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A Conversation with a Ballynafeigh Orangeman

This conversation between Billy Caldwell from the Ballynafeigh Orange District Lodge, Rabbi Meyer Schiller from New York, David Kerr and John Field from www.the-twelfth.org.uk took place in July 2001.


Left to right: John Field, Billy Caldwell, David Kerr and Rabbi Schiller on the evening of the conversation.

Billy Caldwell. I have been a member of the Orange Institution since I was eight years of age. I was in the Junior Lodge, which I was Worshipful Master of. When you leave the Juniors you go up into your Senior lodge at sixteen. I was Worshipful Master of the Senior Lodge and higher up, I became Worshipful District Master of my Ballynafeigh district lodge.

Now, at the moment, we are being stopped at the Ormeau Bridge. This is the Parade Commission’s ruling – that they won’t let us walk the full length of the Ormeau Road because we won’t speak to the Lower Ormeau residents’ association and we won’t speak to the Parades Commission. The Parades Commission says that they will let us parade if we speak to them and the residents.

Now, back in 1995 we spoke to the residents. Then they said, ‘Oh yes, you can parade on the Ormeau Road. No problem’, but we went to Portadown in support of the Portadown district when they were barred from parading home down the Garvaghy Road. They then went back on their word over a protest against us but the police sealed the area off and let us parade.

Since 1999, we have not paraded the Ormeau Road. We haven’t joined with our brethren in Belfast. The County of Belfast have come to us and paraded from Clifton Street and other areas to join their Ballynafeigh brethren in the Ormeau Park for the past two years. But this year, 2001, we have been left on our own on the Ormeau Road. The greater membership of the Belfast County Lodge took it they would parade to the field in Edenderry instead of coming to support their brethren in Ballynafeigh. I find this very hard to take in.

Now, the police have said to us, ‘Why not reroute?’ but if we reroute it will take away all that we have fought for over the last five or six years to parade on the Ormeau Road. We are not going away from our traditional route.

Rabbi Meyer Schiller. You’re saying that the residents’ organisation originally let you walk, or gave you permission to walk on the Ormeau Road?

Billy. Yes. This was in 1995. There was a shooting on the road. We went and met them and told them that there would be no bother, but they went back on their word because we went to Portadown in 1995.  [Webmaster's note.  This is a reference to the Drumcree dispute which broke out in the Co Armagh town of Portadown in 1995].

John Field How long have the Ballynafeigh District marched the length of the Ormeau Road on the Twelfth? Are we talking hundreds of years?

Billy. It’s about 100 to 110 years.

John. It’s also fair to point out that there is on such thing as the ‘Lower Ormeau Road’. There’s a lower end of the Ormeau Road. The lower end of a road is one that is closer to town. Gerard Rice and his colleagues have been very clever. It sounds like a separate road. You probably get this is the States. They capitalise the word ‘Lower’.

RMS. It’s just an adjective?

John. Yes.

RMS. I take it it’s a neighbourhood that changed – it was formerly Protestant but became Catholic?

Billy. Yes. I was born and bred on the Ormeau Road, in McClure Street. We had to move out because of Catholic intimidation in the area. They were intimidating the Protestants out, but the parades still went on then. That was in the Seventies, just around the start of the Troubles. The parades kept on going up and down the road until the ‘Concerned Residents’ group and the Parades Commission were set up.

RMS. So, to review, the residents said in response to your joining the Portadown demonstrations that they would take away their permission.

Billy. They took away the permission that they gave us to parade along the road, but the police moved in and cleared the road so as to let us walk down it. Since then we can’t trust the residents.

David Kerr. Last year [Webmaster - 2000] the Twelfth parade came to the Ormeau Park. It was interesting that earlier this year – at Easter – another loyal order, the Apprentice Boys of Derry, did negotiate with the residents group and the Parades Commission then said, all right, you can have a march. What happened then is that an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease led to the cancellation of the parade. However, before that cancellation, the LOCC said, "Oh this is terrible" and they threatened to come out and block the road and commit all sorts of acts of violence to stop any parade. They put leaflets around all the republican areas of the city urging people to come out on to the Ormeau Road to stop the Apprentice Boys from getting down the road.

