Belfast Telegraph

Parades Commission blamed for clashes

by Bob Malcolm

The first parade in Northern Ireland’s marching season has ended with incidents of violence.

The Tour of the North, an annual parade, is considered one of Northern Ireland’s most contentious parades of the marching season.

Last year the parade ended with no significant incidents of violence but this year riot police moved in when violence erupted at the flashpoint.

The Parades Commission rerouted two parades away from an interface area in Ardoyne, which has been the scene of previous clashes — including last twelfth of July.

On Friday (June 17) there were incidents between police and marchers when officers blocked the two parades from continuing along their chosen route following a ruling by the Parades Commission.

Bricks and bottles were thrown at police as the two feeder parades were rerouted from the interface area in Ardoyne.

Loyalist youths threw bricks, bottles and other missiles towards police and nationalists.

A number of supporters attempted to force their way through police lines as a letter of protest was handed over to the PSNI.

Stephen McAllistair, secretary of the united districts, from Belfast Orange Hall said: “The main parade went as well as could be expected.

“Trouble stemmed from frustrations that spilled over in the Ardoyne and Ligoniel area — when members of the march were unable to get home.

“That determination prevented people from getting home and if it had not have been placed the area would have been passed in 10 minutes.”

He added that the Orange Order condemned violence from any quarter but that frustrations were building in the Protestant community in the area because it looked like violence paid in the Republican community.

A spokesperson from the PSNI said: “Police facilitated the Tour of the North Parade in line with the Parades Commission determination, which stated that the parade would end at Woodvale junction.

“A number of missiles were thrown at police and a number of officers sustained minor injuries as a result.

“The police response was balanced and proportionate.”

The spokesperson continued: “Balancing the rights of all interested parties is never easy.

“A parade like this is looked upon from many viewpoints, including those of local residents, the marchers and protesters.

“Community leaders and representatives worked hard to reduce tensions.”

Last year the area was the scene of several nights of rioting during the marching season.

48 police officers were injured in the violence, including a police woman who had a concrete block dropped on her head and 26 rioters were arrested.

During last year’s violence police fired a number of plastic bullets.

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