Editor's Viewpoint: Holiday move shows how Northern Ireland has adapted
There was a time when the Twelfth fortnight remained virtually unchanged. Annually the province's major employers - including the shipyards, aircraft works, cigarette factories and other well-known sources of employment - closed down to give people their annual summer break.
However the Twelfth fortnight, as we knew it, is no more. Research published by this newspaper today reveals that, while fewer businesses are opting for a total shutdown, many employees still like the idea of two weeks off in high summer and are booking their holidays in July.
The decline in the number of firms closing completely in July is a reflection of the contraction in many of our industrial sectors.
For previous generations, the only way that large workforces, involving many thousands of employees, could receive holiday entitlements was for the employers to close down completely.
No other solution was practicable in those days. It is also reflective of the high degree of modern automation in many of our industries that makes them less reliant on mass employment. This policy of 'working smarter' with modern techniques has paid handsome dividends in terms of Northern Ireland's world-class reputation in many sectors.
However, traditional habits die hard and, with many employers giving their staff both the public holidays of July 12 and July 15 off, smart employees can have two full weeks off by just taking eight days of annual leave.
In any case, the annual Twelfth fortnight holiday was never uniform across Northern Ireland. In Londonderry, for example, the holiday period was the last week in July and first week in August, while the building and construction industry had different holidays.
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The Construction Employees' Federation announced in 2017 that it was ending its 50-year tradition of observing the Twelfth as an annual holiday. In reality, this tradition began to die out in manufacturing several decades ago.
In reality we all need a holiday and a break indubitably gives us all an opportunity to recharge our batteries and return afresh to our labours.
If nothing else, the decline in the traditional Twelfth fortnight shows how 'Northern Ireland plc' has successfully adapted to a switch away from a core of enormous industrial behemoths and to a vast panoply of smaller, leaner businesses without losing a competitive edge, while still giving the employees a deserved break