In Brief

Is Northern Ireland violence a sign of things to come?

Annual Orange Order parade takes place amid first major unrest in years

Sectarian violence has broken out across Northern Ireland this week, in a harrowing throwback to the dark days of The Troubles.

Masked men hijacked a bus full of passengers and set 13 vehicles on fire in and around Belfast, while young republicans threw petrol bombs at police during a fifth night of disorder in the Bogside area of Derry.

It came as thousands of Protestant loyalists prepared to take to the streets yesterday to mark the anniversary of William of Orange’s victory over Catholic James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

The day is revered by loyalists across Northern Ireland, and marked by more than 600 parades and processions throughout the day.

While 12 July has passed off peaceful in Northern Ireland in recent years, helped largely by the resolution of a longstanding dispute about a parade route in Belfast, “the overnight disorder means these commemorations take place amid tensions and concerns about the prospect of further trouble” says The Guardian.

The loyalist paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) threatened to “orchestrate and participate in serious disorder”, in retaliation to the clearing of bonfires ordered by police. The Belfast Telegraph confirmed a number of shots were fired at officers in Londonderry in what has been described as a "blatant bid to murder police".

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) confirmed that a viable pipe bomb was found at a peace line in nationalist east Belfast and there were also reports of a security alert at Belfast City Airport after a suspicious device was found, prompting authorities to put the area on lockdown.

Dissident republicans, most of them young people, have been reported engaging in sporadic disorder, targeting police and unionist residents.

The unrest highlights the fragile peace that has existed in Northern Ireland since the Good Friday Agreement - a peace which is potentially threatened by the return of a hard border after Brexit and growing calls for a referendum on unification with the south.

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