Ardoyne: This is just the start, marchers told as weekly rallies planned
Ardoyne demonstration passes off peacefully, but huge weekly rallies are now planned for coming months
ORANGE Order members and their supporters have dramatically vowed to flood the streets of Belfast week after week until the Parades Commission is scrapped.
Thousands of angry loyalists marched to police lines on the Woodvale Road in the north of the city on Saturday to protest at the decision to ban three Ligoniel lodges from walking past the Ardoyne shop fronts.
And supporters have warned that they will call thousands more out on to the streets in the coming weeks.
Five nights of violent rioting in north and east Belfast followed a decision to prevent the lodges walking along a stretch of the Crumlin Road that has left more than 70 officers injured and cost tax payers millions.
Following that decision the Orange Order proposed a new march yesterday along the same route — a request which was again denied and which saw bandsmen and supporters blocked by a line of Land Rovers and riot police from getting to Ardoyne.
On Saturday, amidst a massive PSNI security operation, the County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast handed leaflets to supporters warning trouble-makers to stay away.
The leaflet said the march was organised to show “we have not and will not go away” and that their campaign would continue over the coming months.
Addressing the crowd to cheers and shouts of “No Surrender”, Michael Cosby from the Pride of Ardoyne flute band said: “No matter the provocation, violence is not the answer.
“Through violence we play into the hands of republicans.
“This is only the beginning — we will continue. Last week was only the start. I live in Ardoyne and I want to get home — you want us to get home.
“We want to fill this place with thousands of people and as for our unionist politicians — our aim is to get the Parades Commission gone, and we can do it with the support of the people.”
North Belfast MLA Nelson McCausland called the Parades Commission “shameful” and said: “I’ve been here throughout the week supporting the protests because the right of the Orange brethren and bands to get back up to Ballysillan is a fundamental human right.
“The decision by the Parades Commission is absolutely mad. They are shameful, it is an institution that needs to go.”
He said people had travelled from Carrickefergus and Mid-Ulster to support yesterday’s protest in Belfast and said further protests would continue “until they succeed”.
Orange Order grand chaplain Mervyn Gibson added: “People are determined.”
He said that violence was “no good”, but admitted the order is considering holding weekly protests in north Belfast.
“We will just see what the brethren decide and the residents, and the bands,” he said.
PUP leader Billy Hutchinson also backed calls to scrap the Parades Commission. “In my opinion the Parades Commission is totally biased against the Orange Order — they need to be done away with,” he said.
“We are going to be here until this is finished, if it takes to next week or next year then that’s what’s going to happen.”
Winston Irvine from the North and West Belfast Parades Forum told Sunday Life that protests would “continue until the Parades Commission is out of office and this parade completes its journey”.
Asked if he thought it was irresponsible to continue calling people onto the streets given the serious recent violence he said: “I totally reject that.
“We’ve had a large turnout today and there’s a great atmosphere because a lot of good work has been done on the ground.
“It’s about peaceful, constructive protest.”
Demonstrators dispersed peacefully by 4.30pm as ordered by the Parades Commission ruling.
There were lighter scenes after the crowds left, when around 50 protesters remained at the top of Twaddell Avenue holding union flags and a sign that read: “End Hatred of Orange Culture.”
Watched on by dozens of police, the group made up of some Orangemen and female supporters sang for over an hour — performing versions of Hokey Cokey, Show Me The Way To Amarillo and It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.
Belfast Telegraph Digital