Opinion

Why is the Orange Order not demanding the DUP returns to Stormont?

The Orange Order will hold 18 demonstrations across the north to mark 'the Twelfth'
The Orange Order will hold 18 demonstrations across the north to mark 'the Twelfth' The Orange Order will hold 18 demonstrations across the north to mark 'the Twelfth'

Although its influence is greatly diminished and all available evidence suggests its ageing membership is dwindling, the Orange Order still feels it should be able to dictate the political direction of the north.

At each of the 18 demonstration fields to which Orangemen and their bands will march to mark the Twelfth, three resolutions handed down by the central Grand Orange Lodge will be read. By tradition these relate to faith, loyalty and the state.

This year's resolution about the state criticises the NI Protocol and Windsor Framework because they "do not satisfactorily address our concerns that Northern Ireland's place in the United Kingdom has been diminished".

It goes on to bewail "unsatisfactory treatment" by the EU and "sadly by our own government". Unionism needs to be more united, says the Order. It demands "greater cooperation, strategy and vision amongst political unionism", an aspiration that will seem either hopelessly optimistic or worryingly naïve to observers of recent examples of unionist cooperation, strategy and vision.

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A glaring omission from the resolution is an acknowledgement that it was political unionism, in the form of the DUP which found itself in thrall to the charlatan Boris Johnson, which facilitated the hard Brexit fantasy in the first place.

There is also deep frustration that while the majority in Northern Ireland who voted 'remain' have, if reluctantly, taken a pragmatic approach by seeking to make the best of the opportunities offered by the Windsor Framework – however inferior they are to EU membership – those who engineered the very situation are still not taking responsibility.

In the resolution, the Orange Order says it will "better promote" the union's "many benefits which are enjoyed by all citizens and communities". It will be intriguing to see how the Order proposes going about this task; its recent shameful attempts, abetted by the DUP, to revive the Drumcree dispute suggest it has some way still to travel.

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Though it avoids any reference to the DUP's continuing Stormont boycott and the harm this is inflicting on public services, it is worth noting that the Orange Order does not say it believes that the return of power-sharing depends on its demands around the Windsor Framework being met.

Meanwhile, the pressures for Stormont to return grow by the day. Jayne Brady, the head of the NI civil service, has told secretary of state Chris Heaton-Harris that officials have reached the limit of what they can do in response to the punishment budget he set out in April.

Sadly, such considerations don't figure in the Orange Order's narrow set of priorities.