Jude Collins

Thursday, 22 July 2010

He's seen the Twelfth on both sides now...

DUMBARTON, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 08:  Provincial Grand Black Chapter of Scotland holds a march on August 8, 2009 in Dumbarton, Scotland. With a total of 44 bands and 3000 marchers, Scotland's second biggest Orange Order parade took place after a sheriff overturned an attempt to ban it.  (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
I wonder if former Justice Minister Michael McDowell has seen Billy (Spider) Kelly box?  Back in 1950s Derry  Billy was a champion fighter largely through his ability to bob and weave, which left his opponents punching empty air and eventually defeated. I ask the question because Mr McDowell has suggested that the Twelfth of July should be a national holiday north and south. It’s a startling and original idea.  A national celebration throughout the country would certainly send the strongest possible signal to the unionist community in the north that their culture is a part of Irish history and that they will have a secure place and identity in a new Ireland. It would also take the sting out of any triumphalism that traditional Twelfth supporters might be tempted to display. What’s the point in trying to provoke your nationalist neighbours when they’re out there celebrating alongside you?

There’s just one catch with this McDowell plan: the Twelfth belongs to the Orange Order and the Orange Order is an anti-Catholic institution. So the tens of thousands of people in the south who McDowell envisions as wanting to celebrate the Twelfth would not be allowed to do so under the banner of the Orange Order. You wouldn’t even be able to do it if you were married to a Catholic or if you had attended a Catholic place of worship. So you see, Michael,  not only can you not beat them, they won’t let you join them – except you're a non- Catholic.

Sometimes the price is hardly worth paying. The decent, non-racist people of Alabama could, if they chose, ride alongside the Ku Klux Klan and help them set fire to the burning cross on someone’s front lawn. This would unsettle the KKK, it’d show that non-racists wanted to win them over rather than disown them – but would it make sense?  Marching alongside a racist organisation doesn't mean you've won it over.  Vice versa, if anything. 

Back to the drawing-board, Michael old chum, back to the drawing board.


  1. Michael Mc Dowell the ultimate 'West Brit'.

  2. Sorry Jude but I know and see plenty of Nationalists at the parades as well as ethnic minorities. You don`t have to be a member of the Order to enjoy the bands indeed the bands are probably the future as the young ones join bands and not lodges. The KKK inference is getting tired, the Orange Order has lodges in Ghana and Mohawk lodges in Canada - people can change their opinions and religion, they cannot change their race or colour. The Twelfth is now much more than the Orange Order with all the various festivals around it involving people from diverse backgrounds - that surely is the way to go - the Order`s membership criteria is no different to other faith groups.

  3. Hello Kilsally,
    Thanks for your thoughts and a brief response.

    I used to watch the bands myself as a child - when dozens of them thunder past it's virtually impossible not to. They are indeed a colourful sight. The KKK reference - I agree you can change your religion but not your skin colour, but I don't think I said you could. My parallel was that the KKK is an anti-black organisation that has visited humiliation and from time to time death on blacks, and the OO is an anti-Catholic organisation that's visited humiliation and from time to time death on Catholics.
    The Twelfth is a celebration of the defeat of Catholicism by Protestantism, and in north of Ireland terms the defeat of nationalism by unionism. Can you imagine unionist reaction if for months on end, Irish nationalism were to tie up roads and towns with marching bands celebrating the Easter Rising or some similar Irish nationalist victory? And I haven't even mentioned what'd happen if they tried to march through an area like the Shankill. I'm not sure you appreciate how deeply most Catholics/nationalists/republicans resent this kind of thing year after year. And the idea of it melting into a generally-acclaimed Orangefest...I think not.
    But I DO appreciate that you took time to give your view - thanks again. Keep reading and responding.

  4. I think politically, the Orange Institution is strongly linked to unionism. Observers have accused the Institution of being sectarian, triumphalist and supremacist