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BellaOnline's Irish Culture Editor


Ulster and the 12th of July

Guest Author - Tony King

The Orange Parades on and around the twelfth of July have long been a bone of serious contention and sectarian conflict in the Six Counties of Northern Ireland for over 400 years.

Members of the Orange Order demand their inalienable right to march openly anywhere within the boundaries of Ulster, in commemoration of the victory of King William of Orange at the battle of the Boyne - a victory that Orangemen hail as one for their religious and civil liberties ( a somewhat major misreading of the true historical facts).

The reality of the Orange Order is that it is a counter-revolutionary institution set up and maintained to target not just Catholics but also 'disloyal' Protestants and is maintained through inbred family biases and prejudices.

Similarly, Catholic sections of the six counties also commemorate ancient struggles and victories with equally misguided historical facts and traditions.

Orange & Green sectarianism is not without a material base, and it is not some sort of frightened reaction to militant enemies. Unless we understand the basis for all sorts of sectarianism in Ulster, we will not be able to uproot it and destroy it forever.

Northern Ireland was originally formed as a Protestant State for a Protestant people. This was not because there was something inherently superior about Protestants in Northern Ireland, nor was it that Protestants were naturally in favour of retaining the union with the British empire and Catholics were naturally in favour of becoming independent.

The reality was that there was a clear economic reason for dividing the working class on religious grounds. If Ireland had achieved complete independence from the British Empire it would have resulted in huge losses for the textiles and shipbuilding Industry concentrated in the North of the country.

The Northern Industrialists relied on selling their goods to the rest of the British Empire - the Belfast shipbuilders were part of the triangle of Glasgow, Liverpool and Belfast which supplied Britain with the bulk of its navy and commercial ships. In the early 1900's, 95% of goods manufactured in Belfast was exported to the British Empire.

If Ireland gained total independence, the raising of tariffs, economic wars etc would have seriously damaged the profits of the industrialised North. The rest of the country was still largely based on farming and the Southern Industrialists wanted independence with the protectionist policies that could go with it.

In order to keep the North British, the political and economic leaders of the North and the British ruling class exploited the difference in religion between the majority Protestants in the North East of the Country and the majority Catholics elsewhere.

The result has been that the hatred and sectarianism that has all but destroyed Ulster is still alive and well on both sides of the "fence". Orange and Green must accept equal blame for the tragedy that is Ulster and her political/religious lifestyle.

Perhaps one day, we might see the outworking of the common sense idea that all "ordinary" people in Ireland need to band together for an economically better nation and leave the political nonsense of sectarianism and religious antagonism to the Ivory Tower debaters, who hopefully will be locked away in some distant meeting place where they can do the least damage.

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Content copyright © 2015 by Tony King. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Tony King. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Bee Smith for details.


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