12th July: how was it for you…?

Before getting to the meat of yesterday’s events, I’d like to try and explain what were for me some of the benefits of yesterday’s coverage here on Slugger (though credit for the idea once again must go to the enterprising Mark McGregor). Last week my friend JP Rangaswami hooked out a fascinating quote from Chip Heath of Stanford University written back in 1996 about the way people consume news. It seems we (ie all of us humans) are predisposed to consume news in particular (prejudicial) ways:

…..People typically prefer to pass along central rather than extreme information (i.e. news that is less surprising rather than more surprising). However, when confronted with extreme information, the results support a preference for congruence, that is, people prefer to pass along news that is congruent with the emotional valence of the domain in question. This means that in emotionally negative domains, contrary to some theoretical predictions, people are willing to pass along bad news even when it is exaggeratedly bad. At the same time, however, people transmit exaggeratedly good news in emotionally positive domains…..

Now to yesterday’s Orange demonstrations. We had four people in the Slugger team going from place to place (sometimes with some considerable difficulty). We had seven others in different parts of the country and a larger number of Twitterers (H/Ts to invaluable contributions from Daithi McKay and Niall Ó Donnghaile, who I forgot to mention late last night) helping with other micro detail or simply spreading the word. The idea was in part to get a smart mob rolling, by which I mean a group speaking from different places and different perspectives. Extremes, as Heath might put it, capable of producing a complex real time map of the overall event.

For a first effort I was pleased. For an entirely unfunded project it has immense promise; founded on the back of an heroic effort on the part of some. Not least Belfast Gonzo who found himself on his own making his way to the Crumlin Road at 7.30 last night in the pouring rain on foot and with a flat phone battery (we should see his video footage of the ‘riot’ later today though). Needless to say it is something we would like to be able to scale up considerable next timewith the proper funding in place. If the effort was unpaid, the results were far from amateur.

With the content being ‘devolved to the extremes’ its was my job at the ‘centre’ to co-ordinate and hold it together. From that ‘virtual’ centre several things became apparent about the 12th celebrations that had not been so clear before.

One, is probably only stating the bleedin’ obvious: not much happens. Particularly in rural areas it is all about the esoteric rituals of the lodges and the showmanship of the bands. As Mark put it the field looked like nothing so much as a school fete. This seems particularly true out in the countryside, but the reports we got from the Belfast field also gave the impression that it was more of a day out for the kids. For long stretches of the day, there was nothing more exciting coming in than reports on the state of the weather in different parts of the country.

Two, the Belfast parade and those in the most of the rest of Northern Ireland have a profoundly different character. Scale for one thing. Our Banbridge correspondent, ‘gmcflurry’, was almost as flummoxed by it as Mark was. A strong drinking culture and a residual attachment to paramilitarism was present, if only in relatively small sections of the crowd. And there was some isolated insignia in one feeder parade from east Belfast, indicating that some have not yet heeded the Orange Order’s attempt to provide leadership out of a grimy sectarian past.

Three, it was also obvious that this drinking culture is associated with the parades, the people involved appear to have little to do with the Orangemen themselves. Large crowds were spotted in Shaftesbury Square drinking in public and to excess yesterday afternoon at a time when the Orangemen and the bands were several miles away in the field. What appears to start as good natured and low key celebrations on the ’11th night’ turns fractious and at times abusive by the afternoon of the ’12th’.

Four kind of leads on from three and it’s one that Conall McDevitt raises eloquently in his blog post yesterday. The effects of running a festival, any festival, means there is the inevitable trail of human detritus. The difference is that this festival literally does follow a long trail on which there are too few facilities for thousands of people to make the walk. You simply cannot expect to be welcome where people are seen by locals relieving themselves (in great numbers) on garden walls.

Five, the flash points. There was always going to be trouble in some spots. Niall anticipated tensions in the Short Strand after a memorial was vandalised days before the march, but in the end the trouble there seems to been limited to a few thrown objects and loud chanting… The big rip in fabric was, as anticipated, at the Ardoyne shops. In part that relates to a lack of local agreement on a difficult interface area. But the fact the riot kicked off an hour before the parade actually past possibly meant they’d burned themselves out sufficiently before the Orangemen arrived. It also made it transparently clear that nothing was done by the Orange or their bands to provoke the violence.

