It was only social media, but it was not atypical – an expression of horror that the BBC is showing an Orange parade later this month. “This encourages sectarianism” seemed to be the idea. Some suggested it was evidence of “BBC bias” (it was left unclear for whom).
Actually, while they are by no means everybody’s cup of tea, 93% of parades in Northern Ireland are uncontested. Many are displays of community belonging and no small degree of musical talent. Often, participants are there for the spectacle over anything else. Attendees often see it as a community event to catch up with friends and family – usefully half way between Christmas. Yes, under any definition, they are fundamentally “sectarian”, but that does not by any means make all participants outright bigots.
The BBC shows many cultural offerings. Many will appeal to a much more limited group of people than Orange parades. They are part of what it is to live in a diverse, multicultural society.
Here, not for the first time, Liberals (in the broadest sense) are guilty of their own illiberalism. Indeed, the thing which perhaps annoys non-Liberals most about Liberals is they seem to spend their time hectoring disapprovingly rather than presenting a viable vision of what a more truly Liberal society would look like. To make an obvious point, a more Liberal society would probably deliver more, not fewer, opportunities for cultural expression. It is absolutely not a place of further prohibition.
So, what does a more Liberal society look like? It is absolutely not a place where activities get banned because certain people don’t like them. It is in fact a place, given the heritage of Northern Ireland, where “quality parading” is taken more seriously and positively as a concept so that the spectacle and skill come to predominate. There is a balance in all of this cultural expression of course, but the notion the things we don’t much care for are just going to go away is unrealistic and fundamentally illiberal.