Wednesday, 16 July 2014

70 Days To Go

Orange Walks

A topic that everyone appears to have an opinion on. There is no middle ground here. The opinion is either in support of the walks/marches/parades, or against. End  of.
It can be a tad uncomfortable to be of an opposing opinion in the company of others, best to keep opinions to ones self, as the topic of an Orange Walk or The Orange Order often provokes an emotional and physical reaction, at times, violent.

Why am I bringing up this divisive topic on my #100days100reasonsforyes series? What on earth does the Independence Referendum have to do with the Orange Order?
Well, I have decided to write about it, (from the point of view of my understanding and personal opinion) as I don't see that in this day and age, there is any need for an Orange Walk and the all that it entails. I believe that with an independent future, we, the people of our country, can redress the issue of sectarianism, bigotry, the deep seated hatred felt and expressed by a minority of our population (not focussing just on the Orange Order, but to everyone who par takes in this rivalry). The Orange Walks and the actions of some of their followers/protesters against, are actually damaging to our culture, and to future generations growing up here.   With a Yes vote, and the new written Scottish constitution, which is currently under consultation, we have the chance to properly deal with sectarianism (perceived or otherwise), not just from the Orange Order, but from society in Scotland as a whole. I believe in social liberty, justice and democracy for all our of our citizens.
The referendum is very much an issue with the Order, as they are, and have been since their inception, an extremely political organisation. Essentially they are pro-union, pro-monarchy, pro-protestant, anti-indy, anti-republic, anti-catholic. No matter how its dressed up, this is the Order in a nutshell.  The Order are marching on the eve of the referendum, to save the union.  Unfortunately, their demonstration just doesn't have the same feel of positivity, of confidence, of the every day person doing  this together for each other, as say, Yes in the Park or Yestival.

Why do I feel strongly about this outdated organisation? I was not raised in the catholic faith. But by the same token, I am not protestant either. Yes, I was christened into the Church of Scotland, but at 8weeks old, I didn't have a say in that matter. It means nothing to me and is not part of my life.  When I was a child, I loved going to the football with my Dad. We went to Ibrox. In truth I wasn't a big footie fan, but I loved the bus journey through and hearing all the swear words ("don't tell your mum what you've heard"), the excitement of a live game, and a day with my Dad. But I was NOT allowed to go to an Old Firm game - no way, no how! I feel strongly that much of our country is divided by hatred, and that the Orange Walks, keep it going and incite feeling in some people that result in violent clashes.  The amount of police presence required when the Order take to the streets for their walks, (especially in Glasgow) and the cost of such presence,is ridiculous. Violence is actually expected at this "celebration". People go, looking for a fight. That is people from both sides here, this is not one sided, even though a walk in the first instant may appear like a taunt to others. After the last march in Glasgow earlier this month, social media and the press were covered in pictures of 12year old girl covered in blood as she had been bottled. I mean, who does this? Why is this acceptable? I ask the acceptability question as one person on facebook had commented that "while she was only 12, she was there with a gang". So what, does that make it ok? No, I don't think so.
This is said photograph

Where do I think the Order fits in, in an iScotland? It doesn't. At least not in its current state. How can it be pro-union in an indy country? Do I think it will just disband and there will be no animosity, no sectarianism, no bitter feuding, no feeling uncomfortable for 'huns' going into 'tim' pubs and vice a versa? Of course not. That is simply idiotically unrealistic.  This is a 200 odd year old institution, with a lot of power, in the sense that they "are the oldest and biggest protestant christian fraternity in organisation of people bonded together to promote the ideals of [our] faith" (quoted from the home page of Orange Order Scotland). But, time has come for a radical change. And change it must.
I have no issue with people celebrating their faith - be it with  a public parade or gathering, involving their families and communities. Freedom of speech is important in a democratic society. I do however have issue with flaunting their faith in a supposedly superior manner, especially when such parades are deliberately walking through specific parts of town with opposite religious beliefs/views. I mean, the Orange Walk is not exactly a gala day! It is heavily criticised, and viewed as being sectarian, bigoted, triumphalistic and supremacist. Despite the Order refuting this.
When the subject of a Walk is brought up - usually in reference to either get up the town early or plan your route, as they disrupt the entire town, - more often than not, I get the sense that people generally find the whole thing offensive,  (or may be that's just the people I associate with?). I have yet to hear anyone saying "yay", it is nearly always met with comments such as "what century is this?" or "knuckle dragging Neanderthals" or "for goodness sake" etc etc. That is not to say that I don't know people who do support the Order/Walks, and do attend them here and in N.Ireland.

