Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Ardoyne parade passes peacefully

Protesters staged a silent demonstration at an earlier march on the Ardoyne Road
Protesters staged a silent demonstration at an earlier march on the Ardoyne Road

There were nationalist protests today as a loyalist parade passed a sectarian flashpoint in Belfast.

Security was tight at Ardoyne in the north of the city for the feeder parade by Apprentice Boys marchers on their way to their main demonstration in Londonderry.

But while the Ardoyne area was the scene of three days of rioting around an Orange Order parade on July 12, there was no immediate repeat of the violence today.

The march passed off peacefully as about 40 Apprentice Boys marchers passed nationalists carrying banners who staged a silent protest.

Sinn Fein representative Gerry Kelly, a junior minister in Northern Ireland's power sharing Assembly, attended the protest and welcomed the fact that there was no repeat of the violence seen in July.

But he called for talks to broker a long term solution to parades disputes.

"This is a march through three Catholic areas just to get on a bus to go to Derry, he said.

"I suppose if there is a message out of this, it is that there needs to be dialogue.

"Let's have dialogue, let's not be doing this for the next ten years."

Approximately 20 to 30 stewards from the nationalist Crumlin Ardoyne Residents' Association (CARA) monitored the protest, placing representatives on top of shops that rioters had used as a platform to attack police in July.

Mr Kelly today held talks with around 12 people linked to the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC) after some of them had shouted abuse at police and at CARA members.

In July members of the GARC were removed from the same parade route by police after staging a sit down protest before the Orange Order march.

The small GARC group present today agreed to join the 60 to 80-strong protest by CARA.

Large numbers of police were held in reserve in the event of trouble, but a relatively low-key presence between protesters and marchers was enough to oversee this morning's events.

Focus will now shift to Derry where a major security operation will be in place for the main Apprentice Boys parade.

About 15,000 people and 140 bands are expected to take part in the main march which begins at about 12.30pm.

Stormont Justice Minister David Ford is among politicians of all hues appealing for calm.

Concerns centred on a protest planned by dissident republicans in Derry which was to coincide with the parade.

It was linked to a dispute between dissident inmates and officials in Maghaberry prison.

But the protest was cancelled after a deal was brokered earlier in the week to end the jail dispute.

The Apprentice Boys march marks the siege of Derry between 1688-89.

Young apprentices had closed the gates in the city walls to stop the army of Catholic King James.

The annual march has been the scene of violence in the past, but the Apprentice Boys have also previously brokered accommodations with nationalists to avoid confrontation.

Today's events follow some of the most serious rioting in recent years last month when 80 police officers were injured in clashes with republican protesters.

Youths hurling bricks and wielding iron bars and planks attacked officers in Ardoyne.

Police fired baton rounds in response.

A total of 31 people were arrested later in north and west Belfast including a youth aged 18 yesterday.

There have been weeks of talks aimed at defusing tensions ahead of today's procession.

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