Six, the media coverage, on the BBC at least, was possessed of a bizarrely split personality: juddering between tourist board schmalz and an utter distaste for the whole thing. If I were to venture a guess I would say it was less a case of being conflicted than the modern BBC utterly loathing the whole thing within their very hearts and souls. I’ve nothing against Walter Love, but he retired from the BBC years ago as a working journalist. Mark Carruthers’ series of tough questions on Evening Extra last night were all sharp and relevant, and Drew Nelson, one of the ablest men to hold his post of Grand Secretary in modern times, was able to field them with some alacrity.

But you are left with the feeling that at the very least there is a huge emotional vacuum within the BBC. It gave the impression that no one of any ability or talent inside the modern BBC wants to do the job of publicly being nice to the Orange Order. To return to JP’s accute analysis, the Orange Order exists almost entirely as a negative valence in BBCNI’s inner emotional life.

Because the BBC holds a public service broadcasting remit, it has to cover things that perhaps its producers and journalists feel at best ambivalent about, and worst find inimical. It is, to follow Heath, incongruous for the BBC to cover an Orange parade which is not responsible for all the trouble it attracts. And if it does not attract trouble, like the parade in Dromore where demonstrators took their pints in three nationalist owned pubs bedecked with Tyrone flags, it is not news.

Some will see this as some kind of liberal conspiracy. And to some extent I am sure that it is a liberal reaction to what is widely seen as an illiberal movement (despite as Burke’s Corner notes, the Orange has always signified the Whiggish/liberal tendency within Ulster Protestant opinion. The Orange certainly have their own demons, and a past in which members of lodges serially failed to live up to their own stated high moral standards. It also true that the events themselves fluctuate wildly determined by the wider context of Northern Irish society. In times of fear and danger, ‘celebration’ has verged on ‘riotous assembly’, or worse.

But at base, and in the changed context of recent years, it is a fear of a movement many of us simply do not know, whilst many of its insiders take their own discreet knowledge of the boring repetitiveness of ceremony and mild days out in the country as publicly read. The vast majority of yesterday’s activities was an internal affair, much like the local parish fete, or country fare. The antics of Mario, Queen of the Circus in town was a transparent attempt to reach out way beyond the Orange population, and provide them with distinctly non Orange form of entertainment.

If the evidence yesterday is anything to go by, it has a way to go yet. And yet it has also, although liberal opinion has been slow to publicly accept this, come a long way from Drumcree to Mario. Perhaps it is time to fing some way of putting the bitter (and in some case profoundly justified) enmities of the past to rest. And get on with working out how spaces can be safely and civilly shared rather than continuing with the separate development paradigm of the Troubles’ generations…

That, IMHO, can only be achieved by attending to the important details that will make life bearable for those the leaderhip of the Orange Order wishes to attract back out of their fortress homes, or back from temporary refuges in Donegal and other safer, more civil parts of rural Ulster…

As for the BBC moving their big set piece cameras out of their comfort zone in Bedford Street, and down towards Shaftesbury Square might just have a civilising effect on the antics down there. Throw in a few local features too which might help bring a truer picture of why the 12th is important to Orangemen right across Ulster (not just in the Belfast Bubble)…

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  • Chris Donnelly

    Mick
    I’ve just posted my own thread on thoughts regarding this year’s Twelfth.

    Several thoughts strike me about what you’ve posted above.

    1. Yesterday’s roaming commentary was a great idea- well done to Mark, even if at times reading the comments throughout the day (on babysitting duty) reminded me of a holiday in Northampton when forced to watch the live version of Big Brother- not much happened worth remarking about for long periods, but that tells a story in itself.

    Would be a good idea to run with this reporting model again in the future- perhaps the Ulster Final this Sunday is too soon?!? I know I’m going and old Slugger reliables like McGregor, Sammy Morse and others will probably have tickets in hand as we speak…

    2. Don’t agree about the attacks on the BBC. Let’s face it, were the organisation to provide live coverage of a republican band parade then unionist politicians would be outraged; maybe that would provide an answer, though.

