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Loyalist paramilitaries disarm and the masked gunman disappears from Belfast's murals.
BELFAST — The British Army map of Belfast shows green for Catholic enclaves, orange for Protestant areas and white for mixed districts.
But for many years you didn’t need this map when driving around the city to know the affiliation of ghetto areas you were passing through.
Gabled walls on working-class houses showed murals depicting armed paramilitary figures. These marked out the tribal territories.
Pavements edged in red, white and blue identified loyalist Protestant streets. Those in green, white and orange signified nationalist Catholic areas.
During the summer months the territorial boundaries still sometimes become the scene of confrontations, when Protestant Orange Order parades pass by Catholic areas with bands and banners to celebrate the victory of William of Orange over the Catholic King James in 1690.
When one of the first Orange parades of the “marching season” passed by the nationalist Ardoyne district in north Belfast on Friday, June 19, some thugs threw missiles, injuring three people.
It was a minor skirmish compared to the violent rioting of previous years and it could have been worse but for the presence of nationalist stewards, who have tried to ensure calm in recent years as part of the peace process.
In the aftermath, Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, called on the Orange Order to make its contribution to peace with a declaration that in the future “it will no longer seek to force parades through Catholic areas and risk bringing violence on to our streets.”
Addressing a Sinn Fein commemoration at the grave of Wolfe Tone, an icon of 18th century Irish republicanism, in Bodenstown in the Republic of Ireland, he said it would only affect a few of the hundreds of parades held annually.
But the Orange Order accused McGuinness, a former IRA commander, of failing to understand how parades were an integral part of Protestant culture.
It claimed the 214-year-old order was working to make them “more family-friendly and welcoming, particularly to tourists.”
Belfast remains a bitterly divided sectarian city, and to Catholics the parades will always smack of triumphalism.
However, the stated aim of the Orange Order to make their marches less confrontational is an important step toward a stable society in Northern Ireland.