Efforts have been ongoing to rebrand the notorious loyalist holiday in Northern Ireland as a potential tourist attraction that would be welcoming to all backgrounds.
Amid a recent surge in unrest in places such as Derry, where 25 petrol bombs went off on Monday night, such efforts have been seen as lacking merit. However, Unionists such as Peter Robinson and others would like to see a softening of the image of the Orangemen's annual celebration.
Thousands of people are taking part in 12th of July Orange Order parades across Northern Ireland. Last night a number of vehicles were burned out during violence around loyalist bonfires. | https://t.co/r0SPUlKzBn pic.twitter.com/Iw9POna0WT— RTÉ News (@rtenews) July 12, 2018
Robinson, when he was the First Minister of Northern Ireland, sought to redefine the celebration commemorating King William’s win over the Irish King James in the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. The Unionist leadership has since been trying to appeal to the cultural side of the 12th and rebrand it as a family-friendly holiday for all.
In recent years, rebranding has taken place, such as when the Belfast march was coined ‘Orangefest’ in 2008. As of yet, tourists are not embracing the day synonymous with The Troubles and violent sectarianism.
Naked sectarianism & racism is no way to celebrate ones culture. There is a long way to go in cross community acceptance in Northern Ireland..... #Bonfires #11thNight #12thJuly pic.twitter.com/VxPVPy7egy— Austin Stack (@adstack68) July 12, 2018
According to The Journal, the Orange Order has recently made attempts at modernizing their organization and distance themselves from their history of bigotry and oppressive measures against Irish Catholics.
The Order recently hired its first chief executive to help with modernization, particularly in the form of ‘educational outreach’. Despite this, loyalists are still putting out bonfires that burn the tricolor and everything associated with the Irish identity each year around this season.
Last year, the Mourne District parade near Carlingford Lough in Annalong, Co. Down was seen by unionists as an example of the changing institution.
“Down here it’s very family oriented,” said Denis McKee, Master of the Kilkeel True Blues Lodge.
“It’s all about family connections - grandfather to father, father to son.”
McKee emphasized that he believed the Order has always been getting bad press, but in recent years they have been extensively involved in community and charity work. Even immigrants to Northern Ireland had even begun participating in these festivities as he went on to say.
Petrol bombs, buses set on fire and late night disturbances #eleventhnight across Northern Ireland. Today is the #12thJuly when thousands of members of the @OrangeOrder will march. Please pray that parades in contentious areas would pass peacefully— Mark Russell (@markrusselluk) July 12, 2018
“We’ve actually got a lot of Filipino fisherman and other nationalities - they’re quite bemused by it all. They’re accepted into this community, and they’re accepted into the local churches the Orange Order is connected to.”
As for the tourism aspect, they do seem to only have an appeal among Orangemen from other parts of the world, mostly Britain, Canada, and the United States. In light of this, they are trying to persuade others, particularly those in the south of Ireland, that the Orange Order is welcoming of them joining in the celebrations.
“They’re very welcome. We welcome everybody to come and enjoy the parade, enjoy the music. It really is a good, colorful musical parade that anybody can enjoy,” said Neil Cousins, the Mourne District Master.
History and bad-blood between both loyalists and republicans in the north run deep, so expect that many would be reluctant to take part in this historically hate-filled day any time soon.