Let Orange Order finish Ardoyne parade: Holy Cross priest Aidan Troy
The priest caught in the global spotlight over loyalist protests against Catholic children walking to Holy Cross school in north Belfast has called on Ardoyne residents to allow Orangemen to march past their neighbourhood.
Fr Aidan Troy was at the centre of international attention during the 2001-02 protests.
Catholic children and their parents were subjected to a daily gauntlet of abusive and often violent protest. Most of the schoolgirls suffered some form of psychological trauma. Fr Troy himself was subjected to abuse by the protesters.
Now, the Passionist priest, from Co Wicklow, has said the offer of a goodwill gesture by the Catholic community, in which he once ministered, would offer a message of peace to other communities in strife around the world.
He made his plea as he commented on the Gaza conflict in the Middle East.
Now based in Paris, Fr Troy wrote in his blog that it was time the Catholic community in Ardoyne considered allowing the three Orange lodges and two bands – which had marched past the area after the Twelfth parades – to be allowed to walk their traditional route.
The march was restricted last year by the Parades Commission, leading to an outbreak of loyalist rioting. The PSNI subsequently arrested and charged 760 Protestants for riotous and disorderly behaviour.
The march was restricted again this year, but without violence, after local ex-paramilitary community leaders and the Orange Order worked with PSNI to prevent a recurrence of the rioting.
Fr Troy wrote: "Offering moral and material support is important. Gestures can be significant in calling people to the ways of peace. Would Woodvale/Ardoyne people of goodwill consider offering a powerful witness to our world at a time when in the Middle East children, women and men are being slaughtered daily?
"Supposing an agreement could have been reached to withdraw the objections to the return parade of July 2013 and intensify efforts being made for parading in 2015? This would speak a message that shows that long-standing divisions of neighbours are capable of improvement when people of goodwill take a risk for peace."