After a 5th continuous year of rioting is it time consider the poisoned well of north Belfast’s sectarian geography?

Here’s a sound copy of an interview I did with Seamus Martin of Tipp FM yesterday morning talking about the rioting situation… If you are looking for a shortcut through the whole thing, topics include:

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  • Paulk

    The only way for these marches to be resolved is local agreement…. surely everyone can see this by now. Let the dust settle for a month or two then the various residents groups and Orange Order must engage to get an agreement otherwise these riots will switch from angry orangemen to angry greenmen every other year. Look to Londonderry/Derry for what can be achieved through dialogue, compromise and a little bit of trust. No doubt it will be difficult frustrating and at times both sides will have to agree to things that they won’t like but surely a peaceful summer for BOTH communities has to be worth it in the long run now i don’t have a solution to offer here but i’m sure both sides will have proposals that they can offer to either side for a basis to work on.
    On the wider issues of poverty, lack of a peace “dividend” and lack of leadership the leadership one is linked to all the others. Both communities (working class) are as impoverished as the other, both communities suffer unemployment, both communities worry about their kids education, both communities want better healthcare etc etc etc. but what do our glorious leaders let us all believe? themmuns get everything and we get nothing…. themmuns are winning ’cause we didn’t get to do this…. its so bloody depressing. The people voting these eijits into government need to hold them to better account and ask proper questions of their chosen reps. They need to question the explanations offered when their kids education system STILL hasn’t been sorted out literally years after electing them to do just that, instead of falling into the same old orange/green crap that really doesn’t have any actual impact on your life at all eg: a piece of cloth isn’t flying all the time now its only flying some of the time. How exactly is this effecting the life of someone in Ardoyne or Glencairn who can’t get a job, has no qualifications and is struggling to get by?
    It is high time the political leadership here was held to account for what it has created and these sectarian and divisive politics stopped so they could…. you know…. actually work to improve the lives of EVERYONE in Northern Ireland.

  • Mick Fealty

    That’s what the PC are saying should happen. And whilst I agree with that in principle, it has a couple of tough problems which come attached:

    GARC’s position is that they are happy, only if the Orange takes an alternative route. I’ve not seen a map of this route, but I have seen ‘Glenside Park’ mentioned. I don’t know if that is still in play but it looks to me like it entails traversing waste ground and very small residential streets: they have made it very clear they are acting in what they believe to be the interests of Greater Ardoyne, ie not just the residents directly affected.

    Previous determinations turned out to be little more than blind attempts to try and appease the rioters, many of who came from across Ardoyne to watch or participate. Trusting to dialogue was already tough for them, this makes it even tougher. And the PC is in no position to be able to guarantee an improvement of the position the Orange now finds itself in in North Belfast.

  • Ulster Press Centre

    Well said Mick. You cannot negotiate with people who refuse to move from their extremist position.

    GARC have said the only outcome they would be happy with is no parade. Judging by the thousands who took part in their ‘march’ last 12th July it seems they have more support on the ground in Ardoyne than the Provisional’s ‘residents group’.

    Talks are pointless. It’s time for the NI establishment to punish violence and apartheidesque bigotry and enforce tolerance and respect of Ulster culture using our supposedly impartial police force.

  • @UPC,

    In relation to your point about “tolerance and respect of Ulster culture” can I ask a genuine question?

    Does “Ulster culture” include the indigenous culture of the island of Ireland? That is the Irish language and the related native Irish identity? Would you be willing to accept equality between the British and Irish cultures of the north-east of Ireland? Or does “Ulster culture” only equate to British culture in the sense of a British-Irish/Scots-Irish/Anglo-Irish and Unionist identity?

    I’m genuinely curious about your views on that.

  • Sweetcheeks

    What’s “Ulster culture”? You mean that which was imported from the Scottish lowlands and is predominantly confined to the north-eastern parts of Ulster’s nine counties: banging of drums, walking in bowler hats, burning things etc?

