The Glorious 12th in Belfast

Slightly inspired by Drumlins Rock piece ‘The Marching Season – What’s it all about?’ I decided to conduct a little [non scientific] research of my own on the Belfast parade today. When collating the results below we took the respondents answers and categorised them into one of a number of set replies. Armed with clipboard in hand and my wingman for the day DMcC we surveyed just over 100 people at the event to see what they thought of the spectacle…Results follow,

1. How often would you say you attend the 12th July Parade?

Every year 65%

Most years 25%

Seldom 3%

First time 7%

Overwhelming it seems that spectators are ‘as loyal’ as the marchers in their attendance of the event with 90% going to the parade most years.

2. What does the 12th mean to you?

It’s just tradition 34%

Part of my Protestant Culture 36%

Celebration of historic victory 3%

It’s part of a religious festival 5%

Just a good day out / holiday 20%

Other 2%

On this question few people mentioned past victories or the religious nature of the event but the figure of one in five thinking of it as a ‘good day out’ indicates that maybe some people are buying in to the Orangefest concept and attending the spectacle without directly supporting the concepts behind it.

3. Why have you come to watch the Twelfth today?

Family or friends are parading 25%

It’s a family day out 42%

I’m celebrating my heritage 20%

Cause we always do 8%

Other 5%

I’m sure you can analyse these results in any number of ways. I personally was slightly surprised at the number of families attending and also the fact that nearly 50% of respondents saw it primarily as a ‘family day out’.

I noticed quite a police presence at the bottom of the Lisburn Road [where the survey was carried out] and there certainly was enforcement of the no alcohol policy. The PSNI had even brought two blue wheelie bins for the confiscated bottles but were getting little action. Anecdotally, of the people I surveyed about 5-10% were either drinking or had some alcohol in the vicinity.

I would imagine different results would be found if the survey took place at a country demonstration and perhaps next year we’ll repeat the exercise and see what those differences are. We told all respondents that we were conducting research for a political and cultural blog site called Slugger O’Toole. Only 1 person mentioned Slugger as ‘full of taigs’ [oh well]

I’m aware that the results are not overly insightful but they do give some notion of how often people go to the twelfth, why they go and how they identify with it.

  • stewart1

    Did you ask about the use of paramilitary banners at parades?

  • TheHorse

    Most media outlets are trying to portray the same opinion ” A great family day out” and I suppose they are right if you were a protestant, maybe you should have asked, ” Do you agree with the Orange Orders opinion of the catholic religion”.

  • Michael

    The drunk middle aged millie interviewed on the BBC news summoned it up great.

    Isss brillaunt
    luk, luk at all these hir pepil
    ler all prosant
    all le prosant pepil all out at le same time

  • Michael
  • RepublicanStones

    You decided to do a survey and asked 3 questions which would make even Pat Kenny blush at their sympathetic simplicity???!!!

  • vanhelsing

    Like I said in the piece it wasn’t meant to be a psychometric analysis of those attending the demonstration but rather a piece on simply why people were there and to that it gives some insight.

  • The Raven

    He gave it a go, RS, give him some credit.

    You’ve a year to make a better go of it next year, and get in some people’s faces with more incisive questions which, if asked with that tone of yours, will get you a nice silence, or a kick in your republican stones.

    Better still, walk a mile or two in some of their shoes, and then ask the questions.

    Harrumph. Fair play, VH.

  • joeCanuck

    Churlish, RS. Take a deep breath and repost. Nice efort VH.

  • vanhelsing

    disgraceful…and not representative…

  • Michael

    ofc it’s not

  • RepublicanStones

    Better still, walk a mile or two in some of their shoes, and then ask the questions.

    I grew up with an annual parade outside my front door every year. What would walking a mile or two with an orange scarf on add to?

  • RepublicanStones

    I think this little snippet demonstrates the range of opinions about and reasons for partaking in the Twelfth.

  • Michael


    As good at the ole PR as the portadown orangeman with the SS and white power tattoos on the week long channel 4 series of reports.

  • vanhelsing

    quality reporting and nicely edited of course as anyone with any brain would realise who listened all the way through it reminisent of Ali G in it’s level of reporting in fact…No wait actually more Riefenstahlesque I think.

  • stewart1

    Is the Ulster First Flute band representative of today’s parades?

    Is the logo on their drum representative of orange order parades?

    I won’t link to the band as the post may end up ‘awaiting moderation’ for some reason!

