THE Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland has claimed that it has been the victim of “completely unacceptable and grossly offensive” sectarian abuse.
Last week, a cartoon character created by the Orange Order was spotted during a BBC Newsnight Scotland interview at an Edinburgh school, being used in an poster created to promote literacy.
The teacher who had devised the poster had been completely unaware that the figure, renamed for the frieze as Captain Capital, was in fact Diamond Dan, the Orange Man, a super hero figure created by the Orange Order to win over a new generation of members in Northern Ireland.
Republican organisations and anti-sectarian groups were critical of the use of the figure, stating there had been a lack of care shown in selecting such material.
The Connolly Foundation claimed it was inundated with angry phone calls and e-mails, while its chairman Jim Slaven expressed shock and drew parallels between the Orange Order and the British National Party (BNP) and Ku Klux Klan (KKK). However, last night the Grand Master of the Orange Order, Henry Dunbar, hit back, claiming that the resulting controversy was just the latest in a line of attacks on it.
“On far too many occasions, when our organisation is mentioned, it is tied up in words of abuse and hatred,” he said.
“The issue of the image of the Orange superhero is just the latest example. It is quite clear that this image was used in error by the school concerned and in a non-religious way. However, in statements made to the press about it, our organisation was likened to the BNP or the KKK. We find this completely unacceptable and grossly offensive. We would even ask if these remarks fall under the jurisdiction of a religious hate crime.”
Mr Dunbar insisted that the order stood for “Christian protestant values”, but also supported freedom of religious belief: “We believe this is how it must be in a society that is made up of people from so many different faiths and religious backgrounds.
“However, it seems that not everyone shares the value of religious freedom.”
Mr Dunbar said that, in contrast with Scotland, in Northern Ireland there had been an effort to understand the Orange Order’s place in history: “The approach in Scotland seems to be one of intolerance towards us and an attempt to delete us from society based purely on the grounds of religion.
“What is particularly concerning is that much of the hateful language and suggestions of intolerance seems acceptable to prominent members of Scottish society.
“So once again, it falls to the Orange Order to ask for tolerance of all faiths in Scotland, and to appeal for and end to the language of religious hatred.”
However, Dave Scott, campaign director for the anti-sectarian charity Nil By Mouth, said that both sides of the sectarian divide would benefit from taking a long look at their own behaviour, and stopping the continual “finger-pointing”.
“What happened last week was an honest mistake and, particularly given the track record of some of those involved, maybe its time to stop pointing fingers at each other and try took looking in the mirror instead,” he said.
“Too many people define sectarianism in their own terms and to suit their own ends then refuse to acknowledge how their own attitudes and actions can impact negatively upon others.”