A Twelfth Might…?

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The scene at the bottom of Drumcree Hill on Sunday afternoon following the annual Drumcree Parade

The scene at the bottom of Drumcree Hill on Sunday afternoon following the annual Drumcree Parade


As predictions emerge for a long hot July thoughts, in any normal northern hemispheric society, turn to dreams of balmy evenings, summer love, the clink of a cold drink and ‘teenage kicks, so hard to beat’.

Yet here, in our man-killing parish, thoughts of a hot July leaves many of us with an urge to abandon all hope, fearing another clash of culture arising from the parades disputes.

To move beyond this fear, and misquote the ‘Bard’, with a summer of discontent made glorious by sum of fork tongue, we need to do something radical, something absolutely strong, and welcome the celebration of one of Ireland’s great cultural events: The Twelfth.

In so doing, we can grow a level of political and cultural maturity that may undermine our shared out sectarian state and pave the way for a more sustainable peace that is inclusive and respectful to all our identities, cultures, hopes and needs.

Developing the leadership to shape this shared vision, where concerned residents groups welcome the Loyal Orders to parade past our streets, will require cool heads and calm voices not traditionally heard at this time of year.

As Bishop Donal McKeown has shown, it is possible to develop such leadership and break free from our tribal traits, to speak to truth: that our political elites and their communal representatives exploit sectarianism for selfish needs.

In so doing they re-polarize our society in the knowledge that come the election they will harvest the crop of sectarianism made strong in the summer sun to sustain both political power and shared out privilege.

While our political elites will no doubt refute these charges and blame all and sundry, except themselves, we hold these truths to be self evident and, like that old Leonard Cohen song, when it comes to the sectarian blame game ‘everybody knows that’s how it goes, everybody knows the good guys lost, everybody knows the fight was fixed, the poor stay poor, the rich get rich, that’s how it goes’, as every bigot knows.

So if we are to bequeath our future a ‘box of chocolates and a long stemmed rose’ we need to develop the leadership necessary to rise above the base sectarian greed of our political elites and welcome the celebration of our Orange heritage.

This will be no easy task but if we ‘screw our courage to the sticking point’ and remember those words Jesus, of Nazareth, once taught us, to ‘forgive those who trespass against us’ we may yet draw strength, guidance and inspiration, for the challenge ahead.

In so doing we can recall that members of Loyal Orders have been responsible for many sectarian acts in the past but then who amongst us is without sin on that account: and can cast the first golf ball?

If we are to build the shared future most of us hope for then we need to stop talking with forked tongue, about the mote in our neighbour’s eye, and begin to accept that our Orange heritage needs to be as cherished as all the children of this island: equally.

Proclaiming this truth to be self-evident may then begin to help the healing and promote a form of responsible egalitarianism more akin to our Presbyterian republican Ulster roots.

Of course, in so doing, we need to be mindful of the rejoinder that as with Christianity, while Republicanism is a great idea, it’s just a pity there are so few republicans.

Likewise, if we are to preserve civil and religious liberty for all then we need to love our enemies as ourselves and begin to self police our supporters and shame them into stopping attacks on our enemies.

The recent publication by the Loyal Orders, of a template to help reduce tensions and ensure parades are peaceful, is a progressive and constructive move towards a safer civil and religious future for all.

This template now needs to be replicated by nationalist residents groups, to ensure that protests educate people on why violence must not proceed once the flying picket relocates.

The Stanford model, employed successfully in Cardiff, must now be used more widely at the local level to dissuade people from the fallacy they can replicate the reproduction of new sectarian political elites as others have done in the past.

In so doing, a shared Twelfth might yet march our future, to dream of love and the clink of a cold glass, with ‘teenage kicks, so hard to beat,’ every time the Orange walk down our street.


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About Author

Seán Brennan is a part-time PhD candidate at the Queen’s University Belfast, School of Politics International Studies and Philosophy, researching Ulster Loyalism and the politics of Peacebuilding, Development and Security in Northern Ireland. He is a representative of the community on Belfast City Council’s Good Relations Partnership and has contributed articles for The Other View magazine, Pue’s Occurrences and Conflict Transformation Papers, Volume 9, Ethnicity and Nationalism (2005) and Volume 10, Peace by Piece (2005) and has contributed poems, The Gaza Ghetto (2008) and Belsen by the Sea (2008), for the Palestine Chronicle (16 July 2008). Seán also designs and delivers training in Community Relations, Conflict Resolution and Conflict Transformation and his Peace Building in Interface Communities programme was short-listed for the Times Higher Education Awards (2008).

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