The days surrounding July 11 and 12 are important to Northern Ireland because they contain two controversial holidays of religious and political consequence.
As many bonfires still smolder, The Twelfth begins. On the holiday, members of the Orange Order, composed of Northern Ireland's Unionist Protestant population and other supporters, march throughout the city to celebrate a 17th century Protestant victory over Catholics. Among the traditional routes used are those which run adjacent to the city's Republican Catholic neighborhoods.
While Loyalists describe the holiday events as merely "family friendly" cultural activities, doing so ignores their role as expressions of political power and support for Northern Ireland's membership in the United Kingdom. Given Belfast's ongoing conflict between the Loyalists and the Republicans, the holiday activities operate as unmistakable claims over the contested city.
As such, the marches are not well received in the Catholic communities, particularly given centuries of conflict and the more recent Troubles. While local organizations sponsor youth football tournaments and other events designed to provide alternatives to challenging the marches, riots often follow the parades. In 2010, youth engaged the police in the streets for nearly a week, although the period was considerably shorter in 2012.
This developing series focuses on those events of Eleventh Night and The Twelfth, contextualizing them against a backdrop of the physical elements of Belfast that reflect the city's often starkly segregated landscape.