Call for tolerance as opposition to Orangefest mounts

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Picture credit: Eigenes Bild (M. Hanselmann)

​Anti-sectarian campaigners call for tolerance as opposition mounts to George Square Orange Order festival 

3rd June 2015 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Leading campaigners are urging greater tolerance as opposition mounts against the Orange Order holding a festival in Glasgow’s George square this weekend.

Orangefest, officially sanctioned by Glasgow City Council, aims to raise awareness about the Orange Order’s remit and will be attended by representatives of the Catholic Church, Islamic groups and other faiths.

However, over 17,000 people have so far signed a petition against the planned festival saying they are “sick of their voices going unheard” and holding the leader of Glasgow City Council Gordon Matheson accountable.

It reads: “The people of Glasgow and Scotland are sick of their voices going unheard in relation to sectarian, hate filled orange marches.

“Now we have to put up with Orangefest. We demand that GCC answer to the people of Glasgow as to why this was allowed to go ahead in a city centre location on a busy Saturday.

“Gordon Matheson must be held accountable.”  

Like it or not, the Orange Order belongs to Glasgow - Dr Michael Rosie

Established anti-sectarian campaigners are reluctant to condemn the event whey they say marks an important step in the order’s evolution into becoming more transparent.

They also said Scottish society had to shed more light into inter-cultural relationships.

Dr Michael Rosie who sits on the Independent Advisory Group on Tackling Sectarianism, said a tolerant society meant it had to put up with things it didn’t like.

He added: “And like it or not, the Orange Order belongs to Glasgow.

"Where laws are broken we should act, no matter who breaks them, but where they are not then we should not be in the business of prohibiting free speech and free expression.

"Glasgow Orangemen have listened carefully to criticisms of parades and are attempting to open the doors on what they do and why they do it. It would be all too easy to ignore this opportunity to open meaningful dialogue with this insular and somewhat embattled section of Scottish society.

"All too easy and all too mistaken. We need more light on inter-cultural relationships in Scotland, not more accusation."

Orangefest has been billed as an "opportunity to gain an understanding of the cultural heritage and modus operandi of the Orange Lodge as a whole" with Police Scotland categorising it as “low risk”.

The “cultural and heritage day” is to begin with “a short act of praise and worship”, followed by guest speakers, bands, stalls and “face painting and inflatables” for younger visitors.

Dave Scott, the campaign director for anti-sectarian charity Nil By Mouth, backed Dr Michael Rosie’s view.

He said: “'These type of events always polarise opinion and last year in Glasgow we saw more loyalist and republican marches than took place in Belfast.

“Michael Rosie makes some important points regarding freedom of speech balanced by the need for groups like the Orange Order to evolve, explain themselves to people and consider the feelings of others when they hold their events.”

However, he cautioned: “If this type of initiative is to be seen as anything more than window dressing the order needs to break new ground and meet other members of our society on their own ground including schools and churches.”

A spokesman for the city council said: "People use George Square and other public spaces in Glasgow for a range of events and activities.

“Providing the events are properly planned and don't encourage unlawful behaviour the council is not permitted to simply ban them on the grounds that someone dislike aspects or holds contrary views to the organisers.”