    3. The fact that the Orangemen did not arrive for an hour after the start of rioting in Ardoyne does not remove the Order of some culpability for the violence. The very fact they sought out the route was the source of the antagonism, though the rioters obviously take blame for what transpired.

    4. ‘Fear of the unknown’ doesn’t quite work. I know Mark and several others took the bold decision to go to the Field yesterday, but Orange parades of themselves, and what transpires in the lead up to such parades (I cover these in more detail on my thread) are well known to all in this society.

  • Mick Fealty

    Just on point 2 Chris, I think the BBC is simply too unadventurous. We’ve had the same format for 40 years, and the event is not what it appears at Bedford Street. I got a real sense of shift in atmosphere the further you got from the BBC… Cameras might just motivate better behaviour amongst several other considerations of completeness… Something for the Orange to think about as well as the BBC..

  • Sam Flanagan

    Standford University is part of the Tavistock Institute “mind control” project.
    Pity your little project does not have the funding they have! Though the sources of their funding is very questionable.

  • kensei

    If the evidence yesterday is anything to go by, it has a way to go yet. And yet it has also, although liberal opinion has been slow to publicly accept this, come a long way from Drumcree to Mario. Perhaps it is time to fing some way of putting the bitter (and in some case profoundly justified) enmities of the past to rest. And get on with working out how spaces can be safely and civilly shared rather than continuing with the separate development paradigm of the Troubles’ generations…

    Has it really? In Drumcree years the vast majority of demonstrations were exactly as you saw yesterday. Neither the Drumcree parade or the Queen tribute act fundamentally change the nature of the beast.

    It’s still hasn’t dropped the anti-Catholic stuff (despite havig more beef with about a dozen other religions in modern times), though a Scottish Grand Master floated it. It still seeks out parades that are going to ignite controversy. It still dabbles in politics. And still has it’s share of unsavoury behaviour associated with it (and just off it, like some of the stuff that goes on at bonfires.

    There has been a general drift in a good direction. But where exactly is the clause 4 moment? The war is over moment? The decomissioning moment? If the OO wants to make real inroads, then it needs one of those.

    The 12th period is still bluntly, all a bit scary if you kick with the wrong foot. The demonstrations are only part of it. It’s the bonfires going up long before. It’s the flags popping up everywhere. It’s often rather nasty stuff graffitti’d about or painted on the bonfire. It’s the not feeling safe walking too far anywhere. And if you are stuck in all day, terminally boring. If you look at the parades in isolation, you’re missing a lot.

    I’ll be away somewhere again next year, just to be away from it all.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    You simply cannot have anti-catholic marches that dominate a city like Belfast when the majority of residents are Catholic. It is simply outrageous behaviour even leaving aside the paramilitary trappings and loutish behaviour.

    You cannot rebrand sectarianism or racism. Simples.

    ps Did a single member of PoshBoyDC mainland crew show up anywhere for the bigotfest?

  • As a journalist and editor of Northern Irish extraction – though now in London – I was interested in your ‘experiment’ from both the journalistic and the cultural angles.

    What I saw on your coverage represented the contradictions and contrasts of the 12th. The great gaps in the day against a flurry of bands or sporadic incidents of stone throwing.

    It was particularly helpful to have the differnet voices coming through.

    My impression from the coverage was that despite Orangefest the generally feeling of the 12th remains the same and the phots published added to that impression.

    All of which is why I think your approach was worthwhile. It has provoked debate – but also it may have given people a glimpse into what the day really consists of. I was retweeting links during the day for that reason – to bring a flavour of a day that is perhaps shrouded in myth to those not from NI and to share an interesting use of the technology with colleagues and media mavens.

  • Mick Fealty

    Thanks Bro!! Much appreciated. Lots of potential for future development I think. Though it will always rely on ordinary people’s willingness to become involved.

  • Rory Carr

    “…people transmit exaggeratedly good news in emotionally positive domains…..”

    I had never before considered Tottenham as an “emotionally positive domain” but, as I am renowned throughout as a bringer of good cheer, I suppose it must be. If you say so.

