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It's not just the English who display a hazy and simplistic understanding of Orange celebrations

letter of the day: the twelfth

English knowledge about the Twelfth may be as hazy as ever, as Alf McCreary writes (Saturday Review, July 8).

I suggest, however, 'hazy' applies to more than the English when it comes to the Orange Order - a narrow concentration on Irish history unconnected with anything else will not help to dispel it.

I remember in 1971 in a cafe near the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur in Paris, the hilariously anti-clerical songs about priests and nuns being sung and the applause of the clientele, some of whom would have joined in.

That would have had roots going back to, or reinforced by, the French Revolution; something that might not have happened if France earlier, under its autocratic monarchy, had experienced something similar to the 'English Revolution', supported, or instigated, as that 'revolution' was, by the invading army of Protestant and Catholic soldiers under William of Orange, one battle of which is celebrated at the Twelfth - even if most celebrants have a hazy and simplistic grasp of its significance.

Similarly, in Amsterdam in the spring of 1985, at a sidewalk cafe, some days before Pope John Paul II was due to visit the Netherlands, watching youths pasting up anti-pope posters, with the approval of the owner. This was the Netherlands that earlier had William of Orange and his Catholic, as well as Protestant, supporters.

There is, perhaps, something more akin, even if not thought through, to continental anti-clericalism underlying much behind membership of the Orange Order and its supporters.

Thinking that through, linking it with the anti-clericalism of the author of The Rights of Man, Tom Paine, who celebrated the 'Glorious Revolution' in the Orange Clubs in the England of his day, seeing in it a step towards full parliamentary democracy, might be more profitable than Alf McCreary trotting out the tired old cliche about masses fleeing Belfast at the Twelfth.

WA Miller

Belfast

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