Jude Collins

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Orange marches, pigswill and Fionnuala

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 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.


  1. (by Liam Clarke, Sunday Times)

    The Ulster Unionists and Democratic Unionists have held secret negotiations about fielding a joint ticket of candidates in next year's elections to Stormont.

    Party strategists say they want to maximise unionist representation in the assembly to prevent Sinn Féin becoming the biggest party and Martin McGuinness being elected first minister. There are fears in UUP ranks, however, that a deal with Peter Robinson's party could lead to the party's absorption by the DUP.

    The plan is that in a constituency where five unionists could be returned, the DUP would pick three candidates and the UUP two. A joint committee of the two parties would approve each candidate.

    This is similar to the arrangement the UUP had with the Conservatives under their illfated Ulster Conservative and Unionist New Force pact in the recent Westminster elections. Forming a similar pact with the DUP for next year would almost certainly end the UUP's link with the Tories, and could split the party.

    The drive for unionist unity is being driven by changes to the Good Friday agreement made by the DUP and Sinn Féin in 2006.

    Previously, the largest "designation" in the assembly, unionist or nationalist, nominated the first minister, and the second-largest chose the deputy. Now the largest party chooses the first minister.

    In last year's European election, Sinn Féin emerged as the largest single party, though there were more unionist than nationalist votes overall. Some unionists fear that this could be repeated next year.

    The unity proposals will be a feature of the forthcoming UUP leadership election.

    Yesterday (Sat), a meeting of the Ulster Unionist Executive in Enniskillen decided that the election will be held on September 25. The frontrunners are Tom Elliott and Basil McCrea, MLAs from Fermanagh and Lagan Valley respectively.

  2. Throw-in Jude, in the GAA we throw the ball in.

  3. Thanks, Ulick - an elementary slip. Gabh mo leithscéal...