If you believe what the Prods-only Orange Order has unveiled at its new EU-funded ‘Museum of Orange Heritage’ in the heart of loyalist east Belfast, then Catholics have as much right to celebrate King Billy’s 1690 victory at the Boyne as Unionists.
If former Irish President Mary McAleese can grace the Order’s official museum opening, then Irish Catholics should embrace the 12 July commemorations.
While the Orange has its roots in the violent Prod paramilitary, the Peep O’Day Boys of the late 18th century who were notorious for their dawn raids on Catholics, there was lots of ecumenical hand-shaking at the museum shindig.
The wee flute band from a local Belfast boys school expertly played tunes best associated with World War One, and there was not a peep of traditional loyalist ‘kick the pope’ marching tunes, such as The Sash, Holy Mary, or The Famine Song.
Just as the Orange Order has been trying to reclaim St Paddy’s Day from its stereotype that it is a republican festival, so too, Catholics need to smash the mindset only Prods can live it up each 12 July.
Nationalists should remember that if King Jimmy’s artillery had been a little more accurate on the morning of the Boyne battle, 12 July would have been a republican holiday.
Even before the Boyne kicked off properly, the Jacobites sneaked up on Billy during breakfast, wounding him with a salvo.
Perhaps republicans have forgotten their geography, but last time I checked, the River Boyne flowed through the Republic!
Indeed, one of the premier Orange parades to commemorate Billy’s battle is the famous Donegal Dander at Rossnowlagh when thousands of Northern brethren and band members join their Southern border counterparts.
There’s a real lesson here for the Order. Maybe it could defuse contentious Northern routes such as Drumcree and Ardoyne by decamping to isolated rural fields and seaside localities in the Republic?
Nationalists should also recall that it was King William’s elite Dutch Royal Blue troops – who were predominantly Catholic – who sealed his victory.
After the battle, the then pope, Alexander the Eighth, commemorated Billy’s victory with a special Te Deum event at the Vatican.
For the last 325 years since the Boyne, there has even been unsubstantiated speculation that Pope Alex actually blessed some of Billy’s troops before they went to Ireland to kick James’ ass.
Basically, Billy saved the Papacy from oblivion from the dictator of the day – Louis of France.
Folklore has it, too, that William even had two of his own Protestant troops executed for mistreatment of Catholic prisoners after the battle.
The Orange forces only won the battle because King James did not take advantage of the death of William’s top military commander, Marshall Schomberg, as he charged into the river.
Indeed, the Boyne would have been a Jacobite victory had their leading commander, Patrick Sarsfield, been in charge of the army – not the military incompetent James.
Sarsfield proved his worth after the battle by bashing the Williamites at Limerick.
The Orange Order dates from 1795, and it has only taken it just over two centuries to realise it needs to educate people about its true heritage.
The Order’s Orange museum is not about rewriting history; merely telling the truth.
Anti-Orange liberal Prods pose as big a threat to the Order’s future as republicans.
Could the Order’s project with Catholic schools really be a secret agenda to neutralise the strong influence of well-organised nationalist residents’ groups along contentious parade routes?