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Britain Northern Ireland

英国 北爱尔兰
Wrapped in the flag
The loyalist protests in Belfast have almost nothing to do with politics. That is why they are so alarming
OVER the past six weeks flag-draped protesters have become part of the Belfast landscape. Loyalists arrange demonstrations and road blocks—up to 80 a night—on social media, which means local residents usually know roughly where they will take place. Belfast’s bus company, Translink, tweets rolling updates on which services have been disrupted; taxi drivers get the news from their dispatchers. On days when many protests are expected, rush hour starts early; by evening, normally busy roads are almost deserted.
过去六个月披着国旗的抗议者成了北爱尔兰首府贝尔法斯特街头的一道景观。社交媒体报道保皇军组织游行示威,安放路障,一晚上达到80之多,这意味着当地的居民通常大概知道反对者在哪里举行示威。贝尔法斯特的公交公司,Translink,,在推特上滚动更新哪里的服务中断,出租车司机从车上广播调度员中得知信息。若某天预计会发生许多反抗时,一大早人们就匆匆忙忙做事了,到了晚上, 公交车路上通常几乎没人了。


The protests began on December 3rd, when Belfast city council voted to limit the number of days the union flag is flown over the city hall to about 20 a year, mostly national holidays and royal birthdays. In Northern Ireland the flag has a political meaning. It is not just a reminder that the province is part of the United Kingdom but a visual statement that it must remain so. To many Catholics—who may now outnumber Protestants in Belfast—it is also a reminder of a less equal past. Unionists on the city council voted against the restriction on flag-flying. But few were prepared for what has followed.

Loyalist protesters, mostly from inner-city housing estates, have taken to the streets night after night. Wearing masks and singing sectarian songs, they have all but shut down Belfast’s city centre. On bigger nights, up to 2,000 may be involved. Most are fairly peaceful, although police have been pelted with bricks and petrol bombs (and by blocking roads and covering their faces, protesters are breaking the law). Predicting which gatherings will turn sour is difficult: the protesters appear to have no leaders. Spokesmen occasionally appear, but most are wild-eyed ranters—“headcases”, in Belfast argot.
The unpredictability of the protests is just one of the problems facing the police. Around 100 protesters have been arrested since early December and more than 60 officers have been injured. The police have used baton rounds (plastic bullets) and water cannons against the rioters, but they are treading carefully. As well as hooded thugs, the protesters include old folk and young mothers pushing babies in prams. Senior officers fear that uproar would follow any injuries, so they generally allow the roads to be blocked.
The effect on Belfast’s economy is chilling. Usually busy shops and restaurants are empty on many evenings, while hotels report that people are cancelling their visits.Northern Ireland’s devolved government has recently been trying to boost its economy by luring tourists and foreign businessmen. A glitzy new exhibition centre dedicated to the Titanic (a ship built in Belfast) opened last spring. Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness—the country’s unionist first minister and his republican deputy—visited China in November to drum up business and will soon go back. The rioting is undoing these efforts. Investors have become jumpy, says the local branch of the Confederation of British Industry, a lobby group.
这些暴乱使贝尔法斯特经济陷入瘫痪。好几个晚上平日繁忙的商店和饭店都空无一人,旅馆也称人们取消了他们的来访。恢复自治权的北爱尔兰政府最近一直试图通过吸引旅客和外商投资来刺激经济增长。去年春天纪念泰坦尼克号的一个耀眼的展览中心开放了,因为这艘船是在贝尔法斯特建造的。北爱尔兰联合党的第一任主席彼得-罗宾逊(Peter Robinson)和他的共和党副主席-和马丁·麦吉尼斯(Martin McGuinness)在12月访问了中国,并将很快返国。此次行程在于促进经济发展。暴乱者正在破坏了他们所作的这些努力。投资者开始忐忑不安,认为英国工业联合会的当地分支是一个游说集团。
The riots have not yet threatened the peace process. Unionist politicians, even from the once-hardline Democratic Unionist Party, have condemned the violence while defending the flying of the union flag. The protests are less political than cultural—they reflect a sense among poor Belfast Protestants that Catholics are getting everything they want and that unionist heritage is being erased. The protesters appear to have no demands other than restoring the flag, though one hot head has called for a return to direct rule from Westminster—in effect, tearing up the country’s fragile peace. Unionist leaders have set up a forum to talk about flags and other loyalist complaints, but the protesters are not co-operating.
暴乱者还没有威胁到北爱尔兰的和平进程。联合党的政治家,即使是来自曾经强硬的民族联合党,谴责这些暴乱行为,同时支持悬挂英国国旗。 此次抗议其文化意义远大于政治意义,他们反映了贝尔法斯特可怜的新教徒的一种情绪,即天主教徒能得到他们一切所需的并且联合党的历史遗迹正在被抹除。反对者似乎除了要求恢复悬挂国旗外,没有其他要求,虽然一个性情鲁莽的人号召威斯敏斯特规则的回归,其实质是粉碎这个国家脆弱的平静。联合党领导者开设论坛讨论悬挂国旗和其它保皇派埋怨的问题,但是反对者不愿意配合。
The lack of a clear political motive makes the explosion of loyalist rage more dangerous rather than less. An angry group seemingly beyond the reach of politicians or rational arguments cannot be easily tackled.Northern Ireland’s fragile peace has held only because fierce political enemies have been able to control their constituencies and deliver functional government. If they lose the ability to control the streets, their authority could follow. These disturbances may burn out, only to flare again unexpectedly.
One thing is clear: the cash-strapped Westminster government cannot pour money into Northern Ireland, as it has in the past when trouble has flared. Unemployment, which has doubled since the start of the financial crisis in 2008, is likely to stay high, creating more idle hands. Northern Ireland’s devolved government will have to cope with this problem by itself. It is quite a test.


重点单词   查看全部解释    
social ['səuʃəl]


adj. 社会的,社交的
n. 社交聚会

block [blɔk]


n. 街区,木块,石块
n. 阻塞(物), 障

motive ['məutiv]


adj. 发动的,运动的,积极的,动机的

flag [flæg]


n. 旗,旗帜,信号旗
vt. (以旗子)标出

eclipse [i'klips]


n. 日或月食,丧失,没落
vt. 形成日或月

exhibition [.eksi'biʃən]


n. 展示,展览

unexpectedly ['ʌnik'spektidli]


adv. 未料到地,意外地

senior ['si:njə]


adj. 年长的,高级的,资深的,地位较高的

democratic [.demə'krætik]


adj. 民主的,大众的,平等的

branch [brɑ:ntʃ]


n. 分支,树枝,分店,分部
v. 分支,分岔




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