With the Executive re-established events in Northern Ireland quietened down for a little while although bubbling away under the surface. Paisley’s D.U.P. turned to Assembly procedural moves trying unsuccessfully to oust Sinn Féin from the Executive and bring down the power-sharing from within.
At this time of the year (July is known as the Mad Month) tension has always mounted between the two communities and once again is focused on the ban on an Orange lodge from marching down the Garvaghy Road (a Nationalist area) on their return from Drumcree Church.
Serious disorder has taken place, skirmishes with the Police and Military, petrol bombs, other missiles and even gunfire has been directed at them from Loyalist Paramilitaries, as they man the barriers to prevent them marching down the restricted road.
The Marching Season is now in full swing and the Eleventh Night bonfires, effigy burning and drinking bouts, extending into the 12th/13th have laced the protests and ‘celebrations’ with explosive content.
David Trimble, the Ulster Unionist Leader (and Northern Ireland First Minister) is in somewhat of a dilemma, even though he scraped enough support in his Unionist Council to re-enter the Executive with Sinn Féin when the IRA satisfied the international monitors on putting arms beyond use.
He has stated his support for the Orangemen’s protest against their being banned from the Garvaghy Road (and presumably from the Lower Ormeau Road in Belfast). No doubt he remembers ruefully the occasion when he pranced down the disputed route, hand in hand with Ian Paisley, wearing his Orange regalia. Having said that he wants the protest to be peaceful there is a likelihood of it blowing up in his face should the violence escalate.
What really, once again, is at stake is the Good Friday Agreement, the target at which the protest is really directed for many of the Orangemen were in the ‘No’ camp in the referendum.
The mentor behind this latest effort to bring down the Power Sharing Agreement is Ian Paisley MP, the Tartuffe ( a character in Moliere’s play ‘The Hypocrite’) or in my terminology the ‘Bull frog of the Belfast Marches’, Trimble’s erstwhile companion on the Garvaghy Road. The Abominable ‘No’ man of Northern Ireland politics claims to eschew violence, yet is prepared, for his own political ends, to ride on the back of it as and when it occurs, fanned by his ranting rhetoric.
Just as he accused the former Northern Ireland Prime Minister Terence O’Neill in the 1960s of being a Lundy (see siege of Derry, 1688/ 89) he will no doubt accuse First Minister Trimble of being a similar figure, a traitor to Unionism, during the impending Westminster by election in South Antrim.
This is a delicate situation for Trimble as his preferred party candidate was defeated by a Mr. Burnside who is opposed to his leadership and now appears to have joined the opponents of the Good Friday Agreement inside the Ulster Unionist Party.
The road blocks and disruption seen around prior to and subsequent to the major marches on July 12th in the towns and countryside is indicative of the tensions, not between Nationalists and Unionists but a clear reflection of the splits and fractures in the Unionist community.
It is a struggle on the streets for electoral support between the diehard fundamentalist bigotry of Paisley’s cohorts and those searching for accommodation and reconciliation.
If we are to make Progress and Peace those Luddite Orange louts who want to wreck the Machinery of Peace, the Good Friday Agreement, must be and be clearly seen to be, defeated.