View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Glorious Twelfth

In Scotland, the Glorious Twelfth refers to August 12th, when the grouse shooting season opens. It is as much a pointless exercise as July 12th, which is a date of note on the calendar of Northern Ireland. As one of my Twitter contacts put it tersely: "Northern Ireland's Festival of Sectarianism is well underway again. When you mix orange and green you end up with shitty brown". On 12 July, the Protestants in Northern Ireland celebrate the accession to the English throne of William III in 1688, as well as his victory at the battle of the Boyne in 1690.

In 1998, the Good Friday agreement was signed between the warring factions in Ulster, to put an end to the civil war there, euphemistically referred to as the Troubles. The IRA and its protestant counterparts decommissioned their weaponry, but small "dissident" extremist factions have remained active, and the confrontation between the two sides has flared up in recent weeks, culminating in today's Orange marches. I wish they would just ban them. It would also help if Northern Ireland's politics would cease to be demarkated along the lines of religious convictions, rather than that of political conviction.

I have to say, as a Dutchman, that I am deeply ashamed that there is a strong Dutch connection in this unholy saga. William III was William of Orange, the King of the Netherlands in the 17th century. His strongly anti-papal convictions continue to echo through the ages, and have contributed in no mean fashion to the civil strife in the north of Ireland. His role in Scottish history is equally ignominious, in that it was on his orders that the 78 Macdonalds were killed by the Campbells at Glencoe in 1692.