It's still an Orange State

Ray (raycunhm@macollamh.ucd.ie)
Fri, 13 Sep 1996 10:57:27 +0000


It's still and Orange state
=66rom Workers Solidarity No49

"Croppy lie down!" It could have been 1969, it could have=20
been the early 1920s, in fact it was July 1996. The 'twelfth=20
week' was upon us and the so-called peace process was=20
exposed in a flurry of Orange bigotry, baton wielding thugs=20
in uniform and hails of plastic bullets. As Trimble and=20
Paisley jostled to see who would emerge as the most loud=20
mouthed bigot, the British government quietly pulled the=20
strings in the background and delivered a loud and clear=20
message to all who cared to listen - "Northern Ireland is an=20
Orange State", they seemed to say, "it always has been so=20
and will always remain so".

The 'Pan Nationalist Alliance' fell to bits. John Bruton and=20
Dick Spring, supposed defenders of the 'nationalist=20
community', looked on in dismay as Gerry Adams called on=20
them to stand up to the British. The SDLP were in a state of=20
shock and disbelief as the mask covering the sectarian State=20
they wished to 'reform' was pulled off to reveal it's blatant=20
un-reformability. =20

Meanwhile Bill Clinton called on "leaders to lead",=20
apparently unaware that this is exactly what Paisley and=20
Trimble were doing - preparing to lead 'their people' in a=20
triumphant procession to show who is the boss. =20
(Inevitably, of course, media commentators described the=20
escalating crisis as one where the North was "descending=20
into anarchy" - why, oh why, can't anarchists sue for=20
defamation?)

It was all so depressingly familiar and - dare I say it - equally=
=20
inevitable. Catholics forced out of their homes, the flames=20
of bigotry fanned by 'anti-Popery' speeches (not that we=20
have anything against slagging the Pope!), roads blocked=20
and people, including at least one nurse on her way to a=20
casualty unit, told where they could and (more often)=20
couldn't go. =20

In several areas Protestants also suffered intimidation and=20
attacks on churches as gangs of Catholic thugs engaged in=20
sectarian violence under the guise of 'retaliation'. =20

Then there was 'the fair hand of the law'. A police force=20
with two decades experience in blocking access to republican=20
funerals seemingly couldn't prevent thousands of=20
Orangemen coming and going around Drumcree church. =20
The same force had no problem in battoning and battering=20
the residents of the Garvaghy estate off their own road (for=20
their own protection of course!). =20

The same force had no problem placing the lower Ormeau=20
Road in Belfast under total curfew for 26 hours. The same=20
force - ably backed by her majesty's armed forces - had no=20
problem discharging 6002 plastic bullets from Sunday July=20
7th to Monday morning July 15th (Irish Times 16/07/96),=20
the huge majority of which were fired in nationalist areas!!

The 'Pan Nationalist Alliance' fell to bits. John Bruton and=20
Dick Spring, supposed defenders of the 'nationalist=20
community', looked on in dismay as Gerry Adams called on=20
them to stand up to the British. The SDLP were in a state of=20
shock and disbelief as the mask covering the sectarian State=20
they wished to 'reform' was pulled off to reveal it's blatant=20
un-reformability. =20

Meanwhile Bill Clinton called on "leaders to lead",=20
apparently unaware that this is exactly what Paisley and=20
Trimble were doing - preparing to lead 'their people' in a=20
triumphant procession to show who is the boss. =20
(Inevitably, of course, media commentators described the=20
escalating crisis as one where the North was "descending=20
into anarchy" - why, oh why, can't anarchists sue for=20
defamation?)

It was all so depressingly familiar and - dare I say it - equally=
=20
inevitable. Catholics forced out of their homes, the flames=20
of bigotry fanned by 'anti-Popery' speeches (not that we=20
have anything against slagging the Pope!), roads blocked=20
and people, including at least one nurse on her way to a=20
casualty unit, told where they could and (more often)=20
couldn't go. =20

In several areas Protestants also suffered intimidation and=20
attacks on churches as gangs of Catholic thugs engaged in=20
sectarian violence under the guise of 'retaliation'. =20

Then there was 'the fair hand of the law'. A police force=20
with two decades experience in blocking access to republican=20
funerals seemingly couldn't prevent thousands of=20
Orangemen coming and going around Drumcree church. =20
The same force had no problem in battoning and battering=20
the residents of the Garvaghy estate off their own road (for=20
their own protection of course!). =20

The same force had no problem placing the lower Ormeau=20
Road in Belfast under total curfew for 26 hours. The same=20
force - ably backed by her majesty's armed forces - had no=20
problem discharging 6002 plastic bullets from Sunday July=20
7th to Monday morning July 15th (Irish Times 16/07/96),=20
the huge majority of which were fired in nationalist areas!!

