The island of Ireland has a rich history that defines its culture. For centuries, the people have divided themselves along religious and political reasons, like Catholics versus Protestants, and nationalists versus unionists. Almost everyone has lobbied for peaceful means to sort out differences in recent years, but one day of the year is almost always handled through contentious and sometimes violent means.
July 12 marks the anniversary of William of Orange’s defeat of dethroned James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. To remember the Protestant king’s victory, a secret society called the Orangemen parade through Northern Ireland on July 12 every year. Men in orange sashes, drum and fife bands, and supporters march down the streets of Belfast, and some lodges choose to march through particularly nationalist and Catholic neighborhoods. One such neighborhood is Ardoyne. It is an infamous flashpoint, where riots often break out between the unionist Orangemen, nationalist protesters, and police trying to separate the two.
But this year, the Parades Commission decided to ban return afternoon marches through Ardoyne to prevent violence; Orangemen were allowed to walk through the neighborhood only during its beginning morning route.
With few exceptions, Belfast remained calm and peaceful at first. Journalists even reported that the parades passed and finished without violence by yesterday afternoon. However, some reporters said they would continue to cover Ardoyne, as it was expected trouble might outbreak there when marches couldn’t pass through the neighborhood on their way home.
RTE compiled an article, along with photographs and videos that give images to the words. Tens of thousands supported the marches peacefully during the day, but things turned sullen when police barricaded Crumlin Road in Ardoyne from any unionists from passing through. The police were enforcing an order ruled by the Parades Commission. Yesterday was the first time the Orangemen weren’t allowed through Ardoyne on July 12. Instead of choosing another route home, the unionists continued marching along the traditional route up until the police barricade of tanks and shields. Orangemen and their supporters threw “petrol bombs, fireworks, bricks and bottles” at the police officers. Some even climbed on top of the tanks to rally jeers and chants. By the end of the night, at least four men were arrested and four officers were injured. Another person who was injured was Democratic Unionist Party MP Nigel Dodds, who was knocked unconscious by a missile thrown presumably from a unionist, as it was not mentioned that any nationalists took up arms. To prepare for riots, Northern Ireland police requested in advance 600 extra officers to help from Scotland, Wales and England. A total of 4,000 officers were on duty yesterday. The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service received one call every 77 seconds for three hours last night, but most of the calls referred to the Eleventh Night bonfires and only 15 calls needed actual assistance.
Thanks to my POLI 2053 class, many details of this article made sense to me. For example, the Northern Ireland police is able to request extra forces from England, Wales and Scotland because all four are part of the United Kingdom. Even though Northern Ireland was granted devolution and slowly given control of its police force after the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, it is still connected to the other three countries under the United Kingdom. In theory, the four help one another out when needed, and yesterday was a prime example of Northern Ireland’s dependency on the United Kingdom. I also learned that during the Troubles, the Northern Ireland police were almost all staunch unionists. Instead of keeping the peace, the police would sometimes join in on the violent acts against nationalists. Thanks to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, nationalists were able to join the police force, and now the police force isn’t corrupt. Protestants still make up a majority of the police force, but more Catholics have joined the force since 1998. They no longer show favoritism toward unionist, as made evident yesterday when they stood up to the Orangemen. What’s ironic is many of those police officers who were blocking the nationalist area of Aydoyne were probably Protestant and unionist (about 70 percent of the police force is Protestant), yet were injured by other unionists. It’s comforting to know that the police are no longer corrupt and will protect nationalists from radical unionists, but it’s also disheartening to know that unionists will take out their anger of the Parades Commission’s ruling on the police. It’s also ironic that DUP MP Nigel Dodds was knocked unconscious in the midst of the clash between the Orangemen and the police. He is a member of the hardline unionist party and supports the Orangemen, yet was hit in the head – whether intentional or unintentional – by a missile thrown from the unionist crowd.
The journalist presents the story in a factual, straightforward manner. From what I can tell, the writer is not biased, and is not supporting the unionists, nationalists or police.