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A resolution to the Ardoyne parades conflict was 'very close'

Published 12/07/2016

Protestors from the nationalist Ardoyne neighbourhood watch as members of the Orange Order pass on Crumlin Road, Belfast
Protestors from the nationalist Ardoyne neighbourhood watch as members of the Orange Order pass on Crumlin Road, Belfast

A resolution to one of the longest-running conflicts around parades in Northern Ireland was close, community workers and political leaders said.

Talks between the Orange Order and nationalist residents in Ardoyne failed in the last few days before the Twelfth festivities.

Ardoyne has been a byword for violence on the Twelfth of July for many years, a volatile community interface with rioting loyalists or republicans separated by police.

Officers paid the price in near-severed ears and fingers from flying masonry or other missiles hurled by angry mobs. A bystander was knocked down by a car driver last year.

This morning's feeder parade by three Orange lodges attending the main Belfast event was peaceful but the Order will not be able to return the way it came, past the Ardoyne shops flashpoint.

Sinn Fein North Belfast Stormont Assembly member Gerry Kelly said: "Recently the residents and the Orange were very close to a resolution of this very long-running issue around parades and protests and I hope that can be returned to in the near future.

"Certainly I do not want to be standing here for the next five years and I don't want the next generation to be going through any tension around the parading season."

Republican protesters in Ardoyne chanted and held slogans proclaiming the loyal order was not welcome during the minutes it took them to pass down the Crumlin Road and past the shop fronts.

A long line of police, riot trained but without batons or shields, separated the two.

A drummer in the flute band hit the instrument enthusiastically just yards away. Orangemen in their Twelfth finery looked at the residents without speaking. Some were close enough to shake each other's hands.

Undoubtedly the largest and costliest security operation of the day will be rolled out later in Ardoyne. Air support, specialist fire arms teams, water cannons and baton rounds will be available if needed.

Marchers and bandsmen will be stopped at police lines in the unionist Woodvale area close to where loyalists have manned a protest camp at Twaddell Avenue for the past three years.

This morning, the Crumlin Ardoyne Residents Association (CARA) held a counter protest comprising of 60 people.

There was a separate picket from the hardline Greater Ardoyne Residents' Collective (GARC) which was widely blamed for orchestrating disorder during previous years and has vowed on social media to "mobilise hundreds" again.

Mr Kelly said there was a calmer mood and that had been reflected during Monday night's loyalist bonfire lighting.

"Last night I think was probably the quietest Eleventh Night I can remember, at least in many a year.

"I am happy that we are where we are and I hope that the rest of the day will go off very quietly."

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) assistant chief constable Stephen Martin said the parading season, which runs from Easter to late summer, had got off to a good start with no violence at other contentious marches like the Tour of the North, Whiterock, Somme commemoration and Easter events.

"I am hopeful that today will continue in that vein."

North Belfast priest Fr Gary Donegan said it was important people resumed dialogue.

"It has to be solved by the community so whatever possible solutions are there it has to be put to the community and it has to be agreed by the community."

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