By Brian Feeney (for Irish News)
Thomas Babington Macaulay was a 19th century English historian, politician and writer. In the 1840s he was MP for Edinburgh. In 1847, after he had made a speech supporting an increase in the annual grant to Maynooth, the Tories whipped up Orangemen into a campaign of sectarian hatred against him and he lost his seat. The campaign degenerated into violence against Catholics fleeing the Famine to Scotland. The Tories washed their hands of it.
Plus ca change.
Macaulay said: “The natural consequences follow. All those fierce spirits, whom you hallooed on to harass us, now turn round and begin to worry you. The Orangeman raises his war-whoop... But what did you expect? Did you think, when, to serve your turn, you called the Devil up, that it was as easy to lay him as to raise him? Did you think, when you went on flattering all the worse passions of those whom you knew to be in the wrong, that the day of reckoning would never come?”
The day of reckoning has certainly come for the Orange Order. They have been exposed as never before after the inflammatory speeches of their leaders threatening days of demonstrations and “fighting the war on today’s battleground” blew up in their faces. They were isolated as the thugs their emotive language unleashed proceeded to wreck the gardens, walls and fences of neat houses on the Woodvale Road. To add to their disgrace semi-naked men and women full of cheap drink performed acts of debauchery in public. Men wearing Orange Order collarettes and uniformed bandsmen tried to kill police with swords, ball-bearings fired from hunting catapults and petrol bombs. Orange culture on fulldisplay for the world’s media.
Like Macauley’s Tories the cowardly unionist politicians who only days before had signed an appeal calling for decisionsof the Parades Commission to be obeyedran for cover after immediately attacking any decision they didn’t like whether at Carrick Hill or Ardoyne, Besashed Nigel Dodds and his little Sir Echo, nodding dog McCausland, tried on Friday morning to persuade the police to breach the ruling that only 100 blue-bag yahoos be permitted past Ardoyne. Rather than starting the day with a riot the police agreed to the raucous jeers of said blue-bag brigade.
You’d think that even the ancient dopes who lead the Orange Order must realise the game is up. They don’t. When Richard Haass arrives to try to square the circle he will need to realise that the only way to bring them to heel is to hit them where it hurts - in their pockets.
If you were to try to organise a public function ina park or square you would need to acquire public liability insurance. Every Orange march declared contentious should be required to lodge a bond of 10,000 pounds and provide an insurance certificate for 10 million pounds. The Orange Order should be required to pay for policing justas football clubs do. ACC Will Kerr has said the cost of the weekend disturbances is already into “multiple millions”. We all have to pay for that in money diverted from schools, hospitals and roads. That’s outrageous. The people who cause the damage should be liable and that’s the Orange Order.
Just as the Football Association penalises clubs that transgress so the order should be made to fine lodges who hire paramilitaries masquerading as bands and who breach Parades Commission rulings.
The executive will never agree to any of this. However, the Public Processions Act 1998 is Westminster legislation that Westminster can amend overnight. It’s long past time to stop concentrating efforts to regulate Orange marches on criminal sanctions for policing their routes and behaviour. The only way to proceed is to cripple the order financially if theyrefuse to behave decently and lawfully. Hurting the clubs was the only way football thuggery was brought to heel.
For a start there should be a review of conditions for all government grants and certainly of any EU money promised to the Orange Order. They cannot continue to receive public money yet tell their members to disobey the law, encourage them onto the streets and then collect the next tranche of cash after their antics have cost millions of pounds.