So the attitude from them is, great if the Parades Commission says ban a march. It’s absolutely marvellous and you must obey it. But, if its decision goes against them, then its, we’re going to go out and block the roads and cause as much mischief as possible. This happened at the Whiterock parade a week or so back. It passes a handful of houses on the Springfield Road that are regarded as ‘nationalist’. [Webmaster. An annual Orange parade in West Belfast.  Whiterock Orange Hall is on the Springfield Road]. It also happened at the Ardoyne-Twaddell interface, which has become notorious over the Holy Cross School.

Part of that confrontation began because on the previous Friday evening, in spite of torrential rain in which the Orangemen were badly soaked, a large number of people still found time to come out and throw stones and missiles at them. The Parades Commission had said, "Yes, that parade can go ahead." There does seem to be some double standards regarding the Parades Commission on the part of these pro-republican residents’ groups. The Parades Commission is a government quango that was set up specially to deal with contentious parades and demonstrations. Its terms of reference are fairly questionable. I know one person who sat on it for a while but he resigned because he felt that its whole ethos was not in favour of the loyal orders.

RMS. What standards are they using?

David. They seem to be arbitrary to me. Billy deals with them more. He has to be in contact with them.

Billy. You would send them your route form. Our Twelfth parade would leave Ballynafeigh Orange Hall, go straight down the Ormeau Road, left at Ormeau Avenue, into Linenhall Street and through the city centre to Clifton Street. Now, the Parades Commission would sit on that and deliberate on it.

David. That’s a direct route straight to the city centre.

Billy. That’s right. The Parades Commission says no, because you want to walk through a nationalist area and you won’t meet with the residents’ group and you won’t speak to the Parades Commission. They got it all wrong too. We put in a return route through the Holy Land [Webmaster. An area on the western edge of the lower part of the Ormeau Road.  So-called as streets have names such as Jerusalem Street, Palestine Street, etc.] in the university area. They have banned us from the Ormeau Road on the Twelfth morning and on the Twelfth night. If the Parades Commission decide to ban it the police have to come and block off the road at the bridge with a big green gate.

I am the marshal of the parade. I had to do a National Vocational Qualification in stewarding and crowd control because the Parades Commission demanded it. The police will block the parade on the Twelfth and we will be left standing at the Ormeau Bridge. This also happens at our church parades. We have one for the Orange Widows on the last Sunday in April. The collection would go to the Orange Widows’ Fund to help to maintain the orange widows on our books. On July 1st we would parade to commemorate the 36th (Ulster) Division who lost 5,000 men, (mostly Orangemen) at the Battle of the Somme. We can’t join our brethren in Belfast at the Ulster Hall. We have to hold an open-air service at the bridge as police landrovers block our path.

RMS. I read somewhere that shortly after this shooting in the betting shop, that you had parades and that some of the paraders were shouting things at demonstrators.

Billy. That parade went to court and we got permission to walk that day. There were just a few who let the Orange Institution down that day, just a few. They’ve been disciplined. They were put out of the Order. They were expelled. That was in 1995. We are always blamed for this but is was not our doing. A loyalist terrorist group, the UFF, did it but every time that the Orange want to parade our opponents bring up the bookies shop killings.

RMS. Was this a paramilitary group that marched with you?

Billy. No, the paramilitary group who were involved in the shooting.

RMS. Who was doing the taunting and the shouting?

Billy. The taunting was from both sides. I was marshalling the parade that year.

RMS. So, what do you intend to do on the Twelfth this year?

Billy. We are holding a service at the bridge. You are welcome to come along and monitor it if you want. We are going to have an Orange festival and play records and Orange songs at the bridge for a few hours. I don’t know yet if we are going to present a protest letter or not.

RMS. Where would most of your members stand politically with the Good Friday Agreement?

