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Third Post: Orange Culture Can Grow if Regulated!
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Third Post: Orange Culture Can Grow if Regulated!

          One of the stupidities of what passes as Orange culture in the North of Ireland is that any attempt to regulate a problematic manifestation of that culture is seen as an attack on the culture itself.  Tradition dictates that on the night of 11 July, huge bonfires which have been assembled in some Loyalist areas are lit and presumably people sit and drink and watch the pyres go up in smoke.  Not too dissimilar to Guy Fawkes night in England which I use to celebrate when I was a kid.  There was the added dimension of fireworks, of course, for Guy Fawkes.

However bonfires are potential dangerous things.  If they are built too near a building there is a risk that building might go up in smoke.  Build them too tall and if someone falls off, there is a danger of killing them.

That is what happened this year when an experience bonfire builder slipped and fell and died of his injuries.

The previous year a young bonfire celebrant managed to set himself alight, suffered severe burns and almost died as a consequence.

In a normal society there manifestations would have been subject to regulation a long time ago.  Health and Safety is designed to protect life, not supress culture.

I remember when the Parades Commission was set up by Mo Mowlam in 1998 to regulate parades in Northern Ireland.  Many Unionists denounced it and claimed it was an attack on Protestant/Loyalist culture.

It certainly put restrictions on many controversial parades such as the parade down the Garvaghy Road in Portadown where it blocked the parade going down the Garvaghy Road and forced it to return to the centre of Portadown by the same route it had used to leave the town.

In Dunloy, Loyal Order parades have been restricted to a couple of yards outside the local Orange Hall.

But far from strangling the expression of Orange culture in the North, there has been a significant growth in the number of Orange parades, especially in what are called Band parades, since the establishment of the Parades Commission.  Indeed I shall never forget standing with Peter Osborne, the then Chair of the Commission, as the local Derry Apprentice Boys paraded around the walls first thing in the morning in August.  One of the participants shouted at me, “It gets bigger every year, Robin!”  I gave him the thumbs up.  I think he thought I would be annoyed.  But I wasn’t.  Why should I?  I have no problem with Loyal Order parades which are respectful of local communities and obey the law.

Orange culture is not my culture.  I’ve seen too many parades over the years to like watching them anymore.  But I have no problem with other people enjoying the day and I wish them well.

We need the same for bonfires, including those few bonfires burnt by nationalists.  The problem is when the leaders of these communities turn them into macho contests in which the most modest of proposals are rejected and defied.  Maybe this would encourage more bonfires.  Who knows!






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