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By Jason Michael

EIGHT MEN WERE ARRESTED on Saturday in Glasgow for sectarian offences after an Orange Order parade of a few hundred persons took place in the city. On the same day somewhere in the region of ten thousand independence supporters marched through the town of Ayr without a single incident. Without fail, whenever and wherever they happen, Orange marches result in heightened tensions, binge drinking, and chauvinistic anti-Catholic hate speech, and violence. Any passing observer would be tempted to think there is something about  this quasi-military showband organisation that creates this obnoxious mayhem, but every year spokesmen for the Order are wheeled out by the unionist media to deny its sectarianism and extol its virtues as a loyal institution for the celebration of Ulster Protestant culture. So, what is the story?

Founded in 1795 at the height of anti-colonial land agitation in Ireland, the Orange Order is an explicitly anti-Catholic sectarian secret fraternity committed to the defence of the British colonial project on the island of Ireland. Throughout its history it has functioned at every level of unionist society in Ireland to maintain the dominance of the British Protestant Ascendancy over and against the native and dispossessed people of Ireland. Its rôle has, from its beginning, always been political rather than religious; campaigning against the legalisation of Catholic worship and emancipation in the nineteenth century, and fighting against Home Rule and for the partition of Ireland in the twentieth century. Following partition, the Unionist Party sprang from the Order, and the B-Specials – the paramilitary police force infamous for its brutality – was made up almost exclusively of Orangemen. In recent times it has kept close links with the British Conservative Party.

Due to the effectiveness of its tactics in Ireland it was introduced into Scotland during the period of cultural Britishification after the defeat of the Jacobites:

Orangeism was imported into Scotland as a handy instrument of colonial rule. Its function, by 1821 – the year of the first Orange march in Scotland, was as much to replace among Scots Protestants their sense of Scottishness with that of Britishness as it was to remove the possibility of rebellious collaboration between Protestants and Catholics – an alliance which almost cost the British state Ireland in 1798.

Our mistake today is that we think of Orange Order sectarianism as part of a wider petty or tribal feud between Protestants and Catholics – between Rangers and Celtic etc. Of course, this is a useful and easily digestible narrative, and one no doubt the British establishment would prefer us to swallow because it absolves it of any and all responsibility for the behaviour of the Order. As it is in Ireland, state supported sectarianism in Scotland is not about religious difference. No one in modern British history has been killed over a theological dispute. Orangemen are not overly concerned with Catholic theology; with the Eucharist, the Liturgy, or even Ecclesiology. Most would be hard-pressed to even explain what these things are. The Orange Order is concerned with Catholics and Catholicism, but not as people of a different religious tradition and another type of Christianity. Its preoccupation is with what they represent politically.

The loyalism of the Order is built on the British idea of a Protestant monarchy for a Protestant people, an inherently supremacist imperial and settler-colonialist ideology stemming from the Glorious Revolution and the Protestant Succession. Even with the word ‘Protestant’ in the mix, this is not a religious ideology. Protestant in this political usage is as integral to the Christian faith as Zionism is to Judaism. It is a brutal imperial ideology hiding behind the veil of religion – nothing more. Jesus was not an Ulsterman and certainly wouldn’t have sung the praises of the British Empire as he was subtly undermining the power of the Roman Empire in first century Palestine. Rather, Orangeism is virulently anti-Catholic because it sees British and Irish Catholicism – and with some merit – as a reminder of the illegitimacy of every British monarch since 11 December 1688. It has been the mission of the Orange Order since its inception to create legitimacy for the Crown and Britishness by brute force, and this has been particularly directed against those who represent to them a loyalty to the last legitimate British monarch, James II and VII – Catholics.

Unsurprisingly, most Catholics have moved on. Few Catholics in England, Scotland, or Wales waste their time fantasising of the return of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Among Irish Catholics the idea of monarchy has in the main been consigned to the dustbin of history, with the majority of Catholics in Ireland considering themselves republicans – rejecting monarchy entirely in favour of representative parliamentary democracy.

But the anti-Catholicism of the Orange Order continues. This time last year Scotland was shocked by the news an Orange parade had attacked St Alphonsus Church in Glasgow as it passed. Orangemen verbally abusing parishioners coming out of Mass, attempted to storm the building. Stopping them at the door, the priest, Fr Tom White, was assaulted. In Belfast, it has now become a regular occurrence for St Patrick’s Church on Donegall Road to be targeted and its parishioners and clergy abused and harassed during marches. One video shows frightened elderly people huddled at the door of the church afraid to leave and one band marching in circles outside the church playing ‘The Famine Song:’

Now they raped and fondled their kids
That’s what those perverts from the dark side did
And they swept it under the carpet
And Large John he hid
Their evils seeds have been sown
’Cause they’re not of our own
Well the famine is over
Why don’t you go home? 

