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The Twelfth wasn't always so combative. Perhaps decency and respect can yet bridge the divide

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Just as the song of the swallow heralds spring, another annual squawk alerts us to the arrival of summer in Northern Ireland: the first news story about a bonfire.

It will be too high. Or too close to people’s homes. Or have election posters placed on it. Possibly all three.

Let me be clear: towering infernos that can damage someone’s property should be dismantled before a match is struck; burning pictures of politicians is disgraceful and to be condemned.

Nor should the fact loyalists inflict the same “own goals” upon themselves every July mean the media shouldn’t report them.

Inevitably, though, the Twelfth fortnight now has its own narrative arc: weeks of foreboding, days of high tension around the demonstrations, then mopping up the fall-out.

It’s hardly surprising many unionists feel demoralised, not just by the moronic behaviour of a few Protestants handing a yearly PR victory to opponents of the Union but also because of the prevailing “wisdom” that the Twelfth is officially “a bad thing”. No longer the simple celebration of their childhoods, but a doom-laden date on the calendar. To be ‘got over’, endured. Survived.

The “Twelfth Fortnight”, when people traditionally took their holidays, has been replaced by the “Twelfth Exodus” when people traditionally flee the country.

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When the media want to illustrate the stricken nature of unionism they reach for a photo of Orangemen waving a Union Jack against a grey sky with clouds gathering.

If they’re bowler-hatted, even better, an anachronism literally walking out of time.........

© Belfast Telegraph

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