Orangeism and Cultural Learning in Northern Ireland
This paper highlights the construction of contemporary political ideologies and discourses within Orangeism and in considers how these have been used to position individuals and the organisation in relation to political and cultural reactions to events in Ireland. The Orange Order is a large and complex voluntary, communal organisation.
While it once claimed a membership of up to 120,000 (one in three of all Protestant males in Northern Ireland) the current strength of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland (GOLI) is estimated at somewhere around forty thousand members. Nonetheless, for many Protestants the Order continues to offer a central focus for social life, and although its political and religious importance has declined in recent years it still retains an important influence in those areas, and as an expression of political identity.
In so doing it draws directly upon public iconography (especially its parading tradition), declarations and texts produced by the Orange Order (mainly taken from the monthly publication, Orange Standard) and on material drawn from interviews with members draw from the largest survey ever undertaken.
This paper further focuses on patterns of socialisation in the maintenance of the Orange tradition, which reinforce, and in turn are reinforced by strong self-perpetuating political frames and discourses within Orangeism. It considers how these have been used to position the organisation, through political and cultural reactions to recent events in Ireland. In so doing it draws directly upon public declarations and texts produced by the Orange Order and those carried in its monthly publication, the Orange Standard and utilises material drawn from interviews with members.
Beyond this, we identify several, sometimes overlapping, discourses of ‘Britishness’, ‘Faith’ and ‘Loyalty’ that give it political expression and explore membership of the Orange Order as a marker of ethnic identity and belonging and within the organization.