Billy. I voted no to the Good Friday Agreement.

RMS. Why?

Billy. It is an anti-British agreement. Everything’s anti-British in it. Over the years we’ve seen things run that we’re going to have no Britishness. That is what Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern want.

RMS. So, if Tony Blair doesn’t want Britishness do you think that perhaps that their perspective of saying "to heck with Britain" and of having a British culture on your own.

Billy. I would rather have a British culture on our own.

RMS. So why the link? Why is there a need any longer for a link?

Billy. The link’s there. The Protestant people…

RMS. No, no! What I’m saying is if the government of Great Britain seems not to be too terribly interested at this stage of the game in having this link, perhaps the way to go is…

Billy. Independence?

RMS. Yes.

Billy. This is another thing that has been thrown in the equation the last couple of times about Northern Ireland. Would Northern Ireland survive economically under independence? That is the biggest thing – the economics of the country,

RMS. You wouldn’t be for it at this point?

Billy. Not at the moment. I wouldn’t see anything like that happening at the minute. But, now there are talks going on in England. There’s Sinn Féin getting pampered again. Unionist politicians running about like lapdogs…

RMS. You would vote DUP yourself?

Billy. Yes, but in South Belfast Martin Smyth who was a Grand Master of the Orange Institution was standing as the MP and I voted for him because he is a member of the No camp.

RMS. What party is he?

Billy. Ulster Unionist. If you look at it now, of the politicians that represent this country, 60% are members of the No camp. You have the DUP and you have the Ulster Unionists. I think that three are only two unionist MPs who are Yes people. That would be Lady Sylvia Hermon and David Trimble himself. I think that the rest of them are in the No camp.

RMS. And Trimble seems to be having second thoughts?

Billy. I think that Mr Trimble has just found out what it’s really like; what he signed up for. I totally disagree with it.

RMS. What about the demographic factors? It seems that as time goes on the Protestant majority gets smaller and smaller.

Billy. Well, the census results will soon come out. They did a census and we will find out the preliminary results before the end of the year.

RMS. Yes, but from the 1920s until now certainly, your majority has gone down from two-thirds or more to a 55-45% ratio.

Billy. Well, the Catholic Church says that you have to breed. The Protestant churches should have told them to breed.

DTK. That’s putting it a bit crudely isn’t it?

Billy. Well, the Catholic Church says have more children so they can outnumber the Protestants.

RMS. I don’t think that was the reason.

Billy. That is the reason.

DTK. They say that message everywhere. They say have more children because they don’t believe in artificial contraception. They don’t believe in abortion or the like, which has reduced the population throughout the western world. You find in Catholic countries like Poland where there are no Protestants worth talking about that there’s a large Catholic birthrate. It’s not to ‘outbreed’ Protestants because there aren’t any there. It’s just because that’s what they believe – it’s your Christian duty to procreate and not to practise contraception. Of, course it has the added bonus of supplanting the Prods but I would not say that that’s the reason for the Church’s stance.

RMS. If the day would come that Catholics would be a majority would you say that it would be their right at that point to dissolve the Union?

Billy. I’d still be a unionist!

RMS. No. You would be, but that would be the end of the line. Right?

Billy. No, it wouldn’t be,

RMS. Why?

Billy. Because that’s the worst time when you get the Protestants – when they’re backed up against a corner. I think they’re backed up into a corner now.

DTK. Not enough yet, I don’t think!

Billy. I think that this year we’ll tell the tale.

RMS. What I’m asking is this… I’m not saying that you wouldn’t be a unionist. Certainly that’s to be respected, but if they would be in the majority would you accept it?

Billy. I wouldn’t accept it. No!

RMS. The majority wouldn’t matter?

Billy. No.

RMS. Could you defend that a little bit?

Billy. I don’t believe in their Bible. I don’t believe in their religion. I’m a Presbyterian. I’m a Blackmouth. That is my belief..