  • Brian Walker

    Mick, Your assessment of the BBC’s schizoid approach naturally rings familiar bells. I can’t speak for today’s BBC of course. But BBC OB coverage from the Beford St/Ormeau Avenue corner began in the early 60s before the troubles, in a different climate of fairly unthinking acceptance of the State’s values. It was and remains a colourful show so why not? Once begun, impossible to scrap, even as the climate darkened and the context changed. First as commentator, we had British legion chief Colonel Jimmy Hughes who had personal knowledge and later Walter Love (not a journalist and certainly not a committed figure but a skilful presenter). The stance was straight event ” neutral” commentary which was open to criticism for that very reason. Believe it or not, the OB highlights of the parade aired late at night when the sore feet were resting was called Celebration. At some point – I ‘ve forgotten when – the highlights programme programme was dropped. I always thought that the coverage was awkward though defensible and the commentary was careful not to be over-celebratory. As an OB production, the live relay with three fixed cameras at the same corner for 40 odd years was frankly pretty dire and became more embarrassing as flexible video coverage becam the norm. Today,the grammar of live new coverage can dispose of the schizoprenia. Mobile video technology allows us to add depth and variety. Live coverage no longer necesarily implies editorial approval of the event itself. It would now be possible to combine news with events values head on and cover the lore, colour, music, facinating history and diverse views using mobile as well as fixed cameras. But it would be hugely expensive and I guess there are other priorties. I would welcome a doc on the Twelfth history and experience which asks: Is Orangefest viable? This would encourage all sides to review their assumptions and prejudices. And I would welcome an imaginative news feature style reflective look back on the day. BBC NI has the editorial skill to make it. And after all whatever you think of it, The Twelfth remains quite an event.

  • jone

    Brian,

    Are you sure the highlights programme was dropped?

    Because the half hour offering below looks very much like one.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00lpk5s/BBC_Newsline_BBC_Newsline_Special_Twelfth_Special/?src=a_syn30

  • frustrated democrat

    Sammy

    I understand from the live blog that the Shadow Secretary of State was in Belfast yesterday observing the parades, persumably as part of the briefing for his possible elevation to Secretary of State.

    So your point was?

  • Mark McGregor

    Chris,

    Would be a good idea to run with this reporting model again in the future- perhaps the Ulster Final this Sunday is too soon?!? I know I’m going and old Slugger reliables like McGregor, Sammy Morse and others will probably have tickets in hand as we speak…

    Give me a shout. I’m up for doing it on Sunday – we need someone to run the Live Blog at base though.

  • Mick Fealty

    I would be happy to do that, but I’m away at a festival when the happy day beckons… I can set it up but you have to grant people permission to comment at base…

    The more people Twitter though the easier is to manage the comment en mass…

  • Brian Walker

    jone, Sorry, I was speaking from memory and from London, not from the schedules. It certainly was dropped but must have been reivied.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    frustrated democrat,

    I was pondering on the possibility that a Tory could risk his political neck by assosciating himself with a sectarian-festival-cult that most of the senior members of his sister-crypto-party the Ulster Unionists are cult members of.

    It is a total disgrace that any mainland party wishing to align itself with a Norn Iron party should give succour to the bigots that belong to the Orange order by allowing them to stay within that sister party. The fact that they give such succour at the same time as claiming they are ending tribal-sectarianism is also one of unfunniest bad Irish political jokes you are likely to hear in a month of sectarian marching sundays.

  • Andrew Charles

    Mick … here’s my two cents …

    I write this piece in contribution to the ongoing discussion and debate here about yesterdays Twelfth. Firstly I thought that it was one of the most successful days for the Orange Order in recent years. After Drumcree in the mid-1990s spectators (particularly middle-classes) dwindled; however yesterday as the procession came up through the bottom of Royal Avenue and into the city centre it was clear that the town was busy. The shops hadn’t opened yet so there was only one reason why people had lined the streets – to see the parade. The city was full of spectators to include many tourists. I witnessed Police remove alcohol from several spectators’ which was a good sight to see. As the procession moved up Bedford Street and the Lisburn Road to the field at Barnetts Park the crowds hardly dwindled with the acceptation of perhaps Balmoral Avenue where there were a few more people than previous years but it was the lowest spectator turnout.

