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Ghosts of the Troubles

July 12, 2010 Leave a comment

The ever-present reminder of sectarianism.

Last night, the streets of Belfast echoed from the ghosts of troubles past. On the eve of the commemoration of the Battle of the Boyne, where Prince William of Orange defeated the then Catholic King James II, riots broke out when Republican sympathizers attacked police with petrol bombs, stones and other debris in a show of defiance against the traditional 11th of July bonfires. The crowd, numbering 200 strong, were countered with rubber bullets and water canons. After the dust settled, three police officers had been shot and 27 others had been injured. This is a disturbing development at a time where Northern Ireland is looking to heal the wounds of the past and move on from the Troubles.

Taken with other recent attacks by Republican elements, renewed violence is unfortunately becoming a pattern. Last March, two soldiers were killed at Massereene Barracks in Northern Belfast. It was the first fatal attack in Belfast in over ten years. As recently as July 3rd and 4th, disturbances in the city wounded five police officers. This all comes, rather strangely, during a time of giant steps forward in terms of Northern Irish independence and Unionist and Republican reconciliation. In February, Britain’s Parliament agreed to devolve justice and policing powers to the Northern Irish power-sharing government. With this, the full devolution, or handing over of power, of Northern Ireland was completed on April 13th. A major step forward. Furthermore, on June 15th, British Prime Minister David Cameron apologized for the Bloody Sunday Massacre in 1972; a monumental concession and step forward by the British. Considering this violence and these developments, we have a rather dichotomous situation on our hands.

It is hard to say if this is a new, disheartening trend or a rogue group of dissidents hell-bent on derailing the almost completed peace process; the latter being the assertion of both unionist and nationalist leaders. I’ll hope that they’re right. Keep an eye on all of this and hope that the ghosts of the Troubles don’t return for good.