Balmoral Review – fireworks, food, funfair, parades and speeches

Jackie McDonald’s remarks at the Political Studies Association conference about the Orange Order’s planned parade to Ormeau Park in May stirred up a lot of comments on Slugger.

Answering a question after his speech, the former UDA prisoner painted a vision of “the UVF in the Somme gear” and “antique motors with the machine guns on them and all the paramilitary flags” passing by parts of Short Strand behind the Orange lodges and bands.

On Easter Tuesday 1912, a large parade gathered for a rally at the Balmoral Royal Ulster Agricultural Show Grounds to show unionist opposition to the proposed Home Rule Bill, two days before its introduction in the House of Commons. Edward Carson addressed the crowds and Andrew Bonar Law – the (Conservative) leader of the Opposition – was guest of honour.

The presence of seventy Conservative MPs representing English and Scottish constituencies demonstrated that Ulster unionists did not lack influential friends. The largest ever Union Flag ever woven was dramatically unfurled above the assembled multitudes.

It is estimated that over 100,000 attended, with 70 special trains ferrying men to Dunmurry where they decamped and marched down to Balmoral to meet the Belfast men arriving from the other direction.

Balmoral Review posterOn 19 May 2012, the ‘Balmoral Review’ will be commemorated with a parade to the Ormeau Park (ie, the all weather pitch behind the Ozone). The events have been organised by the Unionist Centenary Committee in partnership with the County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast.

Events open on the Friday evening (18 May) at 6pm, with the tented village, food stalls and fun fair, and a fireworks display at 10pm. The organisers state that it will be “an alcohol-free, family friendly event”.

On the Saturday, parades will leave Alexandra Park Avenue, Sandy Row, Shankill Road and Clifton Street and arrive in Ormeau Park around noon. Participants are encouraged to parade in period costume.

The tented village will offer “a number of workshops and exhibitions”. A “superb programme of entertainment” will commence at 1.30pm after a religious service at 1pm. The parade leaves Ormeau Park after the National Anthem at 5pm.

Covenant ties, badges, notebooks, cuff links, tea towels and mugs are available from the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland website shop. (They’ve a selection of Titanic goods too.)

The printed booklet (supported by NI Community Relations Council) that accompanies the Balmoral Review contains many pages of history and explanation of how the original Easter Tuesday parade and rally fitted into the Home Rule/Covenant timeline. In the booklet, the Unionist Centenary Committee note their four guiding principles for events:

1. Events should be based on fact.

2. Communities should develop evidence based activities which give people an in depth understanding after considering what the broader implications are of their event.

3. Recognise and respecting different perceptions/impacts.

4. Work towards outcomes which provide a better understanding for all.

They also note:

The Balmoral Review is an opportunity for people to learn and celebrate. Exhibitions, booklets etc are available and people are on hand to help explain our history etc. Please take advantage of this. We will also be extending the hand of friendship to non Unionist communities on Friday night, explaining to them the Home Rule Crises from a Unionist Perspective.

There’s a heavy emphasis on “respect your history and your culture” throughout the paper programme. The News Letter carried some details of the Balmoral Review launch in Monday’s paper.

I wonder how large a Union Flag they’d need to be the largest ever on this occasion?