BBC NI’s “The Twelfth” live coverage in 2012 complied with impartiality guidelines, but questions must remain about how the Twelfth is covered

The BBC’s live coverage of The Twelfth of July parade through Belfast city centre becomes more anachronistic with every passing year. Last year, a complaint was made to the BBC and later in the post I’ll refer to the finding.

While the capital city’s parade remains the longest across Northern Ireland (Armagh is the largest), the numbers of Orangemen and women marching in each lodge is thinning out, often marching two abreast where once eight would have walked, and nowadays with more bandsmen than Orangemen. There’s a sameness to the bands that are hired by the lodges: Blood and Thunder and accordion bands can hack the long distances that don’t suit the pipers who normally appear in shorter rural parades.

twelfth parade belfast 1

Year after year, commentary from Walter Love picks out the history behind some of the banners being carried, and street interviews by Helen Mark catch the mood of those on the streets.

I expect that this July’s commentary is unlikely to go into a lot of detail about the incident outside St Patrick’s church whenever the Young Conway Volunteers pass by the broadcaster’s cameras in Bedford Street.

I recall one kerbside interview four years ago with a Antipodean ‘tourist’ that ended abruptly when the woman (who I know) didn’t talk about the colour and the pageantry but instead questioned the appropriateness of the parade in modern-day Northern Ireland. The expected tone of the programme seemed to have been breached and the pictures cut back to the lodges marching past.

Later on in the evening of 12 July, both UTV and BBC will broadcast a programme of highlights from each major parade and the speeches in the field. The report from the Belfast field won’t show anyone drinking or the toy guns (if they’re still on sale). Instead there will be upbeat and uncritical summaries of the most wholesale aspects: ice cream cones, sheltering from the rain, and dogs. (A few years ago every report from a field in the UTV programme featured a dog – there must have been some kind of bet amongst reporters. Worth noting that this year UTV broadcast a St Patrick’s Day programme highlighting many of the different parades around NI.)

What bothers me most about the coverage of the Twelfth is not that several hours of television is devoted to a shrinking minority of men and women marching. Nor am I overly annoyed that a parade from the “other side” doesn’t get equal prominence. I wouldn’t want to start a space race of parades.

It’s the lack of critical analysis and context that bugs me.

There are few comparisons between the tone and mood of urban and rural parades. I’ve never heard discussion about the differing levels of participation in the religious services held at the fields. (My experience at the Belfast field in 2008 was that there were more independent observers listening to the speeches than members of Orange lodges.)

Pitt Park eleventh night debrisThere are no references to the clouds of acrid smoke and street parties the night before and the nationalist election posters and effigies of the Pope burnt on Eleventh Night bonfires. (The Orange Order will be swift to distance their organisation from the construction and lighting of bonfires, but they’re part and parcel of the same Orangefest season.)

There are no cameras outside flash points – like the back of St Matthew’s church on the Newtownards Road – to catch Parades Commission determinations being breached, perhaps as bands launch into The Sash.

In recent years footage from one other parade has been cut into the live coverage. But why does the Belfast parade need to be highlighted every year? Why not base the entire production from another venue?

I’m always amazed that there is so little discussion – either in the live or highlight programmes or in news bulletins or documentaries in the days beforehand – of the historical events leading up to 1690 and the origin of the signs and symbols, events and celebrations that surround the Orange Order, its sister institutions and the loyalist culture.

No one will explain that the Twelfth would have been commemorated on the first of July (Battle of Boyne = 1 July 1690 Julian calendar) if it hadn’t been for the British adoption of Pope Gregory’s shifting of the calendar in 1752. And no one will point out that despite the words of The Sash, it wasn’t worn at Aughrim or the Boyne, as the Orange Order didn’t exist until 1795.

twelfth parade belfast 4Alison Millar’s series of documentaries looking at women’s lodges and a loyalist band are the only examples of wider context I can remember seeing.

The richness and history of the parade and associated events – mundane and controversial – are reduced to moving images of the same city centre parade, from the same vantage point, geographically, culturally, historically and politically.

In a News Letter article from July 2011, one-time BBC Twelfth commentator Clifford Smyth explained:

“The Orange isn’t well understood, it is an inarticulate organisation which doesn’t explain itself well to the world …”

He said he had told the BBC that “some kind of new format was needed” for its coverage, by going to some of the parades outside Belfast. “There are a lot of problems with the Belfast parade. It is exceptionally unrepresentative of Orange parades.

“It’s unique and very different from the experience that you’re going to get in somewhere like Comber, both in terms of the quality of the bands – I’m not decrying the bands but there is a sameness about the bands in Belfast which you don’t get in these country areas – and I personally think that the length of that parade in Belfast is, if it’s not actually killing the Orangemen, it’s killing Orangeism in Belfast.”

Sammy McNally has guest posted on BangorDub blog on the subject of a complaint about last year’s The Twelfth live coverage that wound its way up through BBC NI, the BBC executive and London and finally ended up with a determination from the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee (ESC). [Note that the BBC Trust is the operationally independent body that governs the BBC. Disclosure – I spent five years as a member of the local Audience Council advising the BBC Trustee for Northern Ireland on behalf of NI licence fee payers.]

The complainant wrote to BBC Complaints on 15 July 2012 saying that he and probably the vast majority of the public on the British mainland would be appalled at the “uncritical promotional coverage such as provided by BBC Northern Ireland in programmes like ‘The Twelfth’.”

