Another July 12th round of rioting, street disturbances, house-burnings and general displays of sectarianism, racism and straight-forward fascism. Of course some people will protest that such incidences are in the minority, and make the news headlines precisely because of their relative rarity. The vast majority of events around the “Twelfth”, they argue, pass off without violence or confrontation (beyond a few bellicose speeches and hangovers in various fields and housing estates). Most of those who wear the sash of the Grand Orange Lodge Of Ireland, more commonly the Orange Order, are law-abiding people, most of their parades are peaceful, and most of the British and unionist bonfire-burnings or street-celebrations in the north of the country are free of inter-communal trouble. However, one is tempted to ask: so what?
The vast majority of those in the Ku Klux Klan obey the laws of the United States, however much they may disagree with aspects of them, and most partake in peaceful parades or celebrations of their “culture”. However that does not make their organisation and the views it espouses – or encourages – any less reprehensible in the 21st century than it was in the 20th or 19th. A perfect reasonableness in day-to-day life, an adherence to ordinariness, does not negate the vileness of the discriminatory ideology some people, be they in the KKK or the OO, sympathise with. Any more than the hundreds of thousands of Americans who reject racism while rallying to the defence of the Confederate battle flag can legitimately reject the percieved and actual links between the former and the latter. Popularity does not lend credibility to discreditable causes.
The Grand Orange Lodge Of Ireland is an organisation committed to upholding the historic legacy of Britain’s colonial misadventures on this island, and it does so upon the basis of a perceived religious and quasi-racial supremacism over the “native” or Catholic Irish (whatever that crude definition may now mean). It is simply dishonest to argue otherwise. The Order makes no bones about such matters in its own contemporary description of itself:
“We are a Protestant fraternity with members throughout the world.
In 1795, …it was decided to form an organisation which would protect Protestants. This body, drawing on existing Orange Clubs in the neighbourhood, was named the Loyal Orange Institution.
In modern times the Loyal Orange Institution continues to function, with thousands of members in Ireland many others across the world. Today defending Protestantism is not so literal as it was in 1795, but it requires us to take a stand for truth in an age of secularism and in order to defend our culture and traditions.”
On its website the OO outlines its purpose as a force that unites Protestant fundamentalism with British nationalism:
“The introduction of Gladstone’s Home Rule Bill in 1886 gave the Order a membership which was to transform it completely to make it a highly respectable and exceedingly powerful religious political organisation.
The whole influence of the Order was to be on the side of continuing union with Great Britain on the existing pattern.
From the outset of the campaign against Home Rule the Orange Order had taken a responsible part. There was a high standard of leadership utterly dedicated to the service of the Unionist and Protestant cause.
It is certain that without the Order the fight for the maintenance of the Union would have been lost.”
The Orange Order is not a fraternity, it is not some ersatz form of harmless freemasonry like the Shriners or a glorified club for former frat house “bros”. It is a sub-militant, politico-religious movement dedicated to promulgating the UK’s historic colonial administration over part of the island nation of Ireland, and on behalf of the chief communal benefactors of that administration. All else is disingenuous playacting.
Meanwhile, in the wake of yet another “Twelfth” crisis, British terrorists flex their muscles, albeit in an unconvincing manner, as reported by the Gordian newspaper in the UK:
“A new unnamed loyalist terror group has threatened members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and the Parades Commission in a potentially dangerous twist to Ulster’s turbulent marching season.
The statement was accompanied by a photograph of three people wearing masks and camouflage-style clothing sitting at a table on which appear to be two revolvers, a machine gun and a self-loading rifle that was standard issue in the British Army until the 1990s.”
In fact the photo, featured at the top of this post, shows three individuals dressed in British military-style “disruptive pattern material” or DPM uniforms, accompanied by an old, semi-automatic L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle (more commonly known as the SLR), two ancient-looking Webley Mk IV .38/200 Service Revolvers, and what may well may be one of the last examples of a home-made “loyalist” submachine gun, an improvised weapon based upon the conventional Sterling model formerly used by the British army and RUC. Several hundred were produced by unionist workshops in the 1980s and ’90s, though relatively few were safe to use.