Orange Order Must Stop Madness.

Posted By: October 02, 2013

The writer reflects on the extremeness  of the  Orange Order 

Allison Morris. Irish News ( Belfast). Wednesday, October 2, 2013 The proposal by the Orange Order to end the impasse in north Belfast has been treated cynically by some nationalists and contemptuously by others.
After almost three months of protests that started with several days of intense violence followed by legal and illegal marches and has now settled in a euphemistically named ‘civil rights camp’, there was an admission by loyalists this week that it’s time to end this madness.
While the policing costs of an estimated £50,000 a day would cause little concern for many of those protesting, it has landed a blow on the unionist politicians who they rely on for support and whose colleagues sit on the policing board.
There was finally a realisation this week that the ‘we shall not be moved’ strategy that failed to deliver at Garvaghy has even less chance of success in mini form in north Belfast.
I’ve been in the Twaddell camp, there is a caravan I doubt anyone actually sleeps in, it has been modified with Rangers FC covered seats, there is also a Portacabin with hanging flower baskets and colourful pots.
It’s perfectly pleasant and residents were helpful and accommodating to the awaiting press, but lets face it, this is hardly a long-term strategy. Residents on both sides want the situation resolved. Small business owners along the front of the Crumlin Road are suffering in an already dire economic climate.
And regardless of how staunchly supportive of the Orange any community are there is parade saturation point. Having bandsmen march up and down outside your door nightly just as you are trying to watch EastEnders must begin to rub after a while.
The offer of an early morning walk was immediately rejected by some residents.
The Greater Ardoyne Residents Coalition dismissed it outright stating they will oppose a Saturday march. In the past the group has organised sit-down protests against loyalist parades.
Crumlin Ardoyne Residents Association, the group most closely linked to Sinn Fein, said talks cannot come with preconditions.
But it is also worth considering what is at stake here for the Orange in Belfast. By offering to ‘complete the Twelfth’ on a cold miserable Saturday in October at a time when most people are still in bed they are accepting that the afternoon, return leg of the march, is unacceptable whereas the morning is tolerable.
While there are those who want an end to all parades in the area, having covered this march for many years I can assure readers the morning march does not cause anywhere near the same level of controversy as the evening leg.
Protesters are smaller in numbers and bandsmen and their supporters, not yet hyped up after a day of drinking in the field, less likely to behave in a reckless and offensive manner.
What the Orange proposed to settle the Ardoyne dispute could set a precedent for years to come. Should it be the Parades Commission or whatever little brother the assembly agree on as a replacement to arbitrate on future marches, change is afoot. The Orange Order is aware that its survival is in jeopardy, an ageing membership has seen it align to any port in a storm to regain relevance. In this case the UVF who are no longer even pretending to be on ceasefire. The organisation is operating with a gun in one hand and an application form for European funding in the other. Shooting a pretty blonde girl for angering an increasingly out of control east Belfast leadership just the latest indiscretion. Do the Orange, an apparently Christian organisation, really want to be wedded to such unpredictable bedfellows? Marching at a time that causes least offence, promising to get involved in genuine talks with residents when there is a realistic possibility of reaching a compromise, these are massive steps forward for the loyal orders in Belfast who have remained in the trenches long after their country brethren admitted reform was necessary for survival.
Whether the Twelfth gets completed in October or never, the Orange Order has admitted change is necessary.
A declaration by the Orange Order that talking to nationalists is the only way out of the current crisis must be welcomed.
It’s time to pack up camp and tow the Twaddell caravan back to Ballyhalbert where it belongs.