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Twelfth 2015: Tense stand-off between police and loyalists after return route of Orange Order parade turns violent in north Belfast

24 police officers injured responding to serious disorder

By Claire Williamson

Twenty-four police officers have been injured after trouble flared when bandsmen were once again barred from marching past the Ardoyne shops on the return leg of the Twelfth of July parade.

The Parades Commission determined that the Orangemen were allowed to walk past the Ardoyne shops on the outgoing route of the Twelfth of July parade but will not be allowed to return along the same way.

On Monday morning the outward parade whose route went past the contentious flashpoint at Ardoyne in north Belfast, passed off without incident.

The contentious stretch of road in north Belfast separates unionist and nationalist areas.

This is the third year in a row that the Parades Commission have refused the Orange Order permission for the return route.

However when the parade was once again stopped at the interface scenes turned ugly as loyalists pulled down barricades and bottles and bricks were thrown at police lines.

Police remained on Monday night in the Ardoyne, Woodvale and Twaddell area in significant numbers where they described the situation as "tense".

It came after eight police officers were hurt during the disorder on the Twelfth night.

Reports circulated on social media that the PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton was among those injured but he took to twitter to dissolve those rumours.

He said: "To all who have expressed concern and those who wished I was harmed -  I am safe and well. My thoughts are with officers injured tonight."

The riot police moved in as loyalists jumped on police Land Rovers after being stopped at the interface.

The Orange Order appealed for calm and condemned the violence calling for it to stop immediately.

A teenage girl was injured after she was struck by a car in the area - it is understood police had to overturn the car to rescue the teenager.

In a statement police confirmed they were currently dealing with a serious incident at Ardoyne involving pedestrians and a male driver.

A police spokesman said the driver of the vehicle has been arrested.

It is believed at this early stage that one young person, approximately 16 years old, has suffered injuries and is currently being treated at the scene.

A spokeswoman for the Royal Victoria Hospital last night said the girl was in a stable condition.

A vigil organised by the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (Garc) will be held tonight (Tuesday) for the young girl at 8pm at Our Lady Mural on the Berwick Road.

Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin said: “I would appeal for calm and ask that space be given to the medics attending the scene.

"An investigation into the circumstances is now underway.”

A senior police officer suffered injuries during the disorder.

Police set up crowd control barriers ahead of the bandsmen's return where dozens of police Land Rovers lined the roads.

The barrier stretched right across the Woodvale road - which was closed.

When the parade reached the police lines on Monday evening bandsmen began singing the sash "with gusto".

As the disorder began residents started to board up their homes.

In a statement the Orange Order appealed for calm.

A spokesman said: The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland has condemned those engaging in violence and issued an appeal for calm in north Belfast.

A spokesperson said: “Those involved in violence should desist. It is not only counterproductive but also plain wrong.

“Such actions are only strengthening the hand of those who wish to further curtail our parades.

“We call on anyone engaged in illegal behaviour to stop immediately.”

The scenes were in stark contrast to that of Monday's outward route which Holy Cross parish priest Fr Gary Donegan said was "One of the most peaceful parades we have had.

"The community just want to it all to be over. If the morning parade goes through peacefully and there is no return -- it's the perfect solution for this community."

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly, who was at the scene, said he was hopeful for a peaceful Twelfth.

He said: "It is has been the quietest bonfire night in north Belfast in a considerable period of time -- maybe 15 or 16 years. What we had here this morning was a substantial protest - it was very quiet, very calm and that is the way protests should be.

"I think we are in a better place - we are getting to a better place, we just have to have the stamina to keep talking.

"I hope the evening will follow as the day has passed in a calm and quiet way."

More than 3,000 PSNI officers are on duty to police the Twelfth of July parades across Northern Ireland.

Chief Constable of the PSNI George Hamilton was at the flashpoint this morning. He tweeted: "Great leadership in the rain from senior officers Belfast City District Command Unit - facilitating parades and protest."

Despite calls for "as many people as possible" to turn up, only around 100 supporters joined the protests organised by the hardline Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (Garc) against the parade.

DUP MLA Nelson McCausland and DUP MP Nigel Dodds were both pictured at the parade.

Loyalists set up a protest camp at Twaddell Avenue in July 2013 after the Parades Commission decision stopped the parade taking place on the stretch of the adjoining Crumlin Road.

Serious violence erupted in the area in 2013 when Orangemen were stopped from marching past Ardoyne while returning from their annual Twelfth of July demonstrations.

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