Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Orangemens’ deadly serious street theatre

Anne Cadwallader:

Some of you will be reading this as far away from an Orange parade as you can possibly get. Some of you may be on your way out to protest at an Orange parade. There may even be some who are about to take part in an Orange parade.

My own response to the Order (while keeping to myself an assessment of its contribution to the history of this island) is keen anticipation – in a professional capacity.

I hate the smell of burning rubber on the morning of “The Twalfth" but some of the highest and lowest points of my career have been spent at Orange parades. Street theatre, entertaining and highly informative it may be, but also volatile and potentially dangerous.

My favourite Orange banner is the one with Queen Victoria sitting in imperial glory on her throne and handing a Bible down to a black man grovelling at her feet. See what I mean by informative?

Thanks to the Orange Order, I have become friends with people I would never otherwise have met in Portadown, Newtownbutler, Dunloy, the Ormeau Road, the Short Strand and Derry.

Friendships have also formed between local people and the corps of US observers saintly – or foolish – enough to come over and keep an eye on proceedings. There are decorators in Boston and students in New York thanks to long summer nights spent talking at Drumcree and the Ormeau.

As we contemplate the day ahead, here are a few stories, some of them mine, some, not but all of them, true.

Portadown 1985
An Orange Hall in a loyalist part of town. Inside, Orangemen are meeting to decide whether to defy the police and march through “The Tunnel". The meeting drags on for hours and reporters are operating a roster so at least some of us can eat.

The single hack on duty outside the hall strikes up a conversation with the Orangeman on security duty. The Orangeman finally invites him inside to show him something that will explain his dislike of “Fenians".

The reporter is taken through room after room until finally he reaches the inner sanctum where the lodge banner is proudly on display. It depicts events in 1647 when Catholic rebels piked Portadown Protestants in the River Bann.

“That's the kind of people we're expected to live beside", sighs the Orangeman. “It really happened, you know. That painting was taken from a photograph".

Derry, July 12 1996
TV pictures of the police yanking nationalists off the Ormeau Road have incensed people in Derry. The Orangemen are parading through the Diamond and a riot develops on Waterloo Place.

Unusually for me, I make a tactical error and find myself caught in crossfire between the police and rioters. Stones are whizzing past my ears and thumping into the metal screens protecting Woolworth's windows.

The A&E department at Altagelvin looms, or worse. That is until a friend spots me from the rioters' side of “No Man's Land". He persuades them to call a halt for 20 seconds and frantically gestures at me to run. I surprise myself by crossing Waterloo Place in about three seconds flat before inching from shop front to shop front and, finally, to safety.

Garvaghy Road, July 6th 1997
Three am: in bed after a couple of pints at the Tir na n'Og GAA club, I am nervous, not knowing what the morning will bring. No-one knows yet if Mo Mowlam will allow the Orangemen down the road or not. A warning siren sounds. Out of beds, all along the road, pile sleepy people. False alarm.

We all try to get back to sleep until, 30 minutes later, the siren goes off and this time it's for real, alerting people that hundreds of RUC men in jeeps are sealing off the road to force the march down.

Clad in a nightdress, boots (no socks) and a mackintosh, I am swept along by the crowd running before the speeding police jeeps until we are surrounded on all sides by heavily armed police.

A woman outside the ring of jeeps kindly goes back to the house where I am staying and retrieves my mobile phone. She throws it to me over the top of the landrovers, so at least I can call the newsroom in Dublin.

As the trapped residents recite the rosary (which adds somewhat to the feeling of impending doom) and a Welsh socialist choir outside the ring sings hymns to keep our spirits up, the sun rises.

The police then move in and, one by one, the residents are dragged, some screaming, others silent and white-faced, off the street leaving only us reporters in the ring. We fold up our notebooks and leave.

Ballycastle, Co Antrim,
July 12, 1997
The Independent Orange Order is holding their annual parade in the mainly nationalist town. Myself and an American reporter are eating ice cream and waiting for the speeches to start.

Under a scorching sun, Ian Paisley begins speaking. “Fascism", he says, “the child of Romanism, is not dead". He refers to the “pan-nationalist front" as a “reincarnation of the beast of fascism" with a “jackboot and gas chamber murder mentality".

The American reporter gulps and turns an interesting shade of green. Another convert for Protestant culture.

Dunloy, January 1998.
The one certain advantage about covering Orange parades, until now, was that they took place in summer. Here we are in the depths of Co Antrim and the snow is four inches thick. It's higher than the tops of my ankle boots and slush is now freezing my toes.

As I interview John Finlay, the local Orange Order head honcho, I sense a movement at my elbow. Turning for an instant, I notice that an elderly Orangeman has switched off my tape-recorder. I glare at him and he moves off.

I turn the tape recorder on again and re-start the interview with Mr. Finlay. Again I sense a movement at my elbow. The small, grey-haired Orangemen, eyes glinting with hatred for me, a woman he cannot possibly know, has turned my tape recorder off again. This time, I shift it round to the front of my body and successfully complete the interview.

Last year in Ardoyne, I watched in amazement as Bobby Storey and others (including Sean Kelly) prevented furious nationalists from attacking a group of Paras as loyalists marched triumphantly up the Crumlin Road. Street theatre it might be, but deadly serious too.

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At 10:35 AM, Anonymous Loon said...

Yet you would be happy to ethnically clense the Unionist population?

At 10:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

'“reincarnation of the beast of fascism" with a “jackboot and gas chamber murder mentality"."'

Judging by this blogger's comments in the post below, Rev Paisley may not be that wide of the mark - our lovely murderer supporter here seems to want to make the 6 Counties "Protestantrein" rather than Judenrein however.

At 10:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The only good Colonist is a dead colonist" - given that this wanker appears to equaite "Colonists" with "Unionist" isn't their grounds for reporting this fucker to the police or at least Blogger?

At 3:50 PM, Blogger Diarmid said...

Yet you would be happy to ethnically clense the Unionist population?

I would be happy to "ethnically cleanse" any colonial population.

At 3:52 PM, Blogger Diarmid said...

“reincarnation of the beast of fascism" with a “jackboot and gas chamber murder mentality"."'

So being against British colonialism makes me a Nazi? So how would you regard someone who was in favour of British colonialism, then?

At 3:54 PM, Blogger Diarmid said...

"The only good Colonist is a dead colonist" - given that this wanker appears to equaite "Colonists" with "Unionist" isn't their grounds for reporting this fucker to the police or at least Blogger?

You believe that it should be illegal to be against British colonialism?


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