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Saturday, June 18, 2005

'Marking season' comes early....

Belfast in early July is somewhat of a risky business. From all outward appearances, it seems a time of celebration with all the banners strewn across various streets and the notable gathering of bonfire fuel at various locations. All that is quite deceiving, for it is a season driven by inward emotions that can come violently to the surface when the signs of celebrations take human form in the parades of "marching season." But just as summer weather is coming a bit late to Belfast this year, the marching season burst on the scene of his early this year with disturbances in the Ardoyne area as the Orangemen began their "Tour of the North" (North Belfast that is) yesterday.

Last year, a close friend pointed out that the phrase "marking season" is a more appropriate name for this time a year as the Orange Order folks seem compelled to assert their heritage by parading throughout the region, but especially in those areas where such a celebration generates very negative reactions on the part of local residents whose equally powerful memories of defeat and subjugation are a trigger to reaction.

The pity of it all is the damage done to the entire region by such events and the episodes of violence they generate. The outside world's image of Northern Ireland and Belfast is and will always remain tainted by the Troubles -- as it should be given the significance of what took place during that period. What these parades and the disturbances they invariably produce do is reinforce those images and give the misimpression that such is daily life in this part of the world. The localized nature of these clashes and the overall normalcy of life in Belfast will not make a difference. The image of stone throwers and clusters of heavily armored police vehicles will be what the outside world sees over the next several weeks. Such a real pity....

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