    The Belfast field is what it usually is. People having fun, eating lunch and children playing on bouncy castles. For the second year running I did not see any flags of a paramilitary nature.

    My own lodge Royal York LOL 145 organises a tent where we cater for up to one hundred people. This year we had our usual visitors who come annually including journalists as well as two men of the cloth this year.

    I understand that drinking goes on, on the day but when and where does it not? For example on St. Patricks Day and Gay Pride. I have spoken to people involved in such events and they themselves recognise this. Furthermore it is the job of the Police, not the Orange Order to enforce the law. Orangemen are requested to look after their members and any bands with them who may consume too much alcohol but it is not the duty of the Order to enforce the public drinking laws. Indeed after every Twelfth any bands believed to have broken rules are suspended or banned from future use at District level. Orangemen believed to have fallen out of line should be disciplined within the lodge. That is within the rules.

    In conclusion the Twelfth is essentially the most popular day in the cultural calender of Northern Ireland and Belfast as our capital city maintains a Unionist majority. People come not just from Belfast but from outlying areas to watch one of the biggest parades in the UK and indeed one of the biggest Orange displays in the world.

  • RepublicanStones

    ‘ and indeed one of the biggest Orange displays in the world.’

    Wow, you make it sound like every city in world has an Orange celebration.

    As regards my experience this year, it seemed very subduded. Spent the 11th night in the southside of the city and drove back to the northside in the early afternooon on Sunday, didn’t see much in the way of litter or stragglers headin home. (Did the city bonnys light on sat night or Sun? ) Was back in Tyrone on Sun evening and with the major event being in little old Coagh on Monday, Dungannon and Cookstown both seemed very quiet.

  • John Anon

    I am a 20 something who has grown up in South Belfast. Yesterday was the first occasion I had ever been in Belfast for the “Twelfth”!!
    I returned from the Country around 6pm in the evening to find every access route to my home blocked (Balmoral Avenue, Lisburn Road and Malone Road). When I eventually got access to the private road in which I live I was dismayed to find a number of loyalist “spectators” parked on this private road. Their empty drink bottles were still evident this morning. When I drove along the Lisburn Road today, a large number of empty drink bottles and cans were still littering the area. This is an area were it is an offence to consume alcohol in a public place…. Were any of the drinkers prosecuted? If not, why not?
    The Malone Road is a mixed (although now predominately Catholic) middle class area. It is simply unacceptable that Loyalism is allowed to besiege an area like this in this day and age.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Andy old bean,

    re. Belfast and “maintains a Unionist majority”.

    It must be the only city in the world where the minority popuplation holds a hate-fest in a city against the majority of its citizens.

  • Rory Carr

    “I understand that drinking goes on, on the day but when and where does it not? For example on St. Patricks Day and Gay Pride.” – Andrew Charles

    My God! Drinking at St Patrick’s Day and Gay Pride celebrations! This kind of thing must be nipped in the bud as it could lead to all kind of things – singing and céilí dancing and men kissing each other and what have you.

    Stop it now and save civilisation from ruin, I say.

  • Rory Carr

    Actually to be serious on the matter of public consumption of alcohol and what John Anon referred to above as “… area[s] were it is an offence to consume alcohol in a public place” I should point out that, in England and Wales at least, under The Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 the law does not alllow for a zone to be designated as alcohol-free nor for a council to impose penalties nor for powers of confiscation of alcohol by police., although many councils and police forces act as though the law gives them that power.

    What really happens is that councils designate particular areas as Designated Public Places (DPP’s) in which alcohol can still be consumed in public but where anti-social behaviour associated with such consumption will not be tolerated. The Home Office is clear in its guidance that a DPP should never be referred to as an Alcohol Free Zone as such a term is misleading and further that the placing of signs depicting a bottle, a can and a glass crossed through with a red line should be avoided.

    I am sure that there are many of us that have been to open-air festivals in towns and cities throughout these islands and indeed throughout the world where the consumption of alcohol was almost de rigeur and which only lent an air of jolliness and bon ami to the whole day’s proceedings.

    It is not the good drink that is the problem it is the behaviour of the bad drinkers. It is bad enough that we must suffer their anti-social behaviour but that we should pay for it by having the pleasure of conviviality among well behaved citizens curtailed on account of their misdeeds is a bloody bit too much in my opinion.