He argued that the programme normalised sectarianism in a society in which probably more than 42% of the population believes the Orange Order contributes very negatively to community relations.

The ESC report discusses the complaint, executive responses, whether the parade was controversial or highly controversial, and how the programme matched up to editorial guidelines over eleven pages and concludes that “The Twelfth programme had complied with the editorial guidelines on impartiality”. The complaint was not upheld.

They’re probably right that the 12 July 2012 live coverage did comply with the guidelines. (In particular, the notorious Famine Song incident occurred outside the live broadcast and was covered in news and current affairs programmes over many days and weeks. That said, there were – and are – many more controversial aspects to the Twelfth celebrations.]

Sammy makes the point:

It is difficult not to believe that the Trust might have taken a somewhat different line if a parade in London – which was viewed as sectarian/racist by about half the citizens of the city, required the presence of hundreds of riot police, which led to a serious deterioration in community and political relations over the following months because of a sectarian/racist incident, which went through areas where it was not welcome and where the parade organisers had been ambivalent about upholding the law – had been given similar promotional treatment by BBC London.

Other than the marathon or a royal wedding/state funeral, it is inconceivable that BBC London or BBC News channel would cover any march through the city without a modicum of balance and analysis. Even Margaret Thatcher’s funeral required input from her critics.

At one point in the ESC report there is reference to 2013 coverage:

… the Head of Entertainment and Events for BBC Northern Ireland had assured the ECU [Editorial Complaints Unit – the BBC executive complaints department not the BBC Trust’s ESC] that the manner in which BBC NI covered the event is constantly the subject of close scrutiny and review; detailed discussion was taking place at a senior level about the nature of the coverage in 2013.

While the programme didn’t break impartiality guidelines, I’d hope that the internal discussions around the complaint will have sparked some debate about how to appropriately cover the Twelfth.

drummer overhead shot twelfthJust because it has been covered for fifty years shouldn’t mean that the coverage should continue in such a predictable manner. The high cost of staging an outside broadcast (even one right outside the BBC building’s front door) that involves bringing in a tall camera platform needs to be weighed up against the public value and distinctiveness of the programming.

It would have been unthinkable for the four hour 2012 Covenant march to Stormont to have been televised live … even though it was a larger parade and could arguably have been placed in a historical context.

Just because the deletion of The Twelfth from the BBC NI schedules might risk sparking an outbreak of disturbance directed against the BBC doesn’t mean that the decision couldn’t be sensitively considered and discussed with stakeholders.

The Belfast parade could be ditched for another venue. The UK’s 2013 City of Culture is staging one of the Grand Lodge’s ‘flagship’ parades this year.

The City of Londonderry plays host to the annual Battle of the Boyne commemoration demonstration. Awarded ‘Flagship Status’ by The Grand Lodge of Ireland, the day will be one to remember as bands and lodges from across the city and county travel to Londonderry. To mark this occasion and the UK City of Culture year, this year the parade will be led by the Grand Masters of Ireland, England and Scotland.

Perhaps more importantly than the venue, outside of news bulletins surely more emphasis should be given to setting the history of the Twelfth narrative in a context that can be accessed by all BBC NI licence fee payers.

Given that the Irish history taught in schools [at least in my day] tends to miss out the parts relevant to understanding our culture, the BBC should take a lead and better fulfil two of its purpose remits: namely sustaining citizenship and civil society, and promoting education and learning.

Update – The issue was unexpectedly picked up by The Independent on 11 July.

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  • Excellent post. Prior to 1972, State associated Organizations in N.I. such as the RUC and the BBC did what the political wing of the Orange Order, the Unionist Party, told them to do. Those days are now long gone, never to return. At most the OO parades should be given a few minutes on the news.

  • roadnottaken

    Great post Alan!
    Personally I’m sick of the ice cream wielding Grannies, and the BBC’s obvious attempt at softening the image of an organisation steeped in controversy. If BBC NI genuinely thinks that it is compliant with partiality guidelines then they should think again!
    The BBC should wise up and let the Orange Order do it’s own PR work… not pay for it with taxpayer’s money, especially when the majority in the state view the OO with contempt.

  • Alan,
    Forgive me for being slightly off topic (and shamelessly plugging) but Sammy’s piece was a nice contrast with this earlier guest post by Carrickally giving a somewhat contrasting view of the twelfth:
    http://bangordub.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/what-does-a-collarette-mean-in-2013/

  • Reader

    Alan in Belfast: And no one will point out that despite the words of The Sash, it wasn’t worn at Aughrim or the Boyne, as the Orange Order didn’t exist until 1795.
    The Orange Order didn’t exist, but the sash (old style, not the collarette) probably did exist, and would presumably have been Orange in ad hoc regiments in King Billy’s army. (Older regiments would have had their own colour scheme, I suppose) Uniforms were sketchy in those days, identification marks were brightly coloured and simple.

    Mister_Joe: At most the OO parades should be given a few minutes on the news.
    How does one calculate the air time for an event involving tens of thousands of participants and a couple of hundred thousand specatators? Do you have a formula?
    On another point – I didn’t watch the twelfth coverage last year, but I *did* watch the news, which was dominated by last year’s controversies. The emphasis on balance sort of suggests that GAA match day reports should also include a mention of any nasty references in the names of the competition or the clubs – or is that best treated as a matter for another day and another report?

