Monday, 16 July 2012

Nuala McKeever and the Orange Order

Nuala McKeever started out her working career as a BBC researcher and then joined the Hole in the Wall Gang on BBC television.  Today she is best known as a comedy actress, writer and broadcaster. 

She is also a regular columnist in the Belfast Telegraph and today in the course of the main article on her page she made the following comment about the Orange Order:
For the Orange Order and their followers, the whole basis of their existence is triumphalism.  We whopped yiz!!! Take that! Slap it up yiz!!!
She refers to 'the Orange Order and their followers' and in so doing draws in a large part of Northern Ireland. When you consider the Twelfth celebrations with the Orangemen, the bands, the families and the spectators, it is clear that she is referring to several hundred thousand people and she says that 'the whole basis of their existence is triumphalism'.  To make such a sweeping and categorical statement about so many people is prejudiced, partisan and ill-informed.

Perhaps it is that growing up in West Belfast, where she attended St Teresa's Primary School, she did not come into contact with the Orange Order or indeed Orangemen on a regular basis.  However during her university career and subsequent to that she must have met many folk who are members or friends of the Orange Order. 

I realise that it must be a challenge to come up with articles for her page week after week but this comment falls far short of what we might expect from a long-established newspaper.  It is certainly a good example of prejudice and someone once said that prejudice is a great time-saver - it enables you to make up your mind without taking the time to find out the facts.

It is also interesting that someone such as Nuala McKeever, who is a public figure and a patron of several charities, should feel it appropriate and acceptable for her to express such a partisan view.  It shows that prejudice against the Orange Order is indeed deeply entrenched in our society.

I can understand an Irish republican such as Donncha Mac Niaillais of the Bogside Residents Group saying, 'Many of us perceive the Orange Order as being triumphalist.'  That is the language of Irish republicanism and that is what I expect from a republican.  However it is alarming that a mainstream entertainer and broadcaster should have no qualms about saying the very same thing.

On several occasions I have heard Nuala McKeever, in her role as a compere, delivering a comedy routine that poked fund at various groups in our society but this statement is not made in the context of a comedy routine.  Clearly it the statement of a writer who is speaking seriously and from the heart and that is what makes it all the more disturbing.

I joined the Orange Order in 1975 and I joined it for a variety of reasons, religious, political, cultural and social.  Triumphalism was certainly not one of the reasons.


  1. Well what can you expect from Nuala McKeever, she has had a bad start in life. First she hadn't much contact with the other side of life here, second she joined the b b c, thirdly she works for the Belfast Telegraph and who knows who else, but I'm sure it won't be the Orange Order. Let's not hold ignorance against her.

  2. I was intrigued by some of the comments about BBC coverage of the Twelfth. On one hand there were narked nationalists who didn't like the whole event being treated as a nice day out and overlooking the element of threat they see implied by it all. On the other were evangelical purists who didn't like the whole event being treated as a nice day out, when there was a much more important purpose to it all than just meeting old friends and enjoying the music. They wanted the beeb to acknowledge the celebration of the core value of Protestantism Maybe the Order isn't good at articulating just what it does stand for and how it slips the charge of sectarianism.