    Cheers! Hic!

  • Frustrated democrat

    Sammy

    Do you actualy read the bile that you write? Your hate is akin to the hate the most extreme of the loyalists have for Catholics.

    It just isn’t healthy to have that much frustration inside anyone, especially since most of it is caused by the fantasies you seem to have in your mind about protestants and or Unionists that have no foundation.

    I note others seem to have pointed out similar problems with your posts and worry you may be coming delusional.

  • slug

    Anyone ever lived in NottingHill during the Carnival?

  • Ulsters my homeland

    I enjoyed the twelfth.

  • John Anon

    In response to “Rory Carr”. I’m sure you accept that The Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 doesn’t apply here. Furthermore any guidance the Home Office may issue applies to England and Wales not here.

    The Lisburn Road is an area which has been designated a public place in which it is an offence to consume alcohol. This law is based upon Statute and Common Law. It is “good” law to use layman’s terms. If the law exists then why isn’t it being enforced.

    The issue of public drinking, particularly in relation to festivals is a wider debate. The unrestrained sectarian triumphant parade of Loyalism through a mixed middle class area is not a festival in the context of “open air festivals” throughout the world, at which may of us enjoy a drink!!

  • London eye

    “Anyone ever lived in NottingHill during the Carnival?”

    and not an Orangeman in sight, pure luxury.

  • Andrew Charles

    John Anon

    Yes I sympathise with you but how do you stop this kinda thing?

    One observation was the lack of portaloos however as with any public event management is the key.

    People are going to drink, ofcourse they are … but its up to the law enforcers to confiscate and prosecute.

  • Mick Fealty

    Indeed John, Rory. Don’t hold your breath for any effective legislation on the matter any time soon either.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Frustrated Democrat,

    pesonal abuse aint going to deflect from the simple proposition that the Orange Order is anti-Catholic – are you saying it is not?

    The Tory party are happy that its sister party has most of its senior members belonging to a blatantly sectarain organsiation which these members freely use as an excuse for not attending Catholic funerals of murdered consituents.

    You can dress it up as you like – this behaviour would not be tolerated by Tory members in Shropshire – it should not be tolerated in Norn Iron. The only reason PoshBoyDC has not insisted on anti-sectarain standards for the UU is becasue he would lose most of the top players.

    Many ordinary decent Prods want nothing to do with the Orange order because of its sectarianism and we should expect the same from all political parties and particulalry those from the mainland who lecture us on the subject.

    If you have a culture based on hatred and bigotry then tough titties – you simply have to change it.

  • Can I add my support to comments aleeady made by others on the live reporting. It’s an excellent idea and definitely adds to the historical record as well as bringing new perspectives to what is a day so often reported by formula.

    The Ulster Final seems like a great opp to give it another run out.

    Conall

  • Secret Squirrel

    London eye : “Anyone ever lived in NottingHill during the Carnival ?”

    ‘ Used to go on the piss in Shepherds Bush and Lancaster Gate quite often. And rarely to, I think it was The Raj’, at the bottom of the Grove nearer Holland Park. Absolutely fab’. :o)

  • frustrated democrat

    Sammy

    I was not personally attacking you I was questioning the things you were saying and the views you hold.

    I have nothing to do with the OO, however it is a legal organisation many of whose members have deeply held religious convictions and since it is a protestant organisation it must, de facto, be sectarian in its views.

    The Catholic church also has deeeply held religious convictions which are also sectarian, see for example:-

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article2056515.ece

    http://www.thetrumpet.com/?q=4137.2327.0.0

    Both are entitled to their views that the other is not a proper church/religion without fear of persecution or violence.

    I may disagree with both but it does not mean that I would not talk to or work with members of both organisations because of their deeply held convictions, I will work quite happily with anyone who does not support or apologise for sectarian violence.

    The question is would you?

  • Cushy Glenn

    “The Tory party are happy that its sister party has most of its senior members belonging to a blatantly sectarain organsiation which these members freely use as an excuse for not attending Catholic funerals of murdered consituents.”