RMS. This is the question I asked David Kerr this afternoon outside the Martyrs’ Memorial church. "If majority rule would be constituted by a Catholic majority, is that a legitimately constituted citizenry?" What Billy is saying is that it wouldn’t be.

DTK. Well, if there were a political majority for it, it would be difficult on democratic grounds to argue against it.

RMS. Right. What Billy is saying – and I understand this completely – is that the votes are not equal. If you regard the Catholic vote as the vote of apostates and heretics, then why should they have the same say in the future of the realm as Protestants? Would that be a good approximation of your position?

Billy. It would be like over in Israel. Would the Israeli people allow…?

RMS. Yes. Majority isn’t everything. That’s what you’re saying. The point is it would get very difficult if the numbers would ever really tilt against you. Very difficult!

Billy. You have to stand up and be counted. The Protestant people aren’t standing up and being counted. They were conned into voting for an agreement by the British government.

RMS. Also, probably, that your more successful Protestants don’t care that much about you.

Billy. Well, I’m a successful Protestant and I care. I worked up the ladder in my place of employment.

RMS. No, no. That’s not what I mean.

DTK. You mean the business elite. As long as the money is coming in…

Billy. Well. The business elite are worried at the minute.

DTK. That may be…

RMS. They’re not going to vote DUP.

DTK. Their money was on David Trimble and Lady Sylvia. They are the people who virtually gave up voting in this country and just put their heads down and made money during the thirty years of the war. Now that it’s gone they come out and they’re the ones who backed the Yes campaign financially. They’re the people who never voted or participated in politics, but then came out and voted for the Yes campaign and persuaded others to vote for it. They are the people who – if there was a united Ireland tomorrow – would doff their hats to the Tricolour and carry on making as much money as possible. That’s my suggestion.

Billy. Everybody has their suggestion. I have a suggestion. You have a suggestion. I suppose John has a suggestion, but listen. They are talking about IRA arms at the minute. They are not handing them in. Mr Trimble says, "oh. If you don’t hand them in, I’m not going to do this. I’m not going to do that." Everything’s going to be suspended. The Assembly is going to be suspended. All their money is going to be suspended. They’re going to back to their little bands of merry men – their wee armies out there – and start stirring up the pot again. That is what is on the cards at the minute.

RMS. Certainly the Republic of Ireland is not the Catholic state that it was fifty years ago.

Billy. The Republic doesn’t want us. The ordinary people don’t want us.

DTK. It’s a nice comfortable wee State now. Look at West Germany when it got East Germany. It is still having difficulties swallowing it after ten years. Apart from the republican ideologues…

RMS. Do you think that if there was a vote taken in the Republic that they’d vote against going for unity?

DTK. Not necessarily, but I think it would be quite close either way. Given all the rhetoric over the years about the national mission to recover the Fourth Green Field [Webmaster. Allusion to a republican song, Four Green Fields. Ulster is seen as the 'fourth green field' stolen by 'strangers'.]  there would probably be a narrow majority in favour of it. I think it would be very narrow. I think that the reality of it would hit them hard. " My God. What did we do bringing into the State all these mad Prods who want nothing to do with us here. These are a real recalcitrant lot. Maybe we should have let them go off and have as much autonomy as possible."

John. One of the things I think you mentioned in your review of The Faithful Tribe was that you got a sense of the history and the heritage and tradition watching the parade last year. You mentioned the continuity of grandfathers, fathers and sons in what’s like a family. Can Billy explain this?

Billy. My grandfather was in the Orange Institution. My father was in it. My mother was in it too. I’m in it and my son is in it. My son is twelve years of age. He is in the Junior Orange. It was my mother who said to me about the Orange Institution. She would talk to me about it. I always looked up to my mother. She has since passed away. I would ask her for advice when I was in the Orange - "Am I doing the right thing?" – and I took an office in it. She said to me, " If you’re comfortable. If you feel you can do the office…" She died in 1982 and I was made District Master in 1987 when Ballynafeigh celebrated its centenary so she didn’t live to see it.

