A welcoming, family-friendly event…NOT!

flag waving

This past Friday marked the celebration of what is referred to as THE TWELFTH, ORANGEMEN’S DAY, ORANGE DAY or even THE GLORIOUS TWELFTH. Whatever you choose to call it, it is a yearly celebration by Protestants in Northern Ireland commemorating the victory of the Protestant King William of Orange (William II or III depending on which kingdom is referring to him) over the Catholic King James (James II or IIV) in 1690. The victory had disastrous implications for Catholics throughout England, Scotland and Ireland. Among other things, Catholics were forbidden to hold public office, vote, or serve as commissioned officers in the Armed Forces. parade

While many of the anti-Catholic decrees were repealed during the 230 year (1690 – 1922) union of the three kingdoms, the heavy colonization of Protestants in the six northernmost counties of Ireland (known as Ulster) led to a partition of the island in 1922 after the Irish War of Independence came to a political stalemate. Twenty-six counties became what is known today as the Republic of Ireland, and the six counties of Ulster remained a part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain.

Within the six counties of Ulster, which became known as Northern Ireland, many of the anti-Catholic sentiments continued throughout the first 2/3rds of the 20th century. These sentiments and their political repercussions were a major contributing factor (perhaps the sole factor) to the thirty-year ethnic conflict known as The Troubles , which saw Irish nationalist paramilitaries battling frequently with Loyalist unionist paramilitaries, who were aided at times by British authorities, and eventually led to a tit-for-tat campaign of bombings, assassinations and riots. During this period Protestants continued to celebrate THE TWELFTH with celebrations often leading to violence as they purposely paraded past Catholic areas and neighborhoods.

With The Troubles officially ending in 1998 at the signing of the Belfast “Good Friday” Agreement, attempts have been made to reshape the image of THE TWELFTH as a celebration that welcomes everyone, a celebration more akin to the FOURTH OF JULY or INDEPENDENCE DAY in America. However, this reshaping has not been particularly successful and bigoted displays have been frequent throughout recent parades. Below is a link to a video taken Friday of a Loyalist riot, complete with the burning of the Irish flag, that occurred after marchers learned they would not be allowed to parade past certain “sensitive” areas. Three days of riots have ensued and dozens of police officers have been injured .

The peace in Northern Ireland has been described many times as “uneasy” and celebrations like this do nothing to make it any easier. As the riots that resulted from the banning of certain parade routes show, there are many in the Protestant community that see the celebration as a chance to enflame tensions in Northern Ireland. Economics (Catholic unemployment and workplace discrimination) were also a key factor in The Troubles and right now times are hard all over the world, the last thing we need is for people to be stoking centuries old conflicts.

VIDEO LINK – http://tinyurl.com/nn5yu6o

loyalist riot

The Troubles in Northern Ireland is a cornerstone for the Black Shuck thriller series with many regular characters having lived through the conflict and baring the scars of it. Want to receive more posts like this? Sign up for the Black Shuck Newsletter or follow this blog on WordPress.

Here’s more on this year’s Twelfth celebrations from the Belfast Telegraph and the BBC.

~ Ian