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Over the last days riots broke out in Northern Ireland in occasion of the Orange parades held by Protestants.
Numerous clashes in the nationalist areas of the capital Belfast have brought to light the historical conflicts between nationalists and loyalists once again. Groups of nationalist youths attacked the police throwing bottles, stones, petrol bombs, bricks and fireworks.
The police fired plastic bullets and used water cannon to try to push back the rioters. During these escalations of violence a number of police officers were injured and also a photographer, who was hit by a plastic bullet fired by the police. Some of the demonstrators were slightly wounded.
The night before the 12th of July the trouble broke out after an Orange parade marched closed to a Catholic area and the police took up position ahead of it while passing the Ardoyne shops. On that day, the members of the Protestant Orange Order walk the streets to commemorate the victory of the Protestant Prince William of Orange over the Catholic King James II in the Battle of Boyne in 1690.
This celebration is of a strong symbolic value regarding the historical ethno-religious and political conflict between Catholic nationalists and Protestant loyalists in Northern Ireland. Also in the past the Orange celebrations have led to violent and serious riots and clashes.
The nationalist area of Ardoyne in north Belfast is a traditional flashpoint. In 2010 there have been several troubles during the Orange march season. The people in Ardoyne area oppose the Orange parade, and the decision of the Parade Commission to allow it passing through it caused the locals’ reaction.
“The difficulty was that there was an Orange parade,” said Gerry Kelly, a member of the left-wing republican party Sinn Féin. “People have made great efforts, but a parade coming through a catholic area is a problem,” he added.
Witnesses told that the violence was organized by nationalist youths, who gathered with the only intention of creating trouble and attacking the police.
Robert McClenaghan, a community worker from the Falls Residents Association said: “There was no provocation. There was nothing from the Protestant, loyalist, unionist community. Broadway interface was quiet”.
“What you had was 100 or 150 of these young people all tooled up and masks around their faces. They were armed with petrol bombs, they were armed with sticks and stones. They had wheelie bins with extra ammunition that they were pulling behind them.”
Nigel Dodds, the North Belfast Democratic Unionist MP stated: “These people have been intent on attacking the police and wreaking havoc in their own community. Such violence is senseless and has clearly nothing to do with protesting against a parade but is just futile rioting”.
“The people engaged in the violence didn’t even see the parade go past,” Dodds said. “This violence was intended, created and brought into existence by a small group of militant extreme republicans who were determined to have it, come what may.”
Riots broke out also in other locations around Belfast, and minor disorders also happened in other towns of the country. The police arrested some rioters and others are still to be indentified with the help of closed-circuit TV’s footages.
“As far as the outside world is concerned, it does not matter which side is rioting. What counts is the perception that Northern Ireland is unstable and unsafe,” said Peter Bunting, the assistant general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
Quotes Courtesy of www.bbc.com and www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk