The Twelfth: singing in the rain in Belfast

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So unlike the majority of Twelfth demonstrations in scale, music and tone, the Belfast parade was this year overshadowed by the ruling which stopped the Ligoniel lodges returning home past the Ardoyne shops.

On the way to the field at Barnett’s Demense, the parade, headed by those Ligoniel lodges, stopped for six minutes - the time which it would take for the north Belfast parade to pass along the disputed section of the Crumlin Road - as a protest at the Parades Commission ruling.

There was a sense of achievement among many of the bands as they reached the end of their mammoth route cheered on by a crowd which was sparse in places, probably due to the length of the route and the forecast of heavy rainfall for the early afternoon.

In the event, the rain did not arrive until nearly 3pm. An hour later, after platform proceedings had finished and marchers were getting ready to return, torrential downpours left some soaked.

But one band embraced the weather, playing and then singing the Sash in the rain.

As he arrived in the field at lunchtime, one young east Belfast Orangeman told the News Letter “this is the part of the day where you hope it stays respectable”.

He was pleased by the Orange Order’s response to the Ardoyne parades ruling, contrasting the decision to keep the parade away from police lines and attempt to avoid confrontation with what he said was the absence of a plan last year.

But in an indication of the split between those who want to largely stick to parade rulings and those who would prefer a more robust response, another Orangeman said that the decision two years ago for the Ligoniel lodges to be bussed back from the field to meet a Parades Commission ruling “was our downfall”.

The vast sprawling field at Barnett’s Demense near Shaw’s Bridge was filled with the usual mix of fast food outlets, souvenir stalls selling everything from mini Union Flags to temporary tattoos, small marquees for bands and church vans with volunteers attempting to interest the crowds in spiritual leaflets and CDs.

One man wearing a sandwich board with a Bible verse warning against “taking the Lord’s name in vain” attempted to hand Gospel tracts to bandsmen and Orangemen as they marched past.


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