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Twaddell protest: Orange Order marks 1,000 days of protest, £18m spent on policing

By Claire Williamson

The loyalist protest over a 2013 Parades Commission decision to restrict an Orange march in north Belfast has reached its 1,000th day.

Three Orange lodges were refused permission to return along a contentious stretch of the Crumlin Road past the Ardoyne shops for that year's Twelfth.

Serious violence erupted after the parade met police lines in the area.

In response to the determination, loyalists set up a protest camp at Twaddell Avenue with lodge members vowing to retain a presence until they were granted permission to complete their parade.

The camp was originally manned 24 hours a day and included band parades in the area every evening, but almost three years later there is a much lower level of protest.

There has been a regular police presence in the area which the PSNI estimates to have cost over £18million over the past three years.

Now as the protest reaches its 1,000th day north Belfast priest Gary Donegan whose church neighbours the camp, told the BBC that dialogue is the only way to reach a solution

He said: "With that amount of time and money spent, the question is now have people finally drawn a line in the sand and say we have to take a big step here."

Previously talks aimed to find a resolution or compromise to the impasse have failed.

Commenting ahead of a major parade on Thursday evening to mark the 1,000 day landmark Belfast Deputy Grand Master Spencer Beattie said he was optimistic the disputed parade at the centre of the row could be facilitated before the height of this summer's loyal order marching season - a move, he insisted, that would end the 24/7 protest presence on the Woodvale/Ardoyne sectarian interface.

The senior Orangeman said: "The resolution to our mind has always been simply, it still remains simple - toleration of the six minute parade up the road completes the journey and takes away the problem and takes away the protest."

He added: "If the lodges were allowed to return home, the dynamic changes and the obstacle is removed, the playing field levels and therefore more constructive conversations could be had.

"If the parade is allowed home I stand ready, as soon as that parade is up the road, to go into any form of conversation that is necessary to seek a long-term solution to the problem.

"I always like to look to a positive and I always try to think there will be a resolution sooner rather than later."

He added: "We would hope the parade would be allowed up the road long before July 2016."

A band parade will mark the 1,000th day of protest with an address made by Belfast county grand master George Chittick on Thursday night.

The parade starts at 7pm from Carlisle Circus before making its way to Twaddell Avenue. In the Parades Commission's determination around 500 participants are expected.

Last month it was revealed that a Scottish loyalist group would be "taking over duties" at the site as they take up residency at the loyalist protest camp.

The Glasgow-based Regimental Blues describing themselves as supporters of the loyalist community in Scotland, said they use various techniques when campaigning, including the internet and the "boots of our regiment on the street".

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