Well - that was instructive, wasn’t it? A special gathering of the Assembly to pick up the pieces from Friday night and arrange the signposts towards a new shared future.
The most colourful contribution came from DUP MLA William Humphrey, who tried the old trick of transforming the victim into the aggressor. That statue of Our Lady wasn’t placed on the bonfire by respectful loyalists - it was thrown onto it by NATIONALISTS! Or was it republicans? Anyway, the fact that it landed, as Oliver McMullan of Sinn Féin has pointed out, on a prepared platform in the bonfire, was nothing short of miraculous. It gives a whole new meaning to the concept of moving statues. Fair play to Conal McDevitt for standing up in the Assembly and salami-slicing Humphrey’s pathetic blame-game construct.
Peter Robinson was pretty good too. He is without doubt a polished speaker who can range over a number of topics without sign of a note. His core point yesterday seemed to be that we needed a shared future, but it must be a future that incorporated the Orange Order. Mmm. Let me think about that one a second, Peter...Right. We don’t want to import all of our past into the future, because of matters of quantity and quality. For example, we don’t want to bring with us your window-smashing episode in Clontibret and that fat fine the judge let you off with, any more than we want to import your fellow First Minister Martin McGuinness’s role in the IRA. So if we’re going to jettison some stuff and bring other stuff, we’ll have to use some sort of screening mechanism, that brings on the good and abandons the bad.
So with that in mind, we must face a question: is the Orange Order a force for good or a force for bad in our society? We all know the answer to that one - for decades, centuries, its thousands of marches have at best been a motivation to triumphalism and at worst a source of drunkenness, bigotry and rioting. Because something has always been there, or because a march has always gone along a particular route, doesn’t mean that that thing is good or that it should continue. So nice try, Peter, but before our shared future includes the Orange Order, it’ll need to meet standards in terms of ordinances and conduct. If we import into our shared future uncritically, we deserve a future not shared but shameful.