As the ongoing row over the Irish Sea border has proved, Northern Ireland folk can make an ‘orange and green’ issue out of anything. Gareth Cross investigates.
DUP MLA Edwin Poots was heavily criticised for his comments last October that Covid-19 was more prevalent in nationalist areas.
There were calls for the then-Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister to apologise after he said the difference in transmission between nationalist and unionist areas was “around six to one”.
He claimed the virus had increased in nationalist areas after the Sinn Fein leadership attended the funeral of IRA man Bobby Storey last June.
Mr Poots accused Sinn Fein of trying to “distort and twist” his comments and said “at no time did I attribute the spread of Covid-19 to religion”.
Sinn Fein has also been accused of trying to exploit the pandemic. The party’s proposal to put a stop on travel between here and the rest of the UK was voted down by the Assembly in December.
Kerbstones have long been the target of vandals marking out their community as loyalist or republican. In some loyalist areas they are often painted red, white and blue, while in some republican districts are often painted green, white and orange.
Fodor’s Travel was forced to remove comments about Catholics and Protestants from its website after they were criticised as “offensive” in 2019.
In a section on Belfast’s famous murals the website said: “In Northern Ireland they say the Protestants make the money and the Catholics make the art, and as with all clichés, there is some truth in it.”
It also stated republican murals “often aspire to the heights of Sistine Chapel-lite”, while loyalist murals “sometimes resemble war comics without the humour”. The website was criticised for showing alleged favouritism towards the nationalist community.
Following the complaints Fodor’s Travel removed the content from the website and said it would also be removed from its ebook version of its guide to Ireland.
In 2017 a row broke out over a sign in Limavady marking it as the place where the tune for the famous ballad Danny Boy originated. The Londonderry Air was collated in the town by Jane Ross, with the lyrics later set to the music.
A Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council plan to commemorate the song’s link with the town was branded “a permanent memorial to division” by a nationalist councillor.
A sign outside Limavady welcoming people to the ‘Home of the Londonderry Air & Danny Boy’ was criticised by Sinn Fein, which felt the mention of Londonderry Air was unnecessary as the song was better known as Danny Boy. The sign was defaced immediately after being erected in 2018.
The announcement of plans to commemorate the centenary of Northern Ireland resulted in a tug-of-war between unionist and nationalist politicians over the late poet Seamus Heaney.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the use of the Nobel Laureate’s image on branding to promote the centenary was “deeply offensive” given his strong nationalist background.
DUP leader Arlene Foster and UUP leader Steve Aiken were among those to criticise Mr Eastwood’s comments.
Belfast’s tour guides have in the past been accused of rewriting history and giving one-sided accounts of our rather troubled past.
Some tour guides have been accused of taking tourists into republican areas and painting their history in a more favourable light than their unionist counterparts.
One American tourist accused an operator of “anti-Protestant bigotry” following a tour.
In 2017 then Belfast councillor Chris McGimpsey called for greater regulation of tour guides in the city.
The Ulster Unionist said there were tour guides, among them some taxi drivers, who were also “milking the Troubles”.
“You would certainly get two interpretations of our recent history depending on whether you were being given a tour of the Falls or the Shankill Roads,” he said.
The Irish language has often proved controversial to unionists, who identify it with the republican movement.
So it was no surprise then that a recent decision by Belfast City Council to allow bilingual street signage was met with some concern.
Under the new rules, if bilingual signage on a street gets the support of 15% of residents on the electoral register, it can go forward for approval by the council.
The move was opposed by unionists, with the DUP claiming it was “grossly unfair and unbalanced” and claiming it would damage community relations.
Israel and Palestine
Despite being on the other side of the world, we have somehow managed to involve ourselves in the bitter Israel/Palestine conflict.
Nationalists generally sympathise with the Palestinian side while unionists take the side of Israel in an almost proxy fashion.
Some local councils have voted to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement after motions from nationalists.
There was also a protest when Israel travelled to Belfast to play Northern Ireland at Windsor Park in September 2018.
And Sinn Fein called for a boycott of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest taking place in Tel Aviv.
Belfast’s student-dominated Holyland area has often been plagued with anti-social behaviour.
This year’s round of seemingly neverending parties brought with it an added risk through the coronavirus pandemic, with many students choosing to ignore the regulations and continue their activities regardless.
While Queen’s University draws students from all over the world, nationalist students have been accused by unionists of being the principal source of trouble in the Holyland.
Last year a Freedom of Information request revealed that 94% of students in the area were from a Catholic background.
The golfing superstar is admired by people from all backgrounds.
But the Holywood man found himself in the middle of a tug-of-war over which country he would represent in the Olympic Games.
The four-time major winner has previously spoken about resenting the Olympics because of issues around having to choose which flag to compete under.
In 2014 McIlroy declared he would represent Ireland at the 2016 Rio Olympics, before pulling out due to concerns over the Zika virus.
However, in March 2019 he once again declared his intention to represent Ireland at Tokyo 2020.
He promised to stay “as neutral as possible”.
Ultimately, McIlroy missed his chance when the Games were postponed due to the another virus which needs no introduction.