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Lodge members threaten to quit Orange Order over 'dirty deal' to end Twaddell protest

By Rebecca Black

Published 10/09/2016

The Twaddell stand-off has so far cost police around £21m
The Twaddell stand-off has so far cost police around £21m

A number of members of one Orange lodge involved in the Twaddell stand-off in north Belfast are believed to be quitting the institution over an alleged secret deal.

Negotiations have been ongoing since the dispute started in July 2013, when three lodges were forbidden from completing their parade home along the Crumlin Road through a section of Ardoyne.

A protest camp was then established at Twaddell Avenue, vowing to stand until the lodges were allowed to finish their July 12 parade from 2013.

However, the negotiations were ramped up in recent months and it is believed a deal has been struck which would allow the three lodges to parade on Ulster Day in exchange for winding up the protest camp.

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

It is understood that two of the Orange lodges involved have agreed to the deal with the nationalist residents group Cara, but there has been division among the third - Ballysillan LOL 1891. Now, up to eight of Ballysillan's members have either resigned or are threatening to resign from the Orange Order following a crunch meeting held on Thursday night.

These members have claimed they felt "pressurised" into accepting the agreement, which they have slammed as a "dirty deal".

In one of the resignation letters, a member claims that some Orange Order members have "bowed to pressure with a result they are now dancing to a Republican tune". They also express frustration at what they view as a "complete waste of time".

"It is not another Drumcree, it is worse because they did not give in to Republicans, the current deal is founded on deceit, lies and cover-ups which will all come out eventually," the letter is reported to read.

The Drumcree impasse in Portadown - which started in 1996 when an Orange Order parade was banned from its traditional route along the Garvaghy Road - is still ongoing.

A spokesman for the Orange Order said that it would not be commenting on the Twaddell impasse, nor the talks.

Ballysillan LOL 1891 has had a stormy year, walking out on a potential deal to end the stand-off in July.

The lodge was also let down by the band it had invited to accompany it.

The July deal would have seen the Orange parade prevented from returning to Ligoniel in 2013 allowed to complete its journey on July 1, in return for not applying for a return parade on the Twelfth, and dismantling the protest camp at Twaddell.

Also in July, the PSNI's estimated total bill for policing the loyalist Twaddell Avenue protest camp had reached £21m, the PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton told the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

The small site at Twaddell Avenue consists of just a caravan, a portable cabin and some toilets, however the sporadic violence means that there has been a police presence there since it was set up.

Protesters have been feeling the strain of continuing to man the camp three years on.

In March, Scottish loyalist group the Regimental Blues came over to Belfast to take up a "residency".

They have since visited again to help man the protest.

Last year, more than 20 police officers and a teenage girl were injured when trouble erupted on the return leg of a Twelfth of July parade.

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