Tensions are running high in Northern Ireland as the Protestant Orange Order plans to march across Ulster, including an appearance in the heavily Catholic area of Ardoyne, just north of Belfast.
Ardoyne has been the scene of numerous clashes and violence between Protestant and Catholics over the past forty years.
A local group, The Greater Ardoyne Residents' Collective, is scheduled to hold a counter-demonstration to protest what they describe as an “unwanted” march by the Orangemen.
“Thousands of Orangemen, often accompanied by flute bands, stage a major demonstration through Belfast every year,” explained Andy Martin, BBC’s Ireland correspondent.
“They weave through the city's streets to gather in a field where they hear religious addresses. Most parades pass off without incident, but as each branch - or individual lodge separates from the main group to return to their own areas in the evening, there can be trouble.”
July 12th is one of the most important dates on the calendar for Northern Ireland’s Protestants for it commemorates the Battle of the Boyne of 1690 in which King William III (The Protestant William of Orange) defeated the Catholic King James II.
A Dutchman, William III seized the English (and Irish) throne from James II in the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688.
‘King Billy’ is revered by Protestants for having firmly established the ascendancy of the faith and monarchy in Ireland.
The Orange Order has ever since played a dominant role in Northern Ireland society and politics – all the while antagonizing the Catholic population. Between 1921 (when Ireland was partitioned) and 1972 (when direct rule returned to Ulster), every Prime Minister of Northern Ireland was a member of the Orange Order.
Orangemen are fundamentally in favor of the ‘Union’ with Great Britain – in stark opposition to Catholics who dream of an Ireland that re-unites Northern Ireland with the overwhelmingly Catholic Irish Republic.