In Belfast during 1935 months of rising tension turned into some of the worst rioting in the city since 1920-22. By July the maze of side streets running between York Street and North Queen Street resounded to the noise of rifle and revolver fire with the Manchester Guardian describing the situation in the area as “something in the nature of a “reign of terror””.
The Northern Ireland Home Affairs Minister Dawson Bates, actually one of the more ‘Orange’ of Unionist politicians at the time, decided to ban all parades in the city. It took just four days for Bates to rescind the ban after being told by the Belfast Grand Master of the Orangemen that demonstrations would take place anyway ‘no matter what restrictions were placed upon us’.
It was estimated that between 30 and 40 thousand orangemen marched through the city on the 12th July accompanied by what Lord Craigavon, the Grand Master of the County Down Orangemen and Prime Minister of Northern Ireland described as “the inspiriting sound of the Orange flute and the big drum”.
Although the actual day of the 12th was relatively quiet during the next week or so the sectarian bitterness erupted in the York Street area into serious violent rioting. Initially, the drivers used to outbreaks of violence at that time of the year, the trams continued up and down the street but with the passengers crouching on the floor to avoid the snipers on the rooftops. By the 21 July almost 2,000 people, mostly Catholic, had fleed their homes after being forcibly evicted often with their furniture burnt in the street. Seven protestants and three Catholics lost their lives with 55 Catholics and 28 Protestants seriously injured.