A joyful Twelfth that has boosted notion of Orangefest

Morning View
Morning View

Despite persistent rain at times on Saturday, it was one of the most enjoyable and successful Twelfths in memory.

Tens of thousands of Orangemen and women and accompanying bands took to the streets across Northern Ireland to commemorate the 324th anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne.

It was a glorious spectacle of colour, as the July 12 celebrations always are.

Families and tourists came out to enjoy the music and the carnival.

There is barely anything like it in western Europe – huge parades at multiple locations, but rooted in major history too, celebrating a crucial military victory that had global ramifications.

The Belfast parade in particular is an extraordinary sight.

By the time the last lodge leaves Carlisle Circus in the north of the city, the front of the procession is well on the way to the Field at Barnett’s Demense, several miles to the south.

This was the largest of 17 demonstrations throughout Northern Ireland, all of which drew enthusiastic crowds.

The Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, described the number of people who attended as “unprecedented” and said that it “bears testament to the continuing relevance and appeal of Orangeism in our society”.

July 12 is one of the most significant cultural events in the British Isles.

Not everyone likes it and some republicans would prohibit the entire celebration if they could.

Saturday though was peaceful. Orangemen heeded the united unionist plea to repudiate violence, despite the widespread anger and frustration that loyalists feel when they see the appeasement of dissident republican intransigence on the Garvaghy Road and in the Ardoyne.

The fact that there was no violence is a major boost to the concept of Orangefest. July 12 is a day when tourists should come to Northern Ireland, rather than avoid it.