For nearly a fortnight, I've been getting more and more annoyed. I've left my house three times, and each time was to go to work. I've even had to skip work three times. My work has had to close too. Those times that I went to work were the only times I left my house.

Why?, I hear you ask. Why have you not been out living a healthy life, out socialising with your friends, out shopping for those couple of things that you've been wanting to get for a little while now? Why have you not gone to work, and why has your work had to shut down?

So here is my reply, for those of you who have asked similar questions to those above: it's because I live in Belfast. For the past few weeks, there have been demonstrations all over Northern Ireland. The atmosphere is tense, people are in anticipation of what's going to happen come the 11th night and marches on the 12th of July. People have been hurt and some even killed.

Take, for instance, the night of the 11th of July. This is a night when many people from the Unionist community light boneys and celebrate something that I don't really know about. And on the 12th of July, they will march the streets of Northern Ireland, either as members of an Orange Lodge or in a band.
On this night, one man was stabbed to death in Coleraine, several others hospitalised in knife attacks, and one man beaten to a bloody pulp then shot in the back of the head by a member of a paramilitary organisation. The latter was killed in front of around 100 people at a bonefire in (i think) Larne. And, he was a protestant killed by another protestant, for those of you who may be interested.

Throughout the two weeks, there have been countless riots, attacks on the security forces, attacks on paramedics, even. There have been hijackings, car bombs, shootings, blast bombs. Roads have been blocked off by protestors. The whole country has been brought to a standstill. Businesses have just shut down for the day because their staff cannot get to or from their homes. Even the busses would not run after 6pm.

This is what I mean when I say the word "standstill".

And so I've been trapped in my house, unable to leave because public transport has stopped, and because I wouldn't feel safe leaving my house. And I'm relatively lucky, because I live right in between the two "communities", and when there is any serious trouble, the riot police congregate right outside my door. Most of the rioting either occurs further down the road, or further up the road. (By this I'm talking 50m in one direction and 100m in the other. A literal stone's throw away.)

Someone left their house a few doors down a few years ago because it was set alight with a petrol bomb. They decided it just wasn't right for them to live in this area anymore, so they've moved elsewhere.

If you're looking for an explanation now, I'm afraid I haven't got one. Perhaps ask someone such as ryano and he will give you the historical context for our situation here. But I have a feeling he doesn't live in a situation that I live in... 50 metres away from a "peace wall"...

And to be honest, it doesn't affect me the whole year round, or perhaps I'm just used to the fact that you can't go into certain areas, and you can't wear certain colours or say certain things for fear of being beaten up. The fact that I haven't cycled a certain route for about 5 years, since someone threw a punch at me as I cycled downhill, down my own street. (I ended up with cuts on my hands and hit my head on the ground... I felt totally scared, my head had nearly been run over by a Vauxhall Corsa, and there was a gang of around 40 youths standing a few metres away... I grabbed my bike and started running...) * It wasn't until I went on holiday to Vancouver, BC last summer that I realised the actual extent to what I was accepting as normal. I got on my aunt's bike and just cycled anywhere in the city without fear. They said, stay out of (certain area past chinatown), but I decided I would anyway, and some guy asked me if I wanted to buy drugs, and I said no thank you, and went about my business...

If the people in this country were to experience the standard of living seen in places like that, I doubt there would be many people left in this country.

I've gone off on a tangent, I realise that.
The twelfth fortnight is now over (I hope) and I'm going to go about my business as usual. It's not that I'm suddenly safe again, but at least this period of heightened violence is over. Just back to the routine of bomb-scares and sectarianism that is life in Belfast.



*

After the bike incident, my aunt's friend came round to my house. She called the police to report it. They came a while after, and took a statement. I was still dazed and confused at the time, having just bounced down the road and wrecked my bike... They said they would get back to me, and I never heard from them again. One of the officers even took an accusative tone with me, as if to say, are you stupid going down that road at this time of year?... What can I say... fuck the pigs... they don't do anything about it...
I know what you mean man, I can't leave my house either for fear of getting beaten up or something. It was my best mates birthday on the 12th, I've knowin' the guy since I was born but I couldn't go to see him because he lives in Whiteabbey, which in case you didn't know is known to be quite a violent place around this time of year.

My sister can't go see her boyfriend as he lives in Carrick and a bunch of wee bastards have blocked every road into the town.

And just to top it off, wee kids up the road from my granny have been throwing fireworks about and scareing the shit out of her. She is an elderly woman and her husband died recently she dosen't need any of this.
And there's no reason for any of this as has been mentioned it's just a bunch of assholes wanting to cause trouble.

Just for the record, my writeups on Northern Ireland, while not entirely unsubjective, attempt to cast a cold, critical eye on the whole situation, as well as providing factual information. Idoru is right: I don't live in Belfast, but my brother does, and I spent a fair bit of time there a couple of years ago when my girlfriend was living there.

My writeup on the Twelfth of July was voted down, and the only reason I can think of is that I gave an airing to the view of many Orangemen and ordinary protestants that the whole thing is just a grand day out, free from any political significance. As you can see from the above, and if you open any newspaper, this view is highly naive. Bigotry is on open display throughout the marching season, and personally I feel the Orange Order has done nothing to uphold its supposed basis in universal tolerance. I was horrified to hear a clergyman at an Orange demonstration saying that the silence of the streets on Monday 10th July was a holy moment. What could be holy about people rushing to get indoors for fear of getting caught in violent disturbances?

There is definitely a place for personal accounts of what's happening in Northern Ireland, like iduro's and jim71's above, but I'm still going to attempt to be as detached as possible in writing about it. The reason for this is that I feel the rest of the world only ever gets emotive narratives, and the whole thing coalesces for them into a continuum of bombings, beatings, terror and general bigotry. The situation is almost infinitely more complicated than that, and I hope I reflect some of that in my writeups.

Uhuh, this whole violence thing. Like ryano, I don't live in Belfast. I live near Newcastle, Co. Down which, generally, hasn't been as affected as Belfast. Recently though, the "Real IRA" have been becoming more pro-active (South Down is predominantly a "provo" area. A couple of months back a man was killed outside a local pub, this man was a drug dealer, and the paramilitaries seemed to be reverting to Direct Action Against Drugs, 5 other dealers were threatened with death unless they went into exile, needless to say, they all left. This whole node has gone off into the ether now. My point has left me...

Let's just say that the dissident republicans have been getting more active in the rural areas of Northern Ireland, and we might have to watch out.... pricks.

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