Poor David couldn’t win. He was just trying to give people the opportunity to say what they wanted to say and be fair about what he was doing.
David also knew something very important; what really counted in people’s minds was perception, not reality. Or to put it another way, one man’s reality was another man’s perception!
He also knew something about ‘Zero Sum’ politics; if one crowd got something then the other crowd had to lose something.
In the eyes of some people David had a fatal flaw: David was an “exogamist.”
An exogamist is person who marries outside their own core religious or ethnic group.
David married a Catholic; oh, sin of all sins, in the eyes of some. He could never be trusted; he married one of ‘them.’
Every year we used to have great craic listening to the news about the marches up and down this or that street while people came on to condemn or justify these events. Some years the trouble was serious and people were killed. In these years it was no craic.
Do you remember the year a young taxi driver was killed in Portadown and years later when it all came out the people who killed him said that they did it as a birthday present for Billy Wright.
God will have something special to say to these people when they meet him.
How do nationalist and Catholics perceive Orange marches?
First up, let’s look at the term ‘marching.’
Marching is a term of war; you march to war, you march into battle, you march on your enemy.
Hannibal marched on Rome, Napoleon marched on Paris and Hitler marched on Moscow. Chairman Mao even took his men on a ‘Long March.’
For the average nationalist, the marching season is a season when the Orange Order marches on a perceived enemy.
Then there is the equally destructive perception that the whole marching season is one long celebration of the ‘Protestant Ascendancy.’
This is a term, Protestant Ascendancy, which has gone out of fashion; you seldom hear it now, but at the start of the Troubles you heard it a lot and it was really a historical term.
When the British conquered some place, they used a very simple ruse to keep the place under control. They chose one tribe in the area and made a deal with them; we will give you power over the other tribes but you have to be loyal to us.
In tribal societies there was always one group that went along with this.
However, when the English finally subjected Ireland after the Battle of Kinsale and the flight of the Earls, there was only one tribe here, the Irish. So England brought in the ‘Planters’ who were Protestant and gave them this imagined ‘Ascendency.’
In other words, the English transported a tribe into the country that had never been here before. You may well ask what has this to do with modern times but think back just a few short years to the days of the RUC and the UDR.
The RUC was over 90% Protestant and the UDR had probably even a higher rate of Protestant members, so in effect you had the imported tribe, the British Protestant, policing and subduing the native tribe, the Irish Catholic.
Rioting and protests over the continued banning of
the Orange Order march from the Garvaghy Road
Many of us forget the viciousness and reality of this idea but cast your mind back to 1996 and the Drumcree riots and their aftermath.
In the week following the Drumcree incident 6000 plastic bullets were fired; 5400 at Nationalist rioters and 600 at Loyalists.
When asked to justify this at the time, a Unionist politician who is now an MP, said, “The RUC are more likely to be fired on by Nationalists so they have to use more force with them.”
Here is another perception that was never really been challenged in the Old North; that there was always something more despicable in Nationalist violence than in Unionist violence. The television and other media outlets fully supported this hypothesis in the minds of many people when they participated in the hierarchy of victims debacle.
There are many examples like these that we could bring forth but that should be enough to give us the general picture, so we come right up to date.
Things have changed. The Protestant Ascendency is over in all but name; anti-discrimination laws and better monitoring of job placements etc have all but done away with the institutional bigotry that bedevilled the Old North.
A new educated middle class Catholic would not go back to the days of the B Specials humiliating us on the streets again; the RUC could never again do what it did in the Bogside in 1969, when they openly attacked the Catholic enclave with their Unionist friends.
Most importantly in all this, Britain is broke. Britain is so broke that you would not believe it. There used to be 30,000 British troops in Northern Ireland. When the next round of troop reductions takes place there shall be more check out staff scanning groceries in Tesco’s than there are soldiers in the British Empire.
You can’t rule an empire with a bunch of girls in Tesco coats!
Finally, the main reason the British shall make sure that the Protestant Ascendency shall never return is because after nearly thirty years of fighting in Ireland, the IRA learned that a couple of big bombs at Canary Wharf and a Manchester shopping centre can cost the British too much.
These two bombs cost the British almost £1.3 billion in 1996, probably nearer to £2 billion now, more in money terms than all the bombs in the Old North added together. The day after the Canary Wharf bomb the leader of the anti-terrorist branch in Scotland Yard said that he knew the government would have to deal with the IRA. Britain could not afford any more of these types of bombs.
it always comes down to money
So why is there all this hullaballoo with the marching season this year again?
In fairness to the New North, a lot of the old nonsense has gone away. However, there does appear to be an element within the marchers who simply cannot let go of the old ways; they long for the days of protestant domination.
