Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Bank rolling bigotry

A major feature of the peace process has been the legitimisation of sectarianism. One of the main beneficiaries of this process has been the Orange Order. Its sectarian agitation has been rewarded with lavish patronage from the state. This has ranged the from public funding for parades – money to promote the 12th July as some kind of family fun day – to the appointment of its members to various public bodies. Two Portadown members involved in the Drumcree protest were even put on the Parades Commission.

Another example of the mollycoddling of the Orange Order came this week with the announcement from the Irish government that the Order was to receive almost 250,000 euros in funding. This will go to a company, Cadelmo Ltd, set up to support an initiative in the border counties to promote and organise the Orange institution in the south. Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs minister Eamon O'Cuiv said he was “delighted to be in a position to provide funding".

Despite its claim that Protestants in the south were a persecuted minority who had to “keep their heads down” in order to survive, the Orange Order was happy to pocket this money. And this is just the tip of a large financial ice berg. A £10million centre commemorating the Battle of the Boyne, is due to open in three months. This centre, which is located at the site of the battle near Drogheda, will encompass a museum and an interpretive centre on the theme of the “Williamite revolution”. The Irish Government has also said it is committed to helping fund a “Williamite Trail” to run from Carrickfergus to the Boyne.

All this is part of the process of sanitising the Orange Order and portraying it as just another aspect of Irish culture. Yet even a cursory glance at the history of the Order would reveal it be a thoroughly reactionary organisation that has been, and continues to be, instrumental in denying democratic rights to the Irish people.

By coincidence, a small example of the true character of the Order was on show the very same day as the funding announcement was made when several hundred of its members picketed Banbridge Council. This was in response to the removal of a number of overtly political and militaristic symbols from public display at the Council’s headquarters. The items included a painting of an RAF vehicle checkpoint, entitled 'Freeze all Movement', an oil painting of an Orange lodge, and plaques presented by the RUC Male Voice Choir, the Royal British Legion, the Ulster Defence Regiment, the Ulster Special Constabulary, the Royal Irish Rangers, the Royal Irish Rifles, the Royal Irish Fusiliers, the Hampshire Constabulary and the Royal Air Force Irish Guards.

These items have not been removed altogether, but merely moved to another room.
Yet even this meagre gesture towards not offending nationalists is too much for the Orange Order. Its Grand Secretary Drew Nelson, who led the protest, described the shifting of the items as a "determined effort to wipe the face of Britishness from the council and its property". The fact that they picked the building in such numbers can only be seen as act of intimidation to reverse the Council’s policy on symbols. And all this over a few plaques! How much more agitated would they be if there were any moves towards real equality.

Not that the Orange Order has any fears of being challenged. Certainly not by Sinn Fein. The reaction of Gerry Adams was to offer to meet Orange leaders to discuss their concerns. But if you accept Orangeism as a legitimate cultural expression what other reaction can there be?


Anonymous said...

Lets hope that the interpretive centre at Drogheda will at least have the honesty to show that the Orange Order has no record of organised activity going back to 1690 and have their roots in the bigoted reaction against the Protestant radicals of the United Irishmen. But then the southern bourgeoisie admire all reactionary organisations even if they originate almost a century later than the events they claim political lineage from. Would they not dearly love to have a green version as powerful and popular as the O/O? The sickening part is that Irish Protestants are being equated to the intolerant fundamentalism of Orangism. How many Protestant bourgeois patriots are spinning in their graves?

blender said...

The thing is that Irish nationalism was unable to overcome the obstacle of Orange reaction and British sponsorship of same. They were unable to break free of Catholic confessionalism and offer a truely democratic and secular vision for Ireland and also unable to offer to protestant workers a way forward for them as members of the working class that appeared better than the safety of imperialist servitude. Their radical child, Irish republicanism, was just as incapable even when offered the opportunity of a partial protestant radicalism in the early days of the northern state.

The capitulation of Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein to Orangism is the end result of their failures as political movements - in fact, what could more clearly mark how decisively they have failed, even by the measure of their own claims?

Anonymous said...

Yes, no argument there blender. Anyway, the Catholic bourgeoisie bought in to the colonial settlement from the defeat of the United Irish men, remember that what followed was Daniel O'Connell. Any limited national independance achieved from that point was in spite of them rather because of them.Young Irelanders were afraid of the masses, Fenians were used by Parnellism and Free State was a product of the defeat of a workers revolt inspired by 1917. Question is, will the radical child's lineage of defeat ever catch up with it or will it continually be recycled in the absence of a popular radical socialist alternative?