Belfast Telegraph

Culture and the Twelfth... and the fog of historical ignorance

By Alf McCreary

After the Twelfth, this small province has, hopefully, settled back to the kind of uneasy peace that characterises so much of the summer marching season.

However, before we consign the incidents of this Twelfth to the dustbin of history, we should dwell a little on what the last week has meant for Northern Ireland.

Once again the bad images have been flashed around the world, just a week or so, after the good headlines from the Tall Ships, and earlier from the Irish Open at Newcastle.

Like a golfer on a bad day, which I know only too well, it's important to "dwell on the positives", which Graeme McDowell has been saying during his own recent poor spell.

So, the positives this week have included more than 600 peaceful parades, including those in my native Bessbrook, which I watched on television as they filed past my former home, primary school and "town hall", even though it is actually a model village.

Thousands of people had a good day out on the Twelfth, and for many it was a great family occasion, even though the reports on BBC and UTV have an inevitable sameness every year.

So much for some of the positives, but the negatives remind us that we are still a long from being a normal society.

Take, for example, the bonfires - some of which threatened nearby homes, cost some £10,000 in Housing Executive protection work, and stretched the fire service at a large number of incidents.

That is totally abnormal, and when some of the numbskull apologists for bonfires are asked what this has to do with Protestantism, they mumble awkwardly: "It's our culture".

So let me remind them about their Protestant "culture" and the martyrs who were burned alive at the stake for their faith. It seems to me that a bonfire is the last thing that any Protestant community should want to remember.

And what about the marching bands? The same idiotic answer comes through the fog of historical ignorance: "It's our culture".

What part of the Protestant culture is law-breaking by a raucous band which plays a hymn tune when passing St Patrick's Catholic Church?

This was a disgrace, and to add insult to injury, there was a lame attempt to justify this on "religious" grounds.

This was not religion - it was sacrilege, and grossly offensive not only to St Patrick's parishioners, but also to thousands of Protestants, like me, who deplore such sectarian behaviour, allegedly in our name.

Later that evening, the usual suspects in the Ardoyne behaved once again like a tribe that has lost its head, and in the process they seriously injured a senior policeman and some of his colleagues.

Then came the inevitable condemnations from the politicians and the Orange Order, but not - to my knowledge - from the Churches.

At this time of writing, some 50 hours after the event, I have not had any communication from the main Protestant Churches, either because the leaders have not got round to it, or are away on holiday, or don't want to say anything.

For whatever reason, their long silence some two days on, speaks volumes to the wider community.

The sad truth is that there is a section of our community that is beyond the control of the police, the politicians and the community leaders, and until they are checked, the poison will seep out year after year.

Don't try to tell me that this behaviour has anything to do with true Protestantism.

On the contrary it is a running sore on the face of Christianity.


'A part of our community is sadly beyond police control'

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph