DERRY — Eighty police were injured last night as violence erupted in a Catholic-nationalist area of north Belfast after a day of Protestant Orange Order parades throughout Northern Ireland.
Tensions were high in the run-up to the parade through the mainly nationalist Ardoyne area of north Belfast. While the morning parade passed off peacefully, the return of the Orangemen through the area on Tuesday evening proved troublesome.
Last year, British Army units were attacked by nationalist rioters alleging a heavy-handed response to peaceful protests at the Orange Order march through the Ardoyne.
No army units were deployed to Ardoyne this year. However, efforts by Sinn Féin – the political party linked to the Irish Republican Army (IRA) – to ensure that nationalist youths were restrained during the marches do not appear to have been completely successful.
Petrol and bombs were thrown at police who were in the area to ensure that marchers and residents were kept apart.
As well as the high number of police officers, seven civilians, including two journalists, were injured.
Elsewhere, for the first time in 13 years, an Orange Order march was permitted on Derry/Londonderry’s Cityside or west bank, the mainly nationalist side of Northern Ireland’s second largest city.
Although tensions were high in the run-up to the event, successful brokering by the Derry Chamber of Commerce – between the Orange Order and the Bogside Residents Group – ensured that the parade passed peacefully.
However, a policewoman was injured late on Tuesday while attempting to prevent a confrontation between nationalist youths and Orange Order members in the heart of the city.
Elsewhere, Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness helped broker a settlement to a stand-off in Dunloy, where local nationalist residents staged a sit-down protest at an Orange Order march in the village.
July 12th is the highlight of the “marching season” in Northern Ireland. Bands of Orangemen and women – members of the exclusively Protestant Orange Order – march in towns and cities throughout Northern Ireland. They commemorate the 1689 victory of the Dutch Protestant King William over the English Catholic King James, at the Battle of the Boyne in what is now the Republic of Ireland, in their struggle for the English throne.
Northern Ireland’s three decades of civil conflict up to 1998 saw over 3,600 people killed, most of them civilians, as mostly Catholic Irish nationalists and republican paramilitaries, who want Northern Ireland to merge with the Republic of Ireland to the south, faced off against mostly Protestant unionists or loyalist counterparts who want to remain part of the United Kingdom. British soldiers flooded into Northern Ireland but were viewed by many nationalists as a hostile occupation force and were regularly targeted by the IRA, as were the police.Show