We hear daily of the violence between Muslim sects and the violence in
Palestine/Israel. We are also aware of religion-based wars in Africa. However, we
seldom hear reports from the mainstream media about the continuing
violence in Northern Ireland. This is the violence called in some circles "The Troubles": the "troubles," that is, between
Catholic and Protestant activists.
It may be a blessing that the street fighting and worse are more common in summer, when the sects schedule parades and similar events. On August 10, 2013 Belfast Police quelled a riot at a parade held by Irish Republican Army supporters. Militants draped in British flags attacked the parade, damaging scaffolding and public property. They utilized water cannons and plastic bullets, and six officers were injured. The attacking Protestants felt the Irish government should never have allowed the parade, which they characterized as propaganda.
A day earlier in Belfast similar non-lethal means were used, as police were bombarded with bricks and bottles for what Reuters called a second night of sectarian violence. The police were trying to maintain access for a nationalistic parade on the city's main thoroughfare, Royal Avenue. Two officers were injured that night, while eight were hurt the previous night under a hurl that included masonry and paint bombs.
The sectarian hostility continued through the summer. In another confrontation, again in Belfast, a protest turned into rioting at a dissident rally; 56 officers were injured. Owing to the ongoing tensions, organizations have demanded an increase in police ranks of an additional 1,000 officers.
American President Barack Obama spoke in Northern Ireland at the opening of the G8 summit in June. On the following day, bombs were thrown over fences in an area in turmoil, where a fence divides Catholic and Protestant communities. A four year old girl was badly injured while playing in the street. The New York Daily News wrote:
With more than 3,500 people killed during 30 years of paramilitary violence, deep-rooted enmity between the communities still leads to outbreaks of unrest - the latest around Protestant street parades that take place every July.
"It's like an earthquake zone," said Naomi Long, a lawmaker in the London parliament and deputy leader of the non-sectarian Alliance Party. "You have these divided communities and they rub along against each other, and suddenly something erupts."
At the heart of the Irish rioting is an issue of loyalty. "The Troubles," as the ethnic hostilities are called in the region, stem from constitutional disagreements between Protestant groups, Unionists and loyalists, who see Northern Ireland as part and parcel of the United Kingdom, and Irish nationalists, from the Catholic community, who advocate separation from the United Kingdom and the formation of a united Ireland. The Protestants see themselves as British, while the Catholic community regards itself as Irish. Involved in these disputes are republican and loyalist paramilitaries, state security forces, politicians, and political activists. "The Troubles" began in the 1960s, and since then at least 3,500 people have died in the conflict.
It is no wonder, then, that late poll findings show an alteration in the national identities of citizens in Northern Ireland, especially among Catholics. Fewer respondents view themselves as "Northern Irish." In a recent poll, respondents were asked whether the term Northern Irish, Irish or British best described them. "Northern Irish" was the choice of 13.3%; "Irish" was the selection of 20.5%; and 33.4% responded "British." Another 11.9% replied "other." The Belfast Telegraph interpreted these results as "a notable fall in the number of people giving their identity as Northern Irish."
Here in the United States, in some rural areas, there are
reports of discrimination among church-goers; job and housing discrimination,
subtle animosities, and even discrimination in schools. The problem, which doesn't appear
at this point to have escalated to violence, even extends to some American cities. In
America, the hostilities seem to be solely religion-based. Religion, as we know,
has provoked violence since before recorded history. Religions at the onset may be
wise and loving, but they tend to devolve over time. There may be a way to
resolve ensuing issues before they move to a destructive level, but the solutions are
evasive and seldom rapidly achieved.