THE Orange Order hasn’t had a great few weeks. First they hold a parade in South Belfast for a UDA man and at the weekend it emerged that they’ve made a wife-killer the most senior Orangeman in County Tyrone. (Squinter should probably qualify that first sentence and point out that for quite a few people this means the Orange Order has had a great few weeks.)
The brethren like to assure us they’re not political but cultural. Speaking after it was announced a few years back that city centre shops were going to open on the Twelfth for the first time in decades, Belfast County Grand Master (wait, Belfast is a county?) Tom Haire said that while occasionally the Order intervenes in politics “We are not a member of any political party, therefore I would say we’re not political”.
Now Squinter’s no expert on the loyal orders, but he has to say that Derriaghy Orangemen holding a parade for a member of a killer gang which existed to kill Catholics is not the most richly cultural activity that humanity has ever participated in. And as culture goes, paying tribute to a sectarian thug is not exactly up there with the Renaissance.
In the normal run of things, you’d expect normally vociferous members of the Order to be grilled about why they see celebrating killers as part of their raison d’être alongside upholding the reformed faith and opposing the fatal doctrines and errors of the Church of Rome. Sadly, none of those media which regularly platform the brethren on matters of the day have bothered to ask them about it.
And then we find that a charmer who shot his wife in the head after she said she was going to leave him has so appalled the Orange Order that he has been promoted through the ranks.
Sunday Life reported at the weekend that Stephen Fulton is the new Worshipful District Master of Cookstown District LOL No.3. Former Royal Irish Regiment soldier Fulton was sentenced to five years in 1999 for shooting his wife Corien to death. He used his army-issue weapon to murder his wife in their bedroom after she told him their marriage was over. Mr Justice Gillen sentenced him to just five years for the killing, telling teh guilty man: “I believe that it is against this background the the final straw which precipitated you taking your wife’s life occurred when she removed her wedding ring in the bedroom.” The judge added that it was necessary that Fulton be jailed “notwithstanding the medical report before me and the provocation under which you acted.” That’ll larn him.
The five-year sentence and the judge’s remarks appalled women’s rights groups at the time, but it seems the Orange Order is as keen as the courts to give Fulton a fair bit of leeway – and this at a time when the issue of violence against women has never been more worrying. Good thing that no women will be marching behind Fulton on the Twelfth when he gets out his brolly and his latex gloves – sorry, his white gloves – to express his Christian values. God knows what move one of them might make to provoke their new Grand Pooh-Bah. Women, of course, aren’t allowed in the Orange Order and they have no voting rights on the ruling body, although they are allowed to join a satellite women’s organisation which makes tea and sandwiches and leaves serious stuff to the menfolk.
Staunch brethren will doubtless be glad that the Orange Order is four-square behind the Catholic-killing UDA and its wife-killing Worshipful Master, but more level-headed members will have copped on that the past few days have ended any slim chance that BBC Ulster will go back to broadcasting the Twelfth live and Fulton and those lining up behind him will have to settle for a possible second or two on the recorded evening highlights. GB News, though, will likely do another live broadcast as the one they did last year was such a success that at one point viewing figures topped the 200 mark.
Fulton is no doubt thanking his lucky stars the wife he murdered wasn’t a Catholic, otherwise he’d be out on his ear instead of out marching.
Protocol went over unionist heads – but it didn’t always
PAUL Givan, one-time DUP First Minister, has warned Rishi Sunak not to go over the heads of unionists again in any deal he may strike with the EU on the Protocol.
“We’re continuing to work constructively to make sure we get a deal which unionists can sign up to,” he said, “because that’s ultimately fundamental to getting the Assembly up and running because it is based on both nationalists and unionists finding an accommodation.” He went on: “The government made a mistake whenever the UK signed up to the Protocol and went over the heads of unionists. That led to the situation we’re in the now and they shouldn’t make the same mistake a second time.”
Squinter has to say that the Protocol going over the heads of unionists is not only news to him, it’s news to Paul’s party leader Jeffrey Donaldson, who told BBC Ulster’s Spotlight in March 2020 that the Protocol was the best thing to happen to the union since cheap Chinese flegs.
