It seems to me that the Eleventh is the New Twelfth.
Forty years ago, we used to sit in a front bedroom of our house in the Upper Springfield Road in West Belfast. After midnight, we had a view across the City……….and we could see the Orange bonfires ablaze. They were in the Donegall Road area.
It was always the case that Orange Bonfires had Catholic religious icons blazing. And of course effigies of the Pope and of course the National Flag of Ireland. We could hear the Lambeg Drums beating but could never really hear the actual Orange songs…just a general noise.
This was always how it was on the night before those good Christian gentlemen in their good suits and bowler hats paraded with oh so much respectability on the Twelfth. And all covered the next morning by “Colonel” Jimmy Hughes at the BBC. Of course occasionally the mob passed by…..usually the women folk…the “Orange Lils” in their Union Jack dresses and carrying the Union Jack brollies……….and singing along to the “Kick The Pope” bands which were often imported from Scotland for the day.
The BBC tried manfully to ignore the worst excesses of Orange bands and followers but the bottom line is that the Orange Order cannot detach itself from its wilder element. In fairness this was Belfast (and with Portadown or Lisburn or Ballymena) this might be the worst kind of Orange-ism and that the nicer Orangemen in County Tyrone and County Fermanagh might be a bit embarrassed by it all.
But when Orangemen talk of Culture…well there is this highly unofficial side of Hatred which is as much part of it all as any Parade, as any Religious Worship at the Field, as any boring speech by the local Orange worthy or any half-baked Loyal Oath to “Her Most Gracious Majesty”.
But I wonder has the Eleventh Night got more hateful. During the week, many nationalist bloggers, including myself went out and about looking at Bonfire sites. These are often on publicly owned space, albeit in “Protestant” areas.
But this year, there has been a growing trend of LetsGetAlongerist bloggers pointing out the bonfires to which they, liberal unionists and the BBC and UTV, all turned a blind eye.
The thing is that its not just Catholics and Republicans and Nationalists who are the targets of sectarian abuse. The Irish Flags are still on the bonfire……..effigies of Gerry Adams hang from gallows, Sinn Fein and SDLP Election posters………and this year posters of Anna Lo, the Alliance Party Euro candidate. And Gay Rainbow Flags. Palestine and Poland. And overt racism on display.
Ms Lo was born in Hong Kong. A poster on a bonfire says “Anna Lo Ate My Dog”. Vicious nasty stuff. Some photographs I will publish later but I want to talk to some people first…need to clarify issues of Taste.
But how is it that the LetsGetAlongerists only get involved now…in 2014? Where was the Alliance Party and their apologists when the victims of abuse were merely Catholic, Irish and Republican.
They abused ME and MINE and you sat on your liberal unionist arses and did nothing.
Then they abused the Gays, Foreigners and your beloved Alliance Party and all of a sudden you wake up to the nastiness of it all. How is that you all failed to realise that the Sectarianism we witnessed for decades was fruit of the same poisonous tree that produces Racism and Homophobia.
Yet curiously the LetsGetAlongerists dismiss Catholic Residents as unreasonable for not agreeing to Orangemen passing thru or close to their homes. Its absurd that Orange followers show such utter hatred for Catholics and then demand the right to parade past their houses a few hours later.
There is a narrative. We are supposed to be in a Post-Conflict situation. We must all celebrate Titanic, Game of Thrones, World Police Games and the Giro d’Italia ….the LIE produced by the Norn Iron Office and the Tourist Board.
Lets get this straight. There can be no facilitating such Hatred.
Unionism is looking for concessions on Parading and it looks to me that they are using the excesses of the Eleventh to get agreement to parade. In other words, turn down the Bonfire Rhetoric and the anti-social behaviour and the Government will respond with concessions.
But really DUP and Sinn Fein are joined at the hip in the Executive. It is a game. They use each other as a bogeyman to get out their core votes…….and stay in the Executive.
Meanwhile normal crimes……are suspended. We talk of Hate Crimes but is anyone going to be arrested for anything bonfire-related last night? A few tokens maybe. Because when an individual puts a brick thru a Nigerian family’s window, it is a hate crime. When thousands whoop with delight at the burning effigies of the Pope or Gerry Adams or an under 14 GAA Club Banner…….or SDLP or Sinn Fein or Anna Lo posters…its not a hate crime…..its CULTURE.
If I burn a single tyre, it breaks environmental law. If I burn hundreds on a bonfire…its CULTURE.
If I walk down Royal Avenue drinking a can of lager, I am breaking the law. If I do it with thousands of others following an Orange Parade…it is CULTURE.
If I urinate in my neighbours garden, it is a crime. If I am answering a call of nature along the Lisburn Road, well that’s….CULTURE.
Yet tonight on BBC and UTV News, there will be reporters in Orange Fields telling us about the carnival atmosphere in Belfast or Markethill and Omagh. Some nice human interest stories as 104 year old Billy McBilly from Broughshane attends yet another parade. And Tommy McTommy from Toronto will have flown from Canada over specially to attend the Belfast parade.
Meanwhile all those Kick The Pope bands all the way from Glasgow will be kept off the TV Screens.
Will there ever come a time when an Orangeman or unionist politician, will be challenged by a BBC or UTV journalist when he mentions the word “CULTURE”.