AN UPDATED edition of Chris Ryder and Vincent Kearney’s excellent Drumcree: the Orange Order’s Last Stand hit the bookshops just in time for this year’s main attempt at getting ‘Orange feet on the Garvaghy Road’ and the now familiar ‘stand-off’ -- ‘Drumcree eight’ for those who are counting.
The book traces the story of loyalist marches in this most bitterly-divided of northern districts, with particular emphasis on events since 1995. It was then that local nationalists decided that the Order’s insistence on exercising its ‘traditional’ right to walk the ‘Queen’s highway’ -- or, as local nationalists saw it, their ‘traditional’ right to intimidate the Catholic and nationalist community on and around the Garvaghy Road -- could not be allowed to continue as before.
The Drumcree ‘stand-offs’, accompanied by varying degrees of violence, have been carried out in the full gaze of the world’s media, winning the Order few friends outside the ranks of the hate-filled racists of the British extreme right.
With the Order still refusing to negotiation directly either with representatives of the local nationalist community or with the Parades Commission, the breakdown of the most recent efforts at mediation, and attempts by unionist politicians such as David Trimble to manipulate the ongoing crisis for their own narrow political ends, there seems little chance that we won’t be witnessing ‘Drumcree nine’ next July.
That the events at Drumcree have played a key role in precipitating a crisis within traditional unionism is evidenced by a new book by Church of Ireland minister Rev. Earl Storey.
The most obvious comment to make about Earl Storey’s Traditional Roots: towards an appropriate relationship between the Church of Ireland and the Orange Order concerns the title, which clearly recognises that the existing relationship between the church and the Order is ‘inappropriate’. Replete with, at times breathtaking, understatement (“Not every Orange parade is benign or passes off without remark”) Storey presents an essentially a theological argument for change -- the non-religious reader will need to bear in mind that the author’s main aim is to change attitudes within his own church.
Furthermore, his intention is to present the case for change without further alienating church parishioners, a significant number of whom have grown up believing in their very own ‘trinity’ of church, Orange Order and political unionism.
Storey’s conclusion is that ‘progressive disengagement’, rather than a sudden break, is the way forward -- a process he suggests, which the “scandal of Drumcree” has already begun.
Progress indeed, although it is hard not to feel that Storey’s rejection of an abrupt termination, the otherwise logical outcome of any acknowledgement that a relationship is ‘inappropriate’, appears to be partially tainted with a desire not to frighten off too many of the church’s dwindling flock to rivals more sympathetic to the Order.
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