Riots in Belfast

Des émeutes ont lieu depuis quelques jours à Belfast en Irlande du Nord. C’est dans une atmosphère très tendue que des dizaines de policiers anti-émeute se sont fait agresser par de jeunes loyalistes. Cela n’est pas sans rappeler le conflit entre les unionistes protestants (partisans du maintien de l’Ulster au sein du Royaume-Uni) et les républicains catholiques (partisans du rattachement de l’Ulster à l’Irlande du Sud pour former une Irlande unifiée).

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Since summer, violence has increased in Belfast, the capital of Ulster. The riots began on the 12thh of July 2012 with a show of rebellion by young Protestants singing anti-catholic carols in front of a catholic church (See video) (for more information go to see the website of Young Conway Volunteers, a anti-catholic band site). In response to these affronts, the Catholics organized a demonstration on the 25th of August. In the last few days (September 2nd to September 5th)  the republican show was too close to a Protestant district and 350 loyalists faced Catholic demonstrators and policemen. Some of them even threw petrol bombs in an old people’s home. The members of Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican political party accused the unionists and the Ulster Volunteer Force of provoking the violence. It also accuses the “Loyal Orders” and Unionism of allowing Loyalist paramilitaries to speak for them.

Indeed, the Ulster Volunteer Force has become a terror group since a peaceful agreement called “the Good Friday agreement” was signed in 1998. It ended three decades of intercommunal troubles where 3,500 Irishmen and Englishmen died. Be careful, it’s not a conflict based on a confessional divergence but a legacy of colonialism. The visible rests are boundary lines between Catholic and Protestant districts. These borders nicknamed “peaceful walls” act as an interface, favoured theatre of confrontations.

However, nowadays, the conflict has partly lost its religious content replaced by common clashes between young people (see video). It looks as if these provocations were the result of stirring rage. Hence the media’s attitude, in the international press including across the Channel which has minimized the conflict as a news item. We can explain this reaction by the weariness due to the conflict’s length. Even the Irish press refused to give these riots a front-page.

The 28th of September marks the centenary of the Ulster Covenant and increases the threat of new riots in Belfast. In a nutshell, Belfast is still branded by its tragic History.

Maud CARRIERE & Camille GRAVET

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