We can delude ourselves in Scotland; saying that this happened in Ireland, but Belfast is only another stop on the Marching Season pilgrim route that links towns and cities all over Scotland to Belfast and the rest of Ulster. Scots Orangemen are as common a feature at marches in the north of Ireland as Ulstermen are at marches here in Scotland. When it comes to the world of Orangeism, the Order treats Scotland and the north of Ireland as the same place – the Ulster Scots.

Yet, we feel that we can’t ban these marches – that we can’t ban the organisation – because to do this would be illiberal, it wouldn’t be tolerant. Rubbish! If the Orange Order insisted on marching through the more affluent streets of Glasgow, insisting that they too were “the Queen’s highway,” they would have been banned decades ago. If their songs and their open hostility were directed against Jews or people of colour instead of Catholics, the government would have no option but to ban the organisation. So, why is this not the case when they are marching down working-class streets and abusing Catholics? Not only this, but why have local councils in Scotland been giving the Orange Order public funds? Just imagine if Tower Hamlets borough council in London gave £1,500 of taxpayers’ money to the BNP to support an anti-immigrant rally. There would be an outcry. But that’s not what happens in Scotland. It’s not what happens in the north of Ireland.

It is not intolerance to ban intolerant organisations and events. We do it all the time. This is why we don’t have an openly neo-Nazi fascist party. It is why hate preachers are silenced and refused entry into the country. It is why online paedophile rings are shut down and their members prosecuted. The intolerant and the intolerable are banned all the time without us becoming an intolerant society. But people don’t seem to understand this. On a poll I posted to Twitter asking if Orange parades should be banned in Scotland – a poll in which 92 per cent of the 6,292 respondents said they should, someone replied by calling me a Nazi for saying I would ban Nazis. Yes, people really are this inconsistent. There is also a fair amount of hypocrisy in it. We simply cannot claim that it would be illiberal to ban an openly anti-Catholic and violent hate group while supporting bans on radical hate preachers, neo-Nazism, and child pornography clubs. Tolerance demands the prohibition of the intolerant and the intolerable. Karl Popper made this clear in The Open Society when he described the paradox of tolerance – that, if permitted to remain within the law, the intolerant will always seek to destroy tolerance, freedom, and democracy. The open society cannot exist unless it protects itself from intolerance.

But this doesn’t happen with the Orange Order because its brand of intolerance is politically useful. It keeps people divided along sectarian lines, allowing the British state to reign over a divided kingdom. But we have to wake up to this nonsense. There is no room in Scotland for this nasty, bigoted rubbish. People must be free to worship as they see fit without fear of harassment and violence. We cannot claim to be a modern and progressive nation while allowing this garbage to be paraded down our streets. Like all other hate groups, it should be shut down and sent packing.

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Orange March Past St Patrick’s Church, Belfast


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22 thoughts on “Time to Ban the Orange Order

  1. Perhaps a good place to start would be to teach the teach the real history of William III including the fact that he was funded by the Papacy of the time. So basically it was a political rather than a sectarian battle.

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  2. When I was a teenager I had some acquaintances from Northern Ireland. They were ardent Orangemen. In their vituperations against Catholics and the Republic of Ireland they would sometimes come out with the expression, “Home Rule is Rome Rule”. Rather a strange expression in the late 1960s, when Ireland had achieved not just Home Rule, but independence!

    I had a brother-in-law who was a member of the Orange Lodge, a Mason, a Rangers supporter, and who professed to love the Queen (sic.). Those four affiliations seem to go together in Lanarkshire. He only went to church when dragged by my sister to the Christmas Eve Watchnight Service, to weddings and funerals and when there was an Orange parade to the local Church of Scotland. He played in the flute band. He was virulently anti-Catholic because he believed that if Catholics gained power then the Pope would rule Britain and oppress us..

    I shared the anti-Catholic prejudice of my Protestant neighbours. When I went to study in the USA, I served as a student Pastor in a church. The first Easter there was an ecumenical Good Friday service, and all the churches participated. At first I was shocked at the participation of the Roman Catholic Church, and wondered if I should participate. I did take part, and my anti-Catholic prejudices began to disappear. When I went to continue my studies in Toronto, I took all my Pastoral Theology courses in Roman Catholic colleges, and I studied Clinical Pastoral Education in a Roman Catholic Hospital. I stayed in a Roman Catholic College some of the time and attended Wednesday evening Mass.

