Annual Orange Order marches in Northern Ireland occurred without incident, police said, “allaying concerns that anger at post-Brexit trade barriers might fuel street violence,” Reuters reported.
The 35,000-member Protestant and unionist organisation held 500 smaller, local parades rather than the usual 18 larger gatherings due to COVID-19 restrictions. The annual events, which mark the 1690 victory at the Battle of the Boyne by Protestant King William of Orange over Catholic King James of England and Scotland, were cancelled last year. A leading Orangeman told the BBC the new arrangement “achieved what we have set out to achieve, we wanted to spread the crowds across Northern Ireland.”
A planned nationalist protest in west Belfast was cancelled after the Orange Order amended its parade route, BBC reported.
July 12, 1921, marked the first time the Battle of the Boyne, the seminal event of Irish Protestant and unionist identity, was commemorated in the new statelet of Northern Ireland. The political partition of six northeastern counties from the remaining 26 occurred a month earlier. On July 11, 1921, a day before the 231st Boyne anniversary, Irish republicans and British forces began a truce in their two and a half year old war.
The 1921 United Press story on this page appeared on the front pages of dozens of U.S. newspapers. It reports the mix of traditional sectarian violence associated with the 12th and confusion over the day-old truce.
July 12, 2021, is the first time the Boyne anniversary takes place under the Northern Ireland protocol, a de facto trade border in the Irish Sea between the six counties and the rest of the United Kingdom. It became necessary due to Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, called Brexit, to avoid a land border with the Republic of Ireland, which remains in the E.U. The protocol is “the most significant change [in Northern Ireland] that has taken place since partition,” unionist politician Reg Empey said. Violence erupted in Belfast earlier this year over displeasure with the arrangement, which critics say makes Northern Ireland “a place apart.”
Here is a sampling of media coverage about the current situation, including the protocol problems and Boyne anniversary. I have not yet seen any U.S. stories that make the connection between this year’s 12th events and the 1921 creation of Northern Ireland and truce. Full stories are linked from the date:
“The chief executive of Northern Ireland’s Protestant Orange Order does not sense any appetite among pro-British unionists to turn the July 12 peak of the annual marching season violent despite “a huge amount of frustration and anger” over Brexit.” Reuters, July 9, 2021
“But whatever tensions might have existed before … Brexit exacerbated them exponentially. For it revealed how Britain, which voted to leave the EU, sees Northern Ireland, which voted to Remain, as ultimately expendable. One of the clearest signs of this was the customs border in the Irish Sea that Britain negotiated with the EU. As of January 2021, it effectively separates Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK and pushes the country closer toward the South’s economic sphere. This development, along with the various ways loyalist parties like the DUP were used as pawns during Brexit negotiations, has contributed to a growing sense of betrayal among Unionist politicians and their base.” Jacobin, (American leftist magazine, Brooklyn, N.Y.) July 7, 2021.
“Sinn Fein’s leaders say that, with a growing Catholic population and the fallout from Brexit, momentum is on their side. The unionist parties supported Brexit, while they opposed it. They view the campaign against the protocol as a futile effort that only lays bare the costs of leaving the European Union.” The New York Times, June 7, 2021.