Defending the deal which he later pulled down the Assembly over, Jeff said: “Well, in the end customs checks doesn’t (sic) mean that you change the constitutional status of a part of the United Kingdom. That’s not going to happen. Already we’re seeing political the political parties and business leaders coming together to see how we exploit the opportunities that may arise from this situation, not only to ensure we have full access to the UK market but we also have access to the EU market.”
And Jeff continued to insist that customs checks at Belfast and Larne have no constitutional implications, holding firm to his position until somebody helped a wee bloke climb up on blue wheelie bin in Carrick.
And former DUP leader turned GBeebies News presenter, Arlene Foster, was similarly excited about the deal that Paul now says went over her head. When Andrew Marr told her it “looks like a border” is about to be imposed on Loyal Ulster, she replied: “Well, you know, I could stand here and bemoan the fact that we have left the European Union with a Protocol, I wish that wasn’t the case, or I can now look for the opportunities as we move out of the EU. We’re out of the Customs Union, we’re out of the Common Agricultural Policy, the Common Fisheries Policy, but we do have to deal with this regulatory issue for four years and then the Assembly votes on whether they want to remain within that regulatory system for goods and I hope by that stage people will see that it’s much better to move out of those regulations and into the global market which the rest of the UK can engage in.”
She added: “What we have now is a gateway of opportunity, it’s a gateway of opportunity for the whole of the UK and for Northern Ireland and it’s important that in this centenary year that we look forward to that and we step through that gateway of opportunity and take the opportunites that are there for all our people.”
And Arlene stayed true to her passionately-held belief that the Protocol was a gateway of opportunity for all – until Jim Allister decided that it was in fact a union-subjugating slap in the bake.
Has there ever been a more startling example of a party betting the ranch on a policy that is not in fact a policy but a panicked u-turn? Parties hit reverse gear all the time, but for the DUP to collapse Stormont because of their fury at a deal which they greeted as i) not a threat to the union and ii) a gateway of opportunity is not only a bold move, it is a statement of faith in their voters’ capacity for amnesia. And sure enough, the level of support for the policy among unionists is proof positive that if you shout loud enough and wave a flag vigorously enough you can not only get your people to believe anything, you can get them to forget anything as well.
Major news: Killers might start killing
FORMER Tory leader John Major has told a Dáil committee that any attempt to force unionists into a united Ireland will lead to renewed violence because the unionist community wouldn’t put up with “attempted duress”.
There are so many things that spring to mind on hearing this that it’s rather difficult for Squinter to get his thoughts in order. Perhaps it’s best to put on record here a reminder of Major’s bona fides on Ireland. His most notable intervention on the matter as Prime Minister was to say in 1993 that the very idea of talking to the IRA “would turn my stomach” while he and his government were busily talking away to… the IRA. Fair enough, he may have been economic with the verité for good reasons, but the episode does illustrate that Major’s word isn’t always his bond.
Then there’s the idea that the UVF and UDA would be engaging in a renewal of violence if they decided to take up arms in the event of a united Ireland. The simple fact, of course, is that loyalist paramilitaries have never stopped killing people – whether beating them to death in the street over personal grudges or shooting them to death over drug debts. It’s an oversight which kind of suggests Major has not been paying close attention to This Here Pravince since he handed back the keys of Downing Street, and that being the case what he’s been saying to that Dáil committee needs to be treated not with a pinch but with a barrowload of salt. He shouldn’t feel too bad about that, though, as the vast majority of TDs in the Dáil don’t take a blind bit of notice of the North either.
Then there’s this idea beloved of unionists here and across the water that a united Ireland would be brought about by coercion. Since we’ve already seen that Johnny boy hasn’t been paying attention, it's likely he doesn’t know that the IRA campaign is over and that should a united Ireland come about it will do so on the democratic terms outlined in the Good Friday Agreement. Unless perhaps Major has joined the ranks of those who have decided that 50 per cent plus one is coercion and that a weighted majority is the way to go.
But Major’s committee contribution was about to get even stranger. “Life in Northern Ireland has never been free of terror,” he said, which makes his stated fears of a renewal of violence seem even more odd. And which is possibly the most honest admission ever made by a senior British politician that partition has failed.