The 12th as Orangefest – Critics hit the wrong target
15 July 2007
While the media in the North was filled with facepainting and pageants of the newly labelled Orangefest, the usual carnival of reaction and sectarian intimidation that is the 12th continued as usual.
The season opened with a savage attempt to murder a catholic schoolboy in North Belfast. The boy was attacked by a group of UDA men, had his head smashed in with a golf club and was dragged along the street with a wire garrotte around his neck.
There was the usual crop of Orange banners commemorating loyalist killers, including a leading loyalist involved in the massacre of customers at a bookies shop on the Ormeau Rd.
Loyalists in Coleraine decorated their bonfires with daubs celebrating the deaths of two local Catholic teenagers.
At a slightly lower level was the 80 foot high bonfire made mostly of tyres – although burning tyres in now an offence.
There were plenty of complaints about the Orange and their supporters, but those complaining were aiming at the wrong target – the sectarian state it not composed simply of bigots, but mainly of those institutions that offer invisible support and give the bigots impunity.
So no-one blinked when the fire brigade appealed to the Orange supporters not to attack their crews – saying that the crews had been ordered under no circumstances to put out any bonfires.
In a wonderful show of hypocrisy a spokesperson for the Environment Agency urged witnesses to complain about the Antrim bonfire. Were the police and environmental agency unable to see the 80 foot pile of tyres for themselves?
In fact many of the bonfires are subsidised by the state, and the Loyalist were paid to restrict the emblems on display to Ulster flags and Union jacks and to reduce the display of death squad emblems.
One of the banners commemorating loyalist killers went through the nationalist Springfield Rd area with the blessing of the Parades Commission. They accept the assurances of the Orange that there will be no provocation – even though every year the Orange break their word.
One should not forget the role of Sinn Fein. The IRA policed North Belfast after the attempted murder, using force to disperse nationalist youth. At Ardoyne those on the Sinn Fein payroll stood with printed protest posters, having pushed local residents off the streets. No-one seemed to remember that this display of ineffectual protest had been proposed initially by the Orange order!
The famous Orange phrase is ‘croppies lie down’ now this new dispensation depends on them lying down. An example of how things can go wrong came in Coleraine, when the father of one of the dead boys whose name topped the bonfire went to the police. He was told that the complaint would have to go to the community relations branch and then to community leaders (the bigots). It might take some time to remove the slogan, he was told. He took it down himself. The next night his house was under siege from a raging mass of loyalist thugs.
The reaction of the 12th can be portrayed as Orangefest only as long as the Catholic workers turn away. If they shake off the Sinn Fein police and protest the ramshackle structures hiding the sectarian reality will quickly fall away. Their target should not primarily be the organised bigots, but the sectarian state structures that nationalist parties have helped construct in the name of peace.