lambeg drums on the 12th July

The futures bright, the futures….

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…Orange? Red, Blue and Yellow?
Who knows Ive always liked Dutch football and to be honest the Spanish tippy tappy football is ok to watch but boring 1-0s doesnt make great World Cup football.
Still, fair play to both teams, both massive underachievers in the past and generally teams who implode due to various factions in their squads long before the final stages. Both camps in the past have been rife with national tensions (spain and catalonia, holland and their players from colonial backgrounds) which leads nicely into Northern Ireland in July.

Orangemans day - twelfth - 12th July - orangemen

Orangemans day - twelfth - 12th July - lambeg drums

The 12th of July is known as Orangemans Day. There are very few more divisive days in the Northern Ireland calendar than 12th of July.
For some its a day when they have the opportunity to put on show their religious and political history and affiliations, for others is a mass display of triumphalism. For some its a colourful religious ceremony, for others its just a lot of drunks getting drenched/sunburnt (usually both).
In most other areas of the world any historical parades or festivals are scenes of celebrations and huge draws for tourists. You might not know the significance or indeed what goes on but everyone is heading into town for a party so you go along.
Its probably too early in our movement away from recent history for this to be the case here at home. Despite the local tourist board trying to fund the events and rebrand them ‘Orangefest’. It still doesnt stop the majority of the minority population getting on boats, planes or getting in the car and not stopping until they are 10 feet across the border.
And thats a great shame.
Orangemans day - twelfth - 12th July - female band members

Along with St Patricks Day its one of the unique bank holidays we have here and everyone knows how much we like a holiday (and a chance to get a drink). I think the Orangefest is still on the right lines and hopefully for future generations and future tourists it will become a festival and with time the riots/disturbances/sectarianism will all be lost in time and people will just go and watch old men wearing bowler hats and as much orange as you would normally see at a Dutch international match.
Ive photographed both sides of the events, you have to in this country.
Orangemans day - twelfth - 12th July - battle of the diamond Orangemans day - twelfth - 12th July - Dan Winters Cottage

To give a simplistic explanation Orangemans day celebrates the Orange Order which was an organisation formed after the Battle of the Diamond in 1795 in or near Dan Winters home in Loughgall. The Orange side came from Dutch King William of Orange after his defeat of the mainly Catholic armies of King James in Ireland primarily at the Battle of the Boyne. A battle commemorated today between a half French, half english catholic king (James) and a half dutch quarter english quarter french king (William) which had very little bearing on this island except for the fact the main decisive battles were here. The fact that William was also James’ nephew and son-in-law just adds creedence to idea that we shouldnt really get involved in domestic squabbles. Families eh?
The Orange Order is often portrayed as an anti-catholic organisation. Perhaps that might be a bit strong or maybe its not but you cannot be a member if you are Catholic and in the past the order has expelled members from attending Catholic church ceremonies such as weddings and funerals and the like. Which certainly hasnt helped Northern Irelands fractuous sectarian relationships.
Its close association with the previous one party state government in Northern Ireland led it to be seen as part of the state.
So until recently we have the diametrically opposed views of ‘walking the queens highway’ and a ‘show of triumphalism’. This has often been exacerbated by demographic changes where ‘traditional routes’ used for years by Orangemen during their annual parades are now along main thoroughfares through majority Catholic areas. The new politics here in Northern Ireland means that protests against this are now allowed by the state and so people do protest, the most noticeable being the Drumcree dispute which is still not solved and used to bring the country to a standstill, usually in flames and caused a boon for the car park at Dublin airport who regularly overspilled by a factor of almost 10 into nearby areas to accommodate the Northern refugees flying off to the sun.
Orangemans day - twelfth - 12th July - ardoyne parade Orangemans day - twelfth - 12th July - ardoyne riots

The 11th night is one communities ‘bonfire night’ with wood being collected and stacked very high for months. In recent years the size of these bonfires have been curbed and the burning of rubbish, tyres and other things that produce toxic chemicals has been banned. In a lot of cases there are now street parties and its more of a family event. The irish tricolour is still burned at the top though, I doubt that will ever change. Oh and for balance the catholic bonfire night is the 9th of August to celebrate the introduction of Internment without trial. One side celebrates the family squabbles between the dutch/french/english and the other side celebrates a night of getting banged up in jail for months on end without trial. Come on guys!

Orangemans day - twelfth - 12th July - 11th night bonfire stack Orangemans day - twelfth - 12th July - 11th night bonfire

Things have noticeable calmed in recent years but there are still a few flashpoints, but mainly well away from the city centre and in outlying areas of the city or other areas. Disputes that will only be solved by talking and by time.
Drumcree Church and the Garvaghy Road.

Orangemans day - twelfth - 12th July - Drumcree Church Orangemans day - twelfth - 12th July - Garvaghy Road

Part of the problem is the language used (as ever). The parades arent parades, they are demonstrations. That is a negative word. Its like when a good photographer friend of mine asked why we native English speakers say ‘take pictures’ instead of ‘make pictures’. He said as a non-native speaker the act of making pictures was better as take implied something negative. He has a very good point. The issue should be what we can do to make the parades more accessible to most and yet allow those who dont want to attend to go about their daily business. I remember as a kid being ‘sealed in’ by the Army on the 12th. Early in the am the army would set up cordons around our area and put up big screens, imprisoning us for the day. It will be a number of years yet before people my generation stop thinking like that, but it will come.
At some point maybe it will be a festival and before I sat down to write this I was going to extol the virtues of the opportunity we have for exploiting the tourism aspect…
…that was until I saw the weather and Monday (the twelfth) is the only good weather day to get my boat out and Ive no chance as most of the areas within driving (towing) distance all have parades and have traffic disruption. Thats the worst thing, the place just closes down, and that definitely has to change.
So come on the Orangemen (in the World Cup final of course).
Orangemans day photos here
more Belfast photos here
more Ireland photos here

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