Here come the drums


As Orangefest hits its peak today, it seems appropriate to wax intellectual by reviving Raymond Williams’ Keywords, focusing on concepts that have either changed since Raymond’s time or have a specific local application. We’re going to start with three definitions:

Public relations – best understood when contrasted with the old British concept of the rule of law. In Norn Iron, when the two clash, public relations invariably wins out. The most spectacular example of that in recent years was of course the invasion of the Garnerville estate, next to RUC headquarters, by several hundred hooded UVF men while the cops stood by looking gormless. However, at this time of year you can spot lots of small examples, many connected to Eleventh Night bonfires. For instance, under the Clean Air Act the burning of tyres is illegal – except, apparently, at Orangefest. One also notices little things like the police stopping traffic so that children can safely cross the road with stolen pallets for bonfires. By the way, many of these bonfires receive grants from unionist councils.

Irrational behaviour – on Talk Back yesterday, Dunseith was chatting to one of his regulars, Mark Harbinson, who told us that in his native Stoneyford loyalists were eschewing the bonfire for a “beacon”, and had got a grant from Lisburn City Council to do so. What a “beacon” was in this context, this listener was uncertain. However, Mark was almost instantly gazumped by a super-loyalist caller who didn’t want to hear about beacons – only the traditional bonfire would do. This punter said that one year the bonfire in his area had threatened to destroy his house, but even if it had, he wouldn’t have minded as it was a traditional loyalist bonfire.

Infinite regress – this year, Orangemen have got permission to walk the Springfield Road, and as usual, there will be a nationalist protest. West Belfast loyalists have sought, and been granted, permission from the Parades Commission to have a counter-protest against the protest. It strikes me that, next year, Springfield Road nationalists should apply to have a protest against the counter-protest.


  1. Ciarán said,

    July 12, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    I read a piece on Teletext last night about a bonfire in Coleraine that had the name of a 16-year-old catholic who had died of heart disease on it, and then his father received threats for removing it. But I can’t seem to find any mention of it online amongst all the Orangefest ‘celebrations’.

  2. Ciarán said,

    July 12, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    Oh wait, just found a piece:

    The marching season so far this year has been the most peaceful in decades, but Sinn Fein claimed loyalist paramilitaries had heightened tensions and threatened the father of a Co Londonderry Catholic after he removed his son`s name from the top of a bonfire in Coleraine.

    The 16-year-old who died of heart failure two weeks ago was one of two dead Catholics named in sectarian graffiti with the comment “who`s next”, claimed Coleraine councillor Billy Leonard.

    Mr Leonard said: “This whole incident is sickening and pathetic. It was bad enough that this young lad`s name appeared on the bonfire in a distinctly sectarian and sinister way – then the father has to take the pressure of a police had delivered notification of a loyalist threat claiming he had removed “articles” from a bonfire.”

  3. Liam said,

    July 12, 2007 at 10:06 pm

    The only surprisng thing in all this is that Gery Adams isn’t lighting a fire on the Falls Road.

  4. 632C5R09OW8 said,

    July 13, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    Are Catholics still oppressed in northern Ireland?
    What real the general sitution for Catholics in
    northern Ireland post good friday agreement,
    as opposed to extreme exaggerations by dissent
    Republican’s and The Hibernian wing of Irish
    Please reply.

  5. splinteredsunrise said,

    July 14, 2007 at 11:24 am

    The short answer is that things have moved on from the old Stormont, however unionism remains a sectarian conspiracy and the New Dispensation is basically modified majority rule. Remember that even under the old Stormont the Catholics could have a place at the table, just not an equal place.

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