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EAMONN McCANN surveys the wreckage of DRUMCREE III, and points the finger of blame firmly at Orange intransigence.
Eamonn McCann, 09 Jul 1997
AMONG the main casualties of Drumcree III ought to be the promoters of the Two Cultures theory of Northern politics and the associated idea of a solution based on parity of esteem .
But even as I write, with smoke still rising from last night s rage, stiff editorials plead for a way to be found of showing mutual respect for the conflicting traditions , when what Drumcree made plain, again, is that Orangeism cannot concede equal mutual respect .
To proclaim the supremacy of the Protestant Boys: this is the Order s raison d etre. To be able to flaunt this supremacy in the other side s face is the sine qua non for the continuation of Orange influence in what, inaccurately, it regards as its own community.
I still have a Candidate s Proposal Form for the Orange Order pinned above my desk, as a constant reminder. It requires the applicant for membership to attest not only that he (the text is explicit that women can t join) is a Protestant, but also that both parents were Protestants, and that if he is married his wife is a Protestant, and that he has never been in any way connected with the Church of Rome . Like, never in any way . . .
An Inspection Committee . . . having made careful enquiry , must confirm these claims, lest someone contaminated by Catholicism manages to infiltrate the ranks.
This is the reason the Portadown No. 1 District was unable to meet with the Garvaghy Road Residents group prior to the Drumcree march. To seek the agreement of Catholics would not so much make the march pointless as directly contradict the entire point of it.
Joel Patton of the Spirit Of Drumcree is talking truth when he says that the core of the objection to talks is not that residents groups commonly offer Sinn Fiiners and/or convicted terrorists as their main spokespersons: the objection is to any discussion with any representatives of areas which find Orange marches viscerally objectionable. That is to say, with Catholics.
Opposition to the Orange Order is a minimum (which is not to say sufficient) condition for qualification as an opponent of the sectarian hatred which has characterised public life in the North since before the inception of the State. Yet, remarkably, even now, the political centre is packed to danger point with commentators urging respect for Orangeism in the interests of equal rights . We might laugh that we do not weep.
It s Monday lunchtime and Mo Mowlam is on Radio Ulster reading from a script which tells of the need for respect for the culture and identity of both traditions , still unable or unwilling to see that respect for the other tradition she has in mind is utterly incompatible with the Orangeism which she deployed her cops to clear a path for yesterday through the people of Garvaghy Road.
Inherent, if unacknowledged, in this approach of Mowlam s, widely shared as it is in the Dublin media, is an acceptance of the notion that Orangeism is the natural expression of the culture and consciousness of the Protestant people that Protestants are natural bigots.
This, of course, is a presentation with which Catholic bigots are exceedingly well pleased.
Regular readers will be as weary of hearing this argument from me as I am of expressing it, in this space and elsewhere. But the air is thick with apprehension around me and the airwaves aquiver with threat. What point is there any more in commentators daintily averting their eyes from the truth in the hope that we can all fudge our way through to the future and then begin the job of drawing the poison out from the body politic?
Will they go to their graves still avoiding the issue? Certainly, they ll help ensure there are other people s graves to wring their hands over in the meantime.
There s no pleasing some people. A few weeks ago I offered the fundamentalist Prods up here a snappy new slogan of the sort you d be paid a fortune for on Madison Avenue, and what do I get except abuse, death threats and promises of prayer for the salvation of my soul?
Beat the rap! Get born again! No Catholics need apply! That was my slogan.
I d cut your throat myself. That was one of the answers which came my way.
Am I imagining this or are the anonymous death threat merchants beginning to express themselves more vividly than hitherto? Times like this, I long for the days they d shout a simple Ye Fenian fucker ye and slam the phone down. But then, we are being diverted these times from so many of the old traditional ways of going. Which, now that I come to think about it, is possibly what was ailing my caller.
It gets tedious. I could go ex-directory, but I hate that.
I d devised the slogan and offered it in a popular Northern publication as a possible advertisement for the services of retired paramilitaries who have found god and been transformed into kindly beings who d be distraught if they stepped on the tail of a cat.
One past paramilitary, presently a pastor, had explained on radio that his conversions were available only to Protestants. Or, as he put it, to Christians, among whom Catholics were not to be numbered. So all members of paramilitary groups beginning with U were cordially invited to apply for transfers from the death-squads to the god-squad. The Provos, however, could go to hell.
Marvellous. First you have the Old Testament, Exodus 34, Deuteronomy 20, Numbers 31 and whatever you re having yourself, Sammy, providing sanction for every form of evil madness known to humankind, flencing the flesh of your victims with butcher s knives not excluded.
Then the good old New Testament offers instant exculpation by being washed in the Blood of the Lamb. Some might find the idea of being washed in blood repulsive. But the chaps we are dealing with here have had experience.
I realise that many readers of Hot Press have no time for Christianity. I don t want to insult their beliefs, but they should think more deeply on these matters.
First, the go-ahead for near genocide. Then, should you feel a bit sullied as a result, a no-frills formula for wiping even those difficult stains from the soul.
Christianity? It s quare stuff.
Pity, though, that Basher Bates victims never got the chance to be born again. But then, they were Catholics, so what did they expect?
I m told that some patriotic sniveller in An Phoblacht has been complaining that I ve become more left-wing, or maybe it s less left-wing, and that, the ultimate horror apparently, I like cricket.
He can fuck away off. Not that I m surprised at Provos being confused, spending half their time posing as socialists and the rest of the time with their heads halfway up the arse of any sleazy American millionaire who can be persuaded to have a picture taken with their president.
That reminds me. I see that Albert Passports For Petfood Reynolds is being put forward for the other presidency, and that his role in the peace process is being mentioned as making him suitable for the post. Did you ever hear the like?
If you had to select the ten individuals on this island most to blame for the absence of peace, you couldn t keep the Tosspot of Mullingar off your list. The useless schemer thought he could fix up a deal for the North the way you might fix up a bit of an oul problem with planning permission.
I ve said it before and I ll say it again: thank heavens there are still decent, insightful, fair-minded people in this world like the Old Bailey jury which decided that the Sunday Times had made rubbish of Reynolds reputation, right enough, but that his reputation wasn t worth tuppence.
This is not to say that Reynolds mightn t be an improvement on the self-serving opportunist Noddy Robinson who, having patronised practically every citizen on the island with her meaningless simpering, has now gone off to recreate the same insulting performance on the world stage. History will come around soon enough to my way of thinking and put the Robinson presidency down as a seven-year glitch.
That s it. The dawn rises over Drumcree as I write. And I can t think of any more nice things to say about people. n