Imagine my shock, last Saturday 5th July 2008, when this gang of Hilly Billys passed by my hotel in Glasgow to celebrate ethnic cleansing in my country! And an hour later they marched by on their way back! Time Warp!! For 3 hours the Orange Order took over the centre of Glasgow and Police steered traffic away from the East End of Glasgow for the rest of the day and all this was in honour of a battle which took place between a Scottish and Dutch King in Ireland 318 years ago!
The marches, commonly referred to as the Orange Walk, are celebrations which mark Prince William of Orange’s victory over King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. The Orange Institution, more commonly known as the Orange Order or the Orange Lodge, is a Protestant fraternal organisation based predominantly in Northern Ireland and Scotland with lodges throughout the Commonwealth and the United States. It was founded in Loughgall, County Armagh, Ireland in 1795; its name is a tribute to Dutch-born Protestant King of Britain, William III of England (William II of Scotland), of the House of Orange – Nassau. William had defeated the Catholic army of James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. This victory also copper fastened the Plantation of Ulster which was a planned process of colonisation and dispossession of the native Irish population which took place in the northern Irish province of Ulster during the early 17th century in the reign of James I of England.
English and Scottish Protestants were settled on land that had been confiscated from Catholic Irish landowners in the counties of Donegal, Coleraine, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Armagh and Cavan, following the Flight of the Earls in 1607. The Plantation of Ulster was the biggest and, from the English colonial perspective, the most successful of the Plantations of Ireland, today called ethnic cleansing. Ulster was planted in this way to prevent further rebellion, having proved itself over the preceding century to be the most resistant of Ireland’s provinces to English invasion. However, giving an indication of the mixed loyalties reflected in the attachment of the Orange Order in a Nationalist Scotland to the Union with England and to the British Crown, the Scottish mercenaries involved in the murderous conquest of Ulster stayed on and took the Royalist side against Cromwell and the Parliament during the English Civil War.
Observers have accused the Orange Institution of being a sectarian organisation, due to its goals and its exclusion of Roman Catholics as members, however some denominations of Protestants are also ineligible for membership. In Ireland the Orange Parades are seen by the Nationalist population as a triumphalist territorial assertion of supremacy designed to intimidate. They need to be seen against the traditional background of sectarian division and institutionalised discrimination which led to the Civil Rights Movement whose suppression was used by the Provisional IRA to justify its campaign of violence.
Sixty people were arrested following the Orange parade in Glasgow on Saturday, police said. Strathclyde Police said 12 were held for sectarian offences, one for knife possession, one for having an offensive weapon and the rest for minor offences. Police said the majority of the 15,500 marchers were well behaved, but that some onlookers had too much to drink. Ian Wilson, of the Orange Order in Scotland, said it would “take a while” to ensure troublemakers stayed away. The arrests came after police warned they would crack down on bigots at the County Grand Orange Lodge Parade, which involved 182 city lodges and 90 bands.
Assistant Chief Constable Kevin Smith said: ‘It would be easy to say that this was better than previous years. However, we are still left with a situation whereby 60 people were arrested.
“There has been abusive, drunken and sectarian behaviour in the streets of Glasgow, significant disruption to the city, and I have had to bring in literally hundreds of police officers from all over the force area to police this event.”
In 2004 former Scottish Orange Order member Adam Ingram sued MP George Galloway for saying in his autobiography that Ingram had “played the flute in a sectarian, anti-Catholic, Protestant-supremacist Orange Order band”. Judge Lord Kingarth ruled that the phrase was “fair comment” on the Orange Order and that Ingram had been a member, although he had not played the flute.
The Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland has also spoken out against Scottish independence, and on 24 March 2007, a parade of 12,000 Orangemen marched through Edinburgh’s Royal Mile to celebrate the Act of Union. The Orange Order’s view of history is usually not inaccurate, but could be criticised as outdated. It is reminiscent of the nineteenth century English historian Thomas Babington Macaulay, who argued that the Glorious Revolution which brought William into power was a major turning point in British and world history. Macaulay’s interpretation was very influential but has come under sustained criticism in recent decades. Nationalists have from time to time criticised the Order for overlooking the fact that William was supported by the Pope in his campaigns against James’ backer Louis XIV of France, and this fact is sometimes left out of Orange histories. However it appears in others.