  • Drumlin Rock

    Hey Vanhelsing, didnt think anyone would actually do a survey, but good on you, interesting if more or less expected results, of course going by most of those who have commented you should have asked “do you attend to show how much you hate Catholics?” but then they wouldnt accept any answer if it was less than 95%.
    The only hatred I have witnessed today is on here, a verbal form of whats going on in Ardoyne. I’m off to bed and up early for Scarva tomorrow, possibly the biggest annual single event in Northern Ireland, have fun!

  • Hopping the Border

    would you have a link for that Michael?

  • Oracle

    Hope they enjoyed their day,

    I passed quite a few on the Lisburn road today who were well and truely “whanged to fuck” I’d be an ugly munter instead of the handsome bastard that I am if those same folks can remember a single thing from today.

    Also is UTV taking the piss… in tonights report they tried to claim that 250,000 people would be either parading or watching in Belfast today……. wise da fuck up guys… just wise da fuck up

  • Michael

    It was a few years back, a c4 documentary that they ‘serialized’ on C4 news for a week.
    Ivan Hewitt was the guys name iirc.
    He was big on his OO and WP.

  • joeCanuck

    (Lazy?) journalistic licence. Probably that many saw something of it on the TV news at least.

  • vanhelsing

    I’d imagine anything less than 95% to that question and they’d have claimed I faked the results 🙂 Of course by the comments here the BBC and UTV are also apparently in on the conspiracy and we all know how much the love the Loyal Orders…hehe

  • Michael


  • Rathcoole resident

    So you also would have noticed the lack of flags , hats and other stuff we normally buy from street traders on the 12th due to the over zealous council jobsworths dishing out tickets to the street traders.Why market the 12th as orangefest and a family day out if the council is going out of their way to spoil things.
    Roll on the public spending cuts that will hopefully remove the funding these otherwise unemployable unsmiling gits rely on.

  • New Times New Approach

    Supposing it actually was 95%. Would it change any of your views? Which ones?

  • tinkerbell

    Might have been useful to do a door-to- door survey of people who lived near the routes but did not attend the march. Sampled participants are buying into the concept of Orangefest – what a surprise. Relabelling something doesn’t make it right. For many the 12th July is a boring day, when you can’t even get a regular bus into the city centre, and have to listen to the boom of the drums for hours when you open your window or sit in your garden. Followed by television coverage of the event in the evening. The future is Orange? I hope not.

  • Greenflag

    The niqab and burka are widely seen in France as threats to women’s rights and the secular nature of the state.

    Parliament passed a resolution in May describing the wearing of the full veil as an “attack on dignity and equality between men and women”, and “contrary to the values of the [French] Republic”.

    And so to

    ‘The Orange Order parades and wearing of sashes by drunken yobos and bowler hatted baldies is widely seen in Northern Ireland as a threat to the Irish nationalist population i.e almost half the population . They are also a threat to the power sharing agreement on which the present NI State is based in that they provoke disorder particularly in areas where they are not wanted .

    The wearing of the full sash and parading of offensive regalia can be seen as an attack on dignity and equality as between Catholics and Protestants in the United Kingdom and more particularly Northern Ireland? and are contrary to the ‘values’ of the present UK ? or are they ?

    On the other hand -maybe it’s just a day out and an excuse for a piss up with a little religion and hows your father thrown in ?

    We don’t complain about the ochre painted Masai hopping up and down with their long spears or the nose boned Papaun New Guineans so why should we complain about ‘orange culture ‘ ? Admittedly the ochre painted Masai and the nose boned Papuan’s are not marching through our ‘neighbourhood ‘

    The ‘cult’ orangeman has yet to learn that ‘absence’ makes the heart grow fonder . The farther they stay away from ‘interface ‘ areas they better they will be perceived by the other half of the NI population or the other 85% of people on this island who do not share the OO’s peculiar combination of 17th century religion and modern day political posturing .

  • vanhelsing


    Apprec your point but the idea was just to get some sense of how the ‘watchers’ identified with the 12th. I guess you don’t like the 12th too much but some really do and they consider it part of their heritage…


  • vanhelsing


    Interesting argument but a couple of points,

    Firstly contentious parades form less than 5% of overall marches and don’t really egress into many unfriendly neighbourhoods.

    Secondly ‘85% of people on this island’ isn’t relevant because sections 2 and 3 aren’t there anymore and we live under a UK constitution.

    The post was not about parading but about why people attend parades. Clearly many people identify with the 12th as part of their cultural identity and whilst obviously some people aren’t happy with it – they’re not very pragmatic with it..

    Go on holiday, go fishing for the day, hire something from xtravision or [if you’re a rioter – riot in your own area for the day].

