Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

Ardoyne parade row: Could the aptly-named Harmony Lane be the answer?

An alternative route exists insist residents, but loyalists stand firm

Harmony Lane in north Belfast
Harmony Lane in north Belfast

It doesn't look like much - but this derelict patch of ground could potentially hold the key to breaking a deep-seated parading deadlock.

Interestingly named Harmony Lane, it could also save millions of pounds if developed to be used as an alternative route for contentious parades through Ardoyne.

There have been renewed calls for the Orange Order to consider another route for lodges and bands on the Twelfth of July, giving them an opportunity to complete their parade away from the contentious stretch along Crumlin Road in north Belfast.

The Order has repeatedly rejected any alternative to completing its July 12 march along the road, which was again blocked by the Parades Commission on Thursday.

But it has been urged to review that stance, and consider the switch, possibly ending the ongoing stalemate and spiralling costs to police the north Belfast interface.

It has been suggested marchers could make their way to Ligoniel Orange hall via Forthriver Drive. The laneway then runs to Glenside Park.

Those in favour say the financial outlay of upgrading the route to Glenside Park using the path, named Harmony Lane, would be a fraction of the current spend on security.

Over the past 12 months, more than £10m has been spent on policing the Twaddell camp and associated protests over the banned march along the Crumlin Road. It's understood the alternative route is considered a viable option by high-level sources trying to find a solution to the deadlock.

Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC) believes the lane is the solution.

Spokesman Dee Fennell said: "I think the solution is there.

"There is an alternative route. It would lessen the amount of time it takes the Orangemen to get to their destination.

"It would mean there would be no massive security operation. There would be no nationalist residents offended or harassed or intimidated.

"It would mean the loyal orders are free to demonstrate and express their Protestantism and cultural heritage 365 days a year."

The Orange Order refuses to speak to GARC, which recently warned the Parades Commission it would bring residents onto the streets if a previous Orange parade was given the go-ahead. The Order has engaged with members of another body in the area, Crumlin Ardoyne Residents' Association, in the hope of resolving the bitter dispute.

Orange Order grand chaplain Mervyn Gibson yesterday rejected the alternative route, saying it was never "a realistic option". A senior north Belfast loyalist said the alternative was "a complete non-starter".

"Why would we walk through what is a piece of waste ground?" he said.

"There is a stream and everything. No, it's never going to happen."

In 2005, a previous Parades Commission rerouted the Whiterock Parade away from the main part of the Springfield Road in favour of a route through the old Mackie's factory site.

That move, which has been repeated numerous times since, continues to anger marchers.

Last month GARC vowed to bring thousands of people on to the streets to block any Orange parades going past the Ardoyne shops.

GARC admitted delivering the uncompromising message to the Parades Commission shortly before it banned a one-off parade from using the Crumlin Road route on June 7.

"We told the Parades Commission in the past we have shown our willingness and ability to use radical means to stop parades taking place. We said we would do so again if permission had been granted for a parade to take place that Saturday," Mr Fennell said.

Further reading

Peter Robinson and Mike Nesbitt agree decision to ban parade should be accepted and urge any protests to be legal 

Business community urges Stormont to solve row over parades 

Orange Order's agenda now at the centre of unionist politics

Ardoyne parade: Just half-a-mile long but a blot on all our futures 

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