    Of course I still disagree with certain beliefs held by the Roman Catholic Church, but I’ve learned much from my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, and in my interactions with them I focus on the beliefs we share, and the actions we take together. I don’t like the name Protestant. I rather think of myself as a Reformational Catholic.

    I wonder why the Church of Scotland and other Protestant don’t engage with the Orange Lodges, teach them the beliefs we all share and encourage them to work together in serving their communities. Perhaps it’s because the Orangemen do not actually have Protestant beliefs. As you write, Jason, they are not a religious organisation, they are a British Nationalist political organisation.

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  3. Another superb post, Jason.
    Coming from that same West of Scotland ‘Proddy’ stock, I am only too aware of the hard wired and often insidious bigotry that still prevailed in the 1980s.
    It utterly reviles me that this organisation is still encouraged by the British State.
    Thankfully it is, as shown by your tweet above, largely anathema now to any Scot with an IQ north of 65.

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  4. I agree 100% m8 that crap would not be tolerated in any decent society in the they give the KKK a good name but things are changing in NARNIA hopefully SCOTLAND will follow suit and ban these Flat-Earther”s

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  5. Before I went to West Lothian I actually had very little real experience of the Orange Order, apart as it being part of the background clutter in Ulster. They ran the Unionists party initially and there was only one Unionist Stormont MP who was not a member. In Dalkeith I had a guy who had tried to get me interested. He backed off when I told him that the Parish Priest and I would stand together in full robes protesting.
    The OO had some traction in some sections of the Kirk, but far less than people might expect. Much Orange Religion is sectarian that is in small sect like worship groups rather than in the main stream churches – many Irish Orange men are Anglicans – in fact one of the aims of the OO wasn’t just to keep Roman Catholics down, but also to keep Presbyterians in their place. The liturgical tradition of the Scottish Episcopal Church meant that many of the Irish Anglicans in Scotland worshipped else where (or in St Silas which was a licensed Private Chapel but has recently decided to leave the denomination).
    When I went to West Lothian I discovered a community with a very strong Orange tradition. Historically they had a service in the Parish Church. During the vacancy this had been a special service led by a minister whom they had supplied. This was not going to continue. There were two options. either I didn’t entertain the idea at all, or I conducted the service my self. When I thought of the first option, I remembered saying to the Free Church minister who wasn’t keen on an ecumenical service “Do you mean that you have no message for a fallen humanity?” The result was my proudest ecumenical coup when the Parish Priest led his flock into the Free Kirk.
    I therefore agreed to hold the service, except that they were to attend the evening service, rather than have a special one put on for them. Now as it happened I was preaching my way though Calvin’s Catechism, which is a commentary on the Apostle’s Creed. It so happened that the Sunday which they had chosen for the service we had got to “I believe in the Catholic Church”. I rocked them back on their seats, and a number of the members of the Lodge subsequently joined the Church by profession of faith.
    During the time I was in West Lothian I got to know a number of the brethren, and these are my observations. In some areas of Scotland where there is a history of heavy industry there is also a history of Organism. Its relationship with sectarianism is much more complicated than is often thought. One of the saddest things I ever saw was a lone figure standing outside the chapel while the funeral mass of his best friend took place inside. That was a matter of discipline. Of course, it is only in living memory that the Roman Catholics have been permitted to attend Protestant funerals, as we saw with the state funeral of Douglas Hyde the first president of Ireland. The term “Orange” is in fact used to cover a number of what are referred to as Loyal institutions. There is a tribalism about the whole system. I remember being horrified. I didn’t allow sectarian emblems on coffins in the Church. At one funeral when they brought the coffin out of the Church, rather than putting it into the Herse, it was put on trestles and “dressed” it was then picked up and walked behind the Herse, with a couple of flutes. The orange men put on their collarets and the precession went up the high street. I wasn’t amused but there wasn’t much which I could do, any more than the police who were not to be seen.
    There is therefore this feeling of entitlement. It has got absolutely no religious input. The question is how do we deal with this position? That is the real question. When the Orange Order asked for the use of the Assembly Hall for a significant anniversary, and were refused, it wasn’t the end of the world, nothing actually happened. I only wish that some councils would have the same moral bravery.

    I would however have to disagree with some of the things you said.

