In Northern Ireland, King Charles received a mixed reception

France Press agency

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Walk along Shankill Road in Belfast and you’ll soon come across a life-size mural of the late Queen Elizabeth II. In recent days a sea of ​​flowers has grown there. It is in this area that you will find the most intolerant of the unionist community, which wants to remain a part of the United Kingdom at all costs. Here they proudly call themselves the British through and through.

The Unitarian Protestant community has always had deep ties to the royal family. In many Protestant neighborhoods, you’ll find frescoes of William III of Orange seated on horseback.

At the end of the 17th century, the owner of stadiums in Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht was the most powerful ruler in Europe. In 1689, after his marriage to the English Princess Mary, he also became the new king of England, Scotland and Ireland.

In 1690, the King of Stads defeated his Catholic rival James II at the famous Battle of the Boyne in Ireland, which would put a Protestant on the British throne once and for all. Protestants in Northern Ireland celebrate this annually with the Orange Marches on July 12th and connect affectionately with William III King Billy.

British oppression

If you walk 200 meters south from Shankill Road, through the steel gates of the meter-high “peace wall” separating the Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods of Belfast, you arrive at Falls Road. This is the heart of the pro-Ireland republican community. Here they dreamed of reunification with the Republic of Ireland more than a hundred years ago.

There are no seas of flowers or pictures of the Queen on Falls Road. Irish flags fly here, and large murals depict men in masks with AK47s in hand. The residents thus commemorate the decades-long struggle against what many Northern Irish Catholics still do Imperial Crown Forces They see Northern Ireland as an occupied colony of a British ruler.

For this group from Northern Ireland, the king has always been a symbol of oppression. Reactions to the death of Queen Elizabeth were indifferent in the Catholic quarters of Northern Ireland. At best, you’ll experience a polite response, but no waves of sadness.

gesture of reconciliation

King Charles is visiting Northern Ireland today as part of his tour around his kingdom to introduce himself to the people. No doubt he had mixed feelings about this visit.

During the day problemsIn 1979, the civil war that had engulfed Northern Ireland for decades, pro-Ireland paramilitaries blew up a royal yacht off the coast of Sligo in western Ireland. The attack killed Lord Mountbatten, Charles’s favorite uncle, with whom she had a close relationship.

Despite this painful history, Charles’ mother Elizabeth II played a role in the peace process after the 1998 Good Friday Accords, which ended the bloody conflict.

On a visit to Northern Ireland in 2012, I shook hands as a sign of reconciliation with Martin McGuinness, who served as deputy prime minister in the Northern Ireland government on behalf of the pro-Ireland Sinn Féin party. Sinn Fein was known for many years as the political wing of the Irish Republican Army and McGuinness was the leader of the paramilitary organization in Derry during the Troubles.

France Press agency

Tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth on Shankill Road in Belfast

The meeting between the Queen and McGuinness was unimaginable only a few years ago. This gesture was widely appreciated at the time, including by Catholic Republicans who are not usually fans of the British royal family.

Commenting on Queen Elizabeth’s death, Sinn Fein’s current president, Michelle O’Neill, expressed her appreciation for the Queen’s role in the peace process. “Personally, I am deeply grateful for the great contribution and efforts you have made to promote peace and reconciliation between our two islands.”

Horror for unionists

It will be interesting to see how the new King Charles will act. He became king at a time of great political instability in Northern Ireland. The Northern Irish have been without a government since April. Pro-British trade unionists refuse to join a coalition government with Sinn Fein, out of anger over the so-called Northern Ireland protocol to the Brexit deal.

In this protocol, London and Brussels concluded agreements on a separate status for Northern Ireland, which would remain one foot in the European Union. It also meant that a customs border was established between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain, which is anathema to union members.

Charles, of course, cannot resolve this thorny issue, but he will undoubtedly extend his hand and want, like his mother, to make a gesture of reconciliation.

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