The prominent Conservative politician, Lord Randolph Churchill wrote in 1885: “I decided some time ago that if the Grand Old Man (Prime Minister Gladstone) went for Home Rule, the Orange card would be the one to play.”
And play that card he did. Churchill was billed as the principal speaker at a meeting of Conservatives and Orangemen’ in Belfast’s Ulster Hall on 22nd February.
When he disembarked from the mail boat at Larne, Churchill proclaimed to the assembled Orangemen, “Ulster will fight, and Ulster will be right.”
Thus was Orangeism and the threat of violent insurrection in pursuit of it’s aims linked. To my mind it still is.
“I predict that Home Rule will never be killed until we show any British Government which brings it forward that we will resist to the death, even with arms if necessary”.Frederick Crawford 1904
“to satisfy himself that the people really mean to resist. I am not for a game of bluff and, unless men are prepared to make great sacrifices which they clearly understand, the talk of resistance is useless.” Edward Carson 1911
“I can imagine no length of resistance to which Ulster can go in which I should not be prepared to support them”Bonar Law 1912
“Catholic homes caught fire because they were loaded with petrol bombs; Catholic churches were attacked and burned because they were arsenals and priests handed out sub-machine guns to parishioners.” Ian Paisley 1968
“They breed like rabbits and multiply like vermin.”Ian Paisley 1969
“‘Thousands have already joined the movement and the task of shaping them into an effective force is continuing. The Resistance has indicated that drilling and training has already started. The officers of the nine divisions have taken up their duties” Peter Robinson above 1988 (at a meeting of Ulster Resistance)
“If it is an attempt to reduce the numbers attending the parade, then I call on the public to give their answer by attending in greater numbers than ever before.” Jim Allister 2012 above (a rallying call for a sectarian coat trailing exercise in a 90% Nationalist village)
For reasons of brevity I have left out many other “calls to arms” and incitements to violence by elected Unionist or other politicians. This is 2012. We are supposed to be living with a new dispensation. The Orange Order still march in their, somewhat depleted and aged, militaristic ranks. Their political parties are haemorraging votes and ideas. Their working class foot soldiers are abandoned and confused. The Orange Card is a busted flush. It was played as a bluff at Drumcree and it was called. Are there any Leaders of Unionism who may emerge that can, perhaps, see beyond the playing of the Orange Card?