    Er… not exactly. I’m no defender of the UUP, but apart from Reg and his funereal chairman David Campbell none of the UUP leadership are Orangemen, and only a minority of the assembly team – mostly the good ol boys from rural areas- are members. Tom Elliott is the only MLA to hold senior office in the orange these days, as Fermanagh County Grand Master – and as we know Fermanagh’s is traditionally the most conservative Unionist community.

    Loads of groups are “blatantly sectarian”, and in loads of ways. It’s just a fact of life, and if constrained within civilised limits is perfectly harmless. The Tories are falling over themselves to get Muslim, Sikh and Hindu candidates, as are all the other parties. None of those religions is renowned for its ecumenical spirit.
    You might prefer us all to be Guardian reading tofu munching Obama fans, but I like difference.That’s why my Catholic mate was bantering me on Monday as he watched the parade, and I’m going to give him grief when his Londonderry team gets stuffed in the Gaelic this weekend

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Frustrated Democrat,

    if you sugggest someone is becoming delusional it is silly to then suggest ” was not personally attacking you I was questioning the things you were saying and the views you hold.”

    Also you are in a bit of muddle re. the OO – you cannot compare a religion to a social political cultural group.

    Cushy Glenn,

    “Loads of groups are “blatantly sectarian”, Whataboutery or what? You cannot seriously put that arguement forward as a defence?

    So apart from the chairman and the leader and a sizeable number of AMs the UU dont belong to a sectarian organisation – do you think that proud record would be tolerated by the Tories if it related to an anti-black or anti-asian organisation? The OO is a blatantly sectraian ie anti-Catholic organisation. Is there anywhere else in the world where a minority in a city effectively take it over to have anti-majority series of marches?

  • Erasmus

    FD.
    The Catholic Church does not have an imperative to resist ‘Protestant encroachment’. It does not burden its members with an imperative to proselytise Protestants. It does not kick you out for marrying a Protestant or attending Protestant religious services.

  • Paul

    This will probably be in several parts. I’ll put the first two up now and leave the rest until tomorrow.

    I’ve been asked by one of the people here to give my own experience of the Twelfth as an outsider. I’d been to the Apprentice Boys parades in Southport both last year and this but had no experience of the Northern Irish Protestant parades aside from what I’d read from the informative articles here. The Loyal Orders are rather sidelined in Merseyside – Northern Irish-style sectarianism has essentially evaporated there apart from a few diehards I believe. I think it’s seen more as either a curiosity or a bit of an eyesore among most Southport residents.

    Part 1:

    This was my first time in Northern Ireland, though I have taken an interest in its affairs for a couple of years now. In truth I came over for the 12th July celebrations (held on the 13th this year in Belfast) but packed a lot into five days and will visit again. The people of Northern Ireland – unionist and nationalist – are surprisingly friendly people. I’d go as far as to say that Northern Ireland has a massive image problem on the mainland.

    By that I mean that when people think of Northern Ireland they think of murderous republican fanatics and Orangemen demanding to walk down roads where they are wanted by nobody and provoking riots as a result. I’ve had heated discussions in the pub about the Province since I’ve got back and they will not accept that Northern Ireland is fundamentally a safe place but with a few problems due to the decades-long political conflict it’s doing its very best to recover from. They think that if they come to Belfast they’ll be attacked by republicans just for being English. Telling them that they’d have to say some pretty stupid things or wander into some fairly obviously dangerous places cuts no ice with them. Northern Ireland is no more threatening to personal safety than the rest of the UK as long as you know where you’re going. Sensible, rational thought cuts no ice when they’re constantly being told that Belfast is rioting.

    Now, on to the Twelfth itself.

    How was my day? Well…

    I got up, went down to the breakfast room at my hotel in the University area for breakfast. The entire place was filled to bursting with Scottish bandsmen and supporters. I wasn’t in the best of moods due to the drunken bandsmen from Glasgow in the next room keeping us awake for most of the night.

    Anyway, breakfast was done and dusted and we marched out the door to the parade spot on Dublin Road. What a lovely day for a walk, I thought. I bet the Orangemen marching in Belfast on that Monday morning thought so too after all the reports of bad weather.

