“The Twelfth day celebrations will only be complete when all our brethren, sisters, bandsmen and supporters are home safe,” - Belfast Deputy Grand Master Spencer Beattie.
It has a caring tone, doesn’t it? Implications of danger and bad people out there who might want to damage the Order, and the need to take care that all those vulnerable Orange Order people are shepherded safely home. Except where does the renewed application for a march past the Ardoyne shops today fit into all that?
The fact is, it doesn’t. Anyone who’s still not home from last Friday is moving very slowly. And anyone who saw the be-sashed Orangemen a week ago with their stout ash-plants or whatever laying into the police lines will know that these are not people with a need for safeness, but rather people intent on putting a need for safeness into anything and anybody that gets in their way.
Although maybe that’s too hard. Those in the Orange Order assaulting the police and those higher in the food chain who issue statements about peaceful protest and the iniquity of the Parades Commission - maybe they are experiencing unsafeness. If so it’ s understandable. If you’ve been used to power (guess how many UUP leaders over the last century weren’t Orangemen), when you define yourself in terms of your superiority to some other group, it really is hard to adjust when that power is taken from you and you’re expected to encounter life on the same terms as everyone else. Including and especially those you once looked down on.
But alas, the Orange Order will never again find the safe home it once had, where the leaders of unionism courted it, where triumphalist marches were held without even verbal dissent, where the pleasures of a good day out were made so much sweeter by the thought that a large section of the population had to swallow hard and put up with it.
That’s an awful lot to take away from somebody. Hence the march arrangements for today. It’s not really aimed to take the Orange Order past the Ardoyne shops. It’s aimed at taking the Order over the rainbow to a land that no longer exists.