  • ayeYerMa

    Are you for real???? Given BBC NI news only reports controversies around orange events all year round, how on earth is it unreasonable to have a mere single programme that reports on the normal state of the overwhelming majority of orange events? In fact, given the large number of orange events around the year, it’s rather odd that the normalised coverage is so little.

    Last year’s coverage for weeks on end of St. Matthew’s church was an absolute disgrace, with the media essentially manufacturing a mountain-out-of-molehill controversy through their insistence on endlessly broadcasting what is little better than any of the numerous Republican propaganda videos found on YouTube. The entire non-event was made headlines over the more representative hundreds of other parades, and framed by the media exactly as Republicans described it and taken as such at face value, without any critical balanced thinking regarding the normal practices around bands stopping for breaks while waiting. It seems you want to manufacture endless more weeks of rioting unnecessarily through unrepresentative sensationalist journalism.

    And why on earth would live coverage of the covenant centinerary have been “unthinkable”? In any other part of the world a large centenerary of the nation’s declaration of independence would be broadcast with pride by the state broadcaster. Why exactly does hours of live coverage of the Jubilee warrant coverage, but the Covenant not? It seems your mind has become so distorted by obsessing over the appeasement process that you seem to want to keep Northern Ireland abnormal forever, as well as wishing to ignore that the constitutional issue was supposed to have been settled in such a process.

    And last but not least, the BBC NI’s coverage of recreational events surrounding political Irish Nationalism vastly exceeds anything relating to orangism. Day in and day out we have reports on GAA events, treated as if it is simply somehow a normal sporting organisation. There is zero “critical analysis” of the organisation’s political constitution, nor the fact that it continues to have venues, medals and trophies which glorifiy anti-British terrorism. Why does the British national broadcaster give so much coverage to such an organisation which is clearly against British national interests, has zero respect for the agreed British sovereignty through its politics and use of flags and another nation? In any other part of the world such an organisation would be refused to be covered by the national broadcaster. This is also especially odd, given that we also have a recent agreement to also allow the Irish Republican national broadcaster, RTE, to be received across Northern Ireland specifically for such coverage. Yet even following such an agreement the BBC ramps up its own Irish Republican coverage even further, with increased reports from the Republic as well as talking in absurd detail about that nation’s football team, completely undermining the purpose of national pride and cohesion that sports teams are there to provide. You really couldn’t make this stuff up!

  • JR

    The thing I find funniest is the attendance estimates provided by the OO. couple of hundred thousand Reader? Care to tell us were that figure came from or how it was calculated? I heard the bbc last year talking about 250,000 watching the belfast parade, for this to be true you would need 10 people per meter for every meter of a 25km route, i am sorry but there was not people crushed shoulder to shoulder five deep on both sides of the road stretching for 25 km.

    also care to point out when the last gaa event with a nasty reverence in the competition name or the name of a participation club was on TV?

  • Morpheus

    Excellent thread and I think your final sentence is key – education and learning. I hope the near £3m coming Europe’s Peace Three programme with £1m jointly coming from the Dublin government and the Stormont Executive is used for just that purpose. I hope that it is aimed at the whole of NI and at the very least tries to be inclusive of both communities in an attempt to educate:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-20150841

    (personally I hope it answers what the goat thing is about)

  • Morpheus

    “Last year’s coverage for weeks on end of St. Matthew’s church was an absolute disgrace, with the media essentially manufacturing a mountain-out-of-molehill controversy through their insistence on endlessly broadcasting what is little better than any of the numerous Republican propaganda videos found on YouTube.”

    The media coverage of what happened was disgraceful??? I think the videos and the pictures, not to mention the justification by a senior public representative, said it all no AYM…there was no need for SF’s World Media Manipulation Centre to get involved at all.

  • Reader

    JR: Care to tell us were that figure came from or how it was calculated? I heard the bbc last year talking about 250,000 watching the belfast parade, for this to be true you would need 10 people per meter for every meter of a 25km route, i am sorry but there was not people crushed shoulder to shoulder five deep on both sides of the road stretching for 25 km.
    Take it up with the BBC then. My estimate for all marches was less than the BBC estimate for one march. And even in Belfast your calculation ignores the feeder parades and the return route.
    “shoulder to shoulder” is about a 60cm frontage, not a metre, by the way. Not counting women and children.

  • DC

    Written with snobby undertones and a vote to eliminate yourself outlook?

    Maybe BBC NI should just play God Save the Queen a minute before 12 and 6 each day?

  • Reader

    Morpheus: I think the videos and the pictures, not to mention the justification by a senior public representative, said it all no AYM…there was no need for SF’s World Media Manipulation Centre to get involved at all.
    While disagreeing with AYM about local coverage, it is surely fairly clear that last year’s controversy failed to shock (or even reach) a world audience.
    Our squabbles just don’t make the grade any more.

  • Morpheus

    Beg to differ (a little) Reader. I have colleagues in New York and Seattle plus family in Canada and it got as far as them.

  • DC

    The Twelfth should be taken off air at the point the Twelfth is no longer a public holiday.

    Maybe the BBC should produce an educational supplement on its website somewhere to be looked up if viewers want to know more – as providing an educational element to it year on year would become repetitive and staid also.

