Missiles thrown at ‘Tour of the North’
The first major contentious parade of the marching season has been marred by violence after stones and other missiles were thrown at Orangemen.
The annual ‘Tour of the North’ parade saw hundreds of Orangemen and band members covering a route which traditionally traverses a large part of inner city north and west Belfast.
An organised protest was held close to the shopfronts in the nationalist Ardoyne area, where a number of Orangemen passed on the return leg of their march.
The area has been the focus of disturbances in previous years between nationalist residents and marchers.
Winston Irvine from the North and West Belfast Parades and Cultural Forum said marchers had been attacked with a variety of missiles, with some suffering injuries.
“Anything they could get their hands on was used against the parade,” he said.
“There were only meant to be 40 people as officially notified for the protest through the Parades Commission, but the crowd was estimated to be around 300-400.
“The Republicans just lost control.
“The discipline from the stewards and the lodges and the band was exemplary.”
Police said that one man was taken to hospital with a non-life threatening head injury after being struck by a missile. Police were also faced with a small number of youths throwing stones in the Brompton Park area.
North Belfast Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly blamed individuals “from certain micro groups” for attempting to entice young people in the area into attacking the parade.
“Sadly...these individuals succeeded in enticing a small number of vulnerable young people into attacking the parade with stones,” he said.
“It is now up to those groups and those individuals to explain themselves to the people of Ardoyne; to explain to stand over, before the people of Ardoyne, the fact that they chose to entice young people, not themselves, into attacking the passing parade.
“These individuals and organisations chose not to take part in a community led, multi agency approach to this evening and I believe that reflects greatly their motivations and intentions in relation to tonight.
“I...am saddened by those who allowed themselves to be manipulated by certain individuals.”
Discussions have been going on in recent years to try and ensure the parade would not be marred by trouble as at previous events. There was a heavy police presence along parts of the route.