To speak of the Orange Order in the opening decade of the 21st century conjures up all kinds of images in the popular mind. Usually, images of confrontation and violence, as the institution is perceived to want to walk where they are not wanted – Brian Kennaway.

Rioting in Ardoyne. Hardly news, we have heard it too often to be shocked by it. Yet, paradoxically, it is very much newsworthy. That riots should be continuing there long after the supposed emergence of a new dispensation around a very old bone of contention provides substance to those perspectives challenging the myths of the peace process. For the residents of Ardoyne the peace process has in the view of Mairtin Og Meehan delivered the dubious right to be hemmed in to the sound of ‘silence of the elected representatives of the area who care to look the other way and only see and say what their masters up in Stormont tell them to.’

A perennial source of friction, Orange marches which intersect with nationalist communities are often a match to tinder. Ardoyne on the 13th of July showed how combustible the combination of triumphalist marchers and besieged residents actually is. The outcome – conflagration. Disingenuously, those who insist on marching through areas where they are despised claim they are exercising their religious freedom. Persecution and religious freedom have down the centuries been symbiotically fused into ideologies of hatred, of which Orangeism is one we in Ireland are only too familiar with.

Not that religion has anything to recommend it but if these marches have any theological underpinning it is in a theology of domination that it is to be found. As the author of The Orange Order: A Tradition Betrayed, Brian Kennaway asks, ‘Is the Orange Institution a religious organisation with a political element or a political organisation with a religious element?’ There are few takers for the suggestion that Orange marches are religious events based on the principle that all the children of god are equal. That sort of god is of little use to the Orangeman. He wants a god that allows him to lord it over his neighbours. Equality, religious or otherwise, has traditionally held little premium in the North. Men in clerical dog collars may preach at fields but what they preach is politics masked by piety. Look no further than Willie McCrea and you immediately get a sense of the infinite. It is the gap between him and any sort of merciful deity.

This is not to be blind to individuals like Brian Kennaway, a member of the Orange Order from 1964, who genuinely hold religious beliefs that do not seek to express themselves by trampling over their neighbours. Although more or less a believer that the last real Christian was crucified I nevertheless admire Brian Kennaway for the energy he has brought to the task of stripping the Order of its supremacist ethos by stressing ‘ideals of tolerance, religious piety, citizenship and brotherhood’ and for the manner in which he tries to live out a tolerant Christian lifestyle. Unfortunately, despite the efforts of him and others of like mind, the tramplers continue to trample, under the pretence of freedom to assemble. They tend to emulate the intellectual acumen of the imbecile Dawson Bailie and sidestep the cerebral prowess of Kennaway.

Meanwhile, the government in Dublin, in an age of growing secularism, has unpardonably introduced a blasphemy law which allows people like Willie McCrea and Dawson Bailie to claim special privilege for their opinions which when ridiculed by the rest of us may result in a court appearance.

Religious prejudice defended North and South – Ireland is being united. Great.

1 comment:

  1. Would I be wrong to suggest that we're going back to the future?!