walk there with impunity.
And likewise the Ardoyne Shops.
Orangemen have a tendency to shoot themselves in their Orange feet. I cant say that I am unduly bothered. The problem with the Orange Order (apart from its existence) is that it cant accept responsibility for the thuggish element which follows its Parades. That element which sings anti-Catholic songs, urinates against Catholic Churches and burns the Irish National Flag on its bonfires. It is…Culture. It is Traditional.
The irony is that the Orange Order have a pretty good case. A right to Free Assembly of course has of course to be balanced with the rights of residents to live a peaceful life. But in the context of one major Orange march in Belfast …it does not seem unreasonable that there are “feeder” parades from various parts of Belfast to the starting point at Clifton Orange Hall. And parades back to various parts of the city from “The Field”.
All very civilised. If only the Orangemen and their supporters had a bit of manners. It really is that simple.
So take Ardoyne. A Catholic area alongside Crumlin Road in North Belfast. A small area around the Ardoyne Shops is Catholic on both sides of the Crumlin Road. And this is the area of contention. Crumlin Road is a main arterial road in North Belfast. Orangemen from the North of the city want to walk along Crumlin Road to Clifton Street Orange Hall. Probably no more than three miles. But the problem is as much their fleg (sic) waving, chanting, boorish supporters.
The Twelfth is of course a day that commemorates Orange triumph…the Battle of the Boyne in 1690…so its to be expected that the parade of Good Christian men becomes problematic as it passes close by to Catholic areas. And with thirty years of a pretty nasty Civil War, only recently ended …it is too much to expect that the Twelfth in places like Crumlin Road, Ormeau Road and Garvaghy Road are the good natured carnivals sold to us on BBC and UTV.
In remote parts of Tyrone, it might be nice to know that Billy McBilly is attending his eightieth consecutive Orange parade in Bally-Go-Backwards. Or that Sammy McSammy, a visitor from Canada is seeing his first “Ulster” (sic) Twelfth.
But heres the thing about Ardoyne.
The Parades Commission have the judgement of Solomon.
They are allowed to parade down the Crumlin Road TO Clifton Street on the morning of 12th July. Quietly. Dont wake the residents.
And the Parade home at about 6pm is banned. Find another way home.
Thats the ruling from 2013 and earlier today the Parades Commission made a similar ruling about 2014. Last year, this led to prolonged rioting and the usual charges that Orange Culture is under attack.
A civil rights camp (Im not joking) was set up by loyalists.
On a nightly basis, loyalists leave their homes in the Upper Crumlin Road to drive to Twaddel Camp to protest about er not being allowed to go “home”.
And after the protest…they go….home.
And they have been doing this for eleven months.
A reasonable person might see that the Parades Commission would not change their minds.
Its Zero Sum Politics.
A bad day for Unionism is a good day for Nationalism.
The DUP and UUP have today withdrawn from All Party Talks at Stormont.
What happens next?
DUP, UUP and the Orange Order are on a hook.
So the Norn Iron Office, PSNI and the Parades Commission as well as a few “behind the scenes” fixers at Queens University, Belfast, will be trying to find a deal…probably based on limited numbers and bands.
Alternatively the Orange Order might opt for “feet on the Crumlin Road”, that is a show of solidarity with their Good Christian Brethren in North Belfast.
Just because the Parades Commission has ruled in favour of the Catholic residents today does not mean they wont change their minds.
Any change of mind will play badly with residents.
And basically thats the Zero Sum Game. As things stand, police and their water cannon will be deployed against unionists.
And if there is a change of decision, police and their water cannon are deployed against nationalists.
And Id look for a so called balanced solution, where (say) Ardoyne is traded off with Portadown.