The cost of policing parades last year was nearly £3 million. At the best of times that’s a hefty sum; in the present stormy waters of recession it’s a criminal waste. There are two ways this waste could be avoided. The Orange Order could accept that it’s their activities that are causing this drain on the public purse and agree to carry the cost themselves. That’s a logical solution. If I were to tie up towns and villages throughout the north for weeks and months on end, it’d be a twisted logic that’d excuse me from having to pay for this kind of disruption.
But there is another and better solution: stop marching. OK, fine, you like putting on a bowler hat and/or an Orange collarette. You like thumping a huge drum until your hands bleed, you like raising banners commemorating your political and religious heroes. But do you have to MARCH when you’re doing it? Or maybe just march on the spot, if you feel in need of exercise. But the idea that you must GO somewhere, as though you were suffering from restless legs syndrome, is bizarre.
There’s a third solution, but I’m reluctant to offer it because it’s too blindingly simple. With this strategy, you’d save the £3 million, you wouldn’t offend people in places like the Ardoyne, chaps’ hands would stop bleeding and the rest of us wouldn’t have to take detours past towns and villages because there’s a band practice or a parade. The solution is, give up on the Orange thing. The membership is shrinking, it’s provoked some appalling violence (remember the Quinn children in Ballymoney?) and for six months every year it chafes and abrases relations between the unionist community and the nationalist community. So simply confine your love of William III and your gratitude to him for giving you your religion, freedom and laws to a nice big oil-painting in your front room.
Yes I know. Too simple. Far, far too simple.