In our Hall it’s all families. We had six Hutchinsons in the Hall. Four were in one lodge and two were in another lodge. Four uncles were in one lodge and a son and father were in our lodge. There used to be seven Liggetts in LOL 990. Noel, who is District Master, is the last Liggett in it.

RMS. In non-parading season, what are the functions of the lodges?

Billy. Our Hall is used quite regularly. We would have an Orange dance. We hire it out to the Tudor ladies who hold a dance in it every Monday night. The lodge meets there and Royal Black Perceptory and Apprentice Boys of Derry meet there too. We have a Credit Union too.

RMS. What’s that?

John. A Credit Union is a savings group. It offers 1% loans and is favoured by ordinary working folk. I’m in a Credit Union. You’d find one in quite a lot of Orange Halls. They are based on a common bond – in this case the Orange Hall and the community that uses it.

I am the treasurer of a local playgroup. Our playgroup used to meet in the local Orange Hall. So it’s not only Orangemen that meet there. It is more of a community centre. They hold dances and the like. Many a fellow has met their future wives – more so in rural areas - at socials held in these halls, which are both family and community meeting places.

Billy, Gerard Rice and company likes to go on about the Orange as a ‘secret society’. Can you explain what goes on at meetings?

Billy. We have our opening. We would read the minutes of the last meeting. We then ask if there’s anything arising form the minutes. The Treasurer’s report would give out the finances of the lodge and then we’d get down into general business. We talk about anything and everything.

RMS. Such as?

Billy. Political affairs to do with the Orange Institution.

RMS. Could a Protestant who had abandoned his faith be an Orange member in good standing?

Billy. What do you mean? The church?

RMS. Not necessarily the church, but one who had abandoned the Faith "I no longer believe. I no longer subscribe."

Billy. I have never really come across anybody like that. I have people who do not attend church who are members of the Orange Institution but they come to Orange services.

RMS. Is there any requirement, in other words, must one be a believing Christian…?

Billy. Yes. You have to believe in the Christian Faith.

DTK. There is a document called The Qualifications of an Orangeman. It’s a faith qualification.

RMS. So, every young fellow that I’m going to see walking by in that parade subscribes to that document?

DTK. They are all supposed to have read it. It has been read to them before they were initiated.

Billy. They would get a copy of it and read it and then they would be asked in a meeting "Do you subscribe to this?"

DTK. Obviously, you don’t know what’s in someone’s head, but if you ask someone if they assent to something freely without any coercion or mental reservation you have to take it on trust that they are sincere in what they say.

RMS. Could an Orangeman who married a Catholic remain an Orangeman in good standing?

Billy. Yes. No problem.

RMS. Wasn’t there a problem at one time?

Billy. If you marry a Catholic there’s no problem as long as she renounces her faith.

RMS. Oh, she renounces her faith. It is qualified then, if she doesn’t, then…?

Billy. Yes, then he would be suspended and then written out of the Order.

RMS. Is every lodge strict with things like that?

Billy. Yes.

RMS. And would it be the same with the Black Preceptory?

Billy. Yes. You can’t be a member of the Black without being also a member of the Orange Institution.

DTK. Now, I’m not sure about the Apprentice Boys. They’re a bit different in that respect?

Billy. The Black is more religious.

RMS. What about the Independent Orange? Where do they fit in?

DTK. They emerged in the 1920s or so. They regarded the parent Order as being too much in the hands of the grandees of the Unionist Party of the time. A man called Thomas Sloan, who was the MP for South Belfast, was on of their leading lights. They set up their HQ in what used to be the old Belfast synagogue in Great Victoria Street. They don’t really have much of presence in Belfast nowadays though.

Billy. No. Not now. It’s mostly out in the country – a rural organisation.

DTK. Today it has a very strong Free Presbyterian element, [Webmaster.  The Free Presbyterian Church was founded by Dr Ian R K Paisley in 1951.  He is moderator of the Church as well as a leading unionist political figure.] but that was not the case when it was founded. In the last twenty years or so Free Presbyterians have become very influential in the IOO.

