Patrick Costello, Green Party TD and member of the Good Friday Agreement Oireachtas Committee, has called on the Irish government to legislate to make the 12th of July a public holiday.
"I am calling on the Irish Government to make the 12th of July a public holiday," Costello said in a statement on Monday, July 10.
"This day is an extremely important one historically for the island, and culturally for many people who live here.
“As part of the peace process, we have made a number of gestures, such as amending articles 2 and 3 of the constitution. The new article 3 specifies that the state will work ‘to unite all the people who share the territory of the island of Ireland, in all the diversity of their identities and traditions’. I believe my proposal would see us living up to our constitutional obligation.”
Costello continued: “We have seen the good work currently carried out by the Shared Island unit, building literal bridges between North and South. Efforts such as this would reaffirm that commitment to a sense of shared ownership and history of the island.
He added: “Aside from the symbolic effects, this would also bring benefits for the tourism industry. For tourism, there is huge untapped potential relating to the Jacobite-Williamite War.
"In particular, I think of the Battle of the Boyne site itself where the OPW run a fantastic visitor site. This could become a site of annual pilgrimage for many from the North.
Concluding, Costello remarked: “For too long the Irish state sought to portray a single narrative of Irish history, one that was isolationist, militant, nationalist and catholic. We know that history is not black and white, we know that there are numerous traditions on this island.
"If the Irish state truly aspires to unite all the peoples of this island, then all of those people need to feel represented and included. Designating the 12th as a public holiday would be a major step for that process.”
Reaction to Costello's Twelfth of July proposal
Costello's proposal, which he shared on Twitter on Monday, received mixed reactions. Some pointed out how a united Ireland would have to include Loyalist traditions such as the Twelfth, while others argued that the holiday is sectarian.
In Belfast, SDLP Cllr. Séamas de Faoite said: "Bank holidays are good for people’s morale and improve productivity. This one also has the benefit of reminding people across the island that there are many different traditions that share our home. Loyalism isn’t going to disappear in a new Ireland."
Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, a Labour TD for North Dublin, said: "Those advocating for a United Ireland, where we might peacefully co-exist with one million unionists, need to get their head around a public holiday for July 12th very quickly.
"There will be a lot more challenging questions than that to overcome if we're serious about unity."
Meath TD Peadar Tóibín, the leader of Aontú, said: "Are the Greens losing it?
"The 12th is a celebration of dominance of Unionism over nationalists
"Its core message is we're in charge, don't forget it.
"It has been sectarian & a dangerous time for Catholics.
"Reconciliation doesn't mean dressing up in each others political clothes."
Hazel Chu, the former Lord Mayor of Dublin and a fellow Green Party member, said: "Different cultures and traditions can and should be included by a shared island. Public holidays such as the 12th must not be continued to be hijacked by extreme groups."
Michael Kelly, editor of the Irish Catholic publication, said: "I don’t disagree at all, but it would’ve been good for Patrick to have addressed the fundamentally sectarian problem. The Orange Order expels members who dare to marry a Catholic."
Eoin Daly, a law lecturer at University of Galway, said: "July 12th is explicitly a festival of Orangeism; i.e. a celebration of the Protestant ascendancy established in Ireland in the late 17th century. It is explicitly sectarian and supremacist. The idea that recognising it is 'inclusive' is contradictory to say the least."
Professor John O'Brennan, the Director of the Maynooth Centre for European and Eurasian Studies, said Costello's idea was "inspired."
Meanwhile, in 2021, President of Sinn Féin Mary Lou McDonald said that if a United Ireland were to come to pass, a Twelfth of July public holiday would be "a good idea."
What is the Twelfth of July?
July 12 - often known as The Twelfth, The Glorious Twelfth, or Orangeman's Day - is an Ulster Protestant celebration to mark Protestant King William of Orange's victory over Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
The day is a public holiday in Northern Ireland where it's typically commemorated with parades and marching bands hosted by the Orange Order and loyalist groups.
The night before The Twelfth - The Eleventh - traditionally sees loyalist groups lighting bonfires, a practice that is believed to stem from the lighting of fires on hilltops in Antrim and Down that helped Williamite forces navigate through the Belfast Lough at night during the Williamite Wars in Ireland.
However, symbols of Irish nationalism, republicanism, or of Catholicism have often been added to the pyre during the bonfires, a point of considerable criticism.
In 2022, effigies featuring the faces of politicians Naomi Long, Michelle O'Neill, and Mary Lou McDonald were hung on a bonfire in Carrickfergus, Co Antrim, while this year, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's image along with an Irish flag was placed on a bonfire in Moygashel, Co Tyrone. The incidents were condemned by prominent Loyalist politicians.