In normal years, Belfast and the rest of Northern Ireland would be preparing for one of the most eagerly awaited weekends, or depending on your political stance, one of the most controversial days of the year. Streets would be decorated with red, blue and white streamers and orange emblems, and vast pyramids of wooden crates would be built ready to be burned in one of many bonfires across Northern Ireland. However, in 2020, predictably because of the Coronavirus restrictions, “The Twelfth” has been cancelled as normally celebrated.
The Orange Order (a traditionally very conservative group that celebrates all of Protestantism and union to the United Kingdom) are still planning to celebrate the bank holiday weekend, even if it isn’t with the usual bonfires and marches.
To celebrate, Radio Boyne has been created by the Orange Order as a pop up radio station to promote the “2020 12th at Home” celebrations. The station is due to go live on the 10th July with full listings of programmes to include “traditional tunes, popular songs and hymns alongside heritage, history and information programmes will provide easy listening and set the scene for the big day.”
A mobile app has also been created by the Orange Order to accompany the radio station which will initially provide access to Radio Boyne but it is “anticipated that it will be developed further… to bring more news, features and information from the Orange Institution.”
Deputy Grand Master Harold Henning, a representative of the Orange Order said that he is “delighted to announce the launch of an app to accompany our Radio Boyne broadcasts” which would “allow members of the Orange Family and others to access Radio Boyne on their phone or tablet device at the press of a button.”
Henning continued that the Orange Order “are very much looking forward to our 12th at Home celebrations and Radio Boyne is a very big part of that.”
The 12th July celebrations are celebrated by those mainly of a Protestant and British Unionist background in Northern Ireland commemorating the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne 330 years ago, where the Protestant Dutch King William III (better known as William of Orange) defeated forces of the Catholic former English King James II.
The celebrations are traditionally begun with enormous bonfires across the province on the 11th July, before the marches of different Orange Order lodges the next day, where the streets are adorned by marching bands of well dressed people wearing orange sashes and top hats. Supporters of the event say it is an important day to promote and remember the culture of Protestantism in Northern Ireland and of historical events, not only of the Battle of the Boyne but also the Siege of Derry.
Critics of the event, normally those of the historically Catholic and nationalist community in Northern Ireland decry the event as an example of triumphalism as well as the choice of location of the marches which can go through Nationalist neighbourhoods. Furthermore, the bonfires are criticised not only for the environmental damage, but also for the racial or bigoted epithets which have been known to appear on some bonfires.
The troubled days of Northern Ireland are now hopefully in the past, however, as the Coronavirus has shown that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any difficulties at all in 2020. The Twelfth will always be celebrated by a portion of the population in Northern Ireland and it is in everyone’s best interest that it is done safely, and in 2020, that means it is best celebrated at home, listening to Radio Boyne with the help of the new Orange Order app.