Billy. In the Orange, we have members of Parliament in our ranks. I would say that we have a great one in Nigel Dodds who is the MP for North Belfast. He was just elected a month ago. I think that the Orange Institution should ask Nigel to guide them.

RMS. Some Orange lodges are temperance lodges and some are not?

Billy. I’m in a temperance lodge.

RMS. Is that up to each lodge itself?

Billy. Yes. There are total abstinence lodges, which are fully total abstinence. They don’t take any drink. You’re not allowed to drink or nothing.

RMS. Or they throw you out?

Billy. Yes.

DTK. Presumably you could transfer to a less strict lodge?

Billy. Not really.. Mostly these total abstainers are ‘Christian’ lodges. You have one in East Belfast and one in Clifton Street.

John. Does temperance lodges promote temperance then?

Billy. If you’re in a real temperance you don’t… well I wouldn’t drink on parade. I do not like to disgrace the colours I wear.

John. Sometimes you see a few somewhat the worse for wear for drink…

RMS. Abstinence is not their thing.

Billy. Well, they’re dealt with. They could be fined or suspended from their lodge.

RMS. Most of the drinking is in the crowd, I suppose.

Billy. The ‘hangers-on’. The blue bag carriers.

DTK. Now, not all of us hangers-on are blue bag carriers.

RMS. What does that mean? Blue bags?

DTK. In America it would be brown paper bags. Carryouts over here come in blue plastic bags from what we call ‘off-licences’ – liquor stores.

RMS. Yes, that’s right. In America, or at least in New York, it actually comes from the fact that there was and may still be a law against drinking alcohol in the street…

DTK. Well, it’s illegal here too, but that doesn’t stop too many people!

RMS. Yes. So what they do is, they keep the paper bag, so they drink from the bag and keep the law.

John. How are we seen in America and New York? Do you just get a CNN version of what’s happening over here, particularly about the Orange?

RMS. For the vast majority of people, except those who are of Irish extraction, it is a non-issue. It’s just ‘those crazy people’ and no-one can tell you exactly who or what they are. The people wouldn’t even know.

But, to the extent that there is anything heard, it’s completely heard from the republican side. There’s a large Irish Catholic presence in America. You have newspapers. You have magazines. You have senators and congressmen who are openly endorsing the republican cause. New York Congressman Peter King is very noisy. There is no newspaper, there’s no congressman, no voice at all for the other side. It’s non-existent.

Billy. I could always send you our papers.

RMS. I think the point is that Protestants of English, Scottish or Ulster extraction by and large lost their identity.

Billy. They forgot their roots.

RMS. Exactly, whereas Irish Catholics didn’t. That’s the distinction. Sam Dickson told me that when he as a boy growing up in South Carolina, in church services on Sundays, a hat was passed around. He said that it was clearly going to some Ulster Defence-type fund and everybody knew it. But, as the years went on, he said, it just stopped. That was when he was a boy in the forties. Now these roots are no longer felt.

Here’s another point. There is a very small conservative Presbyterian presence in America. It’s very small. The mainstream churches are all very liberal, so they don’t experience any of these connections at all. Your voice is not heard at all.

Billy. I gave an interview last year to CNN.

RMS. And it got on TV?

Billy. Yes.

RMS. Right. Ruth Dudley Edwards makes the point in her book that the loyalist cause has no propaganda wing. There’s no foreign affairs propaganda wing.

Billy. We’re losing it on the ground. That’s for sure. If we had somebody who could go over there on a tour and speak to the people…

DTK. It needs more than that. It needs a permanent presence, one that is there all the time, monitoring and responding to events.

Billy. They need to open an office to let the people in America know what’s really happening.

RMS. And is this not a concern of the DUP or somebody that things should…?

