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Ardoyne march could take place in November as hopes rise of deal in north Belfast parade dispute

By Deborah McAleese

Published 16/08/2016

A police officer watches as the Orange parade meets the barricade at Woodvale in 2014
A police officer watches as the Orange parade meets the barricade at Woodvale in 2014
The camp at Twaddell Avenue as the 1,000th day of protest was marked

Loyalists and republicans in north Belfast are on the verge of an agreement that could finally end the bitter parading dispute.

Negotiators between both parties are close to finalising a settlement that would allow an Orange march past Ardoyne on November 18 - the anniversary of the end of the Battle of the Somme.

A deal to allow the march on July 1, the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, collapsed at the end of June.

However, negotiations have restarted and it is understood both groups are keen to sign a deal as soon as possible.

In return for agreeing to the march, the controversial Twaddell protest camp would be completely demolished and there would be no application for another return parade on the Twelfth evening next year.

"They are trying to get an agreeable date to finally resolve this dispute. A few dates have been considered, but the most likely one at the moment is November 18, the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme ending. We are feeling hopeful that agreement can be reached soon. Both sides are very keen to reach a deal," a source close to the dispute said.

Earlier this year, parades negotiator Jim Roddy, who was at the forefront of successful negotiations over the Apprentice Boys' parade in Londonderry, was brought in to try and help the warring parties reach an agreement ahead of the marching season.

After a number of secret meetings and talks, agreement was reached that Orangemen would complete their return leg along the Crumlin Road at 7.30am on July 1. Just three days before the march, however, the deal collapsed when Ballysillan Lodge said it wouldn't back the agreement. But earlier this month the lodge suspended its involvement in the Twaddell protest and raised fresh hopes of a resolution. The loyalist protest at Twaddell Avenue began in July 2013 after a Parades Commission determination not to allow a return leg of an Orange parade to pass a section of the Crumlin Road.

Campaigners had vowed to keep protesting until the original parade was allowed to return past the Ardoyne shops.

It has cost more than £18m to police the protest camp.

The area has been the scene of sectarian rioting over the Twelfth period in recent years. Last year, several police officers were injured during rioting and a 16-year-old girl was also hurt after she was struck by an out-of-control car.

One police officer almost had his ear severed by a brick and another's finger was almost bitten off. This year the Twelfth passed off peacefully, with only a few minor disturbances.

"The heat was taken out of the situation this year by the negotiations that had taken place. It was disappointing when they fell through, but the will is there to resolve the dispute once and for all. It is in everyone's interest," a source said.

"The camp has become an embarrassment to the protesters. They want out of it, but they don't want to lose face.

"Will a deal be done? Hopefully, but we need leadership from both sides," he added.

Belfast Telegraph

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