Catholic area riots after Protestant marches in Northern Ireland

July 13, 2011

(Nationalist youths and police in riot gear clash in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast July 12, 2011/Cathal McNaughton)

Police fired plastic bullets and water cannon at Catholic youths in Northern Ireland’s provincial capital Belfast on Tuesday after rioting erupted when a Protestant parade passed their estate. Sporadic violence erupted across the British-ruled province on the culmination of a season of parades by pro-British Protestants to mark a 17th-century military victory, a tradition many Catholics say is provocative.

Around 200 people threw bottles, slates and petrol bombs in the mainly Catholic Ardoyne area of Belfast after police moved in to prevent them confronting the passing Orange Order parade. Two cars were set on fire and dozens of rounds of plastic bullets were fired. Police said a number of officers were injured.

Most of the 500 or so parades across the province passed peacefully, but police reported rioting in Londonderry, Newry and Armagh as well as the Markets area in central Belfast.

Three decades of fighting between mostly Protestant loyalists who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom and Irish nationalists, mainly Catholics, who want it to be part of a united Ireland tore the province apart during a three-decade period known as the “Troubles.”

A 1998 peace agreement paved the way for a power-sharing government of loyalists and nationalists. Violence has subsided, but police say the threat from dissident groups opposed to the peace deal is higher than it has ever been since it was signed.

Marchers were marking King William of Orange’s victory over the Roman Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, which helped to secure Protestant supremacy in Ireland.

Read the full story by Conor Humphries and Ian Graham here.

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