  • sonofstrongbow

    The BBC’s coverage of ‘The Twelfth’ is indeed tired. I mean Walter Love? Really? Along with some other guy commentating about lodge history, who seems at times to have difficulty stringing two interesting words together, is excruciating listening. I’ve never been able to take more than ten minutes of the programme in any year.

    Although I should declare that I’ve no interest in Orange parades and perhaps those who do get more out of it.

    I expect the broadcast had become an annual chore and poor Walter takes it for the fee alone. It’s hardly a feather in any broadcaster’s hat. The sameness of the bands, the small lodges and the terribly twee voxpops must make it as challenging as commentating on paint drying.

    That being said, and the desperate need to find a new angle to come at it, it is not a ‘news’ programme. It would be out of place to include controversial incidents and the bigoted view of some nationalists towards the OO hardly merits yet more airtime.

    That brings me to the complaint to the BBC about the coverage. Most will realise that the complaint has nothing to do with genuine concerns about BBC standards. It was all about having a go at themuns.

    I’m sure the ‘righteous indignation’ of the complainant played out well on that serial plugger’s (slugger should insist on him paying for ad space like everyone else) mono-view love-in blog. However in the wider world it will receive a much more critical appraisal.

  • Framer

    BBC NI, by running the St Patrick’s circling band story as the lead on its website over so many days ensured that what was a minor complaint, essentially about one tune, created a brand new and virulent parading dispute, thanks to the corporation.
    There was no obvious editorial input to that decision, nor balance – which did eventually occur on GMU but took days to appear. Juniors seem to man the website if their typos, poor spelling and biased headlines are anything to go by. It simply seems to be out of managerial control, particularly at weekends and holiday time, much like NHS hospitals. There was of course next to no Ardoyne riots coverage as BBC journalists or camera crew were on holiday.
    Using largely unattributed film footage – provided by Sinn Fein and without the usual BBC cautionary note – compounded the St Patrick’s offence.
    Attempts to end the BBC’s 12th coverage, as happened before, are little more than part of SF’s deracination, bare-walls policy. Shame on those who provide cover for such Hibernian bigotry as they know well what happens to those bare walls eventually.
    Do Jaffas not pay the poll tax of a licence fee? Can they not get coverage once a year, unlaced with bitterness?

  • iluvni

    I suppose a couple of hours of it annually with Walter on the TV is fair enough for those interested. When you compare the hours devoted to live coverage lately of GAA matches, which despite dripping in support for Irish Republicanism, have zero participation from the majority community and clearly have no remote interest in the concept of ‘sport for all’, there’s little reason to whinge about the Twelfth.
    Haven’t heard any of the Twelfth commentary team extolling the virtues of ‘freedom fighters’ either, unlike a certain highly regarded GAA pundit.

  • Fortlands

    Quality post, Alan. Maith thú. The core question, though, is not how the Twelfth should be covered on TV but should the Orange Order, an organisation with – let me be kind – overtones of sectarianism in its history and ordinances, be accepted as a desirable element in a society that is trying to bring people together. And those 4,000+ marches by the loyal orders – would we not have got the point by about March No. 207?

  • Morpheus

    “When you compare the hours devoted to live coverage lately of GAA matches, which despite dripping in support for Irish Republicanism, have zero participation from the majority community and clearly have no remote interest in the concept of ‘sport for all’, there’s little reason to whinge about the Twelfth.”

    Here we go again with the ignorant anti-GAA rants because the coverage of the OO has been questioned.

    For the record iluvni, there are numerous cross-community Cuchullains events every year – Protestant and Catholic kids from all over Northern Ireland come together in an introduction to Gaelic football, hurling and ladies football, while also encouraging young people from different backgrounds to inter-act and play as a team. Teams include Armagh Cúchulainns; Belfast Cúchulainns; Cavan Cúchulainns; Derry City Cúchulainns; Enniskillen Cúchulainns and Roe Valley Cúchulainns.

    In fact Protestant support for GAA in schools continues to grow:
    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/gaelic-games-protestant-support-for-gaa-in-schools-grows-28759982.html

    Here’s a recent award that the GAA have won for its cross-border work
    http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/gaa-scoops-european-prize-for-cross-border-work-233494.html

    Open your eyes and your mind iluvni, it’s a whole new world.

  • “It’s the lack of critical analysis and context that bugs me.”

    Alan, the same comment could be made about your long-winded and mainly anti-OO girn 😉

    My own girn against a push-over BBC, in relation to matters Orange, can be found here. 🙂

  • iluvni

    Morpheus…..
    So, in those live Ulster achampionsjip games I mentioned, any idea of the numbers from the majority community involved in the teams or the coaching staff?
    Any more than zero?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Personally as someone who is not a fan of the OO I have no problem with the BBC’s coverage. Let them have their day out and enjoy watching it on TV later.

    The complaint referred to above is quite specious and a lot of it is unfounded (very typical of the erstwhile Mr McNally). It’s misleading to say that 42% of NI consider the OO to be highly divisive etc etc etc to the extent that they wish to see it removed from their TV screens. Most nationalists including Sinn Féin advocate not a full ban on all marching, but rerouting the small number of these which are contentious. Nationalists quite pointedly have not acted to block the marches from the city centre or attempted in general to frustrate their progress.

