January 18, 2020
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Troubled Sleep

Troubled Sleep
Belfast has been a boomtown since the Good Friday agreement signed four years ago brought peace to Northern Ireland. New buildings are coming up, the old ones being renovated, shopping malls are spilling over, hotels are doing good business and restaurants are packed. Four years of relative prosperity means that people now have an economic stake in peace. No one wants a return to what they refer to in Ireland as "The Troubles". But beneath the surface, Northern Ireland continues to simmer and this summer has been the worst since the peace accord four years ago. Celebrations connected to the Queen’s golden jubilee in the first week of June triggered a fresh round of bloodletting in Belfast. When Protestants put up buntings of the Union Jack, Catholics responded with rage and fury. As Norman, my loquacious taxi driver who drove me though the troubled parts of Belfast, put it: "It’s just like old times." What hasn’t helped is that July is the season of the Orange parades through the city, which commemorate the 1690 victory of the Protestant King William of Orange. Catholics understandably consider these marches a reminder of past humiliations, and sporadic outbreak of violence during the parade season is almost mandatory. Robin Wilson, the director of Belfast think-tank Democratic Dialogue, is gloomy about the future: "What we have in Northern Ireland is peace without reconciliation."
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