DTK. There seems to be an attitude that if the world doesn’t understand us, that’s so much the worse for the world. When I go out selling papers I get this. People ask, "What’s this for?" When I say it’s to promote the Ulster point of view, I get, "sure I know the Ulster point of view." When I say, "I know, but you have to keep at it to put people right who don’t know what’s going on." One woman told me that if people don’t know that they’re very, very silly.

RMS. That really has to change.

John. What do you think would make a start over in the States? Would a booklet of extracts of this interview help?

RMS. There are two areas where I think you could do something. One, there is the conservative Presbyterian presence which exists and then the Scotch-Irish groups, the Council of Conservative Citizens and the League of the South. All these groups because they are your natural allies. Maybe put an ad in one of their papers. If you put an ad in for literature or have somebody write something, all the people reading that are really your blood-brothers. Many of these people are of Scotch-Irish descent. That’s not really known about. These are natural allies. It’s not much to go on but it’s a start. What you have now is nothing!

Billy. The prevailing point of view in America then is that the Protestants are still beating the Catholics down?

DTK. If they exist. The general view in America is that the British are doing the beating. The Protestants don’t exist!

RMS. That’s right. You don’t exist! The British are the colonial lords over the Catholic people. Period!

DTK. And you’re only incidental. You are these strange creations of the British state. Nobody really knows where you come from. You only appear on the Twelfth of July. The rest of the time you don’t live at all.

RMS. And then something crazy goes on for some reason no-one knows…

John. Yes. You got a warped version of the recent Ardoyne problem?

RMS. Oh, completely. The version of that was these kids want to go to school and these crazed mobs of Protestants were trying to attack little kids. End of portrayal.

DTK. No explanation? No reasons given?

RMS. No reason except that they were crazy! It came to the point that even I, who is trying to be sympathetic, emailed you to try and find out what’s really going on.

Billy. Are there many people sympathetic?

RMS. Your cause doesn’t exist.

Billy. But, if we did meet people and decide to speak to them about this…?

RMS. I can speak to people that I know, which I have already done. I can maybe write an article somewhere. The question is larger.

John. I was just wondering if we could do something with this interview.

RMS. What you need to do, John, is to introduce the interview with an overview of events from 1916 to the present. You really have to give a brief alternative view of events. For example, David, when an American goes to your website, it’s incomprehensible because it’s assuming so much prior knowledge on the history of the conflict. How Protestants were being persecuted when the Irish Free State was founded isn’t widely known by anybody.

DTK. Perhaps we should work on some Frequently Asked Questions for the website?

RMS. Yes. I could pose the questions.

DTK. Yes. Then I could give the answers because you are good at that. You raise some questions that nobody’s thought of. I said this to Evan earlier today that you have a tendency to ask, "Why do you do this?" and then I begin to think, "Why do we do this?"

RMS. A booklet of FAQs before the interview would be good.

Billy. Before I forget: the Battle of the Boyne was fought for civil and religious liberty for all and that means for all - Protestants and Catholics. That’s what Orangemen are celebrating. Catholics still come out to watch.

RMS. In the old days it used to be common…

Billy. They still do.

RMS. That’s an important point. The parades became an issue because of certain instigations on the part of republicans.

Billy. It’s clear that republicans sat down and thought their strategy through.

DTK. Yes. The strategy was, "We’re not doing any bombing or shooting at the minute. How are we going to keep our hand in? Let’s wind up the Orangemen!"

RMS. I’ll give you another example of something that the average American who knows a little bit about Ireland wouldn’t know is that Catholics were killing Catholics in the Civil War after the Treaty (of 1921).

DTK. I suppose that the Michael Collins film might have given some suggestion that they were, but it wasn’t really that clear.

RMS. Yes. There was the fact that Collins was in favour of peace. These things weren’t known. The Edwards book is not perfect but it is the best thing you have. There is no similar book that gives you the background and tries to do it somewhat favourably.

DTK. And ironically, it’s written by someone who comes from an Irish Catholic background – an atheist Irish Catholic background. There’s a lesson somewhere there!

RMS. Thank you for your time!


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