Belfast Telegraph

Success of Twelfth must be built upon

Editor's Viewpoint

It wasn't just the weather which made it a glorious Twelfth but the absence of the almost palpable tension that had marred previous years, especially in Belfast.

The sunshine brought out the crowds around the province to watch the 19 demonstrations which passed off peacefully.

As a spectacle, the thousands of marchers and bands are unparalleled in Northern Ireland. This year, the Orange Order claimed many more tourists, particularly from Scotland who came to visit.

The Order deserves credit for keeping a low key on the run-up to its traditional big day, working on the motto of least said, soonest mended. The tinder-dry community relations in Northern Ireland can easily be sparked into flames with careless comments.

Essentially the Twelfth is a celebration of Orangeism and Protestantism, a tradition handed down through the generations. Even during the whole of the marching season the number of contentious parades has always been small.

Rural demonstrations in particular are seen as a family day out, non-contentious and non-offensive. And that is how the Order would like its celebrations to be accepted everywhere they take place.

One of its best initiatives has been the creation of Orange heritage centres, where the history of this brand of culture is explained. In Northern Ireland, tribalism is due in large part to ignorance of each other's beliefs and a lack of curiosity to find out more about each other.

The heritage centres perform that function.

Hopefully the spirit of the Twelfth this year can be carried forward, and over the next 12 months, efforts will be made to resolve the issues surrounding bonfires.

While bonfires are community-driven, unionist politicians and the order can play vital roles in ensuring that common sense prevails in the building of the pyres and where they're placed. Some of the more offensive behaviour such as burning effigies of nationalist politicians must also eradicated.

Where bonfires are situated remains a major concern as shown by a near catastrophe in Belfast where windows in a block of apartments were cracked by the heat and only work by the fire service prevented the building catching fire. Attacks on firefighters at a couple of locations were disgraceful. The aim of all should be a future where respect for each other's culture and heritage becomes commonplace and unworthy of comment.

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