‘Don’t tolerate intolerance’. This post was written after reading Dr Dave Magee’s opinions on a potential ‘shared future’ for the 12th of July ‘celebrations’.
As the violence and hate of the 12th of July ‘celebration’ begins to subside in the North; so begins the choral rise of “it’s not all bad… it’s not how it looks”.
Excuses and exceptions promote tolerance and acceptance in respect to Orange-fest. But the fact of the matter is this: Orange-fest is intolerable, it’s destructive, and it’s divisive. We should refuse to tolerate it and refuse to accept it.
I wasn’t particularly surprised to read Dr Dave Magee’s account of a pleasant ‘beacon’ event on the eleventh night. Beacon events are a more eco-friendly version of the bonfires that pollute the 11th night air.
Dr Magee (University of Aberdeen) had attended a beacon event that was, evidently, an exception to many bonfires; an eco-friendly, largely anti-sectarian, community celebration.
Now, being from North Derry I am well aware that many of my friends in the PUL community don’t set out to rub my face in the dirt of the Boyne. For many, the eleventh night is just as natural as Christmas and the twelfth is just the same; they know no different. But I refuse to accept that the beacon event was anymore socially wholesome than sister events and bonfires. Dr Magee’s account smacks of a dangerous, sycophantic ignorance.
At face value it might be genuinely refreshing to read such an account of the eleventh night. However, we must draw up short of accepting it as the status quo. Just because it isn’t doused in the same hatred that burns effigies of Catholics and Republicans, religious icons and politicians, and the flags of the free-state, doesn’t mean it’s okay. It might be an exception to the rule; an exception to, what is generally, a bitter and divisive celebration but fact remains that it’s fundamentally wrong.
Dr Magee’s article, entitled “Ross Kemp won’t tell you this”, presents the message that many of the supporters of Orange-fest want to get across. The image that: media-bias like Ross Kemp’s BBC documentary and the Stephen Nolan coverage present an unfair and ill-measured picture of the celebrations. That they are somehow ‘one-sided’ in an anti-Protestant media surge. But think for a minute of the people of Belfast: I don’t think the residents of the Short Strand and the Ardoyne would agree, in fact, I dare to say that even the centrist population of the city and the North would take exception.
In that sense, it’s important to counter Dr Magee’s claim. I would suggest to Dave, and the others who lead the case in defence of Orange-fest, that the reason the media coverage is presented in its current light is because that’s exactly how it is; dominated by hate-filled, drunken and sectarian yobs. You see, it’s an unfortunate truth but the evidence of the ‘Orange-fest effect’ is more prevalent in broken bones and windows than his, sepia toned, visions of ‘a shared night’.
Unionist leaders claim that “we need to be very clear” about the fact that these outbreaks are the fault of the parades’ commission and the police. They labour their point, that ‘yet again’, they are being targeted whilst their ‘culture is being eroded’. But their culture is this: it denounces non-Protestant existence; it’s incapable of real tolerance; it celebrates, not just an ‘ancient battle’, but the persecution of Catholicism and ideals of an anti-monarchical movement… It hates ‘its neighbours’ and loves itself. They celebrate fascist, social and moral superiority. Their culture was born out of intimidation and that’s how ‘the order’ wants it to continue.
It’s important to provide some context aswell. The ‘loyalist’ working class are disenfranchised. They’ve been abandoned by Blair and left to rot ever since. Unemployed and deprived they are being exploited by the leadership of an organisation (the Loyal Orange Lodge) that has no intention of making compromise. “I’d rather be a Paki than a Teague…” they sing. If only they knew; the dole’s worth the same no matter who you are. They’re just another product of underinvestment and they’re only loyalist by accident of birth.
Whilst Gerry Kelly was standing on the bonnet of a PSNI land-rover appealing for calm in the Republican streets, where were the leaders of the PUL community who called ‘their people’ to protest in the first place? Yet again, notable by their absence the DUP, UUP and LOL left their people to whip up mayhem in Belfast.
We need to find a way forward. Culture and tradition isn’t an excuse for Orange-fest.
Just because something is ‘culture’ or ‘tradition’ doesn’t mean we should tolerate it.
Don’t look for examples of where ‘it’s not too bad’. We should progressively denounce why it’s wrong, educate against it and rebuke it at every opportunity. The world is watching in dismay. Year after year Orange-fest has torn Belfast to shreds.
We must be brave and proclaim that it’s wrong, it’s socially divisive and it has no place in our shared future.
I don’t always agree with Martin McGuinness, but he spoke well at the weekend. We can’t blame the PUL working-class community for a lack of education, low-levels of employment and the disorder as a result. It’s both an accident of birth and a consequence of disadvantage. When the people need hope, they’ve been fed hate.
Responsibility for the hurt of this year’s ‘celebration’ lies squarely at the door of the Orange Order. “They are a disgrace”.