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Ardoyne deal collapse fuels summer of violence fears

By Deborah McAleese

Police are concerned about the fallout from a failed attempt by loyalists and republicans to reach a deal to end the Ardoyne parading dispute.

Hopes were high within the PSNI and Parades Commission that an agreement could be reached between the Orange Order and a nationalist residents group who had been in talks for a number of weeks.

However, talks facilitators said yesterday they had been unable to break the impasse.

The deal would have meant an Orange parade prevented from returning to Ligoniel in 2013 would have been completed on Friday morning.

As part of the agreement, there would have been no application for a return parade on the Twelfth. A loyalist protest camp at Twaddell Avenue would then have been dismantled.

Police said they feared that a failure to resolve the dispute could lead to violence during the marching season.

"We had all hoped this would have been resolved, but now it looks like we will have to prepare ourselves for another tense summer," one officer said.

Another added: "Anger has been building in the area over the past few days. Hopefully, community leaders will be able to prevent that from spilling out onto the streets. We really don't want to have another summer of disturbances."

Methodist Church president the Rev Harold Good and Derry businessman Jim Roddy were involved in the negotiations. The pair said in a statement yesterday: "Over the past few weeks, we have spent some time taking soundings from various people with a view to finding a resolution to the issues surrounding parading and protests at the Twaddell/Crumlin Road interface.

"Despite some positive feedback on our ideas, we have been unable to achieve agreement for a resolution at this moment in time."

In response, the County Grand Lodge of Belfast insisted it "very much regrets the initiative to resolve the Crumlin Road impasse did not succeed".

"We thank those involved for their efforts and input," it said, adding that it "remains committed to supporting the Ligoniel lodges as they complete their Twelfth of July parade."

SDLP North Belfast MLA Nichola Mallon said it was disappointing that a deal had not been reached to resolve the dispute. "It is now important that all parties to this dispute redouble their efforts to secure a resolution," she added.

"The only way that can be achieved is through direct, sustained, meaningful dialogue. A lasting solution cannot be imposed, it will only come about through agreement. It's important all sides get back around the table to resolve this issue."

Ulster Unionist MLA and Orange Order member Danny Kennedy said it was "an opportunity lost for the moment."

He explained: "We had proposed this as a game-changer two years ago, so we are very disappointed that it has not yet been possible to reach a final agreement, which had seemed within touching distance. I hope that this is not the end."

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