Nationalists across the North refused to be provoked as hundreds of sectarian parades passed off last week without major incident.
Every year, the marches are held by the Protestant Orange to mark the ‘Twelfth’, the anniversary of the 17th century Battle of the Boyne victory over Catholics.
In particular, two Orange Order parades through flashpoint interfaces in west and north Belfast passed off without major incident.
Fireworks were thrown by local youths shortly after the evening parade passed the Ardoyne shops in north Belfast.
A standoff then developed between crowds of nationalists and loyalists, who blocked the Crumlin Road at each end for a short time, before dispersing.
But there was anger in nationalist communities as a number of provocative displays took place both during the marches and on the evening before. Hardline unionist groups traditionally giant bonfires to mark the ‘Eleventh Night’, often scenes for paramilitary displays and sources of conflict.
In one incident, a Catholic man was threatened by unionist paramilitaries after removing the name of his dead son from an Eleventh Night bonfire. He was then forced to barricade his home and send his children to safe houses in fear of an attack.
A large banner on a bonfire in Coleraine, County Derry. bore the name of his 13-year-old son Aaron, who died from heart disease three weeks ago. It also bore the name of another Catholic youth, Paddy Brennan, who died last year, along with the question: “Who’s next?”
Mr Neil asked the PSNI police to remove the offending message but they refused.
“I didn’t want a couple of hundred people all standing around this bonfire all cheering over my son’s death,” he said.
Mr Neil said his son was not sectarian or political.
“Aaron’s girlfriend was a Protestant from a loyalist area, Windyhall. The day before Aaron died we played a football tournament in Windyhall,” he said.
“I think they singled out Aaron just to shove one into the nationalist community.”
In Belfast city centre, loyalists carried a flag honouring a sectarian killer involved in the notorious massacre on Sean Graham’s bookmakers’ shop and other killings. The Orange Order said they would look into the incident.
Sinn Féin South Belfast Assembly member Alex Maskey has joined with the families and victims of the killings in calling for answers to what he described as “an insult to all victims of loyalist violence”.
“Honouring a loyalist killer begs the question, how can this be justified? I welcome the Orange Order investigation into this matter and urge them to apologise for the hurt caused to these innocent victims. My party shall also be raising this issue with the parades commission.”
Sinn Féin’s Paul Butler has said that unionists “must do more” to discourage eleventh night bonfires.
“Every year there is a deafening silence from unionists about bonfires and the damage they are causing,” he said.
“Over one million pounds of taxpayer’s money is spent in relation to bonfires every year in emergency call-outs and damage to public property. Yet year in year out both the DUP and UUP turn a blind eye to the wanton destruction theses bonfires cause. This is totally unacceptable.