Wounded Orange lashes out
As we go to print, a UDA-orchestrated campaign of intimidation and harassment is continuing across the Six Counties in the aftermath of Portadown Orange leader Harold Gracey's call on supporters to take to the streets.
The Orange Order is again on Drumcree Hill, attempting to cow the nationalists residents of the Garvaghy Road, but this time the Order itself stands on the precipice. Despite the danger it poses to isolated nationalist communities, the Order finds itself increasingly isolated and desperate.
In recent times, it has moved ever further to the extremes. Speaking on Tuesday, Portadown District spokesperson David Jones, asked about the UDA's show of strength on Drumcree Hill and in the town, said ``we welcome the support of any individual who is prepared to come out on the hill and join our protest''. So the invitation has now been extended to sectarian killers and drug dealers. Members of the fascist Combat 18 are even being welcomed into loyalist Portadown for the annual nationalist-baiting exercise.
Stoneyford Orangeman Mark Harbison, addressing Orangemen, described the standoff as a ``war'' and added that Drumcree was ``Ulster's Alamo''. He neglected to mention that those outside the walls won that Texan battle.
The Orange Order is also without the wholehearted backing of senior Ulster Unionist politicians. David Trimble and Co. are seeking to end the Orange Order's block vote on the Ulster Unionist Council. The Parades Commission, meanwhile, has delivered its most stinging rebuke to date in its refusal to allow this Sunday's Orange march down the Garvaghy Road.
A senior Orange Order source, quoted in Wednesday's Irish News, balked at this year's posturing. He said he believed lives would be lost as a result of this year's Drumcree siege and expressed horror at Gracey's calls to take to the streets. ``The Orange Order has got itself into a deep hole, and instead of trying to get out it just seems to be going deeper,'' he said.
The Orange Order of old had the full backing of the Orange state. Today's Order has managed to alienate many members of the community in which it is rooted. It is wounded and lashing out all around it.
The proliferation of loyalist paramilitary flags in interface areas this year have to be seen for what they are, demonstrations of defiance that are still about lording it over their nationalist neighbours but are more about holding the line, marking out the limits of territory. The paucity of the rejectionist unionist position is evidenced in this desperate display of territorial and attitudinal limitations.
The Orange Order will carry a weight of responsibility for the sectarian violence that has taken place already this month and is still to happen.
It must realise that times have changed. Nationalists have stood up to the demands of the Orange Order with increasing success in recent years. The loyal orders must learn that their only way forward lies through dialogue.
The Good Friday Agreement promised equality, justice and respect for all. The necessity for that new dispensation is never more in evidence than at this time of year.