Sunday, July 11, 2004

The marching bands are coming

Tomorrow is one of those historical anniversaries that does not, to put it mildly, produce universal celebrations. Or, to be precise, it's celebrated and loathed in equal measure. 12 July is the anniversary of the victory of William III at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, and it's still causing conflict between Protestants and Catholics. It's instructive to learn that, even now, there are 'more British troops in Northern Ireland during the Protestant marching season than there are in Iraq', for what is 'one of the biggest annual political and cultural street events in Europe'. At least it doesn't seem likely to descend into the violent depths of the late '90s and early '00s (not least, a cynic might argue, because the media post 9/11 lost interest in fanning these particular flames and turned their attention to other conflicts and religious divides). Nonetheless, 'the marching season' does annually reveal the continuing tensions in Northern Ireland, and just how much remains to be done if the peace process is to be a long-term success. It's also a reminder of just how much of today's conflict is rooted in the seventeenth century - however much that legacy has been subsequently reappropriated and reinvented.

Irish History Timeline
William III
Battle of the Boyne
Battle of the Boyne 1690
The Penal Laws

CAIN (Conflict Archive on the Internet)

Northern Ireland Women's Coalition
Sinn Fein
Social Democratic and Labour Party
Ulster Unionist Party

Sutton Index of Deaths: lest we forget, this is what's at stake in the peace process.

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