LivingTravelThe strange spectacle of the Rossnowlagh Orange Order parade

The strange spectacle of the Rossnowlagh Orange Order parade

Rossnowlagh is, at first glance, nothing really special. A coastal town in County Donegal, some hotels, some caravan parks, popular with Northern Ireland tourists. But every year it hosts one of the most extraordinary events in the Republic of Ireland: a parade of the Orange Order, which defends Protestantism and trade unionism. Complete with girdles, pipes and drums.

Parades of orange order: what are they about?

The Orange Institution, commonly known as the Orange Order or “The Orangemen” in popular parlance, is a Protestant fraternal organization. It’s often called a “secret society,” but public parades don’t sit well with that image. It is based in Northern Ireland and propagates unionism, the union between the six counties and the English crown.

Founded in 1796, its name was chosen in remembrance of the Dutch-born Protestant King of England, Ireland and Scotland, William of Orange, who defeated the Catholic King of England, Ireland and Scotland James II at the Battle of Boyne in 1690. The institution also has a large presence in Scotland and lodges can be found throughout the Commonwealth and even the United States. Oddly enough, at least if you have Irish history in mind, there are also lodges in nine counties in the Republic of Ireland.

In mentioning the lodges, the Orange Institution is not connected to Freemasonry, although the outward appearance and insignia may suggest a connection.

The most public events in which the Orange Order participates are parades, which are usually a march of members of the lodge in regalia, accompanied by marching bands and unionist tunes. Celebrating Protestantism, King Billy, and most of all, victory at the Boyne. Most take place around July 12.

Rossnowlagh, an Irish anomaly

Most Irish orange lodges do not parade, but the Ulster brethren do. In Ulster, that is, in Rossnowlagh. With the support of lodges in Northern Ireland, you will generally see Orangemen from Cavan, Donegal, Monaghan and even Dublin marching under their flags.

The march takes place on the Saturday before July 12 and begins just after noon. All the participants gather in a field near St. John’s Church, a little outside of Rossnowlagh proper. They then march about a mile through the countryside, past a trailer park, and into the village of Rossnowlagh. A church service is held in the dunes and there is what can only be described as a small unionist fair in the parking lot.

In general, the event is quiet and has a family atmosphere. Despite the presence of armed gardai (who keep a low profile) and a bit of chaos in traffic.

How do they manage to achieve it?

Shouldn’t parades of orange orders be banned in Ireland? Well, they might have a sectarian undercurrent and not really promote a modern society, but at the end of the day there is nothing unconstitutional or dangerous about them. It is just a group of (mostly) old men (and some women) marching to show their defiance and continued adherence to principles that others might find obsolete. Oh well, let them go.

Rossnowlagh is, after all, the ideal place to do it by marching through nature most of the time, avoiding any ‘conflict areas’ and generally hiding, the men of Orange have avoided (or evaded) confrontation . To be frank, there is no one who makes a strong exception to his Protestant-Unionist antics. And, for another year, they have reaffirmed their right to free assembly, etc.pp.

Vas a Rossnowlagh?

Yes, one should: it is a colorful spectacle and perhaps the most menacing Parade of the Orange Order you will ever witness. It may not have the glamor of the big parades in Northern Ireland, but it also doesn’t have an opposing crowd, riot shields, and a few occasional flying bottles.

Get there early: access roads start to jam at 11am with coaches spilling their passengers in the middle of nowhere (actually near the assembly field) or near the center of town, motorhomes looking for the best spaces and individual cars seeking parking. Just follow the signs, we were driven to a field near St. John’s Church and paid a modest fee (and with access controlled by Gardai and Orangemen we felt pretty safe).

If you want to take photos of the Rossnowlagh parade, find a good vantage point – follow the parade route out of town and set up camp where you have the rolling landscape as a background, it gives you a little green behind all those orange frames. also!

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