"The Troubles" Are Back

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BELFAST, Northern Ireland: Riot police and British soldiers who have been trying to contain Protestant marchers have made a 180-turn in their strategy to contain violence that has broken out in Northern Ireland since Sunday. Instead of trying to prevent the marches, which celebrate 300-year-old victories over Catholics, TIME's Helen Gibson reports that police have decided it's safer to keep Catholic protesters at bay and let the marches go through. About 1,300 Orangemen, an Ulster Protestant order, were given permission to march down the disputed Garvaghy Road to the beat of a single drum, along the same route they have followed for the past 189 years to commemorate the 17th century victories over the Catholics. "The Catholics were furious," Gibson says. "There were violent confrontations between demonstrators trying to block the routes and police, who lashed out on all sides with batons." Within an hour, she reports, rioters in the town of Portadown torched dozens of cars and many Catholic residents fled the area. The violence, reminiscent of Ireland's "troubles" in 1969, is not likely to end Thursday. "July 12 is the equivalent of July 4 in the U.S.," says Gibson. "Protestants start the eve of the celebration with huge bonfires, and this year Loyalists have been in an ugly mood. Everyone is awaiting the next 24 hours with fear and trepidation." -- Lamia Abu-Haidar