    However this complaint illustrates the consequences of the Orange Order failing to engage with communities and seek agreement. Further complaints of this kind are likely and if nationalist politicians get involved with them the OO are going to have a hard time fighting it. As I have been pointing out, we are entering a period where cultural Britishness no longer has political power. For unionism and Orangeism to secure as much of what they hold dear as possible, they’re going to have to negotiate with nationalists or walk away with nothing.

    Framer,

    BBC NI, by running the St Patrick’s circling band story as the lead on its website over so many days ensured that what was a minor complaint, essentially about one tune, created a brand new and virulent parading dispute, thanks to the corporation.

    A year on people are trying to downplay the seriousness of what happened outside St Patrick’s. I remind you once again that all of the Belfast parades on the 12th (and many others besides) pass by that church. Since this is currently the most neutral possible route to the city centre from most of North Belfast, any disorder or rerouting decisions effecting this route would lead to major implications for the 12th in Belfast, possibly up to and inclluding the complete cancellation of the event. Nobody wants this, including Sinn Féin, as the thought of the disorder and trouble is too much to bear thinking about. But it is crucial that the OO does more to reel in the behaviour of these poorly behaved bands.

    The Apprentice Boys have done this. They talk to nationalists, they police their parades and ensure that bands don’t strike up dodgy tunes, and guess what – they can still march with their heads held high and without harassment. I see no reason why this is not possible for the OO.

  • PeterBrown

    Morpheus

    if that’s the best you can do perhaps compare that to the EMU work undertaken by the F/T OO Education Officer and so if it justifies the disparity – any figures for the level of unionist participation in these cross community events (which I have never heard of)?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-12996966

  • “a society that is trying to bring people together”

    I have been a part of that very small segment of our society for around fifty years, Jude. Have you ever thought about popping in? The words of this Beatles song are sort of apt:

    And anytime you feel the pain, hey Jude, refrain,
    Don’t carry the world upon your shoulders.
    For well you know that it’s a fool who plays it cool
    By making his world a little colder.

  • Morpheus

    Absolutely no idea – but neither do you, hence why your opinion is ill-informed.

    Regardless as more children play and get involved with their local clubs then the more practice they will get and the better they will become. The very best will be selected for their County team.

    Did you know that the trophy they all covet so much is actually named after someone from ‘the majority community’?

    But this is off totally topic, other than this blatant display of ‘whataboutery’ (my God, how I loathe that phrase) have you any opinion on Alan’s fine post?

  • DC

    Attempts to end the BBC’s 12th coverage, as happened before, are little more than part of SF’s

    I think this is as much to do with the protestant upper / middle class who see the OO as of no relevance to them and believe it along with many other things not of relevance to them in their lives (but of relevance to the so-called working classes) should be eliminated. Crudely speaking.

    I think Alan should state his position on this I would wager he doesn’t give a toss about the OO and this is an articulate post that is attempting to bring the BBC in line with his outlook in life, dressed up in ‘objectivity’ concerns whenever it is probably subjective. The mention of lack of focus on behavioural problems with the event i.e. alcohol abuse is telling.

    And – I don’t support the OO btw but then I wouldn’t be blogging to influence others because my lack of interest would preclude that on the basis that i don’t like rugby but then i don’t call for it come off the air so that more football could potentially be shown instead.

    My advice is – don’t watch the programme then.

  • iluvni

    Is that the world record speed for bringing up ‘Sam Maguire was a Prod’ ?

  • Morpheus

    The absolutely farcical report (commissioned by the Orange Order and paid for by the taxpayer) into ‘The Socio-economic Impact of the Traditional Protestant Parading Sector in Northern Ireland’ got a very light airing by the media didn’t it?

    I have heard rumbles on various sites that the GAA are seriously considering proposing that their socio-economic impact is assessed in the same fashion.

  • “The Apprentice Boys .. can still march with their heads held high and without harassment”

    Comrade, it depends upon whether or not the Athboy conspiracy is applied. For example, the Loyal Orders can, at present, have a parade in the mainly nationalist town of Ballycastle but not on the outskirts of the mainly nationalist village of Dunloy. Back in 2005, Martin McGuinness had to step in to sort out an incident involving one of his then MLA colleagues and, according to one of my sources, Dublin intervened to ensure that there wasn’t a repetition in Ballycastle the following year.

  • tacapall

    “The absolutely farcical report (commissioned by the Orange Order and paid for by the taxpayer) into ‘The Socio-economic Impact of the Traditional Protestant Parading Sector in Northern Ireland’ got a very light airing by the media didn’t it”

    Its a pity Nelson and the OO couldn’t use that public money to educate its membership –

    “Pope cut out of Orange history”

    http://www.fantompowa.net/Flame/pope_cut_out_of_.htm

  • Morpheus

    “Is that the world record speed for bringing up ‘Sam Maguire was a Prod’ ?”

    I wasn’t sure just how high your levels of ignorance were iluvni – from your rant I assumed they were very, very high and your knowledge of the GAA was remedial at best. But if you knew then fair play

    So no comment on the actual thread?

  • Nevin – I’ll accept “long-winded” but not “mainly anti-OO”. I neither called for no coverage or no parades!