    It took a while for the parade to get going but people (mostly Northern Irish but a lot of Scottish too and even a few tourists like myself) assembled. I was stood outside the Tesco Express and the amount of booze being bought so early in the morning was frankly staggering and I am no prude and can drink with the best of them when it comes to booze.

    The parade started and we were treated to over 60+ bands. There were a few excellent flute bands in attendance but these were wasted due to not being able to hear them and the excessively fast walking pace. These music makers are at their best when there’s no rush. Also, a number of the bands (that I won’t name) appeared thuggish with the rough-looking tattoos, constant attempts to hide their faces from the camera in the middle of a city centre demonstration and the hints to Loyalist paramilitary gangs. When you’ve seen five or ten bands banging their drums that hard that they break you begin to tire of it a little. Also a lot of the bands sounded nearly identical, playing the same few tunes over and over and they weren’t crowd-pleasing loyal airs.

    The amount of drinking I saw in the streets really cannot be underestimated. I know that the local police make a show of confiscating drinks but this surprised me even as someone that likes a drink and does drink in public occasionally. I suspect the general ethos of the PSNI on the big day was that if they’re not round City Hall leave them to it’. As I say, I watched what must have been two or three hundred people bringing out cans and bottles – not just the spectators but band members too and in some cases boxes of the stuff. It was then that I realised that a lot of these people had simply been drinking all night even before the bonfires had gone up.

    After the parade had passed the point all that was left as the people dispersed was an almighty amount of rubbish. It was almost unbelievable. I passed the next day on our way back to England and it had all been cleaned up too but going by this experience I can see why people in English towns have their reservations towards these parades – excellent as some of them can be.

  • Paul

    Part 2:

    After that I walked back to I was staying and went into a bottle shop on Botanic Avenue. Some people were buying cans but the moment had passed. I then sauntered to Botanic Gardens. Frankly, it was another world down there and you’d never know there had been a contentious city-centre politically-charged parade had been on. There were local students talking to foreign students, people picnicking and people just enjoying the wonderful sun. It was quite a sharp and sudden contrast and took a minute or two to get used to.

    I walked round the gardens for a bit and then went back to the hotel to doss for a few hours.

    Later on we went out for something to eat and heard the flutes and drums. We caught the end of the parade coming back down Shaftesbury Square. Again, the amount of drunkenness going on with the PSNI just standing there and watching was a bit unsettling. I stood behind three absolutely wrecked middle-aged women who could hardly stand up and kept bumping into me. I watched them leave and then made a quick exit as I could and went back down Botanic Avenue as I surmised that there would probably be quite a bit of trouble with drunken louts in the town centre later on in the evening.

    We went to the Imperial City restaurant – not fancy, just a fill up and fuck off type joint. Again, the place quickly filled up with very fat Glaswegians – women and men. The guy who sat next to us must have been 30st and was a pretty repulsive character – racially insulting the Chinese under his breath and acting like a horrid character. I grinned when the waiter serving him asked when he’d be going back to Scotland. Anyway, the food is alright there and the Chinese definitely know what they’re at – top people. The Chinese are among the nicest and most respectful people I’ve met in my experience. That and a fierce business streak is why they did so well. You only have to look at the experience of Hong Kong under the British and the present-day People’s Republic of China (despite the terrible corruption, brutality and repression inherent in their system) to realise this.

    Anyway, after having a good feed we went back to our hotel room where we finished off the last of the dreadful industrial cider we had purchased earlier and watched the Twelfth highlights on TV. I found the highlights so stultifying in their dullness as to make it unreal. Here is a potentially very interesting subjects with lots of room for showing the most exciting highlights of the antics of the marchers and the often excellent bands and baton-twirlers along with intelligent political commentary and what do they do? Have endless talking heads on saying what a good day out they’re having and isn’t it great and look at this Ghanaian Orangeman saying he’s having a great time while clearly not having a clue what’s going on in an environment so far from home and alien to him. It turns something that is the highlight of the year for much of the Protestant/Unionist into something terminally dull. More talking head-fest than Orangefest. I was fascinated by the parades themselves but I had to switch the highlights show off after 15 minutes as I was dying from the sheer tedium.

    Then I finished the last of the alcoholic gunk with hints of apple in it and tried to fall asleep and failing for quite some time due to the humid heat of the night.