by RAY FLEMING
JULY has always been a dangerous month in Northern Ireland because of the insistence of Protestants of the Orange Order to hold traditional political marches which in many cases deliberately pass through Catholic areas in a provocative manner. One of the successes of the peace process that led to and followed the Good Friday Accord of 1998 was an agreement between Sinn Fein and Protestant parties on revised routes for the marches which would avoid some of the more confrontational routes. Unfortunately, as ugly rioting in Belfast in the past few days has shown, the agreement still needs further work and commitment to ensure that trouble-makers cannot use loopholes in it to keep the sectarian hostility alive.

Understandably, the Chief Constable of Northern Ireland, Matt Baggott, was angry about incidents in which eighty-two of his officers were injured by petrol bombs, bricks, bottles, iron bars and fireworks. He was also right to be disappointed that the two political leaders of Northern Ireland's power-sharing executives, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, did not issue a condemnation of the violence until he drew attention to the need for them to do so.

This unwelcome outbreak of old bad habits shows how vigilant everyone in Northern Ireland needs to be to ensure that the remarkable progress made in the last twelve years despite many difficulties is not set back by those who would like to see a return to the Troubles.

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