Unionist parades, remnants of Protestant pride in Northern Ireland

Unionist parades, remnants of Protestant pride in Northern Ireland

NarrativeEvery year, from March to October, Protestant organizations – loyal to the British Crown – organize thousands of symbolic marches across the province. In some districts, the most radical tension with Catholics is in danger.

Police parked the car on the main road of Sandy Row in the heart of Belfast. On the sidewalk, a seller of British flags sets up his stall. The men get together, the girls are hugely ready, the kids are excited and the parade can start. This evening in June, about 20 brass bands – the South Belfast Protestant boys, the East Belfast Protestant boys, the Dunmur Protestant boys … – will march through this district, famous as one of the epicenters of the conflict that the Protestant communities opposed until 1998. (Or loyalists / units, loyal to Northern Ireland’s membership in the United Kingdom) For Catholics, mostly Republicans, favor the reunification of the southern part of the island.

Children play with tricolor sticks. Standard bearers, fiddlers, drummers, player Lambeg drum, A kind of bass drum. If the clothes are military-inspired – knit hats, knit jackets – the atmosphere is family, festive and very alcoholic. The parade may take a stone’s throw from downtown, but it only attracts locals: Twenty-four years after Good Friday’s peace agreement, Belfast is divided between Catholics and Protestant “ghettos.”

4,000 such parades are held each year in Northern Ireland from March to October. Much of what the Protestant community organizes, they borrow from religious processions, military parades, carnivals, and political demonstrations. So it is not uncommon to see “anti-protocol” banners there, and this part of the Brexit agreement negotiates between London and the European Union to establish a customs border between the province and Great Britain, which most unionists condemn.

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The Marching season ends on July 12, July 12, to commemorate the Battle of Boyne (1690), when the Protestant English King William III of Orange defeated James II, a Catholic. Another highlight is the second Saturday in August, the parade through the walled city of Derry (London and Protestant), once again, to commemorate the distant Protestant victory.

“We will not surrender”

These parades continue to be essential elements of Protestant identity, but they are also sources of conflict with Catholics, who regard them as backward. Provocative. This summer is no exception: after two years without parades due to the Kovid-19 pandemic, the popular protocol came into force, with the victory of pro-reunification party Sinn F‌in in the local elections in May, The authorities in the province are overflowing with fear.

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