McAuley, James W. and Tonge, Jon (2011) One Day in July: Blood, Thunder and Street Politics in Belfast. In: Understanding the Social World Conference 2011, 13th - 15th July 2011, University of Huddersfield. (Unpublished)
Abstract

The Orange Order is a large and complex voluntary, communal organisation. While it once claimed a membership of up to 120,000 (one in three of all Protestant males in Northern Ireland) the current strength of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland (GOLI) is estimated at somewhere around forty thousand members. Nonetheless, for many Protestants the Order continues to offer a central focus for social life, and although its political and religious importance has declined in recent years it still retains an important influence in those areas, and as an expression of political identity.

This paper further focuses on patterns of socialisation across Orangeism and its role in the maintenance of the ‘Orange tradition’. These reinforce, and in turn are reinforced by strong self-perpetuating political frames and discourses within Orangeism. It draws directly upon ethnographic study and public iconography (especially its parading tradition), declarations and texts produced by the Orange Order (mainly taken from the monthly publication, Orange Standard) and on material drawn from interviews with members draw from the largest survey ever undertaken. It considers how these have been used to position the organisation, through political and cultural reactions to recent events in Ireland.

In so doing it identifies directly public declarations and texts produced by the Orange Order and those carried in its monthly publication, the Orange Standard and utilises material drawn from interviews with members to identify collective memories and identity construction within Orangeism. Through the analysis of in-depth interviews with its membership we highlight the Orange Order as a marker of ethnic identity and strong signifier of social and political belonging.

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