Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Can the Orange Order keep a lid on Twelfth tensions?

North Down Twelfth demonstration in Newtownards.  Amy and Charlie Que with Molly Jupp from Holywood. Pic Picture by Darren Kidd / Press Eye
North Down Twelfth demonstration in Newtownards. Amy and Charlie Que with Molly Jupp from Holywood. Pic Picture by Darren Kidd / Press Eye
Orange Order parades pictured marching through Belfast on July 12, 2014. Photo: Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Orange Order parades pictured marching through Belfast on July 12, 2014. Photo: Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
New PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton talks to officers at the Twaddell Avenue interface at Ardoyne, north Belfast this morning. Phtograph by Kelvin Boyes/Presseye
New PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton talks to officers at the Twaddell Avenue interface at Ardoyne, north Belfast this morning. Phtograph by Kelvin Boyes/Presseye

Orangemen will come face-to-face with front line police officers later today - 12 months after serious rioting erupted at the same spot.

The contentious return leg of a Twelfth feeder parade in north Belfast will see marchers again stop at police lines on the Woodvale Road, preventing them from moving onto the Crumlin Road and past the Ardoyne shops.

Unionist leaders and senior Orange Order figures have reiterated calls for no repeat of the shameful scenes in the area last Twelfth when loyalists launched vicious attacks on police lines.

At the launch of this year's Orangefest yesterday, the Orange Order's deputy grand master Spencer Beattie said the Ligoniel lodges at the heart of the dispute will have "pride of place" at the front of the main Twelfth march to the field at Barnett Demesne this afternoon.

This evening a statement will be read against the Parades Commission decision when lodges and bands reach the contentious stretch of road in north Belfast.

The Orange Order said marchers will then return to a hall on the Shankill Road and disperse.

A "token number" of Orangemen will also be manning the Twaddell Avenue protest camp throughout the day.

Up to 50 protest parades are planned by the Orange Order across Northern Ireland to voice anger at the determination by the Parades Commission.

There will be a six-minute pause at all 17 of the Twelfth demonstrations.

This is the length of time the Orange Order says it would take for the return march along the road in north Belfast.

General view of a bonfire in the Lower Shankill Estate, west Belfast this evening. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
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Police and Orangemen have expressed cautious optimism that the loyal order commemorations in Belfast will pass off without violence.

A senior police source expressed "guarded optimism" about how today will pan out. The PSNI source said officers had detected "no appetite for violence" within communities.

Despite hoping for the best, the police have made considerable preparations in case things do go wrong. There will be 3,500 officers deployed across Northern Ireland, almost a third of whom will be in north Belfast.

Of 58 public order units on stand-by (each comprising 25 officers), 36 will be in north Belfast this evening.

Last year the PSNI operation was supported by 630 mutual aid officers travelling from forces in England, Scotland and Wales. No additional manpower has been ordered this year – though contingencies are in place to call upon the resource if needed.

The Orange Order yesterday repeated its appeal for no trouble today, warning that "one stone thrown would undermine the commitment and dedication of the many thousand who have supported our cause".

Mr Beattie added: "I would repeat again that our response to republican agitation and the threat of violence must be lawful and peaceful. If anyone is intent on causing trouble you will not be welcome at any of our protests."

Mr Beattie also pledged there will be continuing protests from "the unionist family" against the Parades Commission in the time ahead, ensuring "our voice and our case will be heard in the corridors of power".

Meanwhile, industry leaders have said Belfast is "open for business" today from noon to 5pm.

Orange parades in the city centre will commence at 10.15am at Carlisle Circus. They will have left the centre of Belfast by noon and will return at 5.30pm.

Paul McMahon, Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce president, said: "As the Twelfth of July this year falls on a Saturday, we are optimistic that it will be a busy trading day.

"This is the sixth consecutive year that the shops in the main core of the city will be open."

Andrew Irvine, Belfast City Centre Manager, added: "I am keen to get out the message that Belfast city centre will be open for business with additional family activities on offer."

Mr Irvine told the Belfast Telegraph that shopping centres and all the chain stores will be fully operational, but only 50% of independent retailers will be opening their doors. "Food NI will be running a food market in the grounds of City Hall and Festival of Fools performers will also be entertaining people on the streets throughout the day," he added.

Factfile

With the total bill for policing parades and flag disputes in Northern Ireland over the last 20 months standing at around £55 million, there is a significant financial imperative in avoiding further trouble this year.

In recent years when the parade was permitted to pass Ardoyne, republicans engaged in serious rioting. When it was restricted last year, loyalists rioted.

Flagship parade held in Larne

The port of Larne hosted one of three showpiece flagship Twelfth parades across Northern Ireland today.

This was second year in a row that Larne has hosted a flagship parade, which the Orange Order describes as offering an “enhanced cultural experience” including musical and other events in the run-up to the Twelfth.

The Twelfth celebrations follow on from the historic 1914 Ulster gunrunning centenary commemorations organised by Larne District earlier this year.

Thousands of people thronged Larne's streets to to the main procession, encompassing 70 private lodges and up to 50 marching bands.

The nine districts represented were Carnmoney, Randalstown, Staffordstown, Killead, Antrim, Sixmilewater, Carrickfergus, Cloughfern and Larne. Members of the Ladies Association and a number of Junior lodges were also on parade.

The main parade left Inver Road at around 11.20am and proceeded via Bridge Street, High Street, Upper Main Street, Main Street, Agnew Street, Old Glenarm Road, Herbert Avenue, Greenland Drive, Newington Avenue, Glenarm Road, Curran Road, Bay Road and Chaine Memorial Road to the demonstration point at Sandy Bay playing fields.

Among the platform party for the religious service were senior Larne District officers as well as East Antrim Combine chairman, Albert Steele; County Antrim Grand Secretary William Thompson; and guest speaker, Rev Raymond Robinson.

The day is a special one for local lodge Larne Royal Blues LOL 70 which was showing off a new bannerette.

One of the oldest bands in Northern Ireland – 132-year-old Magheramorne Silver – was also on parade.

Further Reading

Keep it dignified or stay at home, urges Robinson 

'It's embarrassing' ... village's shame over the flag-flyers who went too far  

Mutual respect the only way forward for all of us  

Gerry Adams effigy hangs from loyalist Ballycraigy bonfire in Antrim

Thousands set for Orange Order's Twelfth parades 

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