The violence around this year's 12th celebrations shouldn't overshadow the cross-community efforts being made across Northern Irelandby Sarah Creighton / July 13, 2018 / Leave a comment
The history of Ireland and Northern Ireland is littered with violence occurring around the Twelfth of July. There was rioting in 1857 that lasted for ten days. The most horrific in my memory happened in 1998. During the height of the Drumcree standoff the UVF threw a firebomb at a family who lived in a Protestant estate. The mother was Catholic but she’d raised her three boys as Protestant. All three boys died in the fire.
In recent years, things have changed. The situation isn’t perfect, but things have improved. The Twelfth went so well last year it was called a “model for years to come.” Parades that would once have caused days of trouble went by unnoticed.
Things were a bit different this year.
In scenes that gave people flashbacks to the past, the days leading up the Twelfth were violent. In Londonderry/Derry petrol bombs were thrown at the Protestant Fountain Estate and shots were fired at police officers. Tensions were so bad that every mainstream party issued a statement calling for calm.
On the July 11, cars and a bus were hijacked and burned in parts of East Belfast. Belfast City Airport was closed because of a suspicious device that thankfully later turned out to be a hoax.
What caused the trouble?
It’s not clear why trouble flared this year when things went so well in 2017. The PSNI said on July 11 that the East Belfast UVF intended to “orchestrate and participate in serious disorder.”
The violence also came after the High Court in Belfast ordered a controversial bonfire to be reduced in height. Another bonfire in East Belfast was taken down completely.
It might seem bizarre that this could be an issue—but it’s rare to see such scenes.
Coverage in England
It’s no surprise that none of this got a lot of coverage. All this happened just as England lost their World Cup semi-final against Croatia. Trump is currently in the UK for a visit, and the Government published its Brexit White Paper on July 12.
When presenters on the TV mentioned the trouble it was with an air of, “There they go again. Same old, same old.”
I doubt they’d be as relaxed if police officers were getting pelted…