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.