Jude Collins

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Cometh the hour, cometh the man

It’s unfair to make judgements about people on the basis of their looks, I know that; but if we didn’t, 50% of comedy would evaporate. What would Buster Keaton be without that deadpan look, Ken Dodd be without those teeth, Fr Jack be without that face and those eyes? So when I saw Edward Stevenson for the first time, I struggled not to be judgemental. He’s the new Grand Master of the Orange Order and he, well he, there’s something in his….OK, OK. He looks funny. Maybe it’s the smile permanently in place. Or the eyes that seem to be permanently peering into a very bright light. Or the voice which is a soft Ardstraw murmur from scarcely-moving lips. As public representatives go he’s certainly different.

Different in appearance, that is. In policy, it’s the same old same old. Will he meet the Parades Commission? No. Will he meet Sinn Féin? No. Will an agreement on Orange marches be reached before the summer? No.

I’m not an Orangeman but if I were, I’d be worried. Not so long ago the Orange Order in Ireland had 100,000 members. Today it has somewhere around 30,000 and the decline continues. The Drumcree protest turned off huge numbers of members and sympathizers, and talk of Diamond Dan and an all-inclusive Orangefest isn’t going to bring them back. Constantly drawing parallels between themselves and the GAA doesn’t help either – the GAA is in rude good health, the Orange Order at the door of intensive care.

Maybe Orangemen have to accept that, like other institutions which once seemed rock-like in their permanence and power, the Order is an old institution which looks antiquated and daft in the twenty-first century. Maybe, on the other hand, Edward Stevenson will prove a dynamic leader who’ll galvanise and renew all things. So far, though, it looks as though an organization busy marching up a public-image cul-de-sac has elected a man perfectly fitted to lead them.

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