Obviously, I don't consider for one minute that everybody going to the walks, or being associated with the Order, or has family members involved in a Lodge is a big bad bigot. Same as not every Rangers or Hearts supporter is.  People, like myself, who have no first hand experience of the Order or been to a walk (seen them, but not been in attendance), have formed opinions, possibly with out some facts. Some people have been raised with the protestant faith, and the Orange traditions, that this is normal to them, they don't question it or feel the need to. Others are loyal to the monarch, just as people from other faiths are also royalists and unionists, and not sectarian, or have hate for others based upon their background.  Not every one who is opposed to the Order is voting YES, just as not every one in the Order is voting NO.  What has been very refreshing and enlightening, is the blog post from the Wee Ginger Dug, who received a letter from a woman, who grew up with the Order and Walks etc, What was wonderful about her honest letter, was the fact that she is voting YES and is actively engaging with others to encourage them to do so as well. The link to her letter/post to Wee Ginger Dug is:

Whether or not anyone agrees with the Orange Lodge with their politics or beliefs, is their own business. Choosing whether or not to vote Yes in September is every individual's own choice and ought not to be determined by an organisation, who allegedly, initially opposed the union, but now is defending it, but by personal choice, made by proper research and finding/choosing a future for yourself and family, that is the best future possible. I believe that the Yes vote can help shape a new direction towards a more tolerant, diverse, equal, inclusive and welcoming society, open to all our citizens.

For anyone who doesn't know what an Orange Walk is, its a parade or march held during the Walk 'season' usually running between April- August, with the big walk on the 12th July, in Northern Ireland, (the local one to where I live was 28th June).  The walks involved a massive parade of men from their lodge, and women from the Ladies lodge, a marching band, commonly a flute band too, many flags and banners, such as the Union Jack Flag, the Ulster banner and Orange Order banner. The uniform tends to be a suit and a bowler hat, with an orange collarette (sash) over the top and some times, white gloves. The collarette often also displays the lodge number and the individual's position with the hierarchy.  This all sounds harmless enough - dressing up, music and a parade, a family day out. Except, as we have already established, its not a galaday, and faces much opposition.

Incidentely, if anyone wants a quick run down on how the Orange Order came to be in existence in Scotland, here is a wee history lesson  (much, but not all, of the info has been gleaned from various Wikipedia pages and links, and from the Orange Order Scotland website):
1688: The Glorious Revolution, when  (Catholic) King James II was dethroned by his Daughter and Son-in-Law, Mary II and the (Protestant), Dutch-born King William III of Orange. The Revolution gave strength to the link between Parliament and the Monarchy.
1689: Bill of Rights passed through, and gave protestants civil and religious liberties, that were not granted to their fellow, catholic, countrymen.
1690: King William III of Orange and his wife Mary II battled and defeated James II at the Battle of Boyne, in Ireland. The Battle of Boyne is commemorated annually on 12th July (known as The Twelfth), with a celebratory 'walk'. King William of Orange is now more commonly referred to as King Billy, and his followers as Billy Boys, or The Billy Boys.
1791: The Society of United Irishmen was formed, in Belfast. Its primary focus was reformation of the Irish Parliament, catholic emancipation and the repeal of the Penal Laws. Over the following 4 years, they became a revolutionary group, campaigning for Irish Independence that would "Unite Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter".
1795: The Orange Order was founded in County Armagh, during a time of sectarian conflict, between the protestants and catholics.
1796: The first Orange Walk took place 12th July  in this year, marching through Portadown, Lurgen and Waringstown. In the same year, (it is claimed by Nationalist historians Thomas A Jackson and John Mitchel), with the support of the Orange Order, the government tried to undermine the growth of the United Irishmen by inciting sectarianism, creating disorder and unease, causing disunity, under the guise of  "passion for the Protestant religion".
1798: A rebellion was started by The United Irishmen which was inspired by the French Revolution. Scottish soldiers were sent to fight against the rebellion, and as such, brought the cause home, where it has become part of Scottish culture over the past 200 years, predominantly in parts of Glasgow, Lanarkshire, and West Lothian, and to a lesser extent East Lothian.
1800 : The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was born with the 1800 Act of Union which saw the merger of the Irish Parliament with Westminster. Whilst many catholics supported the Act, ironically, the Orange Order viewed it as a threat to the Protestant Ascendancy and actually OPPOSED the union. (How times have changed...)
Fast forward to the end of the 19th century: Irish nationalists (catholics) and Irish Land League were pursuing Home Rule for Ireland, which the Orange Order now opposed. Their opposition to the Irish Home Rule Bill 1886 spurred on the formation of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), and ultimately resulted in just 6 counties remaining within the UK, in what is now Northern Ireland.

End of history lesson.



Most people only know of the Orange Order through our colourful parades.
This is just a very small part of what we do.
Contrary to some of the media reports you may have read, the pades are not a form of triumphalism, but are instead a form of celebration.
We believe in the universal right of freedom of expression.  Whilst not everyone believes in the same things as us, we hope that they accept our right to hold our views.
We in turn respect the right of all others to hold their own views and to celebrate their beliefs as we do.
So when we march, we are upholding the rights of all faith groups to maintain their freedom of expression