While the date July 12 usually provokes fears about violence and sectarianism in the North of Ireland, a priest on the frontline has said this year was the “quietest ever”.
Fr Gary Donegan CP, nationally renowned for his ongoing commitment to conflict resolution and peace building in the country, said that while there was some minor dissident activity in the Belfast area during the day, marches and parades were “done and dusted” by early evening.
It has been reported that eight people were arrested during the day which commemorates the Battle of the Boyne.
Assistant chief constable of the PSNI, Mark Hamilton said: “We dealt with a number of minor incidents throughout the day and made a number of arrests but these did not detract from what was a peaceful day.
“We are aware of some alleged breaches of parade determinations and these will be investigated accordingly.”
With a reduction in sectarian attacks and crimes, Fr Donegan told The Irish Catholic that the day “has come on massively”, adding that “the contention this year moved onto the bonfires and that whole thing is going to have to be addressed”.
A bonfire site in the carpark of Belfast’s Avoniel Leisure Centre was this year at the centre of controversy, after a contractor who was due to remove it pulled out after warnings of violence. It was agreed that the bonfire would remain, and that the Belfast City Council would examine this issue for coming years.
Fr Donegan told this newspaper that traditions should not be “completely destroyed” but condemned the burning of effigies, adding that there are safer alternatives to bonfires.
“All of these things need to be worked at and it needs really good leadership…” Fr Donegan said.