    Most of my Catholic friends from work head off the foreign climes and don’t make a big deal of it – in fact don’t make any deal of it at all…

  • Didlee D O’Squat

    Of course every single Orangeman is a drunken uneducated chav thug sporting Nazi tattoos who parades with the sole intention to insult Catholics.

    Just in the same way that every GAA supporter is a drunken uneduated chav thug sporting IRA tattoos who likes their sport to be organised violent punch ups where the referee is fair game and there is a ball lying about somewhere.

  • Danny

    Sport is sport, antagonistic sectarian disruptions of everyone (except most of the marchers, no doubt)’s working week in order to celebrate the raping, pillaging and murder of natives by an unwanted, invading force that happened centurys ago and has zero relevance today are antagonistic sectarian distru… you get the idea.

  • vanhelsing

    danny ——— ‘in order to celebrate the raping, pillaging and murder of natives by an unwanted, invading force that happened centurys ago’———–

    Without wanting to dabble in whataboutery I wouldn’t agree that Williams army came over to rape pillage and murder – although I do believe that some of them were in the KKK apparently… Obviously James’ forces were all choir boys 🙂

    In terms of unwanted, invading – if my history serves me correctly he certainly was wanted in Ulster and if Séamus an Chaca wasn’t such a weed perhaps the Jacobite forces might have won…

  • Greenflag

    ‘Firstly contentious parades form less than 5% of overall marches’

    Fine then let the OO and the locals sort it out with the help of the Parades body . Surely it’s possible ?

    ‘Secondly ’85% of people on this island’ isn’t relevant because sections 2 and 3 aren’t there anymore and we live under a UK constitution.’

    It’s very relevant . How the OO behaves and presents itself is important to all protestants in all of Ireland -North and South and how ‘protestantism ‘ is perceived by the 85% non protestant population .

    You may say that Orange order does’nt give a damn about how others perceive their never ending marches for three months every summer . I agree . They don’t . Which is why they attract the ‘hate’ of a large section of the population .

    If you want to make a friend of your neighbour it does’nt do to piss against his door or to shout obscenities at any and all catholics while puking and vomiting up and down the town .

    ‘ in fact don’t make any deal of it at all…’

    I’m sure they don’t . They probably gave up making any deal about it before you were born . But that mistake that for ‘acceptance ‘ of the Orange Order . T’would be like mistaking the pox for a pimple 😉

    Congratulations on your survey the results of which I found unsurprising . I hope that some day it does turn into a genuine ‘orangefest ‘ which the other half of the NI population will not feel alienated from . This would however require the kinds of political and marketing and persuasional skills which have not ever sfaik been seen or heard of in the OO .

    Nobody was killed this year although that horrific attack on the policewoman was a near thing .

  • Greenflag

    van helsing

    For your sterling efforts here are some appropriate tunes 😉

    And some more with a local NI content 😉

  • vanhelsing

    greenf – ‘I hope that some day it does turn into a genuine ‘orangefest ‘ which the other half of the NI population will not feel alienated from’

    the problem with this is that some people will always want to be offended – on both sides.

    ‘You may say that Orange order does’nt give a damn about how others perceive their never ending marches for three months every summer . I agree . They don’t . Which is why they attract the ‘hate’ of a large section of the population’

    I didn’t say that and to be fair there aren’t never ending marches…the Loyal Orders do need to be more proactive at changing the image of the 12th to be more inclusive

    We do agree that there has to be local agreement and if people want to protest – that’s fine – that’s their democratic right but the Ardoyne feeder was agreed by the parades comm and even then some people hijacked the protest and we’ve all scene the results….

  • vanhelsing – like DR the other day, and despite the criticism, it’s an interesting read. As far as I can tell, you guys are trying to get the story across that, for the vast majority of people attending parades etc, this is just about community etc. It seems that most people on both sides even agree that only a small percentage of parades are ‘contentious’.
    There is a credibility gap here in that, for the vast majority of Catholics (since religion is a defining label here) their experience is probably one of the contentious marches (in the 80s and 90s the Tour of the North pretty much had nationalist areas of North Belfast under curfew for 24-36 hours), while, from what you are saying, for most Protestants, their experience is one of the non-contentious ones. Hence the lack of mutual comprehension.
    To those who are (by constitution) excluded from membership of the likes of the Orange Order, the behaviours they see with their own eyes are what defines it. You are going to have a hard job convincing them that, in a some quiet field in Cullybackey it’s all just Union Jack cupcakes and concentrated Sunny D.

