Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Parading issues now mostly thing of past

Thousands of People line the streets of Belfast to celebrate the annual 12th of July celebrations
Thousands of People line the streets of Belfast to celebrate the annual 12th of July celebrations

Editor's Viewpoint

On Saturday many members of the Orange Order travelled to Rossnowlagh for their annual demonstration. Even to say it passed without incident is an affront to the marchers and residents of this picturesque corner of Donegal. It has been passing off peacefully for longer than anyone can remember.

By contrast, the Drumcree march has not been passing off peacefully for that long, and it remains a bone of contention. In the mid and late-Nineties it was a cockpit of some of the worst violence experienced in living memory.

It is 21 years since the Portadown Orangemen were prevented from following their traditional route to and from the small Drumcree Anglican church, with confrontation looming on the return march through the nationalist Garvaghy Road.

To be fair, it is many years since the parade resulted in violence.

The closest that recent marches have come to any sense of confrontation has been when the local Portadown District LOL 1 has handed its letter of protest to the local PSNI commander.

The handover has been peaceful of late, and if much has changed since the terrible confrontations of earlier days, this is partly because much else has changed in Northern Ireland and worldwide.

Time itself is marching on.

The major Twelfth demonstration in Belfast, so often the focus of republican and nationalist ire, has been rebranded as Orangefest.

And the Orange Order has rightly been praised for its campaign emphasising 'It's about the battle, not the bottle' in helping to clamp down on street drinking.

Orange grand master Edward Stevenson astutely used the Rossnowlagh demonstration to reassure his brethren in the Republic that "no one will be building a Trump-style wall around Donegal after Brexit". This shows even a 329-year-old battle must be seen in the context of global realpolitik.

Another important reality, outlined yesterday by PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Tim Mairs, is that Brexit could provide a recruitment "opportunity" for dissidents.

While these are actually "micro-groups" they have demonstrated they have the will and the means to target the police and prison officers, and the tragic death of Lyra McKee showed that even innocent bystanders are not immune to fury and violence.

All this makes the number of outstanding issues over parading seem very small indeed.

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