The North of Ireland is a complicated place – especially in July. Every year makeshift towers of debris, old tires, and wooden pallets reach higher and higher into the sky. They are decorated with sectarian slogans, political effigies, Irish flags (or Ivory Coast ones, since some can’t tell the difference between the two), and serious threats against Catholics, opposing politicians, Irish men and women, minorities, and the gay community. These dangerous displays are what they call culture this time of year and they are a horrifying example of the division that continues to exist in the North.
My body is rebelling against being thrown back into the States and I caught a vicious cold on the flight back from Ireland. This cold, on top of the jet lag, culture shock, and come down after such a mind-blowing holiday has left me quite speechless. I have a lot of catching up to do for sure and a lot of processing to do as well.
The beginning of September is a nightmare for parents. They say that getting their kids ready for learning and getting back into the swing of the school year is always the hardest during the first week. There’s a lot of pressure already on everyone. So what happens when an actual battle is being waged every day on top of that and your little girls are being attacked? Well, everything and everyone explodes – just ask the people in the area of Ardoyne, near the interface.
I already posted a pretty lengthy opinion on the Orange Order parades so I won’t rehash it now. However, the planned “graduated protests” and the threats of real violence from Protestant leaders prove again that these people have failed to lead at all. If you ‘cannot guarantee’ that your own parades will be peaceful and you are in fact promising that they won’t, what right to you have to call yourself a leader? A sane party host would take responsibility for their guests and cancel the party themselves if things were sure to get out of hand. They would not be falsely ringing their hands, shrugging their shoulders and standing by while their home got destroyed. Leaders who cannot lead should be fired from their jobs no matter which side they adhere to.
And then there’s this.
These disgusting crimes put the question of “heritage and tradition” to rest, unless tradition has always been hate-filled supremacy and heritage has always been power over and at the extent of someone else. It is time to put an end to these truly vile events. It’s time to call it what it is – which in these cases, is a celebration of sectarianism, hatred and entitlement.
And please, if you are reading this from the North, do the right thing. Put pressure on the authorities to charge these things as the hate crimes that they are but for the next 48 hours, try to take the high road. Whether you are marching, protesting, or protecting yourselves, try to stay peaceful no matter what and keep each other safe. Respect should be granted to all humans, regardless of which side of the divide you stand on. I hope everyone and everything (except the hateful bonfires) are still standing on the 13th, as unlikely as that seems to be. My thoughts are with you from across the puddle.
Everyone likes a parade. I get it. They’re all pomp and circumstance – people showing off their heritage, their music, their flags. There are parades worldwide for what seems like every single little excuse that anyone can find. Some are big, some are small, some are downright silly, and some threaten a fragile balance.
The marching season in the North of Ireland falls into the last category. July 12th is a day that roughly half of the population celebrates the victory of William of Orange (a Dutch King, by the way) over the English King James II. It’s a huge holiday which is steeped in irony, when you think about it. This is a bunch of people who violently insist on being considered British that take to the streets to celebrate a Dutch victory over their own historical ruler. Label that one for storage in the “Things that make you go hmmmm” file.
The truth is, they are really celebrating the defeat of Catholicism. James II was a Catholic and when the Dutch king defeated him, Protestants were granted great wealth and positions of power. It opened the door for instant change – one that Protestants in the area have enjoyed for centuries.