Loyalists in Northern Ireland at bay after Brexit

It’s midnight on July 11: the huge pallet pyre erected at Donegall Pass, in south Belfast, has just been set ablaze. The crowd approaches the blaze dangerously, smartphones in hand. Children run among the shards littering the wasteland around the bonfire, while the adults, already heavily intoxicated, sing traditional songs. “It is our way of commemorating the victory of Prince of Orange William III, the Protestant, against the Catholic Jacques II, at the Boyne, in 1690. It’s our 14th of July, a moment of joy and pride ”, explains Black McDonald. The Scotsman, in his sixties, came especially from Glasgow to support his “brothers” of the powerful Protestant brotherhood of the Orange Order. They celebrate the “Twelfth” (July 12), the great annual festival of the Protestant community (loyalist and unionist), faithful to the United Kingdom.

And the Irish, Palestinian and European flags which burned like tow, was it really necessary to have them planted at the top of the pyre, in this province where relations with the Catholic community, in favor of the reunification of Ireland , remain electric, twenty-three years after the end of the “Troubles” (civil war of thirty years)? “The nationalists, they do the same on their side! “, évacue Black McDonald.

Provocations of this type, there have been others in Northern Ireland, where almost 200 bonfires have been set ablaze in recent days: in north Belfast, in Lisburn in the south or in Newtownards in the west of the province. As for the pyres, they broke height records. One of them even partially collapsed in north Belfast, seriously burning a teenager.

Bonfire lit to mark the celebrations of the “Twelfth”, a major celebration of the Protestant community, on July 11, 2021.

The overflows were nevertheless avoided, much to the relief of local authorities and the British government, who feared renewed violence after the seven days of riots that rocked Belfast in April. However, the tension remains very high, in a deeply frustrated loyalist-nationalist-Protestant community. After dominating Northern Ireland demographically and politically until the mid-2000s, it now considers itself threatened.

Read our decryption: The reasons for the violence in Northern Ireland

The entry into force of Brexit, at the beginning of 2021, did not help anything: the loyalists brutally reject the “Northern Irish protocol”. This part of the Divorce Treaty is supposed to prevent the return of a physical border to the island of Ireland, but establishes a customs border at sea with the rest of the UK, which loyalists see as a serious attack on their identity. British.

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