Cultural Identity and
the Bourgeois Spectacle
On Thursday 2 July 1998 the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland published an open letter in Northern Ireland's two morning newspapers:
Dear Fellow Citizens I am sure, in common with members of the Orange Institution, you are concerned about events over the coming days in respect of traditional Orange parades. In order to assist understanding of our historic culture and noble traditions we wish to outline certain facts which are relevant to the situation.
The disputed parades occur along main arterial roads which are shared by all communities. All are traditional routes, none have been concocted or organised to cause offence. We are not engaged in coat trailing, or triumphalism. We simply want to celebrate our culture and identity peacefully and with dignity. […]
The restricting of loyal order parades along main roads creates cultural apartheid, where one community has a veto on another community's expression of identity and heritage. Banning and re-routing Orange parades from shared road and village main streets will only lead to further segregation of our respective communities. This is not the way to build a future where there is mutual respect and tolerance. Ethnic segregation is morally wrong. It did not work in South Africa and the United States. It must not be allowed to work in Northern Ireland.
In a democratic, divided society accommodation is the only way to build a future where people of differing traditions can peacefully co-exist. Toleration needs to be the approach when matters of tradition and heritage are expressed. While much of gaelic and nationalist culture is politicised, the unionist community does not go out of its way to be offended or obstructive. We may not identify with gaelic and nationalist culture, but we do not attempt to censure it. All we ask for is the same in return for our Protestant heritage and unionist identity.
We would especially appeal to all free-thinking people in the nationalist community to consider the parading issue carefully. Are your views based on toleration and mutual respect? Have you thought about the time it takes