Oranges and Lemons

It's marching season again in Belfast, and the Orangemen are out in force. Although it would be a lot more fun if it was as agricultural as it sounded, the reality is a lot less juicy (groan!). Marching season is serious business, and each year the path and atmosphere of the Protestant parade through the streets of Belfast arouses plenty of passion. (Check out The Belfast Telegraph to get a feel for it).

There's no doubt that everyone has the right to freedom of association and freedom of movement, but the Orange marches reinforce the sentiments that I sensed when I was in the city last year - that the Protestants, whilst having a rightful case, have a chip on their shoulder which makes productive dialogue difficult. Whilst the sentiment amongst Catholics was that the bitterness of the struggle could be put aside and that life was to be lived, the Protestant attitude seemed to be more hardnosed.

To get a feel for the difference, check out these two murals:

What's 400 years between friends? (Photo scanned by Jesse Sharp)

Very much so, Bobby. (Photo scanned by Jesse Sharp)

On top, rekindling hatreds of the 1600s, whilst on the bottom, the beautiful quote from late Republican hero Bobby Sands: "Our revenge will be the laughter of our children".

The issue itself is extraordinarily complex, and trying to cover it in a blog post would be offensively glib. Suffice to say that the Protestant Unionists have a strong claim, as the majority of the population, to keep Northern Ireland as part of the UK. Such rightful claims, though, are undermined by things like this:

"In a rundown Protestant area of north Belfast, five gunmen from the outlawed Ulster Defence Association (UDA), dressed in combat dress and balaclavas, fired a volley of shots in the air in front of a cheering crowd."

Northern Ireland - the world's best argument for separating Church and State.


Anonymous said…
No offense mate, but its got bugger-all to do with church & state
Ari Sharp said…
With a well developed argument like that, Anon, I'll struggle to respond. To my mind, much of the Catholic resentment toward Ulster stems from the dominance of the Church of England within the UK, largely through the monarchy. If that church influence could be stemmed, and Catholicism could coexist equally, there would be much less angst.
Anonymous said…
G'day Ari,

Sorry for my glib comment. Here are a few thoughts:

Firstly: The "separation of church and state" is one of the most misunderstood phrases that gets bandied around in politics/the media today. It actually refers to separating (and therefore protecting) the church from the influence of the state, not the other way around.

Secondly, the troubles in Ireland are more to do with occupation (and hence, a lack of sovereignty) in Northern Ireland by the English. The religious difference was only used as a rallying cry after the "us vs them" was failing to work, and members of the Irish republicans decided to exploit the catholic (Irish) vs protestant (English) difference.

At the end of the day, I guess all I'm trying to say is that it's too presumptuous to finish your post with the phrase "Northern Ireland - the world's best argument for separating Church and State."...

a) Because its not factually correct (check out the oppression/persecution of Chinese Christians by the Chinese Govt - that shows what happens when you don't separate church and state; and

b) You've ignored the English invasion/occupation of another nation and blamed it on religion.

Just a thought ;)

Anyways, enjoying the blog. Keep it up...

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