  • Ulster Press Centre

    Boring lads, very boring…

  • Sweetcheeks

    You are single-handedly destroying this website. Good night.

  • Ulster Press Centre

    Stay on-topic and stop trolling.

  • mac tire

    Surely talks have to be the way forward, regardless of what hard line stance is taken beforehand. There is no doubt it would be tough.

    UPC, I, too, would be interested in how you flesh out what you term Ulster culture. After all, you should be able to do that since it was you who brought it up.

    I’m also interested in how you “enforce tolerance and respect of” something.

    Thanks in advance.

  • Morpheus

    We’ll ignore the fact that you automatically exclude 3 of the 6 counties of Ulster and we’ll go straight to the 1.8m inhabitants of Northern Ireland. 48% say they are British, 52% of the seats at Stormont are pro-Union, 41% of the population are Protestant and less than 2% are members of the OO…and shrinking. It is for that reason that I find it infuriating when we see people like yourself and Reverend Mervyn Gibson having the audacity to think they can talk on behalf of Unionism and/or Protestantism.

    Ulster Culture, as you put it, is about the people, Catholic and Protestant, not one community from within Ulster and it encompasses their music, their poetry, their art, their humor, their wit, their food and so on…that’s real culture, not marching around, ignoring the law of the land, in a failed attempt to let the other side know ‘their place’ in NI society. Those days are long gone, never to return. Get used to it.

  • FuturePhysicist

    The question has to be asked to the Orange Order what culture do they hope to share by going through nationalist areas even with their consent?

  • Mick Fealty

    Didn’t Mervyn Gibson say the Orange was as Irish as Guinness?

  • Mick Fealty

    Whoops, that was off topic too! Do I sense a reluctance to discuss the matter in hand?

  • FuturePhysicist

    Didn’t Mervyn Gibson say the Orange was as Irish as Guinness?

    Moreso Mick, the Orange is in the Flag, it’s a cross border all-Ireland body while the Black Stuff is owned by a private British based multi-national. On the list of my favourite Unionists give me a pious Orangeman like Dr Bernado over Arthur Guinness any day.

    That’s nothing to do with Orangeism though.

  • FuturePhysicist

    In terms of the “sectarian” geography, what can be done bar consideration?
    Some sort of Tito-esque forced integration and forced identity there?
    The organic approach is dialogue and sharing and letting the people of North Belfast to create their own networks, not authoritarian based forced marriages.

  • PaddyReilly

    As long as people keep waving that ridiculous Green, White and Orange rag, the Orange Order are going to think they’re as important as the Green, aren’t they? The 2% figure is irrelevant, however, the Orangemen are just parade marshalls, it’s the bandsmen and other marchers that count.

    Negotiations are a waste of time—in Belfast at least, for this indeed is the Battle of Belfast. Only when Nigel Dodds loses his seat, and Nationalists gain a clear majority on Belfast City council and haul down the red white and blue altogether will the Orangemen and bandsmen give up trying to intimidate Nationalist Belfast (and to be fair, when Nationalists can give up trying to intimidate them back).

    Belfast is in transition: from a Unionist controlled city to a Nationalist controlled one. It’s something that should have happened by 1850, but riots and pogroms and the Orangemen were able to prevent it then. There is nothing that can prevent this happening now, but Unionist strategy seems to be to delay it for as long as possible.

  • HammerTime

    PaddyReilly – What a complete and utter crock of shote.

  • Morpheus

    “The 2% figure is irrelevant, however, the Orangemen are just parade marshals, it’s the bandsmen and other marchers that count.”

    I agree with this in a roundabout kind of way. The OO are insignificant – as you say they are simply a dying breed of marshals. The music and pageantry are the cultural aspects of the 12th and these are brought to the table by the bands.

  • @UPC,

    To return to my question. I’m not trying to catch you out or lay some elaborate semantic trap for you. I am actually curious about what your beliefs are, beliefs that you defend with such vigour.