    You say “ Following partition, the Unionist Party sprang from the Order, and the B-Specials – the paramilitary police force infamous for its brutality – was made up almost exclusively of Orangemen”. The Unionist Party can trace its history to opposition to Gladstone’s first home rule bill 1886. Right from the beginning the Orange Order was heavily represented in its councils. As for the B Specials it must be remembered that the Northern Statelet, the unwanted bastard state was wanted by no one, but that while it was being formed there was a war of Independence taking place in Ireland, followed by a Civil War. This made the Unionist inhabitants extremely worried. The Special Constabulary (the B men were only one section) were seen as the protection against either the repeat of what happened in 1641, or what was believed to had happened in contemporary Dunmanway in Co Cork. Like so much in Northern Ireland the situation simply survived for too long as there was this Conservative terror against any form of change.

    I also think that your analyses of the attitude to the Stuarts is slightly wrong. Unless you are part of the community it is hard to understand the place which the place of the Covenanters 1661 – 1689 have in some protestant myth making. The irony was that they were effectively republicans – see the Sanquhar Declaration.

    I think that it is very important to distinguish between Tribal Protestantism and Reformed Catholicism, which I would embrace. I have always been amused to see banners held high of Oliver Cromwell, who was not only a Regicide, but who also was an enemy of Scotland.

    I would argue three things about what you have said.
    1 What should be banned is Orange Order Marches and Demonstrations.
    2. Sectarian groups can’t be banned. First of all, how do you draft the legislation so that you don’t catch Churches? Remember there are also fraternal bodies like the Ancient Order of Hibernians and Knights of St Columba which disturb no one.
    3. The whole history of organisations in Ireland has shown that seeking to ban organisations rarely have a positive result. There are signs that the Loyal Intuitions are dead on their feet. The important thing is to educate people so that their thought patters are not passed on to subsequent generations. Sorting the orders is something which the Churches should do, but I don’t think that there is the interest.

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    1. I agree with you Edward it is difficult to ban sectarian groups but isn’t their marches purpose to intimidate and terrorise the Catholic population? Terror groups can be banned, I thought there was a war on terror into which billions for pounds of taxpayers money disappears,

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    1. Obviously? Well, I suppose you would say that. But, please do offer me some evidence of my bigotry and sectarianism. I was good enough to show documentary footage of the Orange Order’s sectarian anti-Catholic behaviour. So, please do offer the same.

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  6. I totally agree with all you have said here , I am Scottish born , but my father was from County Down , and let’s call him Protestant but never in all his life did he come out with any ant- catholic statements or even comment on the troubles in Ireland, his best friend next door to us was a practising catholic and were a good and decent family, BAN THE BIGOTRY BRIGADE WHICH IS THE ORANGE ORDER

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  7. Can I just point one thing out to you… The “documentary footage” you speak of does not show “the Orange Orders sectarian anti-Catholic behaviour”. In fact, it shows members of a band trying to prevent a woman from crossing a street. They may march in front of an Orange Order Lodge, but the people in question are not part of the Orange Order, which is clearly indicated by the lack of a Orange Order Lodge pin on the arm of their shirt.

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  8. Please do not ban the Orange Order, We have already had circuses banned, and these marches are the only chance that I have to show my grandchildren what real clowns look like

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  9. Excellent article which nailed the history of this knuckledragging hateful organization. Having been brought up in Glasgow, now living in Dorset and supporting Celtic – as a choice ( atheist , brought up as a Protestent ) I really have never understood the anti-Catholic hatred in the West of Scotland.

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  10. Anakim Hemelloper the problem is define terrorist. If their members are convicted of acts of terror then we can get some where. We have seen the kind of argument put up in the replies. “It isn’t the orange order, but the bands” – which at one level is true. Then most frightening part of the marches is not the actual members of the OO who merely present a rather dated image, but the camp followers and the Kick the Pope bands. The Bands have the real head the baas, separate and deniable, but of course they are part and parcel of the whole circus.
    I found that the best way to deal with them was to give them the truth, as their view of history and theology is pretty well distorted. As a Scoto-Catholic I was able to point out to them that what they thought was not actually the teaching of the Kirk. Many of their ideas come from English Independency which is a pernicious understanding of the faith. The first one to seek to bring it to Scotland was run out of Edinburgh on a rail in 1603, but it prospered in Ireland with the planters.

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  11. Orange Order parades are offensive to all right thinking people; I speak as one brought up in a tradition that is not usually a target of their abuse. When they came to Helensburgh a year or two back there was a broad based campaign, not based on faith, to have the march banned but we were told that if the council tried to ban it an injunction would be granted to overturn any ban. I do not know whether this is a statement of fact or hearsay.

    In the end the council voted to do nothing and the march went ahead. I was in the town that day and the streets were almost deserted with the exception of followers of the march. It is to be hoped that they do not come back.

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