I found this a while ago and forgot about it. It seems apposite now, considering that I recently mentioned the fluidity of the labels “Unionism” and “Nationalism”:
Since its formation, the Orange has tended to undermine constructive unionism and bolster its regressive wing. Indeed the Order, which might present itself as a stalwart of the Union now, took a while to be convinced of its merits.
Senior Orangemen were leading proponents of Dublin rule for the first part of the nineteenth century. Government from Westminster threatened to introduce a modern form of citizenship which, they rightly feared,, might even extend the franchise to Catholics.
So the Order stayed neutral on the Union and a substantial section of its leadership actively advocated a return to a Dublin parliament. British allegiance wasn’t allowed to trump anti-Catholic prejudice.
As I said earlier, the underlying ethnic conflict wears whatever clothes are befitting the times.