At the MacGill Summer School in Co. Donegal, the former P.D leader and Minster for justice, Mr Michael MacDowell called for a Public Holiday in the Republic for the 12th July. He quoted;
“That if we were genuine republicans and if the orange panel in the flag meant anything, then we had to consider building an inclusive society”
“It’s not a sweetener, it’s a matter of friendship, of simply saying we acknowledge the Battle of the Boyne was a event to which the Orange tradition attributes major historical significance”
“The civil and political liberties which were at the forefront of their mind at that time are values that we hold”
The media debate which has followed his speech makes for interesting analyses. On Morning Ireland, (RTE Radio 1) Arthur Morgan SF gave a typical SF response. Firstly by attacking the speaker (Mr MacDowell) then taken ownership of the idea of an annual 12th Bank Holiday as a republican goal, within a 32 county constitutional settlement. Something which could be done in 20 Years time, according to Mr Morgan. When Mr Winston Smith, member of the Orange Order, suggested that a parade could take place in Dublin, in the near future. Mr Morgan, implied that it would be “jumping the gun” to suggest that the orange institution could hold a parade in Dublin so soon. “No stomach for it in the 26 counties” while referring to the violent response which followed the love Ulster parade in 2006.
So; for the 200 lodges and 14000 members resident in the 26 counties, were do they stand, as equal citizens? Under Article 3 of the Constitution of Ireland. “It is the firm will of the Irish Nation, in harmony and friendship, to unite all the people who share the territory of the Ireland of Ireland in all the diversity of their identities and traditions”. Also, the personal rights under Article 40.
Is it desirable then, for the members of the Orange Order to assert their constitutional rights? If so, will they receive the same political response, as the British Legion did in 1945? When they were seeking to hold Armistice Day Parade too Ireland Bridge (Dublin). The then Minster for Justice Mr Gerry Boland on responding to a question in the Dail at the time, said. “This Year the British Legion in Dublin wished to resume the pre-war practice of holding a parade of ex-servicemen and sympathisers on Remembrance Day. In the past these parades were regarded by a large section of the community as provocative demonstrations antagonistic to national sentiment. The police authorities were opposed to hold of the parade as they would have had to take extensive precautions, entailing the deployment of large bodies of police from other duties, to ensure against breaches of the peace“. The Parade was band by order of the then Commissioner with support from the minister, Mr G. Boland.
The treat of violence and malice, undermined the Constitutional right of the citizen. Also, the whole concept of the British Legion did not fit into the narrow identity of the nation state.
Today would the Orange Institution receive the same political response from the Dail? Apart from SF, ‘I don’t think so‘. In 2010 the state played host to Africa Day Gay Pride Festival along with the festival of Would Cultures, and in the words of Winston Smith, “Ethic minorities, like the Chinese whom hold their New Year celebrations in Smithfield I can‘t see why we [Orangemen] can‘t hold a parade in Dublin” ‘All of these events where supported by state bodies, and Tax payers money‘.
So, for the 12th to be a Bank Holiday in the Republic, the members of the Orange Order within the Republic will need to take ownership of their citizenship, and take a lead in making orange culture part of the state’s identity. A ‘Twelfth’ Bank Holiday should not be a “sweetener” or the means to the end, of some political end game. It should be a tourist driven event, organised and run by the Counties and districts in the south. If its to be a success, then they will have to win over the business community of the city, along with attracting sponsorship, and with the support of state bodies, it will be then possible to make it an annual event for the Republic.
No doubt that they will receive opposition, not just from Conservative 1916 Traditional Republicans. But also from within the Orange Institution. Some members in the Order view the Orange Fest, as it is now advertised; as a movement away from the traditional 12th celebrations. Also, if the 12th festival works out to be a success for Dublin, then the protagonists’ in the Orange Order whom state that the Republic is a cold place for Protestants, would be proven wrong.
What can be learned from this media encounter; well SF faces a more flexible opponent in the southern Orangemen. One can tell in the interview that Winston is comfortable with his points of argument, especially when he uses Republican principles to back them up. Were for Author Morgan, he comes across snappy and sharp in tone. This is a rare occurrence in a SF interview. As they are well versed and controlled in their media encounters. This is something the Orange Institution can learn from. As it stands, the Orange is victims of history, bogged down in the political battlefield of the Lower Ormeau Rd or the Ardoyne. They have yet to learn the political art of fire and manoeuvre. Like any organisation or business, the Institution should be bigger than any one indiviual, or Lodge District & County, or Grand Lodge itself. This change will only come when the Loyal Orders show vision and above all leadership.
As for SF they’ll find it impossibleble to locate and organise a Drumcree or Ardoyne type situation for Dublin, ‘there’ll be no street politics for the Capital‘. But. In 100 Years time Orange and Green miight find themselvess in a 32 county Ulster within the Commonwealth, where the 12th is a Bank Holiday, and the tricolour is but a memory. For there will never be a 32 County Socialist Republic.