I don’t always agree with Fionnuala O’Connor but on ‘Inside Politics’ today on BBC Radio Ulster, she made a point that should be made more loudly and more often. The reason it isn’t is because the BBC doesn’t much like this kind of point. The ideal commentator on our airwaves (and that means BBC Radio Ulster – there is no other radio outlet for political discussion) is someone who (i) assumes there are two (and only two) sides to political difference here; and (ii) is so even-handed, it’s barely possible to tell which foot they kick with. The BBC calls it balance; the rest of us call it bland.
So anyway, Fionnuala stepped briefly outside that pretty pretence today, with her comment. She was talking about Orange Order marches and she noted that unionists often drew parallels between their culture (Orange marches) and nationalist culture (GAA games), arguing that the latter is subject to controls that the former aren’t. Fionnuala noted that the parallel is a false one, for the very good reason that GAA games don’t get played along the road.
That’s the key point. All this you-attack-our-Orange-Hall-your-GAA-club-gets-burnt-down talk is pure pig-swill. Yes, the GAA play Amhrán na bhFian before games and fly the tricolour - but they do it inside GAA grounds. Any marching is confined to a circuit of the pitch before throw-in. The Orange Order insists on getting onto the roads and streets that are supposed to be shared spaces and marching, forcing everyone to make way until they’re done. You’re in a hurry somewhere? Tough – just wait until we’ve finished marching, and notice we’ve police here to see you do. In addition, the Order likes to seek out roads where they’re far from welcome, like the Ormeau Road or the Garvaghy Road. GAA games are confined to nationalist areas.
Can you begin to see that there’s maybe a teensy bit of difference between the ‘two sides’ in this case? Good. Well done, Fionnuala.