The Orange monster rises again
A simple story is told about Flag riots in the North. A section of working class loyalism has been left behind in the move towards a new society. They have been reassured about their cultural identity, troublemakers have been isolated and the violence is dying away.
None of the above is true.
Loyalism is not the political representation of any section of the working class. The riots are not an expression of culture but routine expressions of sectarian supremacy commonplace since before partition.
Rather than being isolated their protests have been sanctioned by the state forces and their aim of supremacy has been endorsed by an alliance of the unionist parties and paramilitary groups.
The nationalist parties on both sides of the border are speechless because they knowingly signed up to a colonial and sectarian settlement. Trade union and socialist groups are either silent or incoherent. The deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, actually endorses the Loyalist demands, saying that he has no difficulty with expressions of loyalist culture as long as Irish culture is also respected. This is dangerous on two levels. On the first level it ignores the fact that a central part of loyalism is hatred of Irish culture. Secondly as assertion of Irish culture as something for Catholics is an argument for apartheid and future sectarian conflict on a grand scale.
In this atmosphere the forces of Orange sectarianism have scored many victories. They established their right to take over the streets, stage sectarian provocations and halt major public events with a handful of protesters. They have demolished the façade of the Parades Commission as a mechanism for moderating sectarian excess. The farcical argument is made that, because they have not notified marches, the commission has no authority. The police argue that they have no power without intervention by the Parades Commission. None of these bizarre difficulties arose in the suppression of nationalist protests in Ardoyne, where hundreds were arrested and charged. The fact that only five loyalists have been arrested on the specific issue of illegal marching in five months has effectively demolished the pretence of a new police force, a reality underlined when the police sponsored the illegal UVF to restore order in East Belfast.
Most telling of all was the cancellation of a major football match by a handful of loyalists. Although presented as another flag protest, it was in fact a straightforward expression of sectarian hatred and a demand that Catholic football supporters not be allowed to walk “their” streets. The police move to cancel the match was capitulation to loyalism just as rank as any in the days of the old Stormont
On the political field we have seen the few unionist politicians who actually want to settle for the many gains unionism have made forced out of the unionist party, a new unionist unity to establish sectarian rights stretching from the first minister, through the loyal orders to the paramilitaries. In a return to the days of the 1950s a Protestant unity candidate is standing against Sinn Fein in Mid-Ulster.
A few leading loyalists have now been arrested and it is hoped that this, along with diplomacy and bribes, will bring an end to the violence. In fact the “leaders” are the lunatic fringe. The hard men of the UVF and the DUP stand behind, pocketing their gains and looking for more.
Loyalism, sponsored by British imperialism, remains a dagger pointed at the heart of the Irish working class. Any attempt to revitalise Irish socialism must confront the Orange monster.
Socialists oppose sectarianism.
It is not some sort of miasma affecting everyone equally, but has a material base in ongoing discrimination against Catholics organised by the Unionist Parties, loyal orders and paramilitary groups.
The British want to remain in Ireland. They built the peace process on the foundations of continued sectarianism and have constantly moved the goalposts to reassure unionism.
Socialists support democracy. A democratic solution in Ireland involves British withdrawal and Irish unity.
The defeat of sectarianism and imperialist rule, the achievement of democracy, can only be established by a revitalized working class. Part of the task of revitalizing the class is to sweep away the ideology of partnership with sectarianism, capitalism and imperialism that dominates public discourse today.