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Northern Ireland 

Marching season in Northern Ireland
 
I do not know of any other country who has a “marching season”, but if you come to Northern Ireland particularly in June and July, you may find that your plans are held up by an organised march and potentially also the organised protest.  oHonking your horn will not work; your best course of action is to turn off the car engine and enjoy, if you can, the music.  Some may find it harder than others to enjoy the marches, but marching is something in Northern Ireland that is here to stay.  The marching season is typically April to November. 
 
Orange members marching back from the field wearing funny hatsThe majority of the 3,000+ marches in Northern Ireland are organised by the Orange Order, the Black Perceptory or the Apprentice Boys  whose membership of those organisation are restricted to Protestants.  Other parades in Northern Ireland include the Gay Pride Parade, the St. Patricks Day parade, parades of military regiments stationed in Northern Ireland, church parades,  and also parades organised by Roman Catholics in honour of the Easter Rising, for example.
 
King William III of England or William of OrangeThe parade in Northern Ireland most known is held on the 12th of July and it celebrates King William (the Protestant King) defeating King James (the Catholic King) at the Battle of the Boyne.  Protestants would argue that their celebrations on the 12th of July are a celebration of their continued existence on the island of Ireland as the loss of King “Billy” to King James would certainly have meant followers of the Protestant religion would have been persecuted and probably driven out of Ireland.  Roman Catholics feel that the parades are all about triumphalism and Protestant dominance in this society.   
 
The main July 12th parade in Belfast is a day long affair.  Marchers from all over Belfast meet at their local lodge early in the morning and then march into the city centre to meet with the other lodges.  The main parade is then approximately 6 miles long, through the city centre, to the “field” which is much like a carnival and is meant for families to gather to meet their loved ones after their long walk.  There is also a Protestant religious service held at the field.  After a few hours of rest and relaxation, the march leaves the field back into the city centre where each lodge then marches back to their home lodge.  Some people walk more than 12 miles that day! 
 
There is not just one parade on July 12th but various parades across Northern Ireland.  Parades outside of Belfast tend to be seen as more family oriented.
 
In the past “The Twelfth”, as it is affectionately known to some, has had issues with severe drunkenness and disorderly conduct by both the people who watch the parade and the marchers themselves.  The Orange Order is trying to market and clean up this day so it is more about a family festival rather than a drinking club for men, however for a significant minority of people in Northern Ireland the Twelfth will never be an acceptable holiday no matter how little drinking and drunkenness occurs. 
 
Royal Black marchingThe Black Perceptory has their main march on the last Saturday in August at numerous locations in Northern Ireland and they are also known for their parade on the 13th of July in Scarva where a sham fight between the two Kings takes place.  The Apprentice Boys of Derry have their main marches on the Saturday nearest the 12th of August and the Saturday nearest the 18th of December in Londonderry.  However, while these are the main marches, there are obviously numerous other marches throughout the summer that take place to commemorate various dates.
 
In the past some of these parades have had international attention because of the rioting and anti-social behaviour that has occurred either at them or after they have passed.  Currently there are only a handful of parades in Northern Ireland which attract trouble. 
 
Cliften Street Orange Hall along with King William on horseA byproduct of the trouble and animosity that parades cause to community relations can be seen in the picture to the left  depicting the Orange Hall on Cliften Street, Belfast.  It has protective caging around its windows to protect against attacks and if you look closely you can see evidence of paint attacks against the hall.  Of interest on top of the Orange Hall is a statue of King William which is the only Orange Hall in Northern Ireland to have such a statue.  
 
In recent years, tit-for-tat attacks on Orange Halls and GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) properties.  These attacks can include paint throwing, attempted arson, and even one attack in which a tractor was used to attempt to knock the property down. 

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