  • Submariner

    Morpheus you may want to give iluvni some leeway as he would appear to glean his opinions on the GAA from the Are Wee a Country forum. As for the BBC fawning coverage perhaps they could shake things up this year and maybe do a wee spot on which paramilitary grouping that the kick the pope bands give their allegiance to or maybe give us a history of the Old Boyne Island Hero’s banner and membership. It could be interesting for the tourists.

  • Kevin Says

    AyeYerMa says it is a fact that the GAA continues to have venues, medals and trophies which glorifiy anti-British terrorism. There are almost 3,000 GAA clubs in Ireland, and two of them have grounds named after 1981 hunger strikers who happened to be members there, so it is important to keep the figures in some sort of context. Some other venues have links to republican figures, but all from the pre-1969 era. While a small number of local groups have produced trophies and medals with IRA references, these are not for official competitions and are not sanctioned by the GAA at county or provincial level. The GAA may not always handle these matters very well, but it concentrates on sporting activities and it is unfair to imply that it is politically motivated.

  • PeterBrown

    Kevin

    And the proportions for defaulters in the loyal orders are equally small – I agree with everything you say about the GAA but would point out it is equally true of the Orange Order.

    Submariner names one lodge (the only one I have ever seen named in these thread) and then proceeds to tar the whole organisation and indeed every other loyal order with the same brush.

  • Reader

    tacapall: Its a pity Nelson and the OO couldn’t use that public money to educate its membership – “Pope cut out of Orange history”
    Here’s a much less hysterical version of the tale, with some of the mysteries resolved:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/5263210.stm

  • Also wish to extend my congratulations on this post.
    The point has been made that the BBC (and Id add UTV) have tended to do Stormonts bidding. They still do…its just a different but still uncritical narrative of not just the Twelfth…MTV Awards, G8, Titanic, City of Culture…all uncritical.
    If it is deemed acceptable to show live coverage of the Twelfth then there can be little point in contextualising it. The fans know this stuff already and the rest of us dont much care.
    For the record, I dont equate GAA with Orange Order but weekly coverage of GAA matches would not be enhanced by contextualising that there are clubs …Pearses, Tones, Parnells, Clarkes, McDermotts, Tones, Rossa, Sarsfields and so on.
    There WAS an opportunity several years ago…the Ormeau Park year or even the Drumcree Years especially 1998 when the BBC could/should have pulled the plug and unfortunately that was missed.

    But while minor violence or controversy at feeder parades seems allowable, violence or controversy along the route of the main parade should lead to BBC finally pulling the plug.

  • “I’ll accept “long-winded” but not “mainly anti-OO”. I neither called for no coverage or no parades!”

    Alan, your post is devoid of negative comment about the activities of the anti-OO lobby.

  • seamusot

    The OO KKK should be given temporary control each July to an isolated beach with unoccupied roadways or lanes of greater that 1 mile length leading thereto. The collective area could be renamed as “Jaffashire” and to prevent the poor souls from excessive queuing, helicopters overhead could drop unwrapped ice creams onto the beach. Pooper bags should also be widely distributed for both human and canine use. A temporary television broadcasting licence to be known as BOOBS (British Orange Order Broadcasting Services) could issue. Of special would be the level of viewers and advertising support. Should John Cleese ever wish to reinvent Monthy Python filming of the OO KKK events would be target rich.

  • “the Drumcree Years especially 1998 when the BBC could/should have pulled the plug and unfortunately that was missed.”

    fjh, that was the era when the BBC did London’s bidding and London was more or less rubber-stamping Dublin partisanship [see Dick Spring briefing]. Dublin was aiding and abetting the Athboy conspiracy, a conspiracy acknowledged in 1997 by Gerry Adams.

  • 6crealist

    “Is that the world record speed for bringing up ‘Sam Maguire was a Prod’ ?”

    Maybe, but it’s definitely the collective world record for bringing up “the GAA” in response to criticism of the Orange Order.

    “So, in those live Ulster achampionsjip [sic] games I mentioned, any idea of the numbers from the majority community involved in the teams or the coaching staff?”

    The majority community in Ulster is Irish nationalist and Roman Catholic. You didn’t bring enough of your cousins over the early 17th century.

  • Submariner

    Nevin why should a post specifically about the BBC live coverage of the Belfast twelfth parade contain any commentary about the activities of those who object to the OO. It has no relevance to the BBC coverage

  • “The OO KKK”

    seamusot, I thought it was the loyalist and republican paramilitaries who wore the masks 🙂

  • “the activities of those who object to the OO. It has no relevance to the BBC coverage”

    Submariner, some of the objectors are players in the pageant so they are very relevant.

  • Submariner

    Rubbish Nevin you are attempting to drag the thread off at a tangent as others have rather than deal with the points made by Alan.

  • “Given that the Irish history taught in schools [at least in my day] tends to miss out the parts relevant to understanding our culture”

    Alan, why do you use the ‘Irish’ label? I live up in north Antrim so focussing on the history of the island [Strand 2] would leave out a lot of the stuff that impinged on my kith and kin down through the centuries. When it comes to culture I tend to often exclude ‘British’ and ‘Irish’ labelling because of the associated political baggage. However, I do make a bit of a fuss when Dublin misappropriates the ‘Irish’ brand.

  • Submariner, I was merely trying to bring a little balance to the topic under discussion. Your misrepresentation is noted.

  • Submariner

    No Nevin you were employing the same tactics that you did on debate central by dragging the thread off on a tangent instead of addressing the points made by Alan as well as introducing your own favorite conspiracy theory its a wonder you have not introduced john hume or the jesuits into the mix.

