Thousands of Unionists celebrate Northern Ireland’s centenary in Belfast

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BELFAST — Thousands of trade unionists gathered outside the Parliament Buildings in Belfast this weekend to celebrate 100 years of Northern Ireland, albeit one year later.

Various members of the Protestant Brotherhood or the Orange Order – a group opposed to Irish unity – marched from Stormont to Town Hall after the 2021 celebrations were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic .

Just a few weeks ago, the Irish republican party Sinn Féin won the general elections, a first in the history of Northern Ireland.

While the Democratic Unionist Party blocked the formation of a power-sharing executive due to post-Brexit trade rules, the political stalemate did not appear to interfere with the celebrations.

“It’s great to celebrate 100 years of Northern Ireland, and it’s also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so it’s great to be a part of it,” said participant Joanne McGregor.

The celebrations mark the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which ended the Irish War of Independence of 1919-1921, and the partition of the island.

“It’s important because it’s a historic landmark and it’s something I’m very interested in,” said Peter Cashel, a member of the Orange Order.

“And I look forward to the next 100 years of Northern Ireland as we move forward from the troubled history we’ve had for the past 100 years.”

The territory’s history is marked by The Troubles, a violent conflict between pro-British Protestants and Catholics that lasted 30 years.

Despite ongoing disputes with Westminster over Northern Ireland protocol, the mood at the event was upbeat, just days before Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Platinum Jubilee. —Euronews

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