As the News Letter reported on Thursday, David McNarry (Ukip) and I were on BBC Radio Ulster’s TalkBack earlier that day.
The topic for discussion was Martin McGuinness’s comment on Wednesday that some unionists appeared to have a psychological problem with reconciliation.
David declared himself outraged by Mr McGuinness’s statement, said the deputy first minister had set back reconciliation by years, and called on him to apologise for his comment and/or resign.
My response was that David had just exemplified the defensive attitude of some in unionism: no surrender, not an inch, what we have we hold, and that like the deputy first minister I would welcome comparable gestures from unionism.
Then the Rev Mervyn Gibson’s statement that he’d favour changing the Orange Order rule forbidding Orangemen from attending a Catholic service was raised.
I suggested that the Rev Gibson might also consider that he heads up an anti-Catholic organisation which marches somewhere between 2,000 and 4,000 times a year.
David demanded an apology, that I had insulted him.
When that wasn’t forthcoming, he called me, among other things, a rebel and a non-entity, and stalked from the studio.
Had David waited, I would have given my reasons for describing the Orange Order as I did.
The Order was founded in 1795 after a sectarian clash which left some thirty Catholics dead. Its history throughout the nineteenth century, as detailed in Andy Boyd’s book (Holy War in Belfast) is one of sectarian disorder again and again.
Between 1823-1845 the British government banned the Order. The twentieth century shows similar disorder around Orange marches, up to and including the deaths of three small boys during the Drumcree dispute.
As yesterday’s News Letter article added in a footnote, after David’s departure I made it clear that my criticism of the Orange Order did not mean I thought all Orangemen were bigots.
On the contrary. I can fully understand the motivation of the average Orangeman, who looks forward to the Twelfth as a bright and happy day out.
I don’t believe the majority of Orangemen are motivated by animosity towards Catholics. Quite the reverse, in my experience.
But the fact remains that in its origin, history and rules, the Orange Order is opposed to Catholicism, and is and has been a divisive force.
Maybe the TalkBack discussion on Thursday was part of the “uncomfortable conversations” that we all need to have, in order to find ways of facing a future that will be better than our past.
I only regret that David McNarry felt the need to break off our TalkBack conversation so abruptly, and to accompany it with personalised abuse.