  • This is hilarious, Submariner; the conspiracy was acknowledged by Gerry amongst a gathering of friends and was drawn to public attention by RTE.

    “instead of addressing the points made by Alan”

    Er, I challenged Alan’s selection of points to make his case and I’ll challenge one of his claims: “Note that the BBC Trust is the operationally independent body that governs the BBC”. The website asserts that the Trust is independent of the BBC Executive Board, a board which ‘directs the BBC’s editorial and creative output’. The Government is sovereign as illustrated in the Dick Spring briefing example so the Trust’s ability to hold the Executive Board to account is circumscribed ie it can do what the Government permits it to do.

  • Nevin – by “Irish history” I meant history of this island – whether north or south or both. Cromwell passing through Lisburn was was the only mention of Ireland in three years of history. By choosing GCSE Geography over GCSE History, I missed the Belfast Blitz,

  • DC

    Just because the deletion of The Twelfth from the BBC NI schedules might risk sparking an outbreak of disturbance directed against the BBC doesn’t mean that the decision couldn’t be sensitively considered and discussed with stakeholders.

    Was that not a call to delete coverage?

  • Expat

    Hardly surprising that the BBC Trust’s ESC found no fault with the Twelfth programme – it had ‘complied with the editorial guidelines on impartiality’. I’m sure it did meet all such technical standards, but to judge the matter by such criteria is to avoid the issue. The real question to be addressed is surely the appropriateness of the coverage, given the type of presentation used and the extent of its programming. Parading has been portrayed to us as though it were a national or regional celebratory event enjoined by the whole community, when it most certainly is not. The BBC is giving credance, acceptance and normality on behalf of us all to a mindset shunned by most and offensive to many.

    It may not still be the case that the BBC NI does what the political wing of the Orange Order and the Unionist Party tell them, but it would seem they continue to run scared when it comes to grasping the nettle of the parades. Such would appear to have been acknowledged by the ESC when it added to its report that ‘detailed discussion was taking place at a senior level about the nature of the coverage in 2013’. It is that ‘nature’ that is problematic and open to criticism.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The BBC is giving credance, acceptance and normality on behalf of us all to a mindset shunned by most and offensive to many.

    That’s a shameful way to talk about Songs of Praise.

  • Backbencher

    I trust you will permit me to ask a question which may be slightly of tread.
    Do any of the other organisations which parade in Belfast take a route which passes Catholic Chapels, e.g. the gay pride march? If they do, how do the parishioners react, do they stage a protest?

  • CS,
    One of the reasons I started my own blog was precisely to avoid the type of predictable rhetoric above. (Not referring to you) I’m quite proud of the fact that those of us with opposing views can engage, robustly sometimes, but in a civilised manner.
    I know that sounds smug. Perhaps Mick would let me do a blog here on the potential for good debate? Funny enough I have never had to invoke an ad Hominem rule. Everyone understands that is a given.

  • Cric

    I’m not sure how the whole thing comes to peace with creeping secularism and a society which genuinely wants to share cultures. The GAA is quite rightly criticised for its politicization, but the GAA is moving away from its past (slowly) and has no rules whatsoever on Religion – how does the Orange Order move away from Protestantism and towards ecumenicalism when its raison d’etre is Protestant Supremacism?

    My children, even if they wanted to, can never indulge in this piece of ‘culture’ because they were born into the wrong family.

  • DC

    The OO will burn itself out in all probability in time just like the Gaeltacht.

  • Backbencher

    Cric

    ‘how does the Orange Order move away from Protestantism and towards ecumenicalism when its raison d’etre is Protestant Supremacism?’

    What do you mean by Protestant Supremacism?

    ‘My children, even if they wanted to, can never indulge in this piece of ‘culture’ because they were born into the wrong family’

    Your statement is incorrect, your children, like any other children, can as you put it ‘indulge in this piece culture’ if they grow up to adhere to the reformed faith. It has nothing to do with what family you were born into – I personally have acquaintance with one Orangeman who was born and brought up a Roman Catholic.

  • I reckon before bringing children up in any faith, we need scientific proof of the existence of a god. Otherwise it is all a delusion.

  • Granni Trixie

    I know one teenager who was told that if he attended his friends RC funeral he would I have to leave his Lodge. How can that be right?

  • Jack2

    Granni ^^

    “UUP leader Tom Elliott must be expelled from the Orange Order for attending the funeral of murdered Catholic policeman Ronan Kerr, a clergyman has said. ”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-politics-13064956

    It is an organisation built upon hatred and prejudice.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Granni,

    I hate to leap to the defence of the OO but it usually turns out in practice that while certain lodges insist that the rules are followed in these situations, flexibility is granted when any disciplinary hearings occur. Trimble was exonerated, as were Elliott and Kennedy in the end.

  • Ulster Press Centre

    Perhaps it’s time the GAA starts getting the same ‘attention’ from Loyalists that the Orange Order and it’s events receive from the backward Irish neanderthal bigots in Northern Ireland.

    Law-abiding Unionists are subjected to biased coverage of an organisation steeped in terrorism, bigotry, violence and tax fraud every single night of the weeks on the news sports bulletin.

    Maybe it’s time that was brought to an end too.

