And so unto the parade and main Demonstration of the bands through Clogher to a field less than a mile away
The PSNI presence was discreet and was there more for the traffic than anything else, though you can see the officer making a note of the band numbers as they passed. It’s worth noting that there was none of the belligerence around “crossing the ranks” (ie walking in front of the demonstration) that i have encountered over the years at parades in Belfast. I didn’t have a single word said to me when i took these photographs and if i’m honest i was pushing it a little leaving it to the last minute to get out of the way. The pride of the members as they walked was evident. Here a man has just picked up his daughter and walks with her down the hill to the field. The little nods and waves to friends and family as the members passed also displayed the pride and joy of walking amongst their own. The road out to the field was lined with well wishers and watchers…
Arriving at the fields the bands and lodges were directed to their own spot in the field…. I gotta say to the fella handing out tracts as the lodges arrived at the field should perhaps give a little more thought to who he hands them out to, particularly when their hands were full carrying the lodge banner! At this juncture i should say that because i was mooching around the field i didn’t get to taste the weak tea or any of the sandwiches. I did get given a wee bun and a bottle of coke when i interviewed the Worshipful
Grand District Master.
During the open air service people pray(and text).
Group shot of the folks that were on the stage….
So what did i learn from our little jaunt to the country for a rural 12th?
As i mentioned there is none of the aggressive defence of the ranks which has caught many an unsuspecting tourist and photographer out over the years. As i already knew the members of the Orange Order who march are good decent and god fearing people. They bother no one, indeed the parade was largely ignored by those of a different religious faith.
Live and let live seems to me to be the order of the day.
However whilst a country demonstration is one thing, marching and demonstrating their membership and faith to a home crowd in a rural setting, the issue becomes more vexatious when taken from the rural into the urban setting. As we all know, the so called blue bag brigade of hangers on and supporters come out in force in the urban setting. I did not see any evidence of any drink being taken at the field or along the route to the field. It was all tea and sandwiches and home baked cakes and buns. The same cannot be said in urban settings. This is the main aspect that has to be looked at for future parades/Orangefest.
Whilst i am grateful for the opportunity to come down and see a country 12th demonstration i feel that i have to mention that were were obviously being watched, not overbearingly but monitored all the same. Having the the head of DUP media team introduce himself and reveal his position only after talking to me for 5mins, jarred with me and hints at how seriously the media portrayal of the 12th is taken by the DUP. Yes we were treated very graciously and given answers to our questions but i cannot get away from the bones of the matter. That is the nature of the Orange Order.
It is as a default setting open only to those of the Reform faith and as such is a cold house for Catholics.
On saturday afternoon I visited the Lower Shankill to see the festival in it’s fourth year and saw the band “Pride of the West” parading around the estate playing to their supporters. There was no booze at this festival and it was well marshalled and with a bouncy castle and the usual attendant stalls the kids had a blast. Such localised parades are the norm and do not raise an eyebrow. In my view the issues facing the 12th and Orange parades is to do with the contentious parades, namely marching through areas that have changed demographically.
Live and Let live can and should be applied across the board.
Staunch adherence to traditional routes stoke up the fires of discontent and do nothing for community relations. Like it or not the Orange Order, even viewed as a benign organisation for Protestants, still has a long way to go to make Orangefest an inclusive and family friendly event that can be enjoyed by those that wish to and ignored by everyone else.
I’ll finish this extended blog post with a photo of a fella furling a flag which he and his friends had taken down. This was the only contentious aspect of the 12th we came across. One of the fellas taking down the flags it is fair to say, had drink taken. He was insistent that i take a photograph of “themmun”s taking down flags. I didn’t see anyone taking down flags and we ended up having a 5 min conversation with a group of nationalist youths standing sentinel at the entrance to their estate on the road out of Lisnaskea. I would have taken a photo but i was told in no uncertain terms what the trajectory of the hurley would be if i tried to document the tableau.
So along with the Orange Order adopting a more pragmatic and realistic approach to contentious parades i think the assembly needs urgently to look at the issue of flags. As we have seen up at Ballyclare, the flags and the marking of territory with them can cause problems (if you want to look for them?). As Edwin mentioned in his reply to Quintens guest blog post there is a loose agreement in place in Lisnaskea which means that the flags are not left up all year round to flutter themselves to oblivion . Setting out a timescale of when flags can be flown (and where) is something that has long been over looked and needs urgent attention to help make this fraught time of year as peaceful as possible.
ps I didn’t hear o word of Ulster Scots spoken unless a thick Tyrone accent counts as such