The sight of a group of young men dancing and celebrating outside a Catholic church, simply as an act of provocation, is no longer acceptable. Last year the Shankill YCV band stopped on their route and marched round in circles for several minutes playing anti Catholic tunes.
These are the last vestiges of that time when the Loyal Orders could do what they liked and no one had to the right to question them.
The rise of the resident groups, whether at the behest of Sinn Fein or not, and the ability and willingness of Catholic solicitors to take on the British and the Orange Order has left the marching season that it is only an inconvenience to Catholics nowadays.
We treat it with the contempt it deserves; but should we do so?
I don’t think that there is any simple answer to the problem of the marches. There seems to be an unwillingness on behalf of the Orange Order to face up to the bigots within their ranks who want to keep tensions going.
Again, this could simply be my perception.
The really positive side to the marching season is that it shows us in stark relief the gap that still exists in the Catholic/Protestant mindset in many working class areas. The really negative side of it is that a lot of Unionist and Loyalist people still have not caught on to the reality of the situation here in the New North as regards the British.
The British do not want us and all sorts of self delusion about what we did for the British in the Second World War will not overcome that reality.
It appears that the Catholic population of Northern Ireland has faced up to the fact that we are not wanted by the Free State a lot quicker than the Protestants have faced the reality of their situation.
Why can we not look at our shared history from some sort of a position that begins with a little integrity and honesty? Some Unionist politicians still insist that the Troubles were all the fault of the republicans and that everything was perfect in the old unionist dominated Northern Ireland.
The first place we could begin is with some real truth about our attitudes to one another from a historical perspective.
The Catholics felt oppressed and we hated the Unionists for it; the Unionists felt threatened and they acted out of fear, creating the image of the ‘never to be trusted Taig.’
What’s wrong with saying that? Everyone knows it to be true.
We have a shared history, a violent shared history of mistrust and fear. But it is a starting point; maybe not the best place to start from but it is all we have.
When blaming stops, healing begins.
Here is another reality. We are on our own and the politics of these islands are changing faster than we realize.
Next year Scotland goes to the polls to vote on independence. The probability is that the people will vote to stay in the UK but the fact is that Scotland shall get more and more control over its own affairs.
“A commission set up to examine the future of devolved government in Wales is recommending new financial powers that would result in a ‘fundamental constitutional shift’ from London to Cardiff.
The chairman of the commission on devolution in Wales, Paul Silk, said, ‘It will give Wales its own tax and borrowing system for the first time.’”
This quote from the Guardian, November 19th, 2012, mentions a fundamental constitutional shift where even tiny Wales is beginning to slide away from England.
Owen Glendower is coming back to haunt the English.
And where are we in all this? We are still marching round in circles in front of a Catholic Church singing about the good old days when ‘we were up to our necks in Fenian blood.’
There is something we can learn from history and we in the New North had better learn it quick.
After the collapse of every empire that there has ever been, the dominant country of that empire becomes broke and moves to a position of self interested nationalism no matter what happens to the former colonies.
England has been no exception in relation to its African and Asian colonies. Now the self centred nationalism is coming nearer to home.
The marching season is the barometer of how far we have come in understanding the reality of our situation.
Let’s examine a few small facts that we all know.
Northern Ireland has never been a self financing country. We have depended on British money coming in at the rate of about £5,052 per person for the year 2008/9. Imagine what will happen in the future when the British economy comes to the crunch that it is certainly going to face.
As I said above, Britain is broke, unbelievably broke; it is borrowing at the rate of about £10 billion a month. At the minute the world has other things on its mind which are more important than the British economy; the American dollar is causing some real concern, the Euro is still more likely to break up than survive and lately China’s economy is beginning to slow down.
But someday soon, probably in the lifetime of the next parliament, the world is going to wake up to the fact the John Bull is way in over his depth and then the proverbial crows shall come home to roost.
When the real cuts start where do you think they are going to look first, Scotland and Wales which are connected to them geographically or the wee north, that pathetic little place across the Irish Sea where the natives can’t agree, and where they cost us well over £100 each per week.
As our beloved leader, Peter ‘the Barley Water’ Robinson has a habit of saying, ‘the reality is!’
“The reality is” the days of the Protestant Ascendency are over; the days of tramping on the Catholics are over; the days of dreaming about a United Ireland are over and the days of Good Old Blighty coughing up to the tune of ten or eleven billion a year are coming to an end.
If we don’t catch ourselves on we could all be marching; marching to nowhere with nobody to keep us in pocket money.
Mr Marcher, poverty doesn’t come in only Green buckets; it can come in Orange ones too!
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