Orange Order's weekly march plan is road to nowhere
Stubbornness and a refusal to recognise reality are traits that the Orange Order is displaying too often.
Having been refused permission to march past Ardoyne on the Twelfth, a new application to do so tomorrow was bound to fail. And so will any future ones, yet there are hints that the Order will keep persisting and lodge applications on a weekly basis. While resolve is often an admirable quality, in this instance all it will do is keep a sore festering.
As Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt quite rightly pointed out there is no public support for the Order continuing with this tactic. Even some members question its wisdom. The silence of other unionist political voices speaks volumes and surely even the deaf can hear the message. And it is simply not good enough for Orange leaders to call a protest march and then appeal for calm. The mere application ratcheted up the tension just as it appeared the violence of the past week was running out of steam. The Order cannot absolve itself from the consequences of its actions.
A process aimed at resolving legacies of the past, such as contentious parades, is about to begin. That is where the Orange Order should make its views known. It can point out that it holds hundreds of marches without problem every year and that it has engaged with nationalist residents in other areas of dispute with positive results. But actions such as tomorrow's march lessens its standing and hands its opponents invaluable ammunition.
This is a dispute that the Orange Order cannot win by attempting some sort of Drumcree-lite stand-off. Its actions will merely be seen as provocative and it will become increasingly isolated. An organisation which professes itself to be largely religious and to uphold the law should not allow itself to be portrayed as the catalyst for potentially lethal assaults on the police and openly disobeying what even its political allies accept is a lawful determination by the Parades Commission.
Is it too late even now for the Order to see sense and call off a march which can only end badly?