There’s no place for Orange parades in modern Scotland

Posted By: July 05, 2017

Police are investigating last Saturday’s Orange parade

Wee Ginger Dug @weegingerdug.  The National. Scotland. Tuesday, July 4, 2017

POLICE Scotland are investigating last Saturday’s Orange parade in Glasgow for alleged sectarian chanting. In other news, police are investigating Sawney Bean for alleged offenses against the Food Standards Agency, and Vlad the Impaler for breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

According to reports, police are investigating allegations that people viewing the Orange parade were chanting the so-called Famine Song as one of the bands in the parade played the song’s tune. The song mocks the Irish Famine in which more than one million died and millions more were forced into emigration in a man-made disaster for which the British state bears considerable responsibility. The song then demands that modern Scots of Irish descent “go back home”.

The Irish Famine, An Gorta Mór, happened more than 170 years ago, yet for certain sectarian bigots in Scotland over a century and a half of residence in Scotland still isn’t enough for a community to be accepted as Scottish. Every year Glasgow and other towns in Scotland are subjected to this ritual of intolerance and bigotry. It’s an annual display to those of us of Irish descent that even now, in 2017, there are people in Scotland who do not regard us as being fully Scottish.

If you are at all surprised that during an Orange parade there were Scottish people chanting offensive and racist songs about their fellow Scots of Irish descent, then you’ll probably also be shocked and amazed at the discovery that the besequined, boa-clad contestants on RuPaul’s Drag Race are, in fact, men.

There may have been marchers at the Orange event on Saturday who likewise have a propensity for cross-dressing – they’d have been the ones parading in the boa their father woa. But the truth is that given the intolerance and homophobia displayed by the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, it’s unlikely that they’d have been given an opportunity to perform an Orange Sashay. In the July bonfires in Northern Ireland, people burn both the gay rainbow flag and the Irish tricolor.

I’m happy to admit to being the world’s worst Catholic. Despite the best efforts of my parents, Catholicism never stuck, possibly due to the fact that I was born without the shame gene. At the age of 11, I decided that God was just Santa Claus for grown-ups, and that pretty much set the tone for my teenage years in the 1970s, which were marked by increasingly confrontational rejections of religion. In fact the “I’m not going to Mass anymore” fight I had with my parents when I was 16 was way bigger than the “I’m gay” fight we had a few years later. However, despite the fact that John Knox and Martin Luther have far more in common with the Catholic Church than I do – you know, like the whole being a Christian thing – in the eyes of Scotland’s Orangeistas, I’ll always be a Catholic. In a strange way, it’s a bit like being a British citizen, that’s also a condition you’re born into and are unable to get rid of. The Orange Order probably doesn’t appreciate the irony.

What all this proves is that the term Catholic in Scottish sectarian terminology has nothing to do with a person’s religious beliefs. It has nothing to do with a nuanced consideration of Transubstantiation or the validity of religious iconography. It is not dependent on faith. If you descend from Irish Catholic migrants, you’re a Catholic. In sectarian terminology, being characterized as a Catholic has everything to do with anti-Irish racism. The Orange worldview seeks to monopolize the definition of Scottishness as a variant of Britishness.

Therefore if you’re of Irish origin, you can’t be Scottish because you’re not British; Orangeism is a disease of British nationalism. When I was a kid the only time I ever saw Union flags was during Orange Walks.

They were a symbol of exclusion, a banner that told me I didn’t belong and wasn’t wanted. When I was about seven years old there was an Orange Walk on the same day I made my First Communion, and it paused outside the church and banged its drums and blew on its flutes and chanted abuse to let us know that they didn’t want us here, in this country we were born in, that our parents were born in. I remember being terrified in case they decided to enter the church.

So it was pretty ironic during the independence referendum of 2014 to be lectured by people on social media with Union flags as their avatars about the inclusivity of Britishness and the supposedly intolerant and exclusionary nature of Scottish nationalism.

It was the mechanism of divide and rule by which the ruling classes ensured their supremacy over the working classes by pitting migrants against those already here, by creating divisions of religion as tribal markers, by fostering hatred and suspicion. Orangeism historically was the ideological justification for the systematic discrimination and exclusion faced by Scots of Irish descent. None of that ceases to be true just because the modern lodge continues to protest that it’s not a sectarian organization.

Orange parades, we’re told, are an expression of Scottish Protestant-Unionist culture. I’m not proposing Orange Walks are banned, but if you feel the need to express your culture by terrifying seven-year-olds in a Catholic church, or singing songs mocking a tragedy in which one million people died, and insisting that Scots whose families have lived in Scotland for generations “go home”, then you can’t have much of a culture worthy of celebration.

Yet here we are with a Tory government that’s only in power because it’s done a deal with the political wing of the Orange Order, and a Scottish Conservative party whose elected members feel free to engage in sectarian dog-whistling on social media while their media supporters lecture independence supporters about the Ulsterisation of Scottish politics. There was a much bigger march in Glasgow a couple of weeks ago, a pro-independence march. No-one was arrested, there was no violence, no-one sang racist songs. It was a march that celebrated the diversity of Scottishness, yet that was the march that Tory politicians condemned for supposed divisiveness.

Scotland has made immense progress in ridding itself of the shameful discrimination that blighted its past, but we will never rid Scotland of the last remnants of sectarianism as long as the party which was its historic beneficiary continues to pander to it.

The Conservatives are very quick to blame the SNP and independence supporters for creating division while they are plagued by division themselves as we speak.

If they were serious about healing divisions in Scotland, they could start by unequivocally condemning and rejecting Orange parades and making it plain that they believe that the atavism of 1690 has no place in modern Scotland.