A few things struck me: firstly, I didn't think they marched on Sundays; and secondly, their average age: 60 plus I reckon. The Orange Order, like the Catholic Church in Ireland, is becoming a preserve mostly of elderly people. For that matter, I couldn't help noticing how empty the car parks were last Sunday morning in the local Catholic churches.
Despite the continuing sectarian triumphalism that characterises the Orange Order in the eyes of many people in Northern Ireland (and not just nationalists), there is something sad about the demise of an ostensibly Christian organisation. The oath on becoming a member begins:
An Orangeman should have a sincere love and veneration for his Heavenly Father, a humble and steadfast faith in Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, believing in Him as the only Mediator between God and man. He should cultivate truth and justice, brotherly kindness and charity, devotion and piety, concord and unity, and obedience to the laws; his deportment should be gentle and compassionate, kind and courteous; he should seek the society of the virtuous, and avoid that of the evil; he should honour and diligently study the Holy Scriptures, and make them the rule of his faith and practice; he should love, uphold, and defend the Protestant religion, and sincerely desire and endeavour to propagate its doctrines and precepts; he should strenuously oppose the fatal errors and doctrines of the Church of Rome and other Non-Reformed faiths, and scrupulously avoid countenancing (by his presence or otherwise) any act or ceremony of Roman Catholic or other non-Reformed Worship; he should, by all lawful means, resist the ascendancy, encroachments, and the extension of their power, ever abstaining from all uncharitable words, actions, or sentiments towards all those who do not practice the Reformed and Christian Faith;...All very peaceful and civilised - and I respect their right to hold and profess their opinions in the manner ("by all lawful means... abstaining from uncharitable, words, actions or sentiments") they, well, profess.
But the Orange Tide is ebbing, along with Christianity and Christian values in Ireland and throughout Europe. I am reading Theodore Dalyrmple's book Not with a Bang But with a Whimper, in which he describes and laments the loss of Britain's noblest values - including Christianity - and Dalrymple is an atheist. So a final thought: just as the Orange Order was rejuvenated by its leading role in the Ulster Covenant, one hundred years ago this September, maybe they could rejuvenate themselves again by committing to a renewed focus on 'keeping Ireland Christian' (North and South) in line with their traditional values and in partnership with other Christian faiths (even the Roman one). Britain is a lost cause in that regard - so should they throw their lot in with the South before we follow our neighbours into politically correct nihilism?
I know, I know... airbourne pigs and all that.
Happy 12th of July.
Picture credit: Russell Pritchard