Leading article

BBC decision on July 12 coverage was fair

The Orange Order has a major presence in our divided society, and, even if its membership has been declining dramatically, it retains a firm ability to influence discussions within the Protestant and unionist tradition.

It is up to the institution to decide whether it wants to set a positive or negative tone in all its pronouncements, and its latest onslaught against the BBC can only cause considerable concern.

The publicly funded BBC must plainly reflect all aspects of Orangeism in its proper context, and an appropriate approach to the main annual celebrations has to be part of this wider process.

However, there has been a sense for some time that the BBC's policy towards the order has been anachronistic and in particular its live broadcasting of the July 12 proceedings has been strongly open to question.

It is very difficult to see why footage of large numbers of largely identical marching bands passing some fixed points in Belfast city centre has to be shown at it happens with only limited attempts to explain why it is such a contentious occasion.

Serious wider tensions remain in place between nationalists and unionists, and sadly this often leads to profound errors of judgment on all sides, but it should be accepted that the role of the Orange Order needs to be held firmly to account.

While the institution is fully entitled to promote its vision of unionism, and has a contribution to make in terms of community cohesion, it has always contained elements which are closely linked with sectarianism in its most basic form.

They were on open display yet again when a video taken in Dundonald Orange Hall surfaced on social media earlier this month showing a large group of people mocking the murder of Michaela McAreavey in a particularly appalling and entirely bigoted way.

An investigation is under way, but any possibility that individuals who hold similar views could feature in a live BBC broadcast is not sustainable

The BBC cited audience reasons for its decision to end live coverage of July 12 marches, although financial pressures may also have been involved, but a comprehensive evening programme reflecting events at a range of Orange gatherings is still to be maintained.

It all represents a reasonable outcome and the Orange Order's claims that it defies logic and it a snub to `our culture' can have no justification in the Ireland of 2022.

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Leading article