Could the Twelfth be more like the Jubilee?

I took no interest in the Jubilee whatsoever, it simply wasn’t for me. Yet I could not fail to be struck by the number of people who did, and by the positive way in which they did so. It seemed to me to be a harmless piece of fun which brought joy to a lot of people beyond the Queen herself, including in Northern Ireland. In fact, even though I had not participated in it whatsoever, I came to think it would be better if we had more celebrations of this nature.

It does bear emphasising that, aside from a small bunch of lunatics in Derry who were allegedly protesting about something else, the celebrations drew absolutely no opposition in NI whatsoever. This is marked contrast to other celebrations of Britishness, most obviously the Twelfth.

It seems to me, therefore, that we need to consider both these points – that we need more celebrations like that of the Jubilee, and that we need to recognise the contrasts with other “celebrations” which are much more contentious.

I am never one for simplification, but it strikes me the contrast is obvious: the Jubilee celebrations were a positive display of being pro-British, whereas the Twelfth and others too often become a negative display of being anti-Irish. As a result, the former became a harmless bit of fun yet the latter often becomes a bitter point of contention. After all, what precisely is “British” about putting a Tricolour at the top of a bonfire and burning it?

Therefore I wonder if this is a fair question: is there any learning from the positive experience of the Jubilee that we could transfer, for example, to the Twelfth?

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5 thoughts on “Could the Twelfth be more like the Jubilee?

  1. no,everybody has a clear understanding of what the jubilee was,the problem with the twelfth is that while some see it as a cultural event,others use it as an excuse for an excuse to behave badly.if it is merely about history,it could be commemorated as other significant historical remembrances,why, I genuinely dont know do people celebrate a 300 year old event with more enthusiasm than remembrance Sunday.Surely the defeat of Hitler and those men who paid the ultimate price for that victory would have more relevance – wouldn’t it? or is it really just an exercise in coat trailing.genuine question mate.we have to know what exactly we are commemorating to see if there can be some possibility of common ground.If it is about religious freedom surely that could command the support of all but if it is merely about Catholic bashing then no it will not get my support,I think we need to start looking outside the box for new ways of doing things.

  2. Jasper Beardley says:

    Danny that’s a very interesting response. Some real nuggets to think on.

    The question that needs to be answered about nature of the Twelfth in my view is, is the event:

    1) an inclusive event centred on celebrating religious liberty, which anyone and everyone should thus feel comfortable taking part in?

    2) a slightly less-inclusive celebration of Protestant identity to which others may be invited to partake and enjoy (equivalent to say Diwali, the Chinese New Year festival or the Notting Hill Carnival)?

    3) a political event celebrating unionism and the continuation of the union against travails and strong sources of opposition?

    The answer at the moment is its probably all 3 depending who you speak to.

    To my mind while 1) would be the ideal in relation to fostering an open and tolerant society, it probably isn’t realistic unless the character of the organising Orange Order were to fundamentally change.

    At heart the OO is a Protestant faith defending organisation. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, its equivalent to Opus Dei or the brotherhoods of Semana Santa in Spain. But, by its nature, it can’t really then be a completely open and inclusive event – its a “Protestant event”, in the same way the Spanish Palm Sunday processions are “Catholic events”, or the Notting Hill Carnival is “an Afro-caribbean event”. Other people can enjoy them, but they’ll never feel they’re “their” event.

    I think the realistic answer, in terms of living peacably with ourselves, lies in 2). A way needs to be found then to make residents in the Ardoyne, Short Strand and Garvaghy Road feel less threatened by Orange culture, and more accepting (even embracing) as say, David Cameron and the rest of the Notting Hill set would be of the annual Afro-Caribbean Fest that takes place on their doorstep every August (i presume).

    That’s a tricky condundrum to get from where we are now to where we’d like to be – and it will take leadership all round and by both sides.

    But here’s a few wacky ideas to throw out in to the ether that might help:

    – the OO could invite an Irish band/musical artists to take part in the Belfast procession. Why not? “Irishness” itself is not counter to any of the OO’s core beliefs etc. Afterall, it the Grand Orange Lodge of IRELAND. It would be a key gesture I think. One would hope the crowds behave themselves in response, and so some careful preliminary news management would probably be required (e.g. favourable pre-coverage in the Newsletter, drawing on the significance and reasoning for the invitation etc).