    So again, if you don’t mind, could you explain where you see an indigenous Irish identity, language and culture, within the broader “Ulster culture” you talk about? Does it have a place there? Is the culture you refer to a hybrid one, of both the Irish and British nations, or exclusively British? Would you personally be able to associate with or respect, for instance, an Irish-speaking Ulster Protestant who self-identifies as Irish instead of or alongside a sense of British ancestry?

  • PaddyReilly

    “Crock of Shite”

    All right then: Orangemen are such nice people, all you have to do is tell them they’re annoying people and they will stop.

    Nigel Dodds will remain M.P. for ever and ever amen, SF will never be able to raise their vote by 2,000 in the face of such a nice, smiley progressive politician.

    Equally the 2 extra Nationalist seats on Belfast Council will never, ever materialise. Actually the DUP will sweep the boards and the the Union Flag will be back up for 365 days a year. Will that do?

  • the2mahoods


    surely integrated schooling must be part of the answer. If you want to bring all this nonesense to a close within the next 10-15 years I can’t think of a better way to do it

  • SK

    “Belfast is in transition: from a Unionist controlled city to a Nationalist controlled one. It’s something that should have happened by 1850, but riots and pogroms and the Orangemen were able to prevent it then. There is nothing that can prevent this happening now, but Unionist strategy seems to be to delay it for as long as possible.”

    Yep. The trajectory is set and if unionist politicians don’t start preparing their community for the inevitability of compromise then it may prove to be a very difficult transition indeed.

  • runepig

    A little story regarding “Ulster Culture”. This is admittedly second hand, but is very recent and I’ve no reason to doubt its veracity. A protestant man without any particular interest in the 12th is out in his predominantly protestant estate, walking his (presumably protestant) dog. There’s a bonfire being built nearby the back of a house – builder of said bonfire and a Polish resident in his garden are having a conversation, which the dog-walking man overhears as he goes past. The conversation goes something like this:

    Polish man – “What is the bonfire for?”
    Bonfire man – “It’s for the 12th.”
    Polish man – “But what is it for?”
    Bonfire man – “The 12th!”
    Polish man – “I don’t understand.”
    Bonfire man – “The 12th! Burning Catholics!”
    Polish man – *horrified*

    Dog walking man, with no particular interest in the proceedings as mentioned, however loses patience and briefly explains what the 12th is about to Polish man. Polish man, now not in fear of being thrown onto a large bonfire along with his whole family, shrugs, his curiosity satisfied.

    I think this illustrates some of the issues involved here. While I’m a blow-in, and don’t have a detailed understanding of the history of Ulster, I can at least appreciate the complexities of the province’s history/politics (even bought a book!). I think what a lot of people who oppose (or are embarrassed by) the annual parades and associated disorder get frustrated by is the lack of insight that many Loyalists and OO members seem to have regarding the inconsistencies, contradictions and ironies of the whole season (and “the Orange” in general). Not least the lack of consideration for “themmuns”, and even those in their own community who don’t care much for the whole thing and just want to get on with their summer (some might even be keen on foreigners coming over to spend tourist dollars or invest in their businesses, should same survive unscathed each July).

    There is no easy answer of course, and I’m the last person to consider myself in a position to provide one, but sometimes when I read Slugger or the NI news I do a mental face palm. Occasionally a real one.

  • An Sionnach Fionn,

    If you are awaiting a response from thon gentleman, don’t hold your breath. He never answers any question, even the most innocuous one and simply, at most, repeats his previous comment.

  • odd_number

    The evidence from this weekend has thankfully exposed a few myths.

    The Orange marches through Ardoyne are not a few religious old men walking to celebrate their religion and culture. There is clear video evidence of yobs jeering and dancing and taunting the residents, calling them second class citizens and worse (on the morning march).

    If you can have a march in Ardoyne in the morning, why not one in the evening? Clearly everyone comes back after the day tanked up, swaggering with their blood up. That is indisputable.

