Miss Fitz’s twelfth

Having read Fair Deal’s ‘brief’ account of his 12th day, I was prompted to counter with mine. One of the true values of Slugger is this ability to allow contrasting views, so I shall be as honest and forthright as he was. I was out at bonfires last night, and went to bed about 2 o’clock this morning. When the alarm rang at 7am, I was very inclined to remain in bed or at the very least plead death. But I forced myself up and found my cleanest dirty shirt to put on. I walked the dog on the beach in Rostrevor, and left the village that had little idea of what the day means to so many others. I sped to Belfast, praying that the PSNI were otherwise engaged and arrived in East Belfast.

For the past 7 years, I have observed and monitored parades in Northern Ireland. My views on this site are personal reflections, and do not in any way reflect on any public body or group.

The Short Strand and Newtownards Road area were relatively quiet, and I noticed several things. For one, there was a lot less alcohol on the ground. This was different to years gone by when you would see dozens of people drunk and drinking at 8 am. That was not the case this year. I popped into St Matthews first, not for anything political, they have a very handy loo that I avail of quite frequently. The Peelers were out in force, and had new ‘screens’ to shield one side looking at the other. They resembled shower curtains, but I was told they cost fortunes. Another thing I noticed, and not jus there, was the lack of UVF flags in general. The majority of flags were Union and Ulster, and it looks and feels a whole lot better. Please keep it up.

The Parade set off in good time, and by the time it came around to the Short Strand, a large crowd had gathered. There was a small protest group, international observers and observers from other organisations. I believe the Oversight Commision may also have popped by.

Not everyone will be happy with any parade, and in my position you have to be able to listen and sympathise with all of the grievances, no matter how small or large you secretly feel they might be. All other things aside, it was a good parade and it felt like all sides had made good efforts.

My colleagues and I retired to the Holiday Inn for coffee and croissants, and a good chat about the morning. Home for a couple of hours, with a bit of laundry and cooking to be done! Back to Belfast for 5 pm, and watch the parade coming back to Shaftesbury Square. In my opinion, it was a much smaller crowd this year, although the same amount of drink and yobbery.

In the Short Strand for 6.30, and a long wait until all were back at 7.30. Good police operation, and overall a good return. Full marks to everyone who contributed on each side to ensure a peaceful and trouble free return.

Home at 10pm, to a Chinese and a bottle of wine.

Fair Deal does the marching and I do the watching. No one is ever fully satisfied, but there is reason to hope that we can all co-exist happily and peacefully. There is still work to be done, but I was very impressed this year at the level of commitment from all sides. Perhaps better times really do lay ahead.