Nine police officers were hurt in a hail of bricks, bottles and bolts at this year’s 12 July parades but passengers of the budget airline easyJet were advised that the perennially violent culmination of the Northern Ireland marching season was a prime tourist attraction.
“Hundreds of colourful parades take place across Northern Ireland on 12 July bank holiday to commemorate the 1690 Battle of the Boyne,” observed the inflight easyJet Traveller magazine, amid other Belfast insider tips on finding “wine and nibbles”, charcuterie and burrito bars. “They’re great to watch, just check ahead for travel disruptions and advice.”
In the case of this year’s parades, the disruptions included a major outbreak of violence in north Belfast in which a 16-year-old girl was injured after being dragged underneath an out-of-control car. Marchers from Orange Order lodges and their accompanying bands were confronted by angry Nationalists near Crumlin Road, from where the parades had been banned.
Lines of riot police attempted to keep the two groups apart but came under attack. Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers said the rioters “wreck a day which should be about respectful celebration of cultural tradition”. In all 18 parades took place on “The Twelfth”, with most passing off peacefully.
Following reader complaints, easyJet, which coincidentally has orange as its corporate colours, has agreed to no longer promote the marching season as an attraction for Belfast visitors.
Sammy McNally, a Northern Irish blogger, read the magazine and wrote to easyJet to complain. In a blog he asked whether the airline would encourage tourists heading to Serbia to visit festivals which might “exacerbate ethnic tensions”.
EasyJet, which confirmed in an email to McNally that it “will not be including such recommendations in future”, issued a statement to apologise. “We rely on an external network of writers, based in each of our destinations, to provide the recommendations for our destination guides that appear within easyJet Traveller. These writers are always locally based and are respected journalists in their community and it’s their expertise and on-the-ground knowledge that makes the content of our guides so useful,” it said.
“In this instance the author of our Belfast guide felt the event’s inclusion was of cultural interest to our readers, however, we fully understand the sensitivities around the event and apologise for it not being spotted at our normally rigorous editorial sign off.”
McNally told The Independent it was “good to see” that the airline recognised his concerns. “Parades which have a significant sectarian element and which are overtly political in nature are not suitable to be recommended to tourists unless the ethnic, political and religious, context of the parades is also made clear,” he said. “The Belfast parade in particular has a very poor record of sectarian behaviour, coupled with hardline political speeches and including some bands which advertise their paramilitary connections.”Reuse content