What Cannot Be Forgiven 97

Thirty thousand orangemen marched in Belfast yesterday to the statue of Sir Edward Carson. He was the vicious lawyer who hounded and destroyed Oscar Wilde for his homosexuality, as well as a thug who openly promoted violence in politics.

The effects of history on today’s politics are fascinating, and dangerous when perceived historical injustice or heroism becomes an obsession, as with the Orangemen. I had not fully grasped the significance of the fact that the largely Scots Oramgemen called their pledge of 100 years ago a Covenant. Which reminds me of another anniversary, next month is 300 years since the birth of Montrose.

The Unionist campaign in the Independence referendum has seen a continuing wooing by New Labour of the Orange Order in Glasgow, which occasionally emerges into the mainstream media. BBC Scotland is completely New Labour controlled and a bastion of pro-Unionist propaganda. I found this tendentious report particularly amusing. Note how is skates round the fact that Matheson was at the Orange Order meeting, instead allowing him to spin on precisely what he had said about relaxing restrictions on Orange parades. Note the total lack of difficult questioning. New Labour even went on to give public money to Orange Order parties for the Jubilee – while peaceful young student protestors I know personally were violently arrested for holding anti-monarchist placards in a park.

New Labour in Scotland have not only reached out to the Orange Order, but decided to adopt neo-con policies and attack the SNP from the right. They are greatly approved by The Daily Telegraph and the Tory think-tank, Policy Exchange. The policy appears to be for New Labour to join the Tories and Lib Dems in blaming the SNP for the strain in public services caused by Tory cuts to the Scottish government’s services.

As a strategy to build a united Unionist coalition it make sense, except it is a coalition entirely of the right. I am not sure New Labour can any longer count on tribal loyalty in Scotland’s cities for their voters to follow this neo-con lurch. Of course, the Orange Order are big on tribal loyalty. Maybe that is why New Labour feel so comfortable with them at the moment.

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97 thoughts on “What Cannot Be Forgiven

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  • Nextus

    Katz: “Many Irish Protestants are offspring of Irish Catholics who apostatised in order to hang on to their property and their livelihoods.”

    How much is “many”, roughly speaking? Can you point me in the direction of any references to verify this? When I did a genealogical analysis for a church parish in Antrim a long time ago, I saw absolutely no evidence of any such phenomenon. Nor have I heard of it. Please explain …

  • Nextus

    Howdy, Clark. Bit quiet round these parts lately, ain’t it? Hope the DNS entry propagates soon.

    I’m interested in the story alluded to above about converts from papism to prodism. I’m sure it happened occasionally, but rarely I think. There are certainly many lapsed Catholics in the world, but I can’t find any info about families joining Protestant churches due to community pressure or reasons of pragmatism.

  • Nextus

    @Katz: Thanks very much for that reference about the Irish Catholic Convert Rolls. It seems to refer to an earlier period than I was talking about – I doubt many family trees go back as far as the 17th century. Nevertheless, I’m sure there are some pertinent lines of research linked to it. I’ll look into this and try to quantify it. Cheers!

  • Katz


    By the 19th century most anti-Catholic penal laws had been abolished. Therefore, pragmatic reasons for conversion to Protestantism ceased to apply.

    Also, don’t forget that the Great Famine of the 1840s halved the population of Ireland by death and emigration. Poor Catholics either died or emigrated in much larger proportions than more prosperous Protestants. By a Darwinian process the offspring of Protestants, including 17th century apostates, remained Irish, while their Catholic neighbours became something else.

  • thatcrab

    “from 1970 through to the 1990s, only 5 per cent of marriages were recorded as crossing community divides.”

    A hundred years at 5% mix (per generation), roughly 20% should end up with ancestral ties to the other: eg 0.95 ^ 4 (generations)
    After three or four hundred years only about 50% should remain without ancestral ties to the other.
    It is a persistent force of nature to resist to explain how a community can remain isolated for so long. In reality it musnt, it just keeps reasserting its identity. I see some statements of protestant identity in Ulster as generalisations which are typical of re-identifying the concept and forgetting the mixed up details.

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