The past week has been rather busy with a lot of preparation and office work for the upcoming summer weeks. I dedicated most of my time to paper work and organizational duties in the CEP office, working through budgeting forms and details regarding the summer scheme for the North Belfast children. The CEP is one of the few youth groups in the city that began its summer scheme on the 12th, the day of the Orange Parade. Then of course this week begins their empowerment/community summer scheme (designed for Catholic children in the area to keep them out of trouble and project their free time in a positive rather than detrimental light) that I'd been helping to finish plan last week in the office; I'll be volunteering throughout the current week in the various planned activities until my final week starting next Monday, during which I'll be volunteering at Hazelwood's cross-community (Protestant-Catholic) summer scheme.
It seems that something is going right in Belfast: what has in the past been the source of open conflict, confrontation, and downright violence in broad daylight has gradually developed into a day in which Catholic families leave the city or simply agree to disagree with the cultural meaning behind the day. The Orange Parade went surprisingly well (speaking in comparison, of course) with only a few minor incidents as reported by the Protestant newspaper in the area, News Letter: The pride of Northern Ireland. Says the introduction of the Friday, 13th July 2007 cover story:
"One of the biggest and best Twelfths came to a triumphant conclusion last night - despite rainy weather earlier in the day.
Afternoon sunshine broke out across much of Northern Ireland, as tens of thousands of Orangemen and women returned from 19 venues across the Province.
Hundreds of thousands of spectators lined the routes, despite the sometimes damp conditions.
Hotels in Belfast were full as overseas visitors joined in the celebrations, raising hopes that the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne will become an international tourist attraction.
The day was largely trouble-free, apart from a bus-stoning in Co Armagh, attacks on two Orange halls, and a firework thrown at marchers in the Ardoyne."
Catholics' disruption of the Protestant parade via fireworks in the Ardoyne
remnants of a Protestant bonfire in Bushmills
Aside from the embellishment of how enthusiastic international visitors were about the parade (which, at least from my own observations, is far more than a bit of an exaggeration), the parade and surrounding days did seem less violent than I anticipated. Of course, having fewer fights and attacks will certainly augment Belfast's progression as a well-functioning society, but I wonder whether this subdued and repressed anger will merely be the source of an even more powerful relapse in the future.