Freedom to March?

We are anarchists. We believe passionately in freedom. =20
We believe in the freedom of every individual to live=20
his/her life as he/she sees fit. But this freedom is not=20
unconditional. My freedom to swing a frying pan ends=20
where your head begins! The limit to be placed on an=20
individual's freedom is that it doesn't encroach on the=20
freedom of another. We do not, for example, give fascists=20
the freedom to spew out their filth or organise terror gangs . =20
It is this freedom to encroach on the liberty of others that=20
the Orange Order demanded at Drumcree.

They set out to be provocative, to insult and degrade=20
another section of the population (as well as to keep 'their=20
own people' under control by making sure that Protestants=20
continue to line up behind their unionist bosses). In=20
previous years, for example, chants of "five-nil" have gone=20
up as Orangemen passed the Sean Graham Bookies shop=20
where five Catholics where mown down in a vicious=20
sectarian attack by the UFF. Earlier in the year a survey by=20
Coopers and Lybrand showed that 94% of Garvaghy=20
residents opposed the Orange march passing through their=20
area.

The actions of the residents in opposing the march was that=20
of a community getting together to defend their interests. =20
The Orange Order's claim that the route is "traditional" is=20
almost equivalent to land owners in the Deep South of the=20
USA claiming that slavery is a traditional work practice.

In residential areas where marches are both clearly=20
unwelcome and deliberately provocative and insulting, we=20
uphold the right of local people to oppose their passage. Of=20
course there is absolutely no point in calling on the British=20
government or the RUC to ban such marches. Such calls, in=20
Northern Ireland, would clearly be futile and counter-
productive. But the same goes anywhere. In Dublin, for=20
example, we say that the only way for communities to tackle=20
the heroin crisis is through their own actions rather then=20
relying on either the Garda=ED or the government.

The Sound of Silence

It would be naive, though, to expect communities like those=20
in the Ormeau or Garvaghy Roads to stand up to and beat=20
the combined forces of the state and Orange Order on their=20
own. That is why one of the most depressing aspects of the=20
July events was the deafening silence of the trade union=20
movement. The unions should be to the fore in=20
condemning discrimination and standing up for the rights=20
of minorities. =20

Unfortunately, in the interests of not wishing to offend=20
those workers who subscribe politically to unionism and=20
not upsetting the powers that be, the Northern Ireland=20
Committee of the ICTU has always refused to take a stand=20
against injustice in Northern Ireland. They even refused to=20
condemn internment without trial in 1971. This time was=20
no different. =20

Even when workers in the Moy Park Chicken factory in=20
Craigavan were ordered off the job by masked men (no, not=20
the Animal Liberation Front!) the union leaders remained=20
silent. Experience shows there is no point in waiting for=20
them to do anything, it is only rank & file action that can=20
bring results. This is not to say that simply calling for such=20
action will immediately bring it about. =20

If, as well as physiclly defending their areas, people under=20
attack had been looking to their fellow workers in the=20
unions rather than the Dublin government for help it=20
might have been a start. It would have been a small first=20
step towards seeing the most important division as being=20
between rich and poor, rather than Catholic and Protestant. =20
There is no point in looking to Orange or Green tories for=20
aid.

Certainly the past few weeks have shown that the 'Pan=20
Nationalist Alliance' offers nothing. Nobody wants a=20
return to war, so what's the alternative? We have to fight=20
for workers' unity, not as an abstract lefty slogan but as a=20
concrete reality. This isn't easy and may have to begin with=20
the most tiny steps. So what? Every journey does!=20

A start could be made by calling for our unions to take a=20
public stand against families being intimidated out of their=20
homes. No self-respecting trade unionist could oppose such=20
a call. Getting even limited action and demonstrations in=20
support this position could open up the possibility of raising=20
other issues of sectarianism and discrimination. It may not=20
appear to be much but unless a start is made to win workers=20
=66rom Orange and Green politics history will continue to=20
repeat itself in cycles of sectarian violence and tragedy.

=09=09=09=09Gregor Kerr

--=20
***********************
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http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/2419/anaintro.html

Workers Solidarity and other Irish anarchist publications are at
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/2724/anpubdx.html