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Ardoyne: Time running out for deal as parades body still hasn’t got application to march

Concern deal to end long-running dispute in north Belfast could be in jeopardy as Parades Commission faces time restraints to reach determination for Saturday

By Deborah McAleese

The Parades Commission could struggle to give the go-ahead for the agreed Orange Order parade in north Belfast on Saturday due to time restraints, it has been warned.

A deal was struck between the Orange Order and nationalist residents on Friday to end the long-running dispute over a banned march past the Ardoyne shop fronts. Last night, however, the Parades Commission had still not received any application for Saturday morning's proposed march.

Due to the short notice there is serious concern that the Parades Commission may not be able reach a determination in time.

"It is in everyone's best interest to get this parade through. But it is going to be really tight for a parade for Saturday," a source close to the negotiations told the Belfast Telegraph.

"An application really needs to be with the Parades Commission (by Monday) to allow time for an emergency meeting. The pressure will be on to get this through in time as the Parades Commission has a number of procedures to follow. If those procedures are not followed there is a risk that judicial review proceedings could be taken against the commission's determination.

"Once an application has been received the Parades Commission has to contact all interested parties and their views have to be considered. GARC (Greater Ardoyne Residents Coalition) will want to make representations. The Parades Commission has to follow procedures and give interested parties time to respond and give the parade organiser time to review the decision. It will be a big rush but I really hope it can be done," the source added.

The north Belfast parading dispute has been ongoing since 2013 when Orangemen were banned by the Parades Commission from marching past Ardoyne on their way home from that year's Twelfth of July demonstrations. Violence flared and loyalist protesters set up camp at nearby Twaddell Avenue. They vowed to stay until Orangemen were allowed to complete the journey.

Following months of negotiations an agreement was reached on Friday between the Orange Order and the nationalist residents' group Cara (Crumlin Ardoyne Residents Association) that will allow Orangemen to march along the contested route past Ardoyne shop fronts. The deal was brokered by the Reverend Harold Good and Londoderry businessman Jim Roddy.

If approved by the Parades Commission, the Orange Order will complete the return leg of the parade along the Crumlin Road on the morning of Saturday, October 1.

After the parade takes place, the protest camp at Twaddell Avenue will be disbanded and the Orange Order will not apply to make the return leg on the Twelfth without agreement.

The dissident republican group GARC have threatened to wreck the agreement and launch a mass demonstration on the Crumlin Road in opposition to the parade. However, GARC's threats have not caused much concern amongst police, the Orange Order or residents.

"Within the whole Ardoyne area GARC have created a lot of enemies. They say they speak for everyone, but they only have a small number of members. They will protest, but Cara is the voice of the majority of residents, not GARC. At the minute, their talk is just a lot of bluster," a source close to the deal said.

The deal has been praised by politicians from across the political divide, police and the Orange Order. First Minister Arlene Foster said it is a "significant step".

"We want to build a future that is respectful, inclusive and vibrant. Northern Ireland can have a very bright future built on respect and celebration of diversity," Mrs Foster added.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: "We must resolve disagreements regarding parades, identity, culture and tradition through dialogue so that difference is celebrated and respected."

Belfast Police Commander, Chief Superintendent Chris Noble said he and his officers are looking forward to stepping back from the significant policing operation that has been ongoing for some time in the area.

However, the SDLP's Nichola Mallon said that while the deal can be welcomed now, "previous experience over many years warrants an air of caution".

She added: "The success of this deal can only be judged in the long term."

DUP MP Nigel Dodds said it remains to be seen "whether the problems created by the Parades Commission and the intolerance of the unionist identity can be tackled in the long run."

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