The Orange Order: A Contemporary Northern Irish History
Eric P. Kaufmann
Dr. Kaufmann has performed a great service, not just to the academic world, but to the Northern Ireland community by his academic analysis of the Orange Order. Having unprecedented access to minutes of Grand Lodge and its committees, not readily open to its members, Kaufmann lays before us various trends within the Institution from 1965 to the present, carefully illustrated by charts and maps.
Using all his sociological skills Kaufmann uses statistical analysis to present the various political, religious and social trends within the Order, including comparisons to others groups, like Canadian Orangeism with which he is well acquainted, and the Freemasons.
Kaufmann quickly defines various groups within the Order as `reformers, `rebels' `conservatives', `populists' and `traditionalists'. He also used terms such as `liberal' `moderate'- all of which might prove difficult for those who see themselves in more that one category.
The difficulty in any academic research book, based on the internal records of any organization, is that it assumes that the information is correct, and that those who give interviews were not just saying what the interviewer wanted hear, for `outside consumption'. Having some experience of this I know that reports of meetings may not be a totally accurate reflection of the meeting itself, which can all too readily be glossed over as - `a frank exchange of views'.
In Part 1 (1963-1995) Kaufmann covers the demise of the social elite within Grand Lodge and the rise of the `populists' under the `Smyth-Molyneaux Axis', the ability to deal with the extremism of Paisley and the `Orange and Protestant Committee', as well as the loss of influence of the `traditionalists' west of the Bann. This section also covers the early attempts at power-sharing and the persistence of Grand Lodge to advocate a `no' stance to everything.
In Part 2 (1995-2005) it becomes clear that this book is not purely and academic analysis. Kaufmann covers all the major events in the recent sorry history of the Institution. Drumcree rightly covers a major part of this section as its effects spill over to the `Spirit of Drumcree' and the continued refusal of Grand Lodge to sanction contact with the Parades Commission. The relationship with loyalist paramilitaries and the vexed question of discipline are addressed with critical analysis. The decline is membership is both analyzed and diagnosed. He also covers the relationship negotiations between the UUP and the Orange Order and concludes, wrongly in my view, that the Order `broke the link' in 2005.
He suggests that Martin Smyth's non attendance at Drumcree 1995 led to his demise within the Institution. This however fails to explain why it did not also lead to the demise of the Grand Secretary, John McCrea, who did not attend Drumcree in 1995.
This book is not a diatribe against the Institution. What makes this book a major contribution is the fact that this is a critical analysis, based largely on the records of the Institution itself.
This devastating book will cause consternation to many within the Institution who take the time to read it. They will wonder how Kaufmann had access to all this material.
Members might also be alarmed at some of the revelations. Kaufmann states, "Robert Saulters said that the Belfast County Treasurer (Mervyn Bishop) had directly met Sinn Fein in 1995" (Page 260).
It may also come as a shock to many that, "Belfast County officers have publicly thanked local paramilitary men for their protection services and are quite uniquely vulnerably to paramilitary demands." (Page 299) The Kaufmann source of this information may come as an even greater shock - The Rev Mervyn Gibson and Mr. George Patton.
Kaufmann states: "In the end, the sword is mightier than the pen, and the Orangeman must do the paramilitaries' bidding." This appears to be confirmed by interviews with, Drew Nelson, among others.
This appears to be a strange expression in the light of the subsequent interview with Chris Thornton, published in the Belfast Telegraph on 28 April 2006. Nelson is quoted as saying:-
"We understand there's influence from loyalist paramilitaries in those areas in Belfast, but I mean we're not working with them, so we're not," . . . "In fact, I want to say and put this on the record that loyalist paramilitary activity is incompatible with membership of the Orange institution.
There were, for me, a number of glaring errors. Ian paisley is attributed with being in two Lodges in County Antrim, when in fact he was briefly a member of a Lodge in Number 6 District Belfast, before transferring to a Lodge in Number 9 District Belfast.
The Ulster Human Rights Watch, with a postal address in Lisburn, County Antrim, is wrongly assumed to be part of the wider `liberal', `Human Rights Watch' movement.
However, Kaufmann concludes with the balanced and fair comment:
"Have the Order's actions measured up to its ethical standards? The report card is mixed. Orangeism's principal failing is its history of resisting measures designed to equalize the economic and political status of Catholics and Protestants. It has also reacted suspiciously to policies designed to increase inter-communal goodwill and has been far too equivocal about the violence caused by its Loyalist supporters and some unruly members. On the plus side, the Order took a difficult stand against paramilitarism at a time when many Protestants were being killed and intimidated by the IRA. It stood by the forces of law and order and discouraged violence against Catholics and the police even as independent unionists called for military action."
A shocking but compulsive read.
Rev Brian Kennaway
Former Convenor, Education Committee, GOLI.
Author: The Orange Order: A Tradition Betrayed