Thousands of Unionists celebrate Northern Ireland’s centenary in Belfast

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Thousands of unionists gathered in front of parliament buildings in Belfast this weekend to celebrate 100 years of Northern Ireland, albeit one year later.

Various members of the Protestant fraternity or the Orange Order — a group which is opposed to Irish unity — marched from Stormont to the City Hall after the 2021 celebrations were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Just weeks ago, Irish Republican party Sinn Féin won legislative elections, a first in Northern Irish history.

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

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

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

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

“And I’m looking forward to the next 100 years of Northern Ireland as we progress from the troubled history we’ve had over the last 100 years.”

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

Despite ongoing disputes with Westminster over the Northern Ireland Protocol, the mood at the event was upbeat, just days before the British Queen Elizabeth II marks her Platinum Jubilee.

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Thousands of Unionists celebrate Northern Ireland’s centenary in Belfast

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