The Irish News operates a subscription service and it is a facsimile of the daily newspaper which lies behind the paywall, rather than a genuine online version, but this (slightly edited) extract provides a summary
[T]he enduring ability of the Orange Order to undermine unionism, whenever it attempts to be constructive or threatens to box clever, (shouldn't be underestimated).
The organisation, which is now considered a stalwart of the Union, took a while to be convinced of its merits. During the first part of the nineteenth century senior Orangemen were zealous advocates of restored Dublin rule. The Act of Union, they feared, would result in a modern form of citizenship, eventually delivering Catholics an entitlement to vote.
They were right of course. But the Order and its allies successfully worked for three decades to delay a measure aimed at quickly reconciling Irish Catholics to their place within the United Kingdom.
Orangemen helped to sustain a nationalist conceit, which persists to this day, that unionism is nothing more than a response to, and a denial of, Ireland’s legitimate national aspirations.
In those early years, Liberals and Peelite Conservatives in Ulster , driven by a positive allegiance to the British state, championed the Union for its ability to deliver Catholic emancipation, a Catholic university and the Reform Act. Orange voices opposed all those things.
Members of the Order were therefore among the most vocal campaigners against the development of a tolerant, modern British state, whose merits they now purport to cherish. And the truth is that its interventions are just as unhelpful today to moderate unionists, who hope to appeal beyond the confines of the Ulster Protestant community.
The Orange Order in South Belfast, for example, recently intervened in the general election campaign, calling for the withdrawal of an articulate young UCUNF candidate, Paula Bradshaw, in favour of the DUP’s rather less dynamic Jimmy Spratt.
And Orange Grand Master, Robert Saulters, has repeatedly attempted to play midwife to a united unionist bloc. He either doesn‘t accept, or doesn‘t care, that any party formed along those lines would have even less chance of attracting liberal or Catholic pro-Union voters, were it brought into existence with Orange help.
Neither is it an accident that the foremost proponents of ’unity’ within the Ulster Unionist party are Orangemen. The most hard-headed fanatic, David McNarry, is unabashed about his belief that unionism is strengthened, rather than limited, when it aligns around a single identity.
But there are also signs of exasperation at the Order’s political interference. Tom Elliott, favourite to become UUP leader and a senior Orangeman himself, has urged the organisation to stay out of politics. No ’unity’ sceptic, Elliott’s heckles were raised nevertheless by Saulters’ repeated interventions.
The Orange Order frequently alleges that it is demonised and, to a degree, it has a point. It is not the ogre of popular myth. As a fraternal organisation it can play a constructive role and it forms an important part of the religious and cultural fabric of communities.
It should not, however, have an active role in unionist politics. Unionist politicians should ignore its demands for a united party and instead concentrate on building a secular and inclusive case for Northern Ireland’s continued participation in the United Kingdom.