Last week end Northern Ireland was treated to what some people believe should be viewed as being comparable to the Rio Carnival.
That we should treat the Battle of the Boyne celebrations as manifestations of street theatre, cultural pageant and general good day out.
In recent years the annual 12th July Orange parades have been rebranded as “Orange Fest”.
To this untrained eye it looks like fyfe and drum bands being followed by historical illiterates in strange outfits.
Part Ministry of Silly Walks part Eugene Terreblanche.
When in their company it would be impolite to mention the Treaty of Augsburg of 1685.
It certainly would not be on to point out the fact that the Papacy, as a key member of that anti-French alliance, was one of the main paymasters of William’s army on the Boyne.
Many Orangemen are Presbyterians. Their unshakable belief that King William’s victory on the Boyne won their religious rights is as historically illiterate as one can get about the late 17th early 18th century in these islands.
Orangemen believe in a legend. In that they are no different to any other tribe of humans. Because it is a legend it is unshakeable precisely because it is a legend. It pushes an emotional button. It is not amenable to reason.
The weekend before there was full fancy dress rehearsal in Glasgow.
In Scotland the social decline of “the Orange” has been marked in recent decades.
In Northern Ireland the O range Order is still a power in the land. Only recently decouple from the Ulster Unionist party it is still socially acceptable for men of education and social standing in the Protestant community to walk on “the twalth”.
There is one part of Ulster were the orange parade has a different social context.
In Donegal there is an annual parade at Rossnowlough. In Raphoe in recent years there have been parades by the Royal Black Preceptory.
What is lacking in Donegal is the Stormont experience. In Donegal, if it has to said, the Orangemen don’t have political power. Quite the opposite.
Hence triumphalist coat trailing by Orangemen in Donegal would be ridiculously out of place. In Scotland the OO has clearly been on the wane for over a generation.
However in Northern Ireland the bang of the Lambeg drum still has real meaning.
Political unionism and the wider unionist community have moved on post the 1998 Belfast Agreement. They realise the days of THEIR Northern Ireland is over.
If the polity is to have any stable future, for it has not had a stable past, then it will have to be a shared space.
The political future is a form of local self-governance that enshrines power sharing. The growing nationalist demographic means that the internal conversation in a polity set up on a sectarian headcount is changed utterly.
As I write this North Belfast has just had its third night of rioting in the nationalist Ardoyne. Worryingly there are reports of shots being fired at police.
The spark for this rioting seems to have been the passing through the nationalist area of drum banging Orangemen.
The “Great Northern Route” comes from Ligoniel into Belfast.
There is an alternative route that they could take through the Shankhill, but that wouldn’t be as much fun as going through a nationalist residential area.
Lord Trimble, when he was First Minister stated that he hoped that the 12th of July parade in Northern Ireland would, one day, rival the Rio Carnival.
The people of Ardoyne know the reality.
The Sash cloud has passed through Ard Eoin, sadly it will be back again next year.
So expect another eruption.
All very sad, all very predictable.