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Orange sectarianism

Will "hope over hate" win the day?

15 June 2022

Dundonald Orange Hall.

In early June a video emerged of a party in an Orange Hall in Dundonald, on the outskirts of Belfast.  A group of young men are chanting a song expressing joy at the murder, some years before, of Michaela McAreavey, a young women murdered on her honeymoon. The only grounds for the joy was that Michaela was a Catholic.

The episode was universally condemned by representatives of all the political parties. The Orange Order promised to investigate. The police launched an enquiry. The individuals involved issued apologies claiming that this was an aberration. The Orange Order presented it as an isolated incident. Later came claims of a witch hunt against the perpetrators and then, shortly afterwards, accusations that nationalists were equally sectarian.

Yet there is nothing exceptional about this level of Orange sectarian excrement. No-one at the party was offended.  Many seemed to know the words of the song. The only unusual aspect of the incident was that Michaela was not one of the many murdered by loyalists and their deaths celebrated in song or proclaimed on banners displayed on eleventh night bonfires. The death of a teenager from cancer was one such past celebration.

The Orange Order is based on anti Catholic hatred. The police and state forces regularly defer to them. The nebulous hate laws are meant to distract from the one big hatred of sectarian division built in to the state. That's not to say that impunity is absolute. Winston ‘Winkie’ Irvine, a leading loyalist, has been arrested following the discovery of a cache of weapons in his car and the bomb threat made against Simon Coveney and the BBC have stopped all day coverage of the 12th demonstrations. That said, extensive coverage of the Belfast marches will be the major element of the BBC coverage and little has been said about the many years the arrested loyalist has spent on a district policing board. He was also about to graduate from Maynooth University on peace funding partially supplied by the Dublin government.

Moves to criminalise and disband sectarian institutions would be the only logical response to incidents.

The response in Ireland is similar to promises by US politicians to pray for the victims of gun laws. Condemnation is followed by amnesia.

Sinn Fein’s Northern Ireland leader Michelle O’Neill said: “Hate and sectarianism have no place in our society. People deserve better. Love over hate will always win out." Meanwhile Sinn Féin's John O'Dowd has approved the erecting of an Orange Arch in an area that is now predominantly nationalist.

So shortly after an election from which Sinn Fein has emerged as the biggest party, the dream of first ministership, of a functioning executive or even of any serious restriction on sectarianism have evaporated. Its perfectly clear that the Catholic middle class and their representatives are perfectly happy with ritual condemnation of sectarianism while in private accepting it as a price worth paying for the three Ps - Power, Patronage and Partition.

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