Tensions rise again in Northern Ireland

In the heat of July, Northern Ireland has once again witnessed violent clashes following the decision by the Parades Commission to ban Orange Order marchers who took part in the twelfth of July parade to return along parts of the nationalist Ardoyne area of Belfast.

In the heat of July, Northern Ireland has once again witnessed violent clashes following the decision by the Parades Commission to ban Orange Order marchers who took part in the twelfth of July  parade to return along parts of the nationalist Ardoyne area of Belfast.

In upping the rhetoric of the weekend, the order’s grand master has warned that the decision made by the parades commission is further proof of a “cultural war” being inflicted on unionists in Northern Ireland.

Speaking over the weekend, Edward Stevenson declared:

“Republicans are engaging in a cultural war to erode all symbols of Britishness,” he told those gathered at the field in Wilton Park.

“The shameful decision to strip down the union flag from Belfast City Hall, following on from the outrageous naming of a children’s play park in Newry after an IRA terrorist, are just some examples of the so-called ‘shared future’ envisaged by Sinn Féin.”

Calling for the Parades Commission to be scrapped, he continued

“I call on the secretary of state to immediately cease offering this unelected quango life support and finally put it out of its misery.”

The protests came despite calls for calm by the DUP leader and first minister Peter Robinson and Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers’ warnings over the damage that the violence could inflict on Northern Ireland’s economic development.

Declaring the violence to be “a fresh disaster for unionism”, the Newsletter on Saturday wrote:

“In a shameful act of appeasing dissident republican thugs, the Parades Commission this week rewarded years of extreme rioting by nationalist youths in the Ardoyne by capitulating to that nationalist mythology, and by agreeing with the lie that an occasional, brief walk past those shopfronts was unacceptable to the other community.

“Thus, loyalist rage yesterday was entirely justified, entirely understandable, and entirely appropriate.”

The paper went on to continue:

“But physically venting that rage was entirely wrong. Drunken loyalist fools have both made a disastrous strategic mistake, and behaved disgracefully, whatever the context.

“Even that minority of Protestants who are untroubled by the morality of such rioting should have the wit to understand that while the authorities will often reward republican violence, they will, ultimately, punish loyalist disorder.

“Indeed, last night’s trouble will be used retrospectively to justify the ban, which is a nonsense, but which will be accepted even by some privileged and moderate unionists who are unaware of the detail of what is happening to vulnerable Protestant minorities in places such as north Belfast.

“It is a tragedy that after such good weather, and amid signs of a still small but emerging tourist interest in Orangefest, some loyalists have allowed yesterday to end in this way.”

Writing the same day, the Belfast Telegraph meanwhile warned that Northern Ireland could not let itself be hijacked by extremists. The paper noted:

“As always, there are people who seem to long for confrontation and to cause the utmost damage, but they are not representative of the vast majority of people of Northern Ireland who are not interested in the grim battles of the past or present.

“Sadly the hopes of a peaceful conclusion to another Twelfth have not materialised, and the serious confrontations in Belfast last night were further proof of the need for our society to grow up politically and to work together to address the real challenges of jobs and employment which face all our people.

“Until that happens the colourful side of the Twelfth will continue to be overshadowed by the actions of those to whom confrontation is a way of life.

“They must not be allowed to hijack the agenda for a better future for everyone in Northern Ireland.”

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