Orange centenary parade plan is welcome but Northern Ireland at 100 deserves many more events than it has had

News Letter editorial of Wednesday November 8 2021:

Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 7:46 am
Updated Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 11:02 am
News Letter editorial

The Orange Order has set a date for a large parade to mark 100 years of Northern Ireland (see link below).

This event will echo the 2012 Ulster Covenant centenary march on Stormont, although it will be in the other direction, from the parliament towards Belfast city centre.

We very much hope that Mervyn Gibson’s prediction of tens of thousands of people turning out is realised. The order deserves applause for thinking of a major celebration.

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In a sense, though, it is very sad that it has come to this.

The parade will be by far the biggest centenary event, and it will not even happen in the centenary year.

While the lack of significant occasions to mark the 100 years can to a large extent be attributed to the coronavirus restrictions, that is only a part of the reasoning.

Latterly Brandon Lewis and the UK government have stepped up their hopelessly inadequate and modestly funded plans to mark the centenary.

London has now arranged a concert and has lit up buildings across the UK. Princess Anne was in Northern Ireland yesterday to unveil a stone to commemorate the centenary.

But this is all much too little, much too late, particularly in light of the way that Sinn Fein — a party that wants the UK to be broken up — has been allowed a veto over formal centenary celebrations.

The government has been too coy about this momentous anniversary, and has navigated a cautious course between those who are proud of NI and those who want it to be destroyed.

It has been striking to see on these pages the dismay that there has been over the centenary service in Armagh that barely mentioned Northern Ireland and seemed, as one letter writer described it, organised more to “avoid offending nationalists than offer anything positive”.

The Orange parade plan is welcome but we need much more, including a proper centenary church service commemoration.

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