17 July 2008 Edition
Twelfth speeches expose Orange Order agenda
BY LAURA FRIEL
THE political rhetoric in speeches delivered by the leaders of the Orange Order at a series of parades across the North have exposed the true nature of this anti-Good Friday Agreement and sectarian organisation.
In recent times, elements within the Orange Order have attempted to portray their Twelfth parades as some sort of inclusive tourist attraction. But the sentiments expressed in speeches addressed to Orangemen by the Order’s leadership betray the same old anti-Catholic and anti-republican rhetoric that continues to be inflammatory, sectarian and divisive.
In speeches that would have made the racist British National Party proud, the Orange Order delivered its annual message of fear and hate. Indulging in fear-mongering on a grand scale, the Order’s leadership peppered its depictions of most things Irish and all things republican with words such as “repulsive”, “dangerous” “sickening”.
And in the classic style of the racist, the message to the membership is that Orangemen are about to be “overwhelmed”, “overpowered” and rendered “subject”.
Unable to ratchet up sectarian tensions by recourse to any real threat of violence or intimidation, the Order cites the Irish language as the most dangerous weapon in the “Provo” arsenal. (I must just point out that my own teenage daughter is currently spending the summer at the Gaeltacht in preparation for studying Irish at GCSE and to cite her and her friends as dangerous enemies of state is the height of nonsense.)
Exercising the right to learn and speak Irish has nothing to do with “the intended application of cultural apartheid” or “an Irish-language onslaught to strangle” Orangemen’s “sense of Britishness”.
The modest proposals of the Irish Language Act cannot be reasonably described as enabling Irish to “run rampant throughout our country”. Of course, when the Orange Order refers to “our” they really mean exclusively their own.
And all of this would be very silly if we hadn’t seen it all before: in Nazi propaganda against the Jews in the 1930s, in white supremacist hatred of black people, in the anti-Irish racism of British colonialism.
Irrationality lies at the core of racism, sectarianism, anti-Semitism – and the Orange Order is a racist organisation. Religious difference is simply the mechanism by which anti-Irish racism can be most conveniently expressed.
There was not one passage in the speeches delivered by the Orange Order’s leadership, exhorting the progressive legacies of Protestantism, of which there are many. For Orangemen, Protestantism is reduced solely to a badge of difference that divides them from their Catholic or Irish neighbours.
And at the core of the Order’s position is a rejection of reconciliation, power sharing and equality. The power-sharing institutions were referred to as a “contaminated zone” and power sharing itself as a “corruption of democracy”.
In the Orange Order’s distorted vision, opposition to the old sectarian, one-party state of Orange supremacism, is sectarian and divisive. Simply by participating in the democratic process, republicans are “administering a political threat” and “intimidating the political process”.
And any attempt to recognise the rights of Irish-language speakers will unleash a “plague” of “bitter division and violent conflict”. The Irish Language Act “could plunge us all into political chaos”, says the Order, “so be warned and be prepared to resist and not to flinch”.
Commenting on the Order’s speeches, Sinn Féin MLA John O’Dowd said that, despite attempts at rebranding being made by the Orange Order, “the fact remains that it is a deeply sectarian organisation which has not grasped the new political realities of life in the new millennium”. He continued:
“No one listening to the speeches of the Order’s leadership can conclude that the Orange Order is primarily a religious or cultural organisation. It is not. It is a political organisation with a specific agenda which is anti-Irish, hostile to equality and determined to undermine the power-sharing institutions.”
Nationalists attacked in Rasharkin and Belfast
INFLAMMATORY rhetoric often fuels sectarian violence. Residents in the village of Rasharkin were hoping for a peaceful Twelfth. For the first time ever, the Parades Commission had made a determination that placed a number of small restrictions on Orange marchers as they passed through the predominantly nationalist village.
What’s more, the PSNI had promised to police the parade in a proper manner and ensure that the Parades Commission’s determination was fully adhered to. Despite the fact that the village is predominantly nationalist, villagers did not object to an Orange parade through the main street, subject to the Parades Commission’s restriction of no street drinking.
They even complied with the Order’s decision to march within the nationalist residential area of Sunnyside, subject to the added restriction of no music beyond a single drumbeat. The restriction is imposed to avoid loyalist bands accompanying the marchers rendering sectarian tunes, a feature of Orange parades designed to cause offence to local Catholics.