  • tinkerbell

    RE: Tink,

    Apprec your point but the idea was just to get some sense of how the ‘watchers’ identified with the 12th. I guess you don’t like the 12th too much but some really do and they consider it part of their heritage…


    It is clear everyone appreciates the limitations of your spontaneous survey. Ironically the 12th is also part of the nationalist communities heritage, albeit from a different perspective, Subjectively, I still feel ‘held hostage’ to it. It is an ingrained event in our limited personal historical memories but for different reasons. Isn’t this the core of the matter? We have a joint heritage even if our roots are different. To move forward surely we have to question those traditions which pour salts into wounds instead of healing. Marketing events (orange or green) which bear the distinct hallmarks of specific and segregated political culture values of our communities as a event for everyone to enjoy is a fallacy. Given this year’s events, it won’t do much for tourism either. There must be a better way forward.

  • Greenflag

    Moderation ???

    Sorry the commentary on the first link is in German – theres nothing in it that should upset anybody just details of the bands members other professions /jobs etc etc ..

    Let there be no panic 😉

  • vanhelsing


    Lilly Bolero/ The White Cockade – truly cross community – I applaud your efforts – very much enjoyed the piece 🙂

    Not sure I can match that but what about Cill Dálua or Killaloe – which is a very Trad Irish piece. Forget about its the RIR march..

  • vanhelsing


    I take your point and it’s a good one. I love the 12th because my all the parades I’ve been to have been friendly and a real spectacle. I went to a country demonstation in Fermanagh with my in laws last year and their relatives [RC] went as well and seemed to enjoy their day. It was marshalled by two policemen in short sleeves without the flak jackets and hardly any alcohol was being partaken. Perhaps that’s where we need to get to…

    —–‘in a some quiet field in Cullybackey it’s all just Union Jack cupcakes and concentrated Sunny D’———–

    Ironically that’s what most of the demonstations are actually like 🙂 For some their experience may be very different from that…

  • I figured from the points that you and DR were making about your own experiences that that was probably the case.
    Unfortunately, though, the cupcakes/Sunny D image just doesn’t resonate with the perception of parades, particularly in nationalist areas of Belfast. And that isn’t based on some cooked up media or political storm over OO parades – the sad fact is that it is based on aggravation around many different parades over a long number of years and a lot of low key noises and behaviour at OO parades. To just quote one example – there is a Catholic church on the Cavehill Road and any OO band that happened to find a reason to march past it (even though there is no CoI church or hall to march to) has to slow down and, if not actually stop, at least beat the hell out of the drums and double the volume while passing the church (which was actually blown up by loyalists a couple of times in to the bargain). Now that is only a small irritation (particularly since the church is currently closed) but it hardly contradicts the mindset that the OO exhibits sectarianism in its behaviours (despite the protestations to the contrary). I think that sort of thing, rather than the banner headline stuff, is what people see as commonplace and has formed their opinions. From what you are saying there does appear to be an extraordinary lack of self-awareness on the part of the OO if it has never grasped this point.
    When the brethern are at the field (or hall or wherever the march ends), do people discuss the OO parades/demonstrations like the one at Ardoyne (or the others that have been the focus of tension over the years)? Can you tell us what a typical conversation on these topics might go like?

  • vanhelsing

    John you’d have to ask DR as I’m not a member of the Loyal Orders.

    In relation to your point about that Catholic Church – it shouldn’t happen but did anyone think of contacting a Unionist representative and saying such – perhaps they could have faciliated dialogue with the head of the lodge or something.

    In terms of awareness the whole Orangefest is the Loyal Orders trying to address this. The LO actually asked the PSNI to crack down on booze coming to the field and being drunk by watchers along the route and this has been a massive success in Belfast – it’s not really an issue at 90% of the parades in Northern Ireland.

    This all has to go both ways though – if the LO are committed to trying to change both image and reality there needs to be some understanding to on the other side that the 12th is an important aspect of culture for one side of the community and a good section of the people in NI still avidly support it…

  • castrosghost

    Van…that representative would be, they didnt vote for me, so why should i represent them nigel dodds.

  • castrosghost

    Remember the child rapist mc kenna from fair…didnt he carry out a survey in the lower ormeau with results stating the catholic population didnt mind these sectarian parades thru their area. I remember QUB going to great lengths to distance themselves and the Boul Martin smyth and his cronies jumping on the rapists band wagon.

  • Sorry – I was quoting that as an example of how attitudes to the OO have developed – I don’t know what happened if any parades passed there this year. In past years, some local unionist rep or other would have been hanging about with the cops accompanying the parade if not leading from the front. Given that they were an integral part of the parade, it would hardly have been news to them.

    To date, the LO aren’t communicating their message in language that is widely understood by anyone outside their own community. What ‘cultural’ significance is there in marching past Ardoyne or any interface area?