It is just over a week since the North’s Orangemen celebrated what they regard as their greatest victory — the defeat of King James II by William of Orange 310 years ago. But they will not be reassured as they gaze on the political landscape that now confronts them. The Orange Order, their most venerable institution, and one that for centuries acted as a bond for loyalists of all classes, stands divided. Thanks to the Drumcree crisis, it has allowed itself to be led into a cul de sac of violence, disruption and intransigence that has sapped its strength and undermined its credibility.
Fortunately, it now seems that the renegade ranks of the Portadown lodges who are still insisting on marching through the Catholic Garvaghy Road district have been unable to call forth the numbers of supporters that they had invoked in last week’s effort to create even more chaos throughout the North.
The lesson is stark and simple, but sometimes it is difficult for people to grasp the obvious. The road of continued confrontation is a dead end. To take it is to march to nowhere.
It is easy to celebrate ancient victories on the battlefield. But it is the outcome of current political struggles that will determine the future prosperity and happiness of the North and its people. The Orange Order and its supporters must address themselves to the new situation, which is a lot more complex than the maneuvers of William of Orange and his opponent. It involves the art of compromise and negotiation, the aim of which is not to attain a glorious victory. It is simply to live in harmony with one’s neighbors. But it would be, nonetheless, a triumph far more worthy of being celebrated than 1690.