Republican News · Thursday 20 July 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Hierarchy's belated Drumcree shame


Church of Ireland Bishop Walter Empey told his congregation in Dublin last Sunday that he, and his Church, had been deeply shamed by the events surrounding Drumcree, carried out in the name of Protestantism. But laudable as this criticism might be, why wasn't he - and Robin Eames for that matter - equally voluble last year when the Quinn brothers were burned in their beds in the name of Protestantism? And why, as a matter of interest, haven't they been thoroughly shamed by the endless years of violence and hatred inspired by the ideology of Orangeism - all in the name of Protestantism?

The Orange Order was always exactly what it is now; the home of baleful, right-wing extremists ready to covertly exploit the muscle of a bunch of witless, willing fools to inflict fear and harm on the nationalist community
This faux-shock of the Church of Ireland, together with that of the Secretary of State and `liberal' unionism, at the readiness of the Orangemen to encourage and even participate in violence, and their collective `Gosh, where did they come from?' response to the UDA visitation at Portadown - as if the existence of loyalist paramilitaries and their closeness to the Orange Order has come as a huge shock, is arch hypocrisy. It represents a very calculated attempt to airbrush out of history their own knowledge of the Order's surreptitious, second-hand involvement in violence against its enemies.

This deception reached its nadir last week, firstly with the vision of Peter Mandelson on television admonishing the Orange Order and warning that their ``good reputation is in danger of being lost'' and subsequently in the anger of church and state at the burning of the an effigy of an RUC man on Eleventh night. Their feigned incomprehension at this act of medieval superstition was meant to suggest to the wider world that the Orange Order has suddenly, inexplicably, descended into barbarism. No mention was made of the half-dozen tricolours which went up in flames with him, nor of the fact that the burning of effigies is as integral to Orange culture as FTP graffiti. In recent years it has been Breandán Mac Cionnaith on top of the bonfire, and of course poor old Lundy cops it every time.

Could it be, then, that only when their supporters began to attack `their own' in the crown forces did the pro-British establishment decide to wash its hands of the Orange Order? Compare and contrast the appearances of Johnny Adair and the late Billy Wright in Portadown during Drumcree. Wright, in the midst of organising the assassination of Catholics, was filmed conducting an intimate chat with David Trimble (albeit that even he wasn't dim enough bring 50 cronies and wear an LVF t-shirt whilst he did so) but nevertheless it did not constitute a fatal blow to the UUP in the way that the Orange Order would seem to have been, unintentionally, finally finished off by its association with Adair.

So far as the Church of Ireland is concerned, it is very difficult to work out precisely what Christian code it operates under when it reserves a special degree of anger for the Orange order when its mobs attack each other and the security forces, but consistently turns its face away from continuous, orchestrated attacks on Catholics and on nationalist areas. (The killings of Margaret Wright and Ann-Marie Smith provide a useful analogy of the distinction church, state and media implicitly make when it comes to the murder of nationalists. Both women were tortured and beaten to death when they ventured into loyalist bars. The case of Margaret Wright, mistaken for a Catholic by her murderers, however, has been awarded a special place in popular history. The murder has been treated as infinitely more shocking by pro-British elements than the slaying of any Catholic, because she was in fact a Protestant.)

But now, because of the political imperative to disassociate themselves from the Orange Order, both the Church of Ireland and British state need to portray the Order's behaviour over the past few weeks as an aberration. To acknowledge that it was ever thus would be to have to answer some very difficult questions about their own role in the appeasement of Orangeism and its hangers-on. But whilst they continue to rail against the targeting of the police by loyalist thugs, there are others who do remember that similar deeds perpetrated against Catholics have either been ignored or, if carried out by state forces, comprehensively legitimated.

At least, however, the ridiculous mythologising about the Orange Order as a Christian haven for decent, respectable, law-abiding pillars of the community might come to an end. The Order was never any of these things. It was always exactly what it is now; the home of baleful, right-wing extremists ready to covertly exploit the muscle of a bunch of witless, willing fools to inflict fear and harm on the nationalist community.

How the Order intends to overcome its new public image as stubborn, stupid, chauvinist, pathologically sectarian, hypocritical, highly ambivalent towards violence and `loyal' only when it suits them is anybody's guess. But, on behalf of Irish republicans everywhere, I would just like to say to Peter Mandelson, Robin Eames, David Trimble and all their media friends now queuing up to have a swipe; we told you so.

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