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Orange card fails to trump in Dublin

28 February 2006

John McAnulty

The fact that the ‘Love Ulster’ demonstration in Dublin on the 25th February led to violence, riot and chaos has led to almost universal condemnation.  It’s hard to see why – after all this has been the standard outcome of Loyalist demonstrations in the North for generations!

The overwhelming reality was that the demonstration was a provocation.  It was provocative in its composition:

FAIR – an organisation that imports sectarianism into victimhood
Love Ulster  - a campaign uniting unionist politicians and paramilitary groups to justify and support bigotry and sectarian triumphalism
The Orange Order – a name synonymous with bigotry and hatred
The political representatives of Unionism – the DUP and OUP
To add to the mix we have the Organisers linked to Loyalist paramilitaries and to a wink and a nod in support of the greatest atrocity of the troubles – the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

It’s a provocation that has failed utterly to galvanise support.  A hundred-thousand strong demonstration at Belfast city centre became a dispirited gaggle of a few thousand Orangemen and paramilitaries on Belfast’s Shankill Road. The thousands that were to invade Dublin became a few busloads.

This failed campaign has been adopted by the political leadership of unionism to take on a new role. It is not mindless provocation, but is meant to justify and support specific aims.  The first aim is to justify the intimidation of Orange marches – a successful march in Dublin would help to justify a march through the nationalist population of the Gervaghy Road. Secondly the cloak of  victimhood would be used to press the Dublin government to support a further collapse of the good Friday agreement to the right and towards the Unionist programme of sectarian rule by an artificial majority in the North – in a situation where the Government has given every indication of capitulation to the sectarian reaction. 

The ever stronger West Brit section of 26 county society seized on the vandalism and looting at the end of the march while ignoring the events that sparked off the violence.

Eyewitness accounts indicate that the violence started when the Garda began to carry out a role traditionally associated with the RUC of clearing the path of the march of republican demonstrators – not only were the Orange to march, but the opposition was to be silenced.  As in the North, the state was to stand as a shield between the bigots and the protestors. The violence escalated when a section of Dublin working-class youth spotted their chance to hit out at a brutal and corrupt force.

Where the West Brits openly supported the march, their opponent’s advice was to ignore the demonstration. Why Sinn Fein thought this was a suitable strategy in Dublin and not a suitable course for the inhabitants of Nationalist ghettoes in the North was left unclear. 

One Orange demonstrator expressed surprise at their violent welcome in a city that was so clearly multi-ethnic.  But Orangeism isn’t an identity, despite its claims, nor has it any right to equate itself with Protestantism. It is a reactionary ideology aimed at thwarting a democratic settlement in Ireland and oppressing and dividing the Irish working class. One of their current demands is for a ‘culture commission’ to operate a new version of the old ‘Flags and emblems’ act. The SDLP and Sinn Fein have met them half way by recently agreeing a St. Patricks day celebration in Belfast that bans any symbols of Irish nationalism.

The bottom line is that the battle was not between Orange and Dubliners, but between a section of the working class and the agents of Irish capital.  Orangeism hasn’t changed its spots. There is no reform of their sectarian bitterness.  What has changed is a new and greater determination to appease Orangeism.  Led by Justice minister Michael McDowell the republican symbolism of the tricolour – uniting different religions and traditions in an Irish democracy – is to be converted to an acceptance of the bigots right to permanently divide Irish society.  This is necessary because all the smoke and mirrors of the Good Friday agreement has evaporated and the new order being established in the North will have more than a passing resemblance to the old order around which the troubles detonated. As this article is submitted news is emerging of Dublin endorsement of a ‘road map’ for the North and a shadow assembly.  The programme of Paisley is now the program of Ahern and of Irish capitalism!

The violence in Dublin indicates that, even with Sinn Fein onside with Fianna Fail, selling the new deal to the Irish working class may be more difficult than at first appeared. 


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