Re: Re: ‘Dutch Billys’

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Head of the Orange Order addresses the Seanad

a new Muriel of King Billy replacing a UFF one in Sandy Row, Belfast

Whatever may turn out to be the true extent of any connection between the Dutch Billy tradition that we discuss on this forum and other manifestations of Orangism, every year – in the lead up to the 12th – we miss the opportunity to engage in any meaningful exploration of the cultural legacy of Orangism and instead settle into a predictable pattern of reporting the conflicts and tensions that attend its celebration in the North.

Notwithstanding the visit of the Head of the Orange Order to Dublin yesterday, there is every indication that we will miss the opportunity again this year.

Even allowing for the possibility that Mr. Drew Nelson, the Head of the Orange Order, may have dumbed down his potted history of Orangism [as reported] to reach his audience in the Seanad yesterday, there remains the suspicion that even those steeped in the heritage of Orangism, as one imagines Mr. Nelson must be, may not fully understand the cultural phenomenon that they belong to and its legacy throughout the island of Ireland.

As reported, Mr. Nelson took the opportunity to highlight the two fundamental tenets of the Orange Order in his address to the Seanad; its avowed Protestantism and, its unshakable commitment to the union with Britain. This may be a statement of fact, backed by two hundred years plus of unrelenting observance, but it is also the sectarian cocktail that raises the hackles of even the mildest among the nationally minded community with whom the membership and supporters of the Orange Order share this island.

Clearly there is absolutely nothing wrong with an organisation being avowedly Protestant, if the organisation is exclusively, or at least primarily, religious in mission. Equally, there can be no legitimate issue, in a democratic society, with an organisation dedicating itself to pursuing a political objective, such as maintaining what remains of Ireland’s political and cultural union with Britain. It is the combination of these religious and political objectives that, perhaps even more so than the appearance of bowler hats among the King Billy banners, gives the Orange Order the appearance of a body from a different era . . . . a different, sectarian riven, era.

Orangism did not start with the foundation of the Orange Order in 1795, Orangism was a hundred years old by then and it would be a lot easier for the rest of us to explore the extraordinary cultural legacy of Orangism, and maybe begin to celebrate its many cultural achievements in Ireland, if the Orange Order put down some of its baggage.

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