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Marching season can be peaceful: police chief

By David Young

Published 08/07/2016

A senior police commander has expressed optimism that the height of the marching season can pass off peacefully.

The PSNI officer in charge of the policing operation, Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin, said tensions ahead of the traditional Twelfth of July parades were not as marked as in previous years.

A deal to resolve the region's most volatile parading impasse - at the Ardoyne/Twaddell Avenue interface in north Belfast - collapsed last month. However, the breakdown of negotiations between the Orange Order and nationalist residents in the Ardoyne area were not accompanied by recriminations.

A protest camp has been manned in the unionist Twaddell Avenue area since the Orange Order was banned by the Parades Commission from marching through Ardoyne on its return from Twelfth demonstrations in 2013. The interface has been the scene of rioting and unrest during the marching season for years.

Briefing members of the Policing Board in Belfast, Mr Martin noted that a number of major summer loyal order parades have already passed off without incident.

"There is a sense of a reduced tension this year compared with last year," he said.

He said thousands of officers would be on duty on July 12 - a day that will witness 594 parades. The vast majority pass off without incident every year, but a number of flashpoints continue to create negative headlines.

"We have been planning this for months now," said Mr Martin.

"We are optimistic it will go well. There obviously will be points of tension and those will require careful policing and sensitive policing."

Belfast Telegraph

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