Belfast Telegraph

Ardoyne parade deal: First Minister Arlene Foster welcomes agreement to end dispute

Deal subject to Parades Commission approving return parade

By Jonny Bell and Rebecca Black

First Minister Arlene Foster has welcomed a deal reach over the three year old Ardoyne Orange Order parade dispute.

The deal, however, remains subject to the Parades Commission allowing a return parade next Saturday, October 1 at 8.30 am.

>>Read the full text of the agreement<<

It will allow the lodges to complete their 2013 parade, with a commitment that Orangemen will not apply for future return parades without local agreement.

The agreement will see the dismantling of the controversial Twaddell protest camp.

A community forum will be established to build better relations among all those who share the part of the Crumlin Road concerned.

Nationalist residents group Cara has endorsed the deal, however the more hardline group GARC has vowed to continue to protest against any Orange parade passed the Ardoyne shops.

Speaking this morning at a DUP breakfast in Omagh Ms Foster described the deal as a "significant step".

"The agreement reached between three Orange Order lodges in North Belfast and Ardoyne residents representatives comes about following engagement in a local dialogue process," she said.

"The understanding they have reached is a welcome development and is a significant step given this has been an initiative between the Orange and local residents.

"I said at the start of the summer that we all have a responsibility to show leadership and to continue to seek resolutions to contentious issues through discussion and to ensure any difficulties are identified and resolved peacefully.  By doing so we become stronger as a community and a country.

"I thank all those involved.  We want to build a future that is respectful, inclusive and vibrant.  Northern Ireland can have a very bright future built on respect and celebration of diversity."

Presbyterian Moderator the Rev Frank Sellar praised the deal, and urged that "equal energy to be given to strengthening community relationships in the area".

“I welcome the agreement that has been reached between the lodges and residents of Twaddell Avenue after three years of dispute, and pray that it might now find peaceful resolution as we look forward to the future," he said.

“For all concerned this has been a long-running and seemingly intractable situation. For this reason I give thanks for the dedication, patience and persistence of all involved in bringing these negotiations to a resolution.

“What will now be important, as we mover forward, is for equal energy and persistence to be given to strengthening community relationships across the whole community."

Justice minister Claire Sugden paid tribute to the facilitators and all those involved for their efforts.

"I look forward to seeing this new agreement implemented and an end to the protest," she said.

“I also wish to take this opportunity to thank the Chief Constable and his officers who were at the frontline policing this situation over the course of the last three years, for their impartial and impeccable support to protect the entire community at the Twaddell interface.”

Belfast Police Commander, Chief Superintendent Chris Noble said he looks forward to being able to scale back the policing operation at Twaddell.

"The Police Service welcomes the news of a local agreement in relation to the challenges surrounding parades and protests at Twaddell/Crumlin Road in North Belfast," he said.

"I and my officers look forward to stepping back from the significant policing operation that has been ongoing for some time.

"We will continue to work with all communities to secure a long term resolution of the issues surrounding parades and protests in Belfast."

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has also welcomed the deal.

On Saturday morning the County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast added its support, commenting: "We look forward to the lodges and bands completing their 2013 Twelfth of July parade".

In a statement on Friday evening the Rev Harold Good, a former president of the Methodist Church and Londonderry businessman Jim Roddy - who have been facilitating talks - said: "We are pleased to announce that a local agreement has been reached to bring an end to the difficulties surrounding parades and protests in the Twaddell/Crumlin Road area.

"The agreement has the full support of the three lodges and the Crumlin Ardoyne Residents Association (CARA).

"The full text of the agreement will be made available tomorrow."

The agreement comes after a public meeting on Friday night.

CARA said the deal represented the best for residents and businesses affected by the parade, the camp and the heavy police presence in the area "and the constant tension that comes with that".

The hard-line Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective have not supported the deal.

An Orange Order source said they had reached an agreement and the deal could only be done once the parade had taken place, which would be a matter for the Parades Commission.

Secretary of State James Brokenshire added: "I welcome the agreement which looks set to see the end of the north Belfast parading dispute.

"I commend the representatives of the Orange Order and the Crumlin Ardoyne Residents Association for their efforts in negotiating a solution.

"This is a clear demonstration that local dialogue can work, and offers up the best chance of resolving disputes like this."

The Police Federation for Northern Ireland, which represents officers welcomed the prospect of a resolution.

A PFNI spokesman said: "This will immediately release the officers deployed in connection with that protest to be utilised in front-line duties in the communities they were extracted from.

"It will also help to take some of the pressure off those front line officers who, on a daily basis, are struggling to meet demand. We obviously commend all those who played a part in making this resolution possible."

Since 2013 the Parades Commission has prevented the annual Twelfth return parade past the Ardoyne shop fronts.

In response the three Ligoniel lodges involved established a camp at Twaddell Avenue and held nightly protests over the determination.

The flashpoint has previously witnessed serious loyalist and republican rioting when tensions boiled over.

Dissident republicans had also used the nightly gathering of police in the area to target officers.

The bill for policing the standoff was in excess of £21m.

The Republic's Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan also welcomed the deal.

He said: "I welcome today’s announcement that a way forward has been found to resolve the difficulties that surround parades and associated protests in the Crumlin Road and Twaddell area of north Belfast.

“Expressions of place and identity can be very emotive and challenging.  I commend the spirit of cooperation and mutual respect that has allowed a common understanding to be developed on how these parades can be managed.

“I encourage the wider community to give this initiative its full support.

“I acknowledge the hard work in a spirit of genuine engagement and reconciliation by all those who were party to achieving this new approach. 

“I wish to pay tribute to those in the Orange Order and among local residents for their leadership and courage in achieving this agreement. I look forward to its full implementation in good faith and good neighbourliness.”

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said he hopes the parade will be allowed to pass peacefully.

"This will be an enormous relief to most," he said.

"While the camp at Twaddell may have offered a focal point for justified frustration and anger in the early days of the impasse, it had become an expensive and ineffective initiative.

"I hope the parade will now be allowed to pass peacefully and respectfully."

Alliance Leader David Ford also welcomed the announcement.

"After many months of disagreement, the announcement of a resolution of the dispute between members of the loyal orders and Ardoyne residents is very welcome," said Mr Ford.

"I congratulate the representatives of the two sides on reaching an agreement and thank the mediators for their good work, despite the disappointments of the past summer.

"I look forward to seeing the full details of the deal being published and most importantly, put into action."

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