Having said all the below (Balls!)… Margaret Ritchie, while credible, is fallible just like everyone else.
Staff at Bobballs are slightly disappointed with her. First she said something unpleasant about the Orange Order. Then the Orange Order produced one of the worst PR pics in recent memory (Balls! 03.12). [What was it? Oh, just a phalanx of OO male politicians marshalled in to gravely sign up to a denunciation that slaps down a lone female nationalist Minister. The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh lads?). Then Margaret apologised… kinda.
The main effect of her comments was to allow the OO an opportunity to dragoon its political muscle in a way that they haven’t been able to in years. The OO brought UUP & DUP together in the home of consensus politics to demonstrate the political power of the Orangeism.
Hugely counterproductive – we expected that type of gaffe from John Dallat but not from Margaret Ritchie. She must wrest a cross-community message out of this by bringing OO/GAA together into a single, cultural (non-political) event. Ritchie must do something to ensure some reciprocity.
She won’t want to hand out a flaccid apology and so end up justifiying the OO’s grandiose visit to Stormont to sign off vitriolic letters against elected Ministers. Otherwise, who will be the target of the next big table denunciation?
PS. While Staff at Bobballs were wondering whether the OO should register their MLA members as a separate political grouping in Stormont, we looked back at some figures.
In 1998, there were 35 OO members among 60 Unionist MLAs. Now, there are 37 OO members from among 55 Unionists. The Unionist vote is going down and its number of representatives is going down. Yet proportionately more Orangemen are being returned. The perverse effect of consociationalism appears to be more tribalism.
Wot no progressive, cross-community consensus emerging from the centre? Where exactly is Stormont going? For example, this type of ‘bring it on f****s‘ chest-beating is just horrible – but this is now what habitually passes for politics. Depressing.