Celebrations on the Battle of the Boyne’s 325th anniversary

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The momentous Battle of the Boyne happened 325 years ago on July 12, 70 or so miles south of Belfast.

Major celebrations of the anniversary will be held at venues across Northern Ireland today, a day after the anniversary due to the date having fallen on a Sunday [in fact the battle was held on what would have been July 11 in the modern calendar, but it is celebrated on July 12].

The forecasts suggest that there might be rain, but regardless of the conditions scores of thousands of people will have a wonderful day – the indomitable spirits of Orangemen and their followers always ensures that.

The Twelfth celebrations have easily endured through two world wars and almost 40 years of Troubles, as well as latterly withstanding a cultural war of attrition, for two key reasons.

First the significance of the defeat of the Catholic King James, an outcome which had global ramifications and helped shape early America, and what became the United States. Few people outside of Ulster have heard of the decisive fight on the banks of the River Boyne, in which an English king – William – had to travel over in person to ensure victory.

Second, July 12 has become a day of solidarity for the Protestant minority in Ireland. To acknowledge such is not to detract from the laudable and gradually successful efforts to widen the appeal of the day as Orangefest, any more than to acknowledge that a Papal visit to Belfast would now attract non-Catholic interest and even some support in a way that would have been unthinkable during the PIRA campaign.

The British minority in Ireland still face multiple problems, ranging from attacks on Orange halls to dissident obduracy in blocking routes. But both Rossnowlagh and the success of loyal order parades in Londonderry are templates for how things could be across Northern Ireland.

And the early success of the Orange museums and the generosity of people such as the GAA star Jarlath Burns towards Orange culture are perhaps signs of that brighter future.