Simple Solutions #7: 12th of July Parades

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Peace and Brotherly Love are the by-words that certain correspondents would have us believe most effectively sum up relations and mood between the peoples of Northern Ireland.

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But under the surface (and even clearly on the surface at times) old hatreds and prejudices boil and bubble, resulting in an annual eruption of violence you could set your watch by. Old Faithful is alive and well and gushing through the streets of Northern Ireland every 12th of July.

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THE PROBLEM: ‘Orangemen’ see it as their right to hold parades along routes they have always marched each 12th of July. Unfortunately, certain areas on certain routes do not want these marches. People in these areas see them as an imperialist and triumphalist finger to the wishes of the majority (in those areas).

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Every year this results in a stand-off between both peoples, usually with the police in the middle (literally) keeping them apart.

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THE SOLUTION: Allow the orangemen down the road (each contentious road I mean), one person at a time.

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These roads are lined with police and army vehicles that keep the ‘locals’ from attacking marchers as the almost-inevitable parade progresses. Orangemen are usually told not to play their instruments during these times.

These men wish to “walk down the queen’s highway” as they put it and frankly they have a point.

Catholics/locals in these certain areas do not wish a horde of “ignorant loyalists” to trample through their patch, and frankly they have a point too (even though the idea of catholic and protestant ‘patches’ itself is ridiculous, however that’s how it is).

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So anyway, after a flurry of protest & violence, usually the orangemen eventually march, amid a flurry of protest & violence on the other side of the barricade.

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Imagine now the scene if orangemen were allowed march one-at-a-time. Such a ‘march’ could no longer be interpreted as a triumphalist cock-a-snoot to the locals, but instead would be laughed-off (loudly) from behind the barriers. The glass bottles and angry threats would be replaced by jeers and mocking laughter. (OK, ideally this should not occur either of course, but I’m trying to be real here).

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The result is the orangemen have their march, but it could not be interpreted by ‘locals’ as an annual triumphalist invasion of the area.

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Of course this won’t be adopted because: The underlying problem is the traditional communities themselves, divided along sectarian lines. It’s understandable why people huddled together in these ways during the troubles, forced to rely on each other in times of need. Now these huddles (in certain areas) are themselves as problematic as a mass of marchers. They will likely take a couple of generations to disperse naturally, as people find they no longer need to live and define themselves along strictly religious lines.

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