The Blanket

Rose Tinted Culture

Sean Smyth

In Billy Mitchell’s reply to my article on praising Feile an Phobail, he paints an image of peace and harmony through our wee province, where we share and enjoy each other's culture.

I, like Billy, was lucky enough to have been raised in an environment which enabled me to spend many a long summer in Greenisland and to share in many cross community activities and still do.

But what Billy Mitchell forgets to mention is the other side of Unionist culture (I say unionist culture because when you see our first minister David Trimble and the Rev Ian Paisley hand in hand dancing a victorious orange jig down an county Armagh road, you could be forgiven for thinking that the culture of the unionist, loyalist and the orange order were one and the same) - the Billy Boy flute bands. After all there is nothing so sweet as the sound of the Sash being played by a blood and thunder flute band especially when walking pass a Taig church.

What I have described above is the only side of Protestant culture from NI that makes it on to television screens worldwide. Like it or not Protestant culture has being labelled and boxed - as sectarian - ever more so since Drumcree, and the terrible scenes at Holy Cross.

When only the negative side of your community and culture is shown by the world and local media, it stereotypes all that community and its culture with the same brush and the positive side of your culture is almost damaged beyond repair

When your culture and community are consistently hijacked by a minority of sectarian bigots it will always be portrayed as sectarian.

Billy rightly points out the many positive sides of Protestant/Unionist culture.

I can confirm all that he says. As an Ulsterbus Tour driver for 7 years I was always made welcome, should it have been a Sunday school/church outing or driving a lodge and band on the 12th.

Recently Billy Hutchinson (PUP) issued a statement on the future of education in NI. He called for integrated, co-educated, comprehensive education. This coming from a loyalist politician should have made headline news but was largely ignored by the media both here and abroad. It shows not only a progressive side of loyalist politics but a change in the mindset of unionism.

Unionists needs to stop looking through rose tinted glasses and see how others see them. If you take the celebrations/commemorations of the battle of the Somme, as an example of positive and negative aspects of the Protestant culture, three thousand Irish men both Catholic and Protestant were killed in a few hours and two thousand + injured; there was not a family on the Newtownards Road who were not touched in some way by that terrible day. But the mini twelfth parade only remembers the Protestant fallen, whereas the Catholic fallen (and to be honest many from the unionist tradition would tell you the Catholics were only there for the Half Crown, and the many Catholic families who would/could not even erect an headstone to their loved ones because they would have been seen as traitors.) would have been forgotten if it hadn’t been for the Somme heritage centre in Newtownards.

If you ever get the chance of a visit to the centre you will see the positive side of the Protestant/Orange culture. This is one example of the culture we could and should share and learn from.

Maybe this could be the starting point to rebuild the tarnished image of the Orange Order and the proud Protestant, unionist culture, and change the world’s view of a culture driven by hate.

The biggest enemy of Unionist, Orange, Loyalist or Protestant culture and identity is itself, and its continuing failure in front of the world’s media to highlight their true and proud past.






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The language and concepts contained herein are guaranteed not to cause eternal torment in the place where the guy with the horns and pointed stick conducts his business.
- Frank Zappa

Index: Current Articles

2 September 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


I See Dead People

Anthony McIntyre


Faith & Politics
Billy Mitchell


Rose Tinted Culture
Sean Smyth

30 August 2002


Four Women Political Prisoners Die On Hunger Strike
Mags Glennon


A State In A Sectarian Society
Anthony McIntyre


Derry Homily
Brian Mór


The Violence of Curfew
Sam Bahour


Colombian Solidarity
Sean Smyth


The Oldest Profession
Eoghan O’Suilleabhain




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