    – if that seems pie in the sky (i.e. that the invite would ever be accepted), howabout moving in that direction and broadening the cultural flavour by inviting african Samba bands and other non-indigenous cultural traditions to be involved. Again, I don’t see any of that being against the OO’s background, indeed, given the OO’s presence in parts of Africa, it might be quite appropriate.

    – have a post procession “drum-off” or similar musical event celebrating the music traditions of both the orange and green. Again, nothing in that would be counter to what the OO directly stands for.

    Anyway, that’s just some spitball thoughts.

    The problem of course is the OO would require some dynamic and forward thinking leadership to really go for potentially “game changing” ideas like that to change both perception and reality – and as we know from Garvaghy Road, Tom Elliott at funerals etc, its not something it possesses in any great quantity.

    Hopefully I’ll be proved wrong about that though…

  3. Patrick M says:

    The Jubilee was a celebration of a monarchy (which I disagree with on principle, even if I wasn’t an Irish Nationalist) however, people do agree with it, and I wont begrudge them that, if they wanna have a celebration to commemorate their head of state thats fine. I know Catholics who would claim to be Royalists or atleast have no dislike of the Monarchy. The problem is that the bunting and flags once again becoming territorial markings, and as a Catholic student living in South Belfast this can be quite off putting(I also recognise that I feel no trepidation when in my native West Belfast when there are tricolours etc up) But as I say celebrate away on that.
    The problem with the 12th of July is that it is a celebration by the Orange Order, commemorating the victory of William of Orange over the Jacobites. The Orange Order is a Sectarian organisation that does not allow Catholics to join, not discourages, refuses. The 12th is a celebration of Protestant ideals and values. Around the 12th the flags and bunting go up again, however, alongside the Red, White and Blue, there is the purple and orange, flags of the UVF (and it may be argued that “its the old UVF, the on from 1912, but that was still an organisation that discriminated against Catholics living in Ulster, seperated them from their country and formed a Government in the 1920’s onward that gerrymandered catholic votes, and had a fairly open policy of discrimination in employment and housing etc). My point is, the 12th of July, along with the upcoming centenery of the signing of the Ulster Covenant in September are exclusive events, segerated from a vast majority of the population of Ireland (as Jasper Bradley pointed out it is the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland), and therefore the 12th can’t be more like the Jubilee because with Monarchism in Britain, Catholics are still allowed to buy into the idea (just not marry into the family). Its not about changing attitudes, its about making sectarian organisations defunct.

  4. Derek says:

    It is clear to me that the Jubilee was a celebration of the Monarchy and the Commonwealth, of which Her Majesty is Head.

    In those counties of the Commonwealth, including the UK, known as Realms where she is Head of State the Monarch is the non contentious, non political head of that state, to whom the Paliament, the Armed Forces and the Judiciary owe allegiances rather than to a changing, and perhaps unpopular President, who may be a political appointee, and may be an Executive President, with power.. With regard to the Commonwealth, as a whole, both Realms and Republics, the Monarch embodys the image of a Family of Equal nations, who because of common history, and in most cases common values, are able to benefit from each other, by way of bilateral inter-state arrangements and understandings.

    In other words the Monarchy is inclusive towards all in the Commonwealth whether the Monarch is regarded as Head of State or not.

    There can be no comparison with the Oange Order which can, by its very nature, be nothing but one sided and perceived to be supportive of only one side of the community only. There can be no comparison. The Order is not an intellectual fun loving and inclusive organisation. Bottom line it is an organisation where men, and some women (separately) can enjoty the company of friends from their own side of the community, and they can look forward to the annual parade, during which they can exercise on the march, be inspired by the speakers at “the field” and have a convivial time.

    Some day when we have had several generations of all together, education, when the members of the Orange Order have close friendships, with those who they perceive to be different, and when the 12th of July, is a fun day for all then there might be an excuse for comparison.

  5. Jr says:

    Danny, it is not like celebrating and commemorating old events is unusual. Jews celebrate Passover each year which is about something that (supposedly) happened 2700 years ago. Christians celebrate events that happened over 2000 years ago each Christmas.

    On the less religious front Americans celebrate the Declaration of Independence, something that happened over 200 years ago. And their enthusiasm does not seem to be diminishing as the years go by.

    After a while the celebrations are as much about themselves, about showing you belong to a community that have certain celebrations, as recalling the actual event that you are supposed to be celebrating.

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