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Historic, cultural, religious factors result in conflicts: expert

posted 11 Jan 2013, 02:35 by Mpelembe   [ updated 11 Jan 2013, 02:36 ]

UK-Flag Riots/Society -- Historic, cultural, religious factors result in conflicts: expert

 China Central Television (CCTV) - Behind the conflicts in Belfast's flag riots lay the controversy of history, culture and religion, an expert from Queen's University Belfast says.

Riven by conflicts between the Northern Ireland's nationalist community and the Protestants' community, east Belfast has been torn by violence over the flag dispute at the Belfast City Hall.

Belfast City Council's vote, which is in favor of hanging the British flag at the city hall during a small number of designated days, instead of all year round, sparked clashes between pro-British and pro-Irish groups in December.

In east Belfast, the pro-British make up the majority of the population, and the British flags can be seen everywhere. Aside from the flags, graffiti and slogans painted on walls also remind people of more than 30 years of conflict between the two communities.

The duration of the conflicts is commonly dated from the late 1960s to 1998 when the Belfast "Good Friday" Agreement was reached. During that conflict, more than 3,500 people lost their lives. Sporadic violence has continued since then.

Adrian Guelke, Professor of Comparative Politics in the School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy at Queen's University Belfast said that the rives have their deep roots in many factors.

"I mean this is a deeply segregated society. It has been for a long time. And really the peace process hasn't brought down the barriers, because the peace process has been based upon sharing the spoils rather than creating a shared society," said Adrian Guelke.

In many areas of Belfast, high walls and iron nets can be seen at places worst hit by conflicts. The graffiti on the communities' wall demonstrate their love of their own culture and the pain of the past.

In east Belfast, most pro-British belongs to the working class. Having suffered a lot during the economic downturn, the riot gave them a chance to vent their anger.

"And already they felt a bit alienated from the system and there is a sort of people who feel that they haven't benefited from the peace process, so this is an opportunity for them to make their grievances about a lot of things felt. And the flag issue was one, an emotive one, which they felt that they could bring a broader public sympathy with particular unions and parties themselves had stressed the issues so much," saidAdrian Guelke.

Belfast slipped into unceasing conflicts after the City Council made the decision on Dec. 4, 2012. Demonstrations were arranged to make the political appeals heard.

"The worst situation is that in order to justify the stance on the flag issue in relations to Belfast, union spread the flag controversy to other councils and other people become mobilized and of course the other problem is that if at the interfaces with their Protestants and Catholics living close together, you get violence at those interfaces, that would really make a dangerous situation," said Guelke.

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