Belfast Telegraph

Rossnowlagh could teach rest of country lesson in how to celebrate Twelfth of July

Goodwill of Co Donegal demonstration should be exported as example of peaceful parading

By Alban Maginness

In the pleasant Ulster summer sunshine, thousands of Orangemen enjoyed their annual parade in the beautiful little seaside village of Rossnowlagh in Co Donegal.

There were 50 lodges and 30 bands which walked through the picturesque area. As the county grand master of the Orange Order, David Mahon, said: "Donegal prides itself on the Rossnowlagh parade being a family-friendly day with a relaxed atmosphere."

Would that that relaxed atmosphere could be magically transferred to areas of Northern Ireland, especially places like Ardoyne and Portadown. What a transformation that might bring with it.

It is extraordinary that the only really safe and genuinely peaceful place to celebrate an Orange parade is in Rossnowlagh in the Republic of Ireland.

The only security presence is the local Garda, who are there to ensure the traffic is properly managed.

Are there not some questions we all need to ask ourselves as to why an Orange demonstration can be held with no bother and with real fun and enjoyment in Co Donegal?

On the first Monday in August, a bank holiday, Dunfanaghy, also in Co Donegal, holds a most successful summer fair attended by hundreds of visitors.

Dunfanaghy is a well-known holiday resort for people coming from Ballymena, Derry and Belfast.

On a Sunday the local Catholic and Presbyterian churches are so well attended that it is difficult to find a parking space.

The fair, which is a fun event for both young and old involving music, dancing, exotic birds of prey, book sales, cake and pastry sales, delicious, hamburgers, swings and pony rides and intriguing sports competitions such as clay pigeon shooting, ducking and tractor reversing, takes place on its outskirts in a place called 'Charlie's Field'.

This annual event is held to support the local Church of Ireland parish and is supported by the area's Catholic and Presbyterian community, as well as tourists visiting this delightful place.

Again, no fuss or bother; people of different faiths and political opinions working together to support one another in an unassuming, almost casual, neighbourly fashion.

And, perhaps, this is why so many people, specifically from Northern Ireland, escape with their children to Donegal - despite the volatile weather - to rest themselves and return annually to this safe haven of stress-free living beside beautiful seascapes and exciting mountain scenery.

Could the freedom and goodwill of Donegal not be bottled and exported to the rest of Ulster?

Meanwhile in Belfast, because of the risk to life, limb and property, the City Council, in an unprecedented move, has sought and been granted an injunction to prevent the continued building of Eleventh Night bonfires at certain locations.

Given the recent controversy over the storage of bonfire pallets by the council, it is refreshing to see it take some proactive steps that can restrain out-of-control young people, defiantly constructing monster bonfires which are an actual risk to themselves as well as to the community as a whole.

This anarchistic movement by so-called young loyalists is defended as being part of their culture.

How building a giant bonfire represents some cultural expression is mind-boggling, for it is clearly reckless and lawless behaviour verging on the atavistic that is likely to lead to death, injury or serious damage to property.

The long-term failure of our lawful public bodies, such as the Housing Executive and the PSNI, to take proactive measures to prevent such dangerous structures being constructed and then to publicly wash their hands of this activity, wrongfully claiming that they have no lawful authority to intervene, is grossly inadequate and, in the real sense of that term, irresponsible.

Where there is a public mischief being carried out, or where there is a serious risk to public safety, public authorities, in particular the police, have an important duty to take preventative action and not to wait until something bad happens and then react to that in an emergency fashion.

But what is even worse is the failure of leadership of unionist politicians. They privately disapprove, but publicly are mute in even slightly criticising the building of these threats to public safety.

Some have even defended this damaging and demeaning behaviour imposed on the public - in particular on loyalist communities.

In the grim aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy in London and the sensitising of all of us to the appalling danger that fire poses - even where there would seem to be reasonable protection - is it not a bit much for those in leadership positions to remain silent?

Is it not time that some unionist party showed a bit of leadership and said that this uncontrolled madness should stop or be stopped?

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