Ireland: Sectarian marches spark violence

Issue 

Trouble flared across Ireland's north on the night of July 12 as sectarian Orange Order marchers insisted on marching through nationalist areas, the Morning Star said the next day.

It said serious rioting followed a unionist (supporters of Northern Ireland's union with Britain) parade through the the largely Catholic and Irish nationalist working-class suburb of Ardoyne in north Belfast.

Petrol bombs and bricks were thrown at police by both nationalists and unionists. Police responded by using water cannon and baton rounds were fired by the security forces. There were also violent confrontations in the Bogside in Derry.

The Morning Star said: “The trouble came after a day of parades by the unionist and Protestant Orange Order across Northern Ireland and counter-demonstrations by nationalists, which passed off largely peacefully.”

July 12 commemorates the 1690 Battle of the Boyne, in which Protestant forces defeated Catholic opponents. Marches by the sectarian and unionist Orange Order, which often pass through mostly Catholic and nationalist areas, feature songs and imagery celebrating anti-Catholic violence.

July 12, and the days leading up to it, after often the scene of anti-Catholic and nationalist marches and riots, as well as counter-protests. The Northern Ireland statelet was founded in 1921 on the principle of Protestent privilige at the expense of the Catholic minority. Northern Ireland's first prime minister, James Craig, declared it a “Protestant Parliament and a Protestant State”.

Catholics were often excluded from jobs and faced other forms of official discrimination. In 1969, violent anti-Catholic pogroms resulted in the greatest forced migration of people in Europe since World War II.

The rising violence against Catholic and nationalist communities lead to the period known as the Troubles, as Britain sent soldiers to occupy the six counties and Irish republican forces carried out armed resistance.

Despite the peace process under way since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the marching season in July is often marked by violence. Republicans accuse the Orange Order of provoking violence by insisting on marching through nationalist areas.

After the violence in Ardoyne, MLA for North Belfast Gerry Kelly, from the republican party Sinn Fein, said: "If the Orange marchers did not march through these areas, then the trouble would not happen.

"The Orange parades went out in the morning, they were able to celebrate their culture, meet old friends ― no-one is against all of that. But why would they insist on coming back afterwards to an area which is contentious?"

The Morning Star reported that the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective said: "We only wish the media and unionist politicians, including the first minister, were as concerned about the inconveniences that the residents of our areas face as a result of unwanted Loyal Order parades.

"These include being subjected to sectarian taunts and behaviour, the flaunting of loyalist paramilitary emblems celebrating those who have killed our loved ones, heavy militarisation of the area, restrictions on freedom of movement, restricted access to local amenities and the criminalisation of our area."