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Twelfth celebration suggests discrimination towards nationalists
A parade in Coleraine in 1909 to celebrate the Twelfth of July Photo: National Library of Ireland, L_ROY_01009

Twelfth celebration suggests discrimination towards nationalists

Belfast, 13 July 1918 - Yesterday’s celebration of the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne was the biggest in Ulster since the outbreak of the war.

Demonstrations were held throughout the province and nearly all Ulster Unionist MPs participated, including Sir Edward Carson, who attended a demonstration at Finaghy, Belfast.

The occasion of the Twelfth was used this year to reinforce the message that unionist opposition to Home Rule has been undimmed by the passage of time or by the shift in national priorities.

Excerpt from RTÉ's 'Boom of the Lambeg Drum', presented by Roisín Boyd and produced by Betty Purcell. Originally broadcast on 16/08/1987 (Courtesy of RTÉ Archives, AA3722)

Resolutions passed by demonstrators reaffirmed their imperial loyalty, their adherence to the principles of the Orange Order, and their conviction that a ‘Parliamentary Union’ was necessary for the ‘preservation of the liberties of Ireland and for the security of the British Empire’.

According to one of the resolutions, the events of recent months had shown nationalists to have been in ‘treasonable communication with the enemy’, and that clerical and lay leaders were openly engaged in preventing Irishmen from taking their fair share of the dangers in the present war.

Much of the public comment in advance of this year’s Twelfth celebration concerned General Shaw’s order requiring seven days’ notice for permission to hold meetings and processions, although it was assumed that the Irish authorities would sanction the events.

And while there was no disorder during the Twelfth demonstrations there has been much adverse commentary by nationalists, who have contrasted the government's treatment of unionist organisations to its treatment of their nationalist counterparts.

As the Cork Examiner has put it, ‘respect for British rule in this country will scarcely be intensified as a result of the authorities' action in permitting such Orange displays, while the singing of Irish songs is prohibited at Feiseanna and athletic sports meetings are prevented by official intervention’.

An extract from a report from the Chief Secretary's Office on the Orange parade in 1918. (National Archives UK, CO 904 106 July 1918)

This is in reference to the clampdown on public assemblies without permit which had given rise to a spate of incidents, including at GAA fixtures. Although the GAA was not among the recent list of organisations proclaimed by the authorities, it has not been left unscathed by the recent hardening of official policy.

In West Cork, for example, a camogie match between Dunmanway and Bantry, was prevented from finishing when the police asked for the game to be stopped and gave the teams and spectators 10 minutes to disperse.

The police and military present, who were booed and jeered, returned to barracks after clearing people from the field. The crowd regathered however, and a police baton charge ensued. A number of people sustained injuries, some from being trampled on by the stampeding crowds.

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]


Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.