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Black is the new Orange, Gerry: Adams is barking up wrong tree

(John Coulter, Irish Daily Star)

Shinner boss Gerry Adams should jump into the Black, rather than piss about with the Orange!

If the Louth TD and Sinn Féin president is genuine about wanting face to face talks with the Protestant Loyal Orders, then he must be sure to select the order which is in step with Unionist thinking.

That's assuming, of course, his hand of friendship is real and he was not indulging his fellow republicans in some pathetic ard fheis antics to secure his leadership until the next Dáil poll.

Maybe the bold bearded one was being cynical? Maybe – like many in Sinn Féin – he knows the Orange Order is riddled with internal rifts over what policy to adopt with nationalist residents' groups?

On one hand are the urban militants – mostly based in Belfast – and best typified by Belfast Orange boss George Chittick's outburst against Protestants learning the Irish language.

Rural Orangemen are more laid back and liberal in their approach to parades, and many prefer face to face talks with nationalist groups to get a workable solution.

Their plan is accommodation rather than confrontation, resulting in many potentially contentious situations being quietly defused through dialogue.

The jewel in the crown of rural Orangeism's 'local arrangement policy' is seen every year in the now traditional Donegal Dander at Rossnowlagh.

It is somewhat ironic that a few dozen Belfast Orangemen cannot get marching in their capital city past the controversial Ardoyne shops in north Belfast, yet thousands of Southern Orangemen can parade in peace in a coastal village in the Republic!

Is there really a stark message here for the Orange Order? Maybe it should consider taking their banners and bands and finding other isolated locations in the Republic where they can hold their commemorations?

If the Orange Order is sending out mixed signals and marching to different political tunes in opposite directions, then perhaps Adams and company held the hand of friendship out to the wrong Loyal Order?

Big Gerry should really have gone Black and opened talks with the more senior, religious and more quietly influential of the four Loyal Orders.

The male-only Royal Black Institution tends to give politics a 'by-ball', focusing instead on church services and social events.

When it was founded in the late 1790s, it was seen as the poor Protestant's Freemasonic lodge.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, being an Irish Freemason was very expensive and precious few working class Protestants could afford to become Master Masons, let alone progress through the upper echelons of Freemasonry to the 'Black Penny' or the 'Green Knights'.

The Royal Black Institution is more overtly Christian and evangelical in its direction. Sinn Féin would have a better chance of reaching a workable and lasting accommodation on parades by using the Black.

The much smaller Apprentice Boys movement have also reached workable solutions in Derry.

Even the staunchly fundamentalist Protestant and working class Independent Orange Order managed to outgun the senior Orange Order by cutting a deal which saw it march at the Boyne itself in 1990, marking the tercentenary of the battle.

Indeed, the Black needs to step in and rescue Orangeism from the parades debacle before Sinn Féin runs more rings around the Loyal Orders.

In the run-up to the Easter Rising centenary commemorations, expect Sinn Féin to be organising more parades in religiously mixed areas.

The Tyrone Volunteers event through the mixed village of Castlederg will become an increasing feature in what is steadily emerging as the traditional republican marching season.

The problem is, just as many Protestants want to walk in majority Catholic areas, how long before we see the Parades Commission grant republicans the chance to stage an IRA commemoration march in an overwhelmingly Protestant area?

Looks like the Green shoe is now covering the Orange sock!

February 25, 2014

This article appeared in the February 24, 2014 edition of the Irish Daily Star.



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