Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Loyalist Twaddell protesters to carry on camping after new parade bid rejected

Tina Patrick, Jacqueline Elliott and Elizabeth Clarke in the caravan at the Twaddell camp
Tina Patrick, Jacqueline Elliott and Elizabeth Clarke in the caravan at the Twaddell camp

Loyalist protests costing more than £50,000 per day to police are set to continue after the parading watchdog rejected a contentious Orange Order march in north Belfast.

The Parades Commission yesterday ruled against the Order's application to complete its Twelfth of July parade past Ardoyne this Saturday morning.

Orange Order leaders vowed beforehand they would "immediately" engage with nationalist residents ahead of next year's marching season – if this weekend's march was given the go-ahead.

They applied for a march along the stretch of the Crumlin Road consisting of three lodges from the Ligoniel area and two bands.

The Commission said the long-running dispute, which has led to nightly protests and a permanent camp in the area, will only be resolved through "sincere and sustained" dialogue.

A spokesman for the Parades Commission said it was assured by members of the Orange Order that dialogue which began before this year's Twelfth would continue between the Order and nationalist residents.

"The commission is disappointed that this has not yet happened," said the spokesman.

He said the commission wrote to all concerned parties last month urging dialogue, but nobody other than nationalist residents acknowledged the letter.

"In making this determination the commission is also mindful of the significant and unjustified violence that followed the July 12 determination," he added.

"The commission also notes breaches at Twaddell Avenue at parades notified by this organiser, of a civil rights camp, and increasing tensions at this interface area."

The parades body called on politicians, clergy, community leaders and the Orange Order to play their part in trying to improve community relations.

The Orange Order was scathing in its criticism of the decision.

"It is shameful that the Parades Commission – who created the situation at Woodvale – choose to deny civil and religious liberty for all in north Belfast, and blatantly ignore a commitment by the Institution to full and open dialogue with Ardoyne residents following the completion of this long-held and traditional parade," said a spokesman.

"Rather, they continue to consume only the republican narrative, succumb to the threat of violence posed by dissidents and in doing so have poisoned the positive atmosphere emanating from the Haass talks."

The spokesman said those involved in the camp and nightly protests at Twaddell Avenue would continue their action.

Writing in his DebateNI blog, Sinn Fein chairman Declan Kearney called on unionist politicians and Orange Order chiefs to show leadership to break the impasse.

"Back in July, the Order agreed to renew dialogue with residents in September. It's now October," he wrote. "Only sectarianism profits from the Ardoyne impasse, and the rule of law is undermined."

North Belfast Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly  described the ruling as "a sensible one".

"In the interim a genuine effort to lessen community tension would be for the Orange Order, unionist politicians and loyalist paramilitaries to move their protest camp away from the interface at Twaddell," he added.

The area's DUP MP Nigel Dodds said the Order's so-called 'Twaddell Initiative' had been unique.

"Crumlin Ardoyne Residents Association and Sinn Fein are rejecting the most substantive offer of dialogue ever made in this situation," he said.

"This problem is not going to go away and this decision by the Parades Commission does nothing to bring us closer to a resolution."

STORY SO FAR

The Orange Order announced on Sunday it had notified the Parades Commission of its intention to march the route this Saturday. It said it was seeking a morning parade this time around – rather than the afternoon – in an attempt to resolve the long-running dispute. Violence erupted in the Woodvale area of north Belfast when Orangemen were stopped from marching past Ardoyne while returning from Twelfth demonstrations. The Order said the move had the support of those in the 'civil rights camp' at Twaddell Avenue which has been in place for more than two months.

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