Violence in the North of Ireland as Orangist march approaches

A catholic man was assaulted by a mob in Portadown ahead of 12 July protestant march.

The 12 July, or the Twelfth, approaches and the North of Ireland seems to be transported once again back in time, when orangists were carrying out sectarian attacks against nationalists and catholics.

Despite a peace agreement (signed on 9 April 1998) and a shared (unionist-republican-nationalist) government, some old sectarian habits on the oranges side are hard to die.

A few days ago a Catholic man was dragged from his car and severely beaten in broad daylight in a rabid attack by loyalist thugs enraged by the failure of their bonfire nearby.

It is believed the victim was attacked randomly and was only identified as Catholic by the football jersey he was wearing.

The man was a passenger in the vehicle in Portadown's Bridge St when the gang suddenly smashed the front windscreen of the vehicle and dragged him out over the broken glass.

Seven or eight men set about beating him unchecked in front of a queue of vehicles stopped at traffic lights. The attack took place in a predominately Protestant area of the north Armagh.

The victim spent several days receiving hospital treatment for extensive injuries. The driver of the car was also injured, while a woman and a two-month-old baby in the back seat both escaped injury.

These attacks are designed to try and raise tensions ahead of this year's 12th of July which sees hundreds of sectarian orange marches taking place.

It was notable that the hardline unionist DUP did not condemn the vicious assault, while the Ulster Unionist Party only described it as "unnecessary".

Threats to nationalist residents had been posted on social media by a number of Portadown-based loyalists.

Sinn Fein representative John O'Dowd called on unionists "to show leadership" and said their response to the potentially fatal attack was "unsatisfactory".

The Twelfth is a Protestant celebration held on 12 July. It originated during the late 18th century and it celebrates the so called Glorious Revolution (1688) and victory of Protestant king William of Orange over Catholic king James II at the Battle of the Boyne (1690).

On and around the Twelfth, large parades are held by the Orange Order and loyalist marching bands, streets are filled with British flags and large towering bonfires are lit.

During the conflict in the North of Ireland, orangemen insisted on marching through nationalist areas, often enjoying full support from the police and the occupying British army.

The peace process also involved a commission on parades and flags, precisely aimed at tackling the issue of the controversial orangist parades.

Summer months in the North of Ireland have always been hot also politically speaking: republicans in fact organised a march to remember the arrival, on 9 August 1969, of occupying British troops.

Sinn Féin and republican communities though have transformed the march (which is still taking place every year in form of a rally attended by families) into a week-long Community Festival, full of activities throughout West Belfast.