11:57 GMT +316 February 2019
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    A car containing a suspect device is cordoned off by police in the middle of a road in East Belfast ahead of Twelfth of July celebrations held by members of Loyalist Orders in Belfast, Northern Ireland July 11, 2018

    Guns, Petrol Bombs, Burning Cars: N Ireland Preparing for Protestant Parade

    © REUTERS / Clodagh Kilcoyne
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    The police have reported that officers came under gunfire during a fourth night of violence in Derry on the eve of a major protestant celebration on July 12, with the local authorities blaming Irish loyalists.

    On Wednesday, the local police said that six shots were fired and around 16 petrol bombs were thrown in what they called "a blatant bid to murder police officers" during a fourth night of unrest in Northern Ireland's second-largest city, Derry.

    Moreover, the Police Service of Northern Ireland has confirmed that it had responded to two cars being set on fire on Upper Newtownards Road on the outskirts of Belfast.

    "For a fourth consecutive night police officers dealt with violence and disorder," Chief Inspector Neil Beck said. No officers were reported injured.

    Wednesday's violence broke out amid a police warning that the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), loyalist paramilitaries involved in rioting, organized crime and drug dealing, were planning to "orchestrate and participate in serious disorder" in eastern Belfast.

    The loyalists' violent move apparently came in response to plans to reduce the size of bonfires at two sites in eastern Belfast, which are traditionally lit in loyalist areas to celebrate July 12, a holiday marking Protestant King William's victory over the Catholic King James in the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, which established British and Protestant rule in Ireland.

    After hundreds of years under British rule, in the early 1920s Ireland split from the UK to become an independent state. This is when the population of Northern Ireland was divided into those who wanted to remain within the UK (unionists/loyalists who were mostly Protestant) and those who wanted to leave the UK and become part of a united Ireland (republicans, mostly Catholic).

    In the second half of the 20th century, Northern Ireland was in the grip of a decades-long conflict between loyalists and republicans. Although the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 brought an end to the period of conflict, setting up a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland, tensions between Protestant and Catholic communities still persist, sometimes leading to outbreaks of violence.


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