For years it was synonymous with street violence and civil unrest, but the Twelfth parade has now become a model for the rest of the UK for its “relaxed” policing, according to the former Tory front bencher, Ann Widdecombe .
Not impressed with rigid security or “petty” health and safety rules, the MP said she much prefers the “sensible organisation” that she says she saw displayed at this year’s parade.
Ms Widdecombe, who was here over the Twelfth to film a TV documentary, used her column in a national newspaper this week to praise policing on the day.
“In London, crowds are penned behind crush barriers and police stand every few yards waiting for trouble. In Belfast, there were very few crush barriers and along the whole five miles of the parade there was only the odd police presence,” she said.
“Children dashed out in front of the bands and no health and safety tsar threw a hissy fit.
“People spilled from pavement to road and the marchers simply wound cheerfully round them.”
She then quotes an Orangeman as saying, “I am still pinching myself”, when she asked him where the police were.
“The best word to describe the whole performance was ‘relaxed’, she said.
“Yet,” she added, referring to health and safety rules in the UK, “Northern Ireland is not merely part of the same European Union, but it is, dash it, part of the same United Kingdom”
Yet they, with all their history, are relaxed about health and safety while we rush about with a million forms of triplicate.
“Indeed, a Women’s Institute picnic, a simple little event if ever there was one, was withdrawn from my local park because the health and safety procedures were disproportionately onerous,” she added.
“Well that is praise indeed from Ms Widdecombe,” said one Orange Order member.
Ms Widdecombe was not as impressed, however, with airport security in Belfast.
“Sadly, the sensible, proportionate approach shown towards the Orange parade was absent at Belfast airport where a rude jobsworth of a woman extracted various items from my bag and confiscated them,” she said.