Ardoyne protest Loyalists get go-ahead for Belfast city centre march
Published 18/09/2013 | 08:00
Thousands of loyalists have been granted permission to march through Belfast city centre on Saturday.
The representative body for police officers as well as traders expressed concerns about the protest march on the key shopping day of the week.
However, the only restriction placed on the event is that it must be clear of the city centre by 1pm.
It has been organised by a group calling itself Loyal Peaceful Protesters which notified the Parades Commission last week of plans for a parade consisting of 20 bands, 5,000 marchers and 5,000 supporters through the heart of the city.
Last night, the Parades Commission ruled that the parade could proceed but must be clear of the city centre by 1pm. Marchers had applied for their parade to start at City Hall at 2pm and to finish at Woodvale Parade by 5pm.
The commission said it had received late notification about the parade, adding that no reason had been given for the delay.
It described the purpose of the event as stated as: "Political policing, also in respect of legal flag protest and families of those in prison and under house arrest."
In its ruling the Parades Commission said it had received representations from the Crumlin and Ardoyne Residents' Coalition, Sinn Fein and also from a delegation representing city centre businesses and the hospitality trade about their concerns of a negative impact on shoppers.
It voiced disappointment that it had not heard from any representatives from those organising and supporting the parade or from any unionist political parties about the event.
The Orange Order said it was not involved in the organisation of the parade and high-profile loyalist figures in north and west Belfast said they had no knowledge of it.
It is understood it has been arranged in support of Loyal Orders in north Belfast.
Police Federation chair Terry Spence (below) said he had "major concern" regarding this weekend's parade with the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association appealing for calm.
Marchers must be clear of the assembly point by 12.30pm and have passed Royal Avenue/North Street junction by 1pm.
The parade is set to finish at Woodvale Parade where an Orange parade was prevented from proceeding along the Crumlin Road, past the Ardoyne shops, on the Twelfth of July.
The decision to reroute the parade sparked fierce rioting.
Police were again in the firing line last month during a loyalist onslaught in the centre of Belfast. Hundreds pelted officers with missiles during a protest against a republican anti-internment rally which had been due to pass along Royal Avenue.
Last week, Orange Order leaders backed a so-called loyalist civil rights camp at the sectarian interface in the north of the city and insisted they will remain there until Christmas and beyond.
The Twaddell Avenue camp was established at the spot where Orangemen were stopped from completing a march on July 12. It has been occupied for the past two months by protesters who have vowed not to move until the row over the parade is resolved.
Loyalists yesterday staged a white-line protest outside the offices of the Parades Commission.