Hamill’s Beat - Sorry to mention the ‘p’ word

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It’s the last day in July and this column has only once, this year, mentioned parades.

Next year I’ll try harder. It would be nice to get through the whole marching season without mentioning them.

They’re tedious.

That’s why, if they can afford it, many make a dash for the north’s airports at the start of July.

Sorry about this but the stark contrast between two letters on the parades’ issue in our local papers seemed to call for comment.

Pauline Armitage, a stalwart Orange enthusiast from Portstewart wrote, “If the protesters and distant [sic] republicans think they can get rid of the Twelfth, the Orangemen, the bandsmen and all their supporters they had better think again.”

Wouldn’t you think Mrs Armitage wouldn’t mind “distant” republicans but, of course, she probably meant to say “dissident” republicans?

Anyway, why would dissident republicans want to get rid of the Twelfth?

Isn’t it the last thing they’d want to get rid of? Isn’t it a godsend for them? Orange parades are the gift that keeps on giving.

The contrasting and more considered view was supplied by Professor Liam Kennedy of Queen’s University.

He acknowledges that it’s unfair to prevent Orange marches using arterial routes with little enough contact with nationalist residential areas, to get to Belfast city centre.

He also acknowledges that much communal bigotry is directed at the Orange Order.

“But the order also has its responsibilities for the consequences of a doctrinaire adherence to what it regards as ‘principles’ and ‘rights,’” says Professor Kennedy.

These include injured police officers, recruitment of teenage rioters into dissident IRA groups and “images of violence that flash around the world”.

He calls on the loyal orders to “take a generous and patriotic initiative – that is to drop all marches in north Belfast until normal conditions of neighbourliness are restored.”

That’s unlikely. The Orange Order aren’t into “generous and patriotic” initiatives.

They can’t resist taking the bait when it’s laid for them by nationalist or republican groups.