In recognition of the Parade Commission’s determination and PSNI reassurances, residents let it be known that they would be waiving their right to hold a protest. Yet despite the PSNI being fully aware that no protest had been organised, in the run-up to the Twelfth, DUP MLA Ian Paisley Jnr claimed Sinn Féin was organising a protest in Rasharkin “in an attempt to threaten the Protestant community”.
Paisley accused Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay of being “hungry for bigotry against his neighbours” and linked this non-existent protest to the DUP’s determination to block the transfer of policing and justice powers.
“Sinn Féin is calling for the devolution of policing powers yet, single-handedly, they undermine any confidence that is being built by a stupid decision to have a protest at an Orange parade,” Paisley Jnr claimed.
Meanwhile, DUP MLA Mervyn Storey slammed the Parades Commission’s decision to impose any restrictions on Orange marchers parading through Rasharkin.
Storey accused the Parades Commission of having an “inner compulsion to placate threats of violence from nationalists”.
“This is further evidence of just how pitiful the Parades Commission has been at its job and just how injurious its contribution has been to human rights in Northern Ireland,” Storey argued.
“The most needed single drum beat that Northern Ireland needs at present is that of the funeral procession of the Parades Commission,” the DUP MLA said.
Inflammatory comments were soon accompanied by inflammatory action as the only Catholic-owned bar in the village was petrol bombed on the Eleventh Night. The bomb exploded, shattering all the windows.
On the same night, a Catholic home in the nearby village of Kilrea was attacked; earlier in the week, a Catholic community hall was also targeted, as was the local GAA club.
On the Twelfth, in Rasharkin, the parade in Sunnyside passed off without incident but already residents were concerned about the failure of the PSNI to challenge the amount of alcohol being carried and consumed by the marchers.
Carnfinton Park is the entrance of a nationalist residential area that runs off the main street in Rasharkin. After spending the afternoon listening to speeches and drinking a great deal of alcohol, instead of dispersing, Orangemen parade back through Rasharkin before heading away from the village.
At the entrance of Carnfinton Park, trouble broke out after a number of bandsmen attacked a group of teenagers from the nearby nationalist estate. A 14-year-old girl was punched in the face and her nose was broken. A teenage boy standing next to her was smashed in the face, leaving his mouth bloody and swollen. Other residents were kicked and punched as hand-to-hand fighting broke out.
A resident said:
“The bandsmen were very drunk and out of control. The PSNI delayed intervening until the riot squad arrived. The media subsequently tried to blame nationalists but even the PSNI admitted privately the bandsmen had caused the trouble.
“The fact that the PSNI used CS spray to quell the bandsmen says a lot. Afterwards, one PSNI officer said they had been expecting trouble from that particular band.”
Earlier, another group of drunken Orangemen attacked nationalist residents in the Broadway area of west Belfast. Sinn Féin MLA Fra McCann praised local residents for repelling a drunken loyalist mob who had attempted to launch an attack on nationalist homes.
“A drunken unionist mob of up to 200 left an Eleventh Night bonfire in the loyalist Village area, crossed over the Broadway roundabout and attempted to attack nationalist homes,” McCann said.
Local people’s concern that ongoing construction work at the crossroads would leave them particularly vulnerable to a mob attack was vindicated after loyalists armed themselves with bricks and scaffolding bars from the site. Fra McCann said:
“Residents, along with members of the Safer Neighbourhood Project, managed to repel the attack. It took the PSNI over 20 minutes to respond. If it were not for the prompt and courageous action of local people, the unionist mob would have undoubtedly caused serious damage.
“This attack on nationalist homes stands in stark contrast to Orange Order claims of a new approach to the Twelfth. The Order has a long way to go to convince people that it is abandoning its usual sectarian behaviour which has been endured by nationalists year on year.”
Orange Order tribute to UVF sectarian assassin
OVER the Twelfth there was an Orange Order banner flying on the Shankill Road in Belfast which bears a photo and tribute to UVF man Brian Robinson.
On 2 September 1989, Robinson shot 40-year-old Catholic Patrick McKenna 11 times outside the Ardoyne shops in north Belfast. Mr McKenna died at the scene.
Minutes later, as Robinson and his accomplice made their getaway on a motorbike along the Crumlin Road, they were intercepted by an undercover British Army squad.
Robinson was shot dead. The other UVF man was arrested and later received a life sentence for the McKenna murder and that of another Catholic, Jim McCartney.