Catholic's legal bid over 'misery' caused by loyalist Belfast protest camp
An ongoing loyalist protest camp in north Belfast is making a nationalist resident's life a misery, the High Court has heard.
Lawyers for the woman claimed she is being denied the right to live peacefully by nightly band parades, noise and a general atmosphere of intimidation.
They also accused the Housing Executive of tolerating an unlawful trespass on the plot of land at Twaddell Avenue. Counsel for the resident said: "It has done absolutely nothing to bring the camp to an end, it has sat on its hands and allowed the camp to exist."
She is seeking to judicially review the Housing Executive over an alleged failure to adhere to its anti-social behaviour policy.
Nightly demonstrations continue to be staged at Camp Twaddell against restrictions imposed on an Orange Order parade through the flashpoint area. The site, which was set up in the summer of 2013, costs an estimated £40,000 a night to police. By last October the bill was said to have reached £12 million.
The woman behind the legal challenge has been granted anonymity, but lives in the nearby Ardoyne area.
Opening the case before Mr Justice Treacy, her barrister described the camp as the "beating heart" of the loyalist and unionist demonstrations.
"The applicant's view is that if there was no Camp Twaddell there would be protests on the scale and with the regularity seen," he said.
Developing his case, the lawyer continued: "Camp Twaddell is, to use everyday language, making the life of the applicant a misery.
"The impact is at its most pronounced when there are bands parading at the camp, when there's music, noise and chanting around the camp.
"But the effect of living close to Camp Twaddell is not just about the nightly parades, it's about the more general atmosphere of intimidation associated with the camp. It's about the well-documented police presence in the area and, frankly, the applicant finds herself unable to live peacefully in her own home."
The court heard claims that by "tolerating" the situation the Housing Executive is contributing to the protests.
Its alleged failure to act breaches the resident's right to privacy and family life under European law, according to her legal team.
"It's also contrary to its stated policy on anti-social behaviour," her barrister contended.
Progressive Unionist Party leader Billy Hutchinson and prominent loyalist Winston Irvine were present in court for the challenge.
It also emerged that a unionist resident from the Woodvale area has been granted notice party status in the proceedings.
Lawyers for that woman, who attends and supports the camp, are expected to argue that freedom of assembly and freedom of expression rights are involved.
However, the challenge had to be adjourned after an issue arose over medical evidence submitted to back the nationalist resident's claims that the camp is impacting on her health.
Mr Justice Treacy listed the case to be mentioned again next week.
The Twaddell protest camp was set up in north Belfast in July 2013 in objection to a Parades Commission ruling on an Orange Order demonstration which banned it from passing the Ardoyne shop fronts interface. The camp has become a symbol for loyalist anger against restrictions on contentious parades in north Belfast. Protesters initially had a 24-hour presence at the camp caravan, which sits on Housing Executive land, but that appears to have been scaled back in recent months.
Further readingTwaddell neighbour wants judicial review over protest camp 'making life misery' Liam Clarke: We can't let one dispute at Ardoyne wreck political progress Twaddell protesters take the afternoon off at loyalist camp said to cost £40,000 a night Man is charged after attack on Twaddell loyalist protest camp