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Parades body meets to rule on one-off march at Ardoyne flashpoint

By Noel McAdam

Published 27/09/2016

Orangemen parade along Twaddell Avenue in north Belfast last night
Orangemen parade along Twaddell Avenue in north Belfast last night

The Parades Commission is due to meet today to give its verdict for a special one-off Orange Order parade at a north Belfast flashpoint this Saturday.

An application for the parade was received by the Commission yesterday following a deal between the Order and nationalist residents to bring the long-running dispute over a banned march at Ardoyne to an end.

Around 250 marchers - three lodges - are expected to take part in the early morning demonstration along Woodvale Road and Crumlin Road accompanied by two bands, the Pride of Ardoyne Flute and North Belfast Young Loyalists Flute.

But one nationalist residents group, the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC), has made it clear it is still considering a formal protest against the 8.30am parade.

"In our opinion, this goes against the wishes of the vast majority of people living in Ardoyne, Mountainview and the Dales," GARC spokesman Dee Fennell commented.

In return for the one-off march, the lodges have agreed not to apply for any more return parades along the route on July 12 until a more comprehensive local agreement on parades has been reached.

When Saturday's parade is over, the loyalist protest camp at Twaddell Avenue is to be dismantled as part of an agreement hammered out with mediators Rev Harold Good and businessman Jim Roddy in recent months.

Afterwards, a local community forum including representatives of the Crumlin Ardoyne Residents Association (CARA) and the loyal orders will be convened, with the aim of improving community relations in the area.

The agreement stated: "Both parties commit to implementing the complete package of measures in good faith; and in a spirit of genuine respect and co-operation commit ourselves to working towards a common, peaceful, shared future for all."

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby yesterday joined in the chorus of welcome for the initiative, which has the capacity to end the long-running dispute.

In a joint statement with the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh, the most rev Dr Richard Clarke, he said: "The news of this agreement is to be warmly welcomed and we commend all who have taken risks and found a way to serve the common good in the journey towards a peaceful and reconciled future. Our prayers and continued support are with those who now carry responsibility for making it work."

The British and Irish Anglican leaders said the agreement had come in a part of Belfast "which has borne economic hardship and carries a heavy legacy from the Troubles."

Policing the Twaddell camp has run up a bill estimated at £20m in the past three years. It was set up after a Parades Commission determination against allowing the return leg of the Twelfth parade to pass a section of the Crumlin Road in 2013.

PSNI chief superintendent Chris Noble, said the police operation would now be scaled back.

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