A successful Twelfth around the Province gives hope for future

Morning View
Morning View

It truly was a glorious Twelfth of July yesterday.

Tens of thousands of people came out across Northern Ireland to watch tens of thousands of participants in Orange Order parades across the Province.

On the whole, the weather held.

The occasion was the 326th anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne, an event that had global ramifications and that impacted on the direction of the early American colonies and later the United States.

It was poignant to remember yesterday that a century ago there had been no traditional July 12 celebrations because of the background of a catastrophic war. The decision to cancel the normal arrangements had been taken before the terrible news arrived of the massive loss of Ulster men at the Somme.

Only weeks earlier there had been the huge upheaval of the Easter rebellion in Dublin.

A century later, the political outlook is much more optimistic in what is now Northern Ireland with Stormont as settled as it has been. That there had been little trouble in the Ardoyne when we went to press last night – this was the first time without trouble since the Parades Commission full ban on returning Orangemen. It is particularly important that such restraint has been shown given that supporters of the Orange Order might have concluded that violence pays. After all, extreme rioting by dissident republicans in the Ardoyne in 2012 (who were furious that Orangemen had not had a full ban) seemed to be rewarded by the full return ban the next year.

However, there are glimmers of hope. Increasingly the most bitter opponents of loyal order parades are shown to be what they are – dissidents. Even Sinn Fein show some flexibility on parades compared to the most implacable ‘residents’ groups’.

In the meantime, with successful loyal order celebrations the norm at Rossnowlagh and in Londonderry, and a Province-wide success yesterday, the day moves closer when the vast colour and spectacle of the Twelfth becomes the tourist attraction that it ought to be.