Protestants facing 'ethnic cleansing, says Orange leader
Protestants in the North face “ethnic cleansing” despite the peace process, the leader of the Orange Order claimed today.
Orange halls are under attack with paint and petrol bombs and members are targeted on parade, Grand Master Robert Saulters told loyal order members in Ballymoney, Co Antrim.
A Protestant family’s home was targeted by arsonists in a Catholic estate nearby overnight.
Up to 500,000 people were expected to take to the streets of the North today as the Orange Order marching season reaches its pinnacle.
There has been a scaled down security presence at parade flashpoints in recent years and better co-operation between the two communities.
Mr Saulters said: “The thing is we are in a peace process, I would say we are more into a situation of ethnic cleansing, we had seen that in operation on the Ormeau Road in Belfast in the 1970s and it did work for Sinn Fin/IRA. But don’t tell the government that, they may not be able to sleep in their beds at night.”
There were several sectarian attacks in north Antrim over the weekend.
A petrol bomb was thrown at an Orange hall at Main Street in Rasharkin on Sunday evening. It failed to ignite. A 38-year-old man has been charged with attempted arson.
Sectarian graffiti was also daubed on the Orange hall in Rasharkin over the weekend. This separate incident was reported on Saturday morning.
In Fermanagh, the Wattlebridge Orange Hall near Newtownbutler was smoke damaged.
A Protestant family’s home was targeted by arsonists in a mainly Catholic estate in Ballymena, Co Antrim. An Ancient Order of Hibernians hall (nationalist) was broken into on Sunday evening near Ballymoney, Co Antrim.
July 12 parades are being held at 18 venues across the North - taking place this year on the 13th because the 12th was a Sunday - with hundreds of bands and members of hundreds of orange lodges marching, and thousands lining the routes to watch.
The often divisive celebration of the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne and Protestant King William of Orange’s victory over Catholic King James - 319 years ago - is now being marketed as Orangefest.
Public money has been provided to help sell the event to an international audience and the growing number of tourists visiting the North.
Those in Belfast this year will discover the city is not totally shut up as in past years. The majority of city centre shops and eateries are opening for the first time - but not until the marchers have passed by on their way to a rally on the city outskirts.
They will close about four hours later before the hordes appear on the return journey.
Belfast is the key centre, but three flagship Twelfths in Bangor and Banbridge, Co Down and Larne, Co Antrim, are also being used to promote the event and are expected to attract tens of thousands of spectators.
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