Belfast Telegraph

In Pictures: Ring of steel for Orange Order's Battle of the Somme 'Mini-Twelfth' parade

By Lesley Houston

A ring of steel separated Orangemen commemorating the Battle of the Somme from residents of the Short Strand last night, maintaining the peace for a parade often marred by sectarian tension.

The 'Mini-Twelfth', featuring more than 40 lodges and around 35 bands, has in previous years been the scene of interface trouble - but last night's passed off largely without incident.

There was a heavy police presence and heavy-duty metal security barriers were employed.

An Act of Remembrance held at the Belmont Road War Memorial was followed by a wreath-laying ceremony.

Orange Order spokesman, Rev Mervyn Gibson, said he did not understood why there had been any objections to the parade.

"We are not marching through a nationalist area whatsoever," he said. "We are marching through east Belfast, through our own community and are parading along an arterial route.

"I would say that all our parades are peaceful unless they are attacked.

"The barriers are there for the police as much for the parade and we don't ask for the barriers."

The event was organised by Ballymacarrett District No 6, and this year District Master Raymond Spiers said there had been a focus on the Anzacs - the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps - to mark the centenary of the Battle of Gallipoli .

Last week the Ballymacarrett lodge received an apology from the Chief Constable after the Police Ombudsman found officers had failed to protect the Orangemen from a republican attack as they returned from Twelfth commemorations in 2013.

Belfast councillor Niall O'Donnghaile of Sinn Fein said he hoped the peaceful passing of the parade augured well for the upcoming loyalist marching season.

He said that although "some chanting" could be heard from parade supporters, it did send out "a good message".

"In terms of the barriers it's not an ideal situation and it's not conducive to good policing or to the society we want to see," he said.

"The reason this has gone off so well is because of a lot of work on the ground to keep it that way."

He revealed that a family fun event at a nearby park - aimed at discouraging young people away from the contentious parade - had helped the situation.

"I was at the city council tonight but when I came back the playground was packed and everybody was there in their shorts having a lovely night in the sun," he said.

He added that he had "no doubt that there are similar initiatives that go on" among neighbouring loyalist communities also intent on preventing trouble.

"The key message for me and for the people I represent in the Short Strand area is that in terms of a very small stretch of a much longer parade we need to sit down with the loyal orders to discuss this and come up with a resolution."

Those attempts, he said, continued to fall on deaf ears.

"We've written letters of invitation but they won't even acknowledge receipt of the letters.

"We need to continue to ensure that people, regardless of where they live, have a good summer," he said.

Meanwhile in Co Londonderry, an Orange lodge and one band passed through The Heights area of Coleraine without incident.

The mini-procession made its way through an area which was the scene of the loyalist murder of community worker Kevin McDaid in 2009.

Coleraine councillor George Duddy, worshipful district master of Coleraine LOL No 2, who took part in the procession, said the parade had been deemed in the past by the Parades Commission as contentious.

"When we passed through, there was a single drumbeat. It wasn't a determination - it was self-imposed," he said.

He said people watching the parade, the majority of whom he said were Polish, enjoyed it, and danced with their children on the sidelines.

Belfast Telegraph


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