    The Orange order vision of a shared future? In Belfast that means being able to march where ever they want, when ever they want, however they want.

    Loyalist culture – burning flags, effigies of priests, rampant sectarianism. How many decent unionists and orangemen are comfortable with the PUL acronym now?

    I believe this was a watershed weekend which in the long run will benefit us all. Orangemen in Derry and Newtownhamilton etc surely have to be questioning why the Belfast leadership is pursuing a policy doomed to failure which drags their organisation into the gutter and overshadows the good work done elsewhere.

    The OO need to understand in Belfast they have vindicated GARC’s stance, though all right minded people will abhor the violence that followed GARC protests in the past.

  • Here’s how the process works (you might have to go back to 1690 or to the foundation of the OO to find out who are the chickens and who are the eggs):
    1. Act provocatively
    2. Get the response that you hoped for.
    3.You get your knuckles rapped.
    4. You cry “unfair or discrimination or whatever.
    Since this is a series of events, you just need to break one link in the chain. Link 1. would be best but that is unlikely. So break link 2. The people of Ardoyne should just ignore the provocation and, at most, go down to the shops and stand quietly with their backs turned.
    Incidentally, when individuals behave the same way, for example on an internet blog, just ignore them too.

  • koko

    Mick @ 5.31pm

    You have pointed out that GARC’s position is that they will only be happy if the Orange take an alternative route. The flip side of this, of course, is that the Orange will only be happy if they get to walk where they want and when they want. If they had been prepared to voluntarily compromise then surely there would have been engagement with the residents well in advance of the marching season rather than in the week running up to the 12th at the request of residents on ‘their side’.

  • Harry Flashman

    Well this thread answers the question I asked in the “North Belfast kicks off” thread.

    So we’re agreed then that essentially this is not an OO vs residents issue? That is merely a symptom of the bigger malaise that is Belfast.

    The people of Belfast need to have a long hard look at themselves in the mirror. The rest of Northern Ireland has largely moved on. However time out of number the image of Northern Ireland shown around the world is a couple of hundred, frankly repulsive people, either pissed out of their heads or on drugs, with the same tattoos, same bullet heads, wearing the same sportswear who seem to have been raised in some parallel universe to the rest of us, and who apparently believe they have the right to attack, insult and threaten their neighbours because of some dreadful offence that was committed against “their” community in the dim and distant past.

    And they all speak with the same ugly, guttural Belfast accent.

    Sort Belfast people out and you’ve sorted the problem. When you’ve done so and managed to move Belfast into the 21st Century you can let the rest of us know, most of us are too busy getting on with our lives to care about the troglodytes of Belfast.

  • alanwood

    I would like to say that the riots now should come to an end. Some measure steps should be taken to resolve the riots.
    israel sands

  • Mick Fealty


    You are over indulging your younger self. What’s in play in north Belfast has already been achieved in Derry. The stability of relations in that great city arises partly from the huge depopulation of Protestants from the West Bank and from the city as a whole.

    That’s why when people here “Derry did it”, they understandably baulk.

  • Harry Flashman

    I grant you Mick that there is some justification in the claim that having reduced Derry’s protestant population to a mere shadow of its former self its no great mark of tolerance on the Catholic population’s part to grant them a few days’ marches every year. However twenty odd years ago Derry could get itself quite hot and bothered over the parades issue but nonetheless cooler, more rational heads were able to prevail.

    What’s stopping Belfast doing the same thing?

    And it’s not just Derry is it? For the past ten years or more, without fail two or three times a year, a handful of streets, mostly in North Belfast erupts into vicious sectarian rioting.

    If that happened uniquely in Newry we’d say there was a problem with Newry, or in Lisburn, we’d say there was a problem with Lisburn, the same as if it were any other town in Northern Ireland. It’s not, it’s happening in Belfast and somehow we’re being led to believe it’s Northern Ireland wide problem.

    It’s a Belfast problem, always has been, the city is fucked up.