The obsession of the Orange Order with events of 1690 and its ambiguous loyalty to the British Crown rather than the British State seems entirely perverse in this day and age, particularly when the so called “Glorious Revolution” ushered in by William and Mary (daughter of the defeated James II) specifically recognised that Parliament was Sovereign and power was shared between the Monarch and Parliament. In the Orange Order’s world view they look purely to the Monarch and Parliament is a source of perdition. Indeed why not have parades in honour of the wars of the Spanish and Austrian Successions which were far more prolonged and bloodier but did more to assert Britain’s position in Europe and the world and are equally absolutely irrelevant to the modern world?
However two thoughts occurred to me witnessing this anachronistic display of “Fife and Thunder” designed to intimidate and assert territorial supremacy. I had last been in Glasgow as a young 11 year old scout and growing up in Dublin I had never experienced sectarianism until I travelled to Scotland on that trip. Indeed to the fundamentalist Protestants of Scotland sectarian harassment of those of other persuasions appeared to be both a God given right and a duty. Growing up in Dublin, for all its many faults, religion was never an issue, there were no visible religious tensions and people of all faiths mixed freely (despite it must be said the efforts of the Catholic Church led by Archbishop John McQuaid commonly referred to as the ArchBigot of Dublin) and got along. Indeed it was unheard of to ask somebody what their faith was. And I have no doubt that if you had voiced opposition to the march in Glasgow that Saturday morning the many flag draped supporters walking along on the sidelines would have been happy “to sort out the Taigues”. How easy it is to label and dehumanise those who disagree with you but the inscriptions on the banners spoke of the fierce simplistic certainty of the marchers; “No Surrender”, “The Truth Defenders”, “If God be for us, Who can be against us?” How convenient it is to have a direct line to God!
But looking at the marchers they were hardly those who had inherited the Earth? The demographics were resoloutely C and D, I wouldn’t imagine there were many university degrees between them, the “Protestant Ladies in their fine bonnets” who walked behind could with some kindness be described as “rough looking” and Glasgow East where many of them hail from has the distinction of being the constituency with the worst life expectancy in the UK and the Clyde of 63 shipyards which supplied the world with ships has now been reduced to 3 residual yards and the main employment sources in modern Glasgow are Call Centres. Indeed the loyalty of the Orange marchers to the Union and the British Crown is out of step with an increasingly Nationalistic Scotland. For this Protestant lumpen proletariat is equally the product of religious discrimination against them as “Non Conformists”, the divide and rule of the English Hanoverians during the Highland Wars and the savage highland clearances which provided a ready supply of workers for the tenements of Glasgow and contributed to the Scottish Diaspora to the corners of the Empire driven by the poverty of existence in their homeland. So, to paraphrase Monty Python, “What had loyalty done for them?” Indeed during the weekend many Glaswegians volunteered how they disliked these strangely Masonic Orange Men and their creed and attachment to the Union.
And however the British Establishment and Royal Family may be embarrassed by their “Loyalty” today we must remember that their view of history is not necessarily without foundation and is indeed embedded in the sectarian nature of the British State and its statute law as embedded in the law which heralded (along with the Bill of Rights) the “Glorious Revolution” which is celebrated by Queen and Parliament each year, the Act of the Williamnite Settlement
And indeed this sectarianism is echoed in the Authorised King James Bible which is the official Bible of the Church of England and is the only document in English Law whose copyright is owned in perpetuity by the Crown. It states;
“WHEREAS the late King James the Second . . . did endeavour to subvert and extirpate the protestant religion . . .. And thereupon their Majesties were pleased [to] . . . make effectual provision for the settlement of the religion, laws and liberties of this kingdom
And whereas it hath been found by experience, that it is inconsistent with the safety and welfare of this protestant kingdom, to be governed by a popish prince, or by any King or Queen marrying a papist . .[T]he throne being thereby vacant, his highness the prince of Orange (whom it hath pleased Almighty God to make the glorious instrument of delivering this kingdom from popery and arbitrary power) . . ..
And the said lords spiritual and temporal, and commons, seriously considering how it hath pleased Almighty God, in his marvellous providence, and merciful goodness to this nation, to provide and preserve their said Majesties royal persons most happily to reign over us upon the throne of their ancestors . . ..[F]or preserving a certainty in the succession [of the throne], in and upon which the unity, peace, tranquillity, and safety of this nation doth, under God, wholly consist and depend . .”
So, who is more out of step? The Orange Men of Glasgow and Belfast or the British State?