  • jh25769

    Jesus wept. Simple solution, if you don’t like the OO don’t go to its parades and don’t watch the coverage. Let them get on with it. Similarly if you don’t like the GAA then don’t go to the games and don’t watch it on tv.

    As for it being on the news, well, I don’t particularly like seeing Syrians that have just been exposed to sarin gas. But it’s on. I don’t like hearing stories about small children being murdered, but it’s on there. When things happen, such as marches or sporting events they get covered. It’s what the news is. Or should we just scrap it for fear of offending someone?

    People seriously need to get a grip.

  • roadnottaken[9.32] The BBC in Belfast still presents itself as a unionist outlet as the are , for nationalists still a sectarian body which only grudgingly screens GGA coverage but hides behinfd a neutral title ‘The Championship’ for the largest supported sport in NI but doesn’t call it’s twelfth coverage ‘The march’ Their weather and traffic desks always insist on the London prefix in reference to the second city. UTV is still like a siamese twin to the News letter as the owner of the paper set the station up. The more things change here……

  • 6crealist

    “Perhaps it’s time the GAA starts getting the same ‘attention’ from Loyalists that the Orange Order and it’s [sic] events receive from the backward Irish neanderthal bigots in Northern Ireland.”

    I wasn’t certain until now, but the above post confirms it: this, and the self-aggrandising twitter account, are parodies.

    Someone sitting in Ardboe or Dungiven is having a right laugh pretending to be this bigoted, sexually-frustrated young man/woman.

  • GavBelfast

    Are you for real, danielsmoran?

    You and ‘UlsterPressCentre’ should start a business flogging (misplaced) MOPEry ….

  • Granni Trixie

    Comrade

    Exactly. Some of OO elite do their own thing with impunity. But the ordinary and in the case I refer to vulnerable are expected to keep the rules.
    Anyway, he found his own solution ….sat in his wheelchair in the porch of the church. His pals thought he was a joke but in doing so he was “allowed” to stay in his long.
    Pathetic. As long as they have rules like this they will be wrong footed.

  • Granni Trixie

    Long should read Lodge ofcourse.

  • slanlot

    The issue for all who live on this island is not the coverage of the marches but the thousands of tons of lethal toxins pumped into the atmosphere on july the 11th, which are released when the ”bonefires” are blazing away, These toxins do not discriminate they are inhaled by all, with devastating long term consequences . Sooner rather than later this will need to be addressed by all parties, The cost of cleaning up following the thousands of fires imagine runs into millions of pounds. that cost is paid by the whole community, The time has come to

  • Comrade Stalin

    Law-abiding Unionists are subjected to biased coverage of an organisation steeped in terrorism, bigotry, violence and tax fraud every single night of the weeks on the news sports bulletin.

    But enough about Rangers.

  • Harry Flashman

    Walter Love! Is he still alive?

    What about WD Flackes?

    Next you’ll be telling me that oul’ Derry fella from the BBC, Brian Walker, is still knocking about.

  • Brian Walker

    A predictable response to a problem that does the BBC and its audience no service.

    The Twelfth coverage was always huge embarrassment to the BBC, a legacy of the old days of assumed Unionist supremacy they felt trapped into perpetuating. While the live transmission was fairly brief, dropping it would have provoked a huge row which was judged not worthwhile to have. I would say this still holds true today. In the past it was fairly easy to lose it in the torrent of Troubles. It was regarded as a Celebration – and indeed the highlights used to be billed accordingly. On the surface it was always partly celebratory or commemorative of course and to a limited extent such treatment seemed legitimate. Fortunately with fingers tightly crossed, few if any Twelfths sparked major outbreaks of violence so the coverage could be said not to be a complete distortion of what could be seen happening on the streets.

    More recently it would have been very difficult to drop the live broadcast in an era of increasingly live broadcasting and streaming. The live broadcast is – or was – done on a shoestring with a couple of live cameras outside BH where nothing nasty happens. The highlights can be more comprehensive and feed in other locations and incidents.

    Today it might be seen as encouraging the development of Orangefest. I agree that events have proved that this won’t wash. I mustn’t pass a verdict on recent coverage because I haven’t seen it for years. If is as bland as the post claims this is frankly disgraceful as well as unnecessary.

    The live coverage should be switched from the concept of an Event to News with a studio presenter as well as a live commentator. Recorded reports should feed in any trouble and a couple of other locations. The studio can contextualise events and include historical background.

    The highlights at night should be presented as a News special giving a balanced account of the day. Tricky but possible and what BBCNI has been doing in other circumstances for decades. The extra resources required should be minimal. The sat vans would already be on location for Newsline. If the BBCNI haven’t already adopted this this I’m amazed. There’s no need for handwringing by the Trust or other eminences in London and Belfast, just a little management grip.

  • Brian – I think you’re spot on. Anchoring from a studio (rather than just voicing over the march) would put a little distance between the marchers’ narrative and the historical / current affairs overlay that is necessary to better understand what’s going on.

  • GavBelfast

    The BBC DID stop the live coverage from about 1985 until, I believe, the early 1990s.

    I’m surprised that older contributors than me, and especially anyone associated with the BBC, didn’t mention or weren’t aware of that fact ….

  • Belfast_Citizen

    Would it be fair to say that if a person doesn’t want to watch something on TV, regardless of what content makes up the programme, perhaps switch over to another channel?