  • flockofseagulls

    I agree Harry.
    There is an obvious pattern.
    Flags issue —- same parts of Belfast
    Parades issue – same parts of Belfast

    I do not believe these people are dis-enfranchised or “a lost generation”. N Ireland has many working class areas, both nationalist and unionist. If it was a “social” issue. Surely the people in these areas would be up in arms 52 weeks of the year ? If it was an erosion of British culture in N Ireland, again surely there would be activity every week.

    I would say there is a ” cultural correction” taking place, perhaps correcting “the Orange state” ?.

    How many of the participants are actual Orangemen ?
    How many are recreational/seasonal rioters ?
    How many are “brought” onto the streets by a controlling element in the background ?

  • FuturePhysicist

    I have to agree, this is down to Belfast, specifically North Belfast.

    “A combination of poverty, political powerlessness and a dire local legacy from the troubles ”

    Does North Belfast have the poorest regions in NI? Any poorer than say parts of Derry or Coleraine, is the East or North of Belfast any poorer than the West? Is it marginalised like a rural region? Does it have any more crime than Manchester or Limerick or even South Belfast?

    The poverty justification simply isn’t true.

    In terms of political power, doesn’t North Belfast have two Executive ministers, does a bigger populated constituency like North Antrim have any? If a Queen’s University Belfast student like Martin McAuley can stand for election with very little experience and get a respectful 500 votes, what’s stopping others raising money to put a candidate forward?

    The lack of political power justification simply isn’t true.

    And as for the legacy of the Troubles, more were killed in West Belfast than North Belfast, even behind the peace walls people killed their own. When you look at the people from all walks of life who didn’t let the Troubles get in their way…

    It has the second highest number of jobs for a constituency, even with the second lowest population. While poorer regions like Foyle and West Belfast, Fountain, Waterside, Shankill etc. are moving on North Belfast remains in status, and East Belfast one of the least hit regions of the Troubles with money thrown at it from Invest NI arguably is in decline too.

    The legacy issue justification also simply isn’t true.

  • PaddyReilly

    Have you ever been near a field when a whole load of unrelated and unfamiliar stranger cows are put together? It’s unbelieveable. Cows are usually such placid creatures, but they run around trying to gore each other. The sensible farmer will not risk this happening unnecessarily. Cows need to have a pecking order (or goring order) and when they meet for the first time they have to establish it.

    In the same way, the cities of Ireland need to be firmly in the hand of native or planter to be peaceful. Newry is now firmly nationalist; Derry likewise. Lisburn is firmly in the hands of planters. All passed unremarkable Twalfths. Belfast unfortunately is large and marginal. South Belfast (SDLP) passed without incident. West Belfast (SF, enormous majority) was unscathed. The trouble was in North Belfast (DUP, majority 2,000) and East Belfast (Alliance, but DUP feel they woz robbed). It will continue until the DUP lose N.Belfast and realise they have lost East for ever, and until Nationalists wholly control the city council.

    Where it will go after that, I do not know: Antrim perhaps. Unionism as a ruling ideology is fated to devolve into smaller and smaller communities and areas.

  • Carneades

    An informative, well-spoken interview. As Belfast continues to evolve demographically, this sort of thing will pop up intermittently. Catholics no longer see feel obliged to suffer these parades in silence, all the more so as demographics shifts more and more in their favour. Add in North Belfast’s toxic communal history and this accrochage annuel is little but an inevitability.

    All of which leads one to conclude that the Orange must either negotiate with their neighbours, or march off into the dusk of history.

  • antamadan

    On the light side. This guy from the south with a wonderful English accent from school, was invited to what he thought was a BBQ on the 11th of July , while cruising on the Erne. He was pretty appalled I’m sorry to say; but I laughed.

  • Barnshee

    “All of which leads one to conclude that the Orange must either negotiate with their neighbours, or march off into the dusk of history.”

    What they will do is what they have done before–either by choice or coercion (London/Derry) they will vote with their feet (and take their business with them where they can)