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Contentious parade passes off peacefully

There were sighs of relief at the weekend after a contentious parade in north Belfast passed off peacefully

The contentious Orange Order Tour of the North, which has been marred by violence in previous years, passed off without incident as a small silent protest of about a dozen people including a number of Sinn Fein representatives took place at North Queen Street in north Belfast where a banner which read 'Make Sectarianism History' was unveiled.

An application for up to 80 protesters had been lodged with the Parades Commission.

Last year bricks and bottles were hurled at police after two feeder parades were re-routed from an interface area in Ardoyne. This year no application was made to pass the flashpoint at Ardoyne shops.

The Parades Commission put restrictions on the Belfast Orange Hall United Districts march, which included 21 loyalist flute bands.

It was prohibited from part of its notified route along Clifton Park Avenue beyond Alloa Street, Cliftonville Road, Antrim Road, and a section of Duncairn Gardens between Antrim Road and Edlingham Street.

Lord John Alderdice has been chairing ongoing negotiations aimed at resolving the disputes in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast.

Sinn Fein's Conor Maskey said: "Praise has to be given to the community interface workers who have worked for many months to try and defuse tensions. I hope this work continues to bear fruit for future contentious parades."

Winstone Irvine, from the North and West Belfast Parades Forum, said the decision not to apply to pass the Ardoyne interface should be seen as a "gesture" to the nationalist community.

"This is not the first time this has happened but it is fair to say that it is no coincidence," he said.

"It is a gesture to the community. In any negotiations it would be expected that gestures would be reciprocated - if one side is showing good faith, then that would be reciprocated. Parading by its nature is emotive and the discussions have been difficult but people are not prepared to shy away from difficulties."