Leading article: A slow march to progress

Share
Related Topics

In Northern Ireland some things seem never to change, among them the metronomic determination of parts of the Orange Order to march past Catholic areas where they are not welcome. Similarly, some nationalists and republicans show equal determination to stage protests against such parading, as they showed this week in north Belfast.

Some protesters travelled miles to Ardoyne, so determined were they to be affronted by the Orangemen. The two sides were thus maintaining an equilibrium between those who seek to annoy and those who seek to be annoyed.

A peace process is in place, and effective in many ways, but various points of conflict remain and the July parades present a perfect opportunity to air them. While the peace process has delivered a great deal, marching season clashes go on. Unhappily they have the sanction of history, since sectarian affrays have been breaking out in Belfast for close to 200 years.

This week's violence, leading to injuries to more than 80 police officers, looks like the ancient pattern continuing to assert itself. Yet there have been advances and improvements, and for once there is cause to hope that old moulds can be broken. For one thing, the once widespread turbulence is now confined to a few flashpoints. A decade and a half ago, things were so bad that a former Chief Constable warned: "We cannot withstand another summer like this one. We crept right to the edge of the abyss." Civil disorder on that scale has now gone: there is no sense of apocalypse now, only exasperation that some are unable to move into the modern era. For another thing, the basic sectarian grammar has significantly changed. Sinn Fein and Peter Robinson's Democratic Unionists, who together in effect run Northern Ireland, have in recent months been pitched into high-pressure marching talks.

After all their years of often bad-tempered confrontation on the issue, the two parties surprisingly but commendably emerged with an agreement on how to improve marching regulations. Not everyone has yet signed up for their formula but the fact that the two biggest political players finally see eye to eye is a major breakthrough. But these things take time, and the proposed new system was not in place for the present marching season. It is understandable that the police should be exasperated at the glacial pace of change, given the injuries to 80 of their officers. But the next 12 months will bring something to break the ancient, destructive paradigm.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The economy expanded by 0.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2014  

Government hails latest GDP figures, but there is still room for scepticism over this 'glorious recovery'

Ben Chu
Comedy queen: Miranda Hart has said that she is excited about working on the new film  

There is no such thing as a middle-class laugh

David Lister
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little