Members of the Orange Order of Northern Ireland parked in Belfast under tight security, marking the anniversary of the July 12, 1690 victory of Protestant King William of Orange against his Catholic rival King James II.
Crowds of spectators holding union flags on Tuesday gave way to a heavy police presence – armored white cars and officers wearing dark green uniforms – as pro -UK protesters marched. passed through a nationalist, pro-Ireland neighborhood, a reminder of the sectarian divisions to come. ahead as unionists celebrate “The Twelfth”.
The celebrations were the busiest day of the year for police in Northern Ireland, plagued by 30 years of sectarian bloodshed in British rule until a 1998 peace agreement between nationalists – most of whom were Catholics and support joining the Republic of Ireland – and unionists, who are mostly Protestants, hope to remain part of the UK, and include members of the Orange Order.
Ireland’s Grand Orange Lodge estimates that half a million people will take part in events at 18 locations across Northern Ireland to celebrate the culmination of the “marching season”.
Long flashpoint for sectarian tensions, marches on July 12 and lighting of large bonfires commemorated the defeat of Protestant King William III by the ousted Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 .The parades came as the troubled province grappled with political crisis.
Northern Ireland is in its third month without a functioning government after the May elections.
And in London, the resignation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson has created even more instability, with Conservative Party candidates bidding to replace him staking out post-Brexit positions. trading rules for the territory, as agreed in the Northern Ireland Protocol.
While members of the Orange Order wore dark suits, bowler hats and orange belts marched to the sound of fife and drums as they passed Belfast City Hall, Ian Crozier told the AFP news agency. the command is “very clear that this is in strict conflict with the protocol”.
“It’s about long-term political and economic diversity between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK,” said Orangeman from northern Belfast.
The 43-year-old said discussing the protocol was “clearly central” to the Conservative Party’s ongoing leadership contest.
“It’s good to hear that people are saying the right thing, but doing the right thing is more important,” he added.
Across Northern Ireland on Monday night, more than 250 bonfires were lit in unionist communities to kick off the festivities.
Fires, often created by stacking flavors on tall structures, have evolved over decades.
Builders in the port town of Larne hope to set a world record with a 200-foot (60-meter) fire.
A man in his 30s died Saturday when he fell from a 50 -foot bonfire pile in Larne. The pyre was subsequently demolished.
There will be 573 Orange Order parades through Saturday, 33 of which will pass through Catholic areas where tensions can simmer.
About 2,500 officers will be on duty to deal with any violence, the Northern Ireland Police Service said.
Authorities treated an incident on Thursday, in which petrol bombs and bricks were thrown at a bonfire site in north Belfast, as a hate crime.
Police maintained a strong presence at the site.
The fire in Belfast’s Tiger Bay area has caused anger among pro-Irish nationalist residents living nearby, who say it is too close to their communities.
Protocol in Northern Ireland
The months of the loyalist march in Northern Ireland leading up to July 12 were characterized by unionist opposition to the protocol, which governed the province’s trade after Brexit.
The settlement, part of the UK’s divorce agreement with the European Union, imposed checks on goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland to avoid a difficult border crossing with the Republic of Ireland.
Proposed legislation introduced under Johnson to scrap parts of the protocol is currently underway in the UK parliament.
The Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland refused to return to the provincial power -sharing government until the protocol was dissolved.
In March, paramilitary loyalists were blamed for a fraudulent bomb attack targeting visiting Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney.
